Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mad Marchness Ride Report

Mission Cycling put together a spiffy semi-organized ride this weekend: 100 miles total from San Francisco to sunny Santa Cruz. The organizers put their heads together with the good folks over at Strava to do some fun things and try out the site's up-and-coming "Events" feature that will let clubs define segments, record riders' times and make it super easy to figure out the winner.

The Santa Cruz ride, dubbed "Mad Marchness," included three such segments - a 1.2 mile "sprint," a 3.3 mile climb up Old La Honda (7.9% grade), and a 7.0 mile "GC section" (rollers). Fastest times on each segment would win a prize, and fastest total time across all three would win prizes as well. Coolness.

The ride started bright and early from Bespoke Cycles in Noe Valley. Thanks to someone's sick sense of humor, the route began with a heart-busting jaunt up Clipper Street - which reaches 22% grade in places - and then out west to Skyline Boulevard and the ocean. From there, we turned south and opened it up a bit. Eventually, we hopped onto a multi-use trail, which turned out to be nightmarish: blind corners, high-contrast shadows, slippery-looking tar-filled cracks, slow-moving pedestrians...

Fortunately we were back on normal roads by mile 22. I was actually fairly impressed with myself to this point: I hadn't rested for the event at all, and it was the Queen stage of my most recent three-week training block. Some of the more competitive guys really put the hammer down going into the "sprint" segment, but I tried my best to keep my heart rate under control. There was no way I was going to be competitive in that category; I might as well conserve.

Next up was Old La Honda, a twisty, shaded climb that turned out to be quite enjoyable. Again, I hit the climb and settled into a comfortable rhythm, letting the aggressors head up the road and claim victory. I don't think I could've followed if I'd wanted to; I'm still a few weeks out of climbing shape, for sure.

The descent down to 84 and onto Pescadero Road was a blast, and then we turned up another, painfully unexpected climb. I was gapped on the following descent and wound up spending the next eight miles hammering in an attempt to bridge... if only the wind had cooperated!

In Pescadero, we turned south and hit the "GC section." Again, the hot-shots flew up the road and killed those seven miles. I cruised at 22-miles-per-hour (zone 3-4?), towing a few fatigued cyclists all the way. We regrouped at the end of the segment - a left-hand turn onto the glorious Pacific Coastal Highway, twenty-five miles from our destination.

We pulled away and I hopped onto the front, hoping to control the pace for as long as possible. Then I noticed a kick-ass tailwind... and suddenly we were flying. I wasn't pushing it - my heart rate was still around 150 - but we were definitely moving. A few of us on the front started to trade pulls, and before you knew it, we were pared to ten riders from twenty. With each PCH roller we crested, another one or two riders would drop off... until only four remained. Dan, Keith, Appel and I proceeded to take full advantage of that tailwind and the sweeping roller-descents.

After a few more miles, Keith and Dan peeled off, leaving Appel and myself. Our two-man time-trial managed to maintain a 27.9 mile-per-hour average over the final 20 miles of highway and pull into Seabright Brewery (our destination) a full ten minutes ahead of the next group. I can't tell you how good it felt to feel that good at the end of a long ride, or to just open it up like that on a long, tailwind-powered straightaway. I haven't had fun like that in a long, long time!

[For the record, Appel is probably one of the strongest riders in the club right now - he won the "segment overall" time by a mile, and won the GC section as well. The guy's an animal! By all accounts, I shouldn't have been off the front with him... but damn am I glad I was. We traded pulls well and really put the hammer down at the end. It was... awesome.]

Santa Cruz was warm and sunny, as predicted. The gang rolled up in waves until all 50 of us were sitting on the brewery's patio, swapping stories, downing calories and congratulating each other on a ride well-done!

Three hours later, we loaded our bikes onto a truck and loaded our exhausted bodies into a charter bus for the return trip powered by camaraderie and Top Gun on the entertainment system. Sorry, Goose, but it's time to buzz the tower!