Have you ever heard that expression “Sometimes you are the hammer and sometimes you are the nail”? It’s pretty much cycling in a nutshell. One day you are in the penthouse and the next you are in the outhouse. For example, look at Jens Voigt in the 2005 Tour de France. Stage 9 = yellow jersey. Stage 10 =out of yellow. Stage 11 = didn’t make the time cut and out of the tour. It happens to the best of them and it happens to me…all the time. GAS #6 was no exception. I was not only a “nail”, but a “bag of nails”. The kind of nails that keep hitting knots in the wood and bend, then break off completely. Those nails….
It started off the same as always. Meet up with about 80 other cyclists who are your buddies in the parking lot, but wouldn’t hesitate to drop you, the minute you show any signs of weakness, when you are out on course. You know who I am talking about – your cycling friends. We started once again from the picturesque town of Monte Rio, on the banks of the Russian River. The pace was very mellow from the start. A couple of Conti Pros showed up, Tim and Taylor, from Pistachios; but no Pro Tour riders hammering us local weekenders into the ground. You know who I’m talking about.
We rolled up into Cazadero and beyond – to King’s Ridge. Made recently famous due to Levi’s Gran Fondo. This is where the pain began and out came the aforementioned nails. I yo-yoed off the front group, then the 2nd group and settled into what I guess you could call a group or five, maybe more or less. It is basically everybody for themselves. After 2 hours all of us spotted the “team car” staffed by the legendary Jim Keene of Norcal Bike Sport. Jim has been doing the water bottle feeds for all the races this year and has probably saved numerous lives. I gladly took all 3 bottles that I had given him. I figured a bottle an hour and I would be good. So that was 5 bottles for 5 hours. Too bad it took me almost 6 hours to finish.
Our group of 5 rolled through Tin Barn Road – more climbing and more descending. We reached Skaggs Springs Rd. and instead of taking the “easy” way and turning left, we went right. Oh the brutality. Although I was hoping that turning right might work out better for me. Last year we went left on Skaggs and I proceeded to take a turn to fast that had a mid-turn cattle guard on it. I got a little squirrely, ended up on the other side of a very narrow road and side-swiped a motorcycle. Melted the back-side of my gloves as I grazed his mirror. I happened so fast I didn’t even know how to react. This year…turning right would be better. Well, not really.
We reached Annapolis Road for an extra 20 miles and couple thousand feet of climbing and I opened the bag of nails again. My group dropped me on the first rise and I was on my own for a long time….and I mean a long time. All the way to the coast, I saw not a soul. Once I hit Highway 1 my luck changed. The wind was blowing from the northwest (from north to south). Guess which way the route went? North to south. Yes! I hooked up with another rider who was sponsored by a hair salon. That was interesting. Never seen that before.
He had to stop for water so I just kept on going. Next on tap..more climbing. Kruse Ranch Road is a short, relatively mellow climb from the Highway 1 to Seaview, which is on Levi’s Gran Fondo route. Up and down, up and down, I rolled by myself. Lots of thinking about nothing, except for maybe wondering when it was going to be over. I was out of food and almost out of water. The only thing I had was Gorilla Gum. I had never used this before and why I was going to stick a piece into my mouth now was probably pretty dumb. But it was all I had and 100 mg of caffeine can’t hurt, right? I was worried my heart would go into some sort of tachycardia and start quivering out of control. It didn’t work.
By that time a group of 4 caught me and we rolled together all the way to the bombed out road they call Willow Creek. It was every man for themselves. Someone flatted, my bike pump rattled off and almost fell into my front wheel. It was a “Breaking Away” moment. So I had to stop and reattach it. From bombed out road to all dirt road. As usual this sufferfest finished up Willow Creek Road, a fire trail that does not really feel good on a road bike. 5 hours 45 minutes on a bike with 6,000 or so feet of climbing = fun. Hmmmm….
So I am putting my bag of nails away till next year when I am sure El Patron, Miguel, will come up with some more brutal routes for us to ride. I will store up more nails for next year because I am sure I will be using them again. The “fastest dentist in the world”, Roger Bartels, appears to have captured the overall title. Congratulations to Roger. See you all next year!