Sunday, May 10, 2009

And in Closing...

Let's begin with a giving of thanks. Thanks for the safe rides. Thanks for the sun that shone, the breeze that blew at our backs and the immature California Coastal Mtns. that ripped our legs off. Thanks to Kim, Steve P, Mary B.,Ted C.,Katrina and Nick at the starts. Thanks to Kim for her long days atop Coleman Vly Rd and the amazing maps. (Even if I'm too ignorant in regards to movie lore to understand the deeper meanings.) Thanks for the bodies, minds and spirits that converge to allow us to rip through life astride two-wheeled kinetic sculptures. Thanks to Pachamama.

Have you had time to collect your thoughts? Was a memorable day on the Ridge, as I knew it would be. I managed to will myself through another epic Hopper, riding along folks who have put in countless miles and hours, spinning in their garages watching videos of Paris-Roubaix as the rain hammered down late December,or better yet, saddled up for a 4 hr. slog in the rain, anticipating the first Hopper in the end of Feb. An impressive hardened group showed up on Sat to challenge the series finale, only a few of whom had never ridden a K.R. Hopper. A good sign to me; meaning that people knew what they were in for. I figured 4 1/2 hrs. would be a fast day for me. The start went smoothly again, thanks to Kim, Steve P. and Mary. Thanks T for coming out. Thanks to all for the Happy Bday to Josie. I was on the podium before the ride began. The descent to Monte Rio, was smooth, relaxed and safe. Enjoyed the chat down Moscow and Austin Creek Rd. and then was awakened to find I was being dropped after turning rt. on Caz Hwy. Thought it was a brief acceleration but turned out to be the real deal. Cal Strawberry led by John Hunt drove to the first climb and from what I understand dealt a fair share of whoop ass all the way to the finish line. Field yo-yoed throughout the day. People were caught and dropped. Alliances were drawn and abandoned as roads pointed upwards. Checkbook balance reassessed and huge withdrawals taken. Many dipped into retirement savings, unkindly rewarded by the double whammy quad and hammy crampy; forcing rider to dismount and suckle the last drops of warm water. Oh but Meyers Grade to Jenner! Ripping, ripping, ripping! Did you enjoy the moment or did you disregard the hand at your back and the views of the mighty Pacific and napping harbor seals as your mind left the present, wrapping its twisted fingers around the future? The future ascent of Willow Creek and the Twin Sisters? The only control we have in our lives is of our own thoughts, we are often together in a Hopper but ultimately alone. On Willow Creek there are always people ahead of you. There are always those behind. Sat I rode thinking of those ahead, knowing Matthias was lurking around a corner behind me. Managed to stay ahead of my Gianni bros who kindly served me in Chileno Vly. Tough love in the West County. Checked my time from '01, the last time we rode this exact loop. And the only stage I've managed to win. I was only eight minutes slower this year (4:39 ) than I was 8 years ago! So it's true, I'm not really getting (that much) slower, everyone else is just getting faster! :) John H. finished with a smoking time of 4:05 * Special thanks to Hillary for the water and to Veronika for sharing down to her last drop. Don't forget to check out her amazing photos.

I hear Roger and Timmel threw down Mano a Mano on Willow Creek with Timmel the victor. Hats off to the MudPuppy and to White Lightning who informed me this year that he is just getting stronger since this is technically his second year really riding his road bike a lot. Congrats to Kathleen for being the fastest lady and to all the others who made it out. Got a story to tell? Shout it out.



At 6:55 AM , Blogger Whole Athlete Cycling Team said...

As the blind Grasshopper Master says, “Fear is the only darkness.” Facing my fear, I hurl myself into the pit of Hopper, the Ridge that is King, the Shiva to my fear, illuminating the darkness of 85 of both stunning and treacherous miles of “road” (loosely translated from ‘route’). From the masterful – bordering on cruel - mind of Miguel comes a route that makes me want to hammer yet stop and look around, race yet coast and chat, curse & cry yet rejoice that I am alive…How is it that I can experience all of this in a “training ride”? The Master replies, “How is it that you could not until now?”

This King Ridge Grasshopper marks one year of Hoppers for me, and completes the ’09 Hopper series. It was a light turnout this time, only ~100 or so, with some of the usual suspects present, yet no-shows both accounted and unaccounted for. Patron of the “road” Hoppers, Levi decided to miss it this year, choosing instead to do some local ride in Italy. Must be the better espresso…The red army was reduced in numbers, as was NorCal, so it was up to the four Cal Giant Berries, fresh off the Tour of the Gila (John “Terminator” Hunt, Jesse “More power? No problem” Moore, James “You will soon see why I am wearing stars and stripes” Mattis, and Mark “Santa’s present to you is pain” Santurbane). This was the quartet to darken my fear on this day.

