Monday, July 4, 2011

Vineman Reconnaissance

Kristine and I celebrated the 4th of July by driving north to Healdsburg so I could do some important pre-race recon of the Vineman bike course. I'd been reading warnings and grumblings about some bad sections of pavement on-course, and with the day off, I figured now was as good a time as any to have a look for myself.

Even wore the tri-suit and TT helmet!
The Vineman course, if you're not familiar (which I assume you aren't!) starts in Guerneville and follows River Road to Westside Road for about eight miles before joining up with two 54-mile loops through Healdsburg, Geyserville and Windsor. I started in Healdsburg at roughly the halfway point of one of the loops, did an out-and-back to Guerneville and then came back to where I began. The entire ride was 78.8 miles, but only about 65 of those miles were actually part of the official course.

One thing I noticed: this time trial bike makes flat roads feel like downhills. It's a blast. Another thing I noticed: it was freakin' hot up there. The heat is definitely going to play a factor on race-day and I'm going to have to be sure to stay hydrated. I didn't think the heat was oppressive on the bike, but I was definitely parched and ran out of water at one point. The run will be a different story.

Anyway, on to some quick impressions on the course itself:
  1. The course is not as flat as I remember. In fact, it's downright roller-ish at times. It's nothing like the IMWA course, which was a pancake through and through.
  2. The shoulder of Dry Creek Road contains a lot of sand/grit/gravel. The road itself is clear.
  3. Stretches of Dry Creek Road and Canyon Road combine to create one long, painful false-flat.
  4. When the course turns onto CA-128, things speed up. I want to hit this section hard. The pavement definitely needs work: the middle of the lane seems okay but the edges are ugly.
  5. Pleasant Road is anything but - the road's bumpy as heck!
  6. The Chalk Hill climb, which is really not more than a large bump by Marin standards, is actually a series of bumps leading up to one big one. They can all be pretty easily stomped out in the big ring, except maybe the last one. (Though it might pay to play it conservative on the climbs.)
  7. Watch the pavement on the Chalk Hill descent.
  8. Riding through town is irritating - lots of stop signs and stoplights. Ideally, we'll be able to roll through these on race-day without touching the brakes.
  9. The "second half" of Eastside road, where it starts going downhill, is a bit rough. I don't remember all those short, steep "hills" either.
  10. Westside Road is a lot longer (and more rolling) than I remember!
  11. I must have passed two dozen vineyards. They sure are pretty.
I think my fitness is better (or more complete, at least) than it was in December, but this course (heat included) is more challenging than the one I tackled in Australia. It should be interesting to see how things play out come race day.