A last minute route change averted potential negative fallout in the West Pole bike world and not a single utterance of discontent. I know many had planned to scale the last massive wall and some had forest nymphs hiding behind old growth stumps, ready to belay them up the final pitch. As fate had it the ride was longer, and maybe harder than was planned. The choice of machinery was typical for a cross-Hopper. Mountain, road, cross...which was your weapon of choice? I had not a second to work on my bikes before Sat. Even Friday evening I opted for dinner and a movie with Tera and just hoped what had worked last week would again work on Sat. Slid open the shop door Sat. morning to look at a hat-trick of Specilized wonder, chose the bike that would be fastest on the day, barring a flat. I had ridden Sweetwater twice on my cross bike and noticed the lack of confidence on the descent with my cross bike. I longed for the sticky side walls of my 23c road tires. Was pretty sure I would get dropped on the climb and thought there was a chance of catching back on the descent. Road bike it was, besides it was the cleanest machine in the shop. Didn't even switch tires. It was a gamble and I took it as such. The plan was to descend Old Caz carefully and if I made it, would pay off in spades.
Ride report (as viewed by helicopter and lead motorcycle)
A healthy but not massive peloton of 125 rolled out of Occidental early Sat morning for what looked like a "a 3 hour tour...". Unlike Gilligan's epic journey of ridiculous repetitiveness the weather did not start getting rough and the Captain did not get tossed as blue skies reigned all day long. The first of the three Hoppers to roll neutral gave the group a chance to catch up, reminisce old times, and warm up legs and lungs. A fortuitous green light at Frei Rd, calm traffic at Guerneville and River Road, and a well scheduled piss stop near the Laguna bridge on Eastside Rd. led the group to the checkered flag of Wohler Bridge and the first of the days intermediate sprints. Unbeknowenst (word?)to the group Mig took the first sprint to Hopkiln Winery that gave him a 30 minute time bonus. (It just might be enough to secure the overall series victory, depending on other miscellaneous, unpredictable and otherwise ridiculous time bonuses that only he can award). The first bump up Sweetwater saw a splintering of the group that kept a steady pace in the flats but the group was brought back together before the first of the days real climbs. Shane hit the front and set a pace that was certain to separate the contenders from the pretenders. Stuck to his wheel was White Lightning, Carl H., Krishnamurti, Brian Astell, Hot Tubes and a few others. Close behind were G. Hope, C. Brown, Redhorse,Brian F, Mig and several others who took the fast train to the top. (Noticibly absent from the days ritual was U-boat and Duncan-bra'; both of whom made magical appearance metamorphosed as childhood play-critters halfway up the Old Caz climb) A frantic pace on the decent saw C.B. and Geo drop off the pace and Mig managed to catch a lift on HT/Cervelo who caught the lead group of 5 at the intersection of Armstrong Woods Road. A short way back the chase group that included Geo, C.B. Caballo Rojo,Thumanator and several others dug deep and reconnected with the group as they headed onto Old Caz and climb number two for the day. Old Caz, which is well known to all who participated in Grasshopper #1, was once again the butchering block as Shaolin Shane put the group into the meat locker. Only the days strongest were able to follow the blistering pace and lumberjack-sized helping of tough love dealt out by the leader the the GH series. Rog, and Krishna followed over the river and through the woods as junior muscle man fell off the pace on the technical decent. Mig hit the gate in 8th position and picked up Brian Astell who was picking himself up but soon lost two places to the boys on mtn. bikes. The group hit a snag in the mother of all downed trees and as the 4 or 5 riders did the fireman's brigade Chris B. and Mig popped around the low side and took hole shot into the creek. The elite group of three including Rog, Shane and Krishna rolled off the front, hopeful that the group behind would either give up or not have the power to bring it all back together. A small group gathered near the Caz store looking confused as to which way to go and it was a blessing for Mig who showed up, pointed the group in the right direction and tucked in behind Anders Newbury. His blistering pace was cracking the group but as he notched it down a bit the group unified in their effort to catch the leaders. (Actually, Anders pulled all the way from Cazadero to Hwy 1 except for one brief rest!) The elastic of the chase group was stretched thin as those on mtn. bikes suffered the extra effort of spinning fatter tires. The next group back containing Brian Anderson, Thuronator, Kent I'mjustChillin'cott and the other brave soldiers kept a steady tempo in anticipation of the days final climb. On the one "riser" before descending to Hwy 1 the elastic snapped as it always does. Hot Tubes smelled blood and finally left his followers in the dust and Carl H. powered by Mig's left over coke came around and brought himself and Mig into contact with the new leaders. "Who's ahead", asked Mig. "This is it", responds Rog. New lines were drawn. Game on. It was a question of attrition as the lead group of 6 hit Willow Creek. A road where your best day can turn to your worst if you end up in the fetal position on the side of the road, begging water from your buddy you just dropped. A steady tempo spread the group out and a surge by Shane on the rocky lead in to Pomo split the lead group into six. As the battle raged for the top spots so to did it boil down through the peleton. There is no giving up in this group. There were battles being fought for the top 5, the top 10, the top 20, the first column of the results page, the first page of the results. This is a tough crowd. Rog, Shane and Anders rolled off the front and Mig, Krishna and Carl rolled together until Carl took off when it got steep. After the top 5 came rolling though the finish the next 12 people came in within 6 minutes.The V went to Anders Newbury, 2nd to Rog, 3rd to Shane. An epic day was had by all. What a great way to spend a Sat! Thanks to everyone for not leaving trash or pooping by the side of the road at the top of Willow Creek.