Looking lean, mean and with cyborg-like mercilessness, “Terminator” Hunt decides that the first climbing section of King Ridge is meant to whittle the pack down like a soft piece of wood, from a redwood trunk to a toothpick. After nearly ten minutes of riding beyond my limit, I dare look back, only to see that I am part of the six-man front Berry group with splinters and shavings of the former pack scattered down the road behind. If only the Berries could let up just the slightest bit…but no chance. I am forced to let them gap me, lest I blow in nuclear fashion. I ease my pace to recover slightly and wait for the next small group to scoop me up. Rich “Moose” Thurman, Todd “Wise-man” Weitzenberg, Tyler “Breather” Brandt, and a young Swifty come up quickly. The five of us work together -- when Moose is not hitting the steeper pitches in attack-like fashion, about to crack the lot of us each time. Along the Ridge, we can see the Berry group not that far ahead, rolling at a seemingly similar pace. It’s only 15 miles in, and I’m already managing my body, wondering if I will ever recover from the initial Berry-whipping on the climb. I’ll never eat berries with whipped cream again…

Turning onto Tin Barn Road, we keep it rolling well, and catch the Berries at the Skaggs Springs junction and we are a front group of eleven. With the Terminator leading the charge, the descent to Stewards Point is a swooping, winding, flowing, flying, fluid affair as we rip our way to the coast. One more small climb and good timing, my legs seem to have some back under me.

We turn south onto Highway 1, and thus begins part 2 of the route. All aboard the Berry Express, a tailwind TGV, rockin’ the smallest cogs at 30-40 mph. The merciful exclusion of Fort Ross Road was replaced by the odiferous rhododendron rich, gradual dirt route of Kruse Ranch Road. I knew the Berries would go full gas, so I glued myself to their wheels, following More Power Moore at max as he motors the fast line. In no time, it was four Berries and me, as the others either think better of trying to hold the ridiculous pace, or simply cannot…We ride the climb so fast that I am in the drops staring at the wheel in front of me, managing my body at redline. When fear, doubt or uncertainty enter my mind, I remind myself that I belong here. We hit the top of the climb and the pitch kicks up steeply. We are all out of the saddle and Moore, Santa and Hunt gain a few bike lengths on me, while Mattis is a few bike lengths behind. We roll onto the pavement as we turn onto Seaview and I look back to Mattis encouraging him “let’s go”. But instead of working together – one pull each and we’re both golden - he attacks me from behind and bridges to his ‘mates. I yell at them to ease up, but they immediately start working together and I cannot close the gap. Needless to say, out of my mouth flew a furious flurry of explicatives…Here we go again, as I find myself on the same ridge for the second year alone with 35 miles and Willow Creek to go.

I get into maintenance mode, eating and drinking, keeping my pace steady but not too deep. As Wise-man Weizenberg pointed out back on King Ridge, Willow Creek will be the final judge on this day…I climb pass Fort Ross Rd. and look back and see Moose Thurman slowly bridging across to me. With a long way to Jenner and Willow Creek - much of it flattish and descending, I welcome Moose’s help. We connect and immediately cooperate, sharing the pace all the way to Willow Creek Road.

I swing left onto the broken pavement, gravel and dirt with relish as the combination of dirt and tailwind raise my spirits and motivation. Full speed through sections of wet, wrecked road, I pick lines and hop holes. After a few minutes, I notice it is quiet behind me and I am alone. Did the Moose crack? Did he flat? All I know is that I must manage what little I have left to make it up Willow Creek in one piece. I ride by Santa carrying his bike, and apologize for not having a chain tool to share.

Fondly remembering the brutal pitches at the climb’s halfway point, I meter my effort and save energy until the sharp kicks. Clearing these without trouble, although wishing for a lower gear, I proceed to unload the tank for part two of the climb. I know I am in the home stretch, and if anyone can catch and pass me now, they fully deserve it. Finishing the climb much stronger that I started it, I hit the welcome mat that is asphalt, leaving the darkness behind as I ride the wave of fearlessness to the finish in 4th, 3rd overall in my first full Hopper series.

A huge thank you to Miguel, Kim, Ronnie and lead motorcycle guy (and anyone I’ve forgotten) for making it happen and keeping it real…No fear!


At 11:43 PM , Blogger Skye Kraft said...

Incredible ride - Thanks all for putting it on!!

Here's how my day went down.--skye

At 8:25 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't thank everyone enough who puts in the hard work to make the 'hoppers happen. We are lucky to be living in an area so well-suited to riding and even luckier to have folks willing to take their own time to create great rides through said area.

Already looking forward to a fitter and faster 2010...


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