Up, dressed, Butt'rd up and ready to roll.
We meet a buddy and his wife in the parking lot for a pre-dawn picture.
(no that's not our bottle in the background)
Immediately after the picture we hit the road and are less than 5 minutes to the start line.... great hotel choice there Campy! With red lights flashing and white headlights going we four amigos mark the start time and reset the bike computers. It always makes me pause when resetting the computer, and I wonder what the computer is thinking... "Oh boy, wonder how long I'll be working today". The legs like to wonder the same thing. I do enjoy that feeling.
The first 40 or so miles is bound to be paceline work, which we have practiced together a couple times before the ride. The only thing I wonder is how long Campy will break the wind for us before I've got to keep the pace. Everything goes fine and we end up picking up some folks on the rear wheel as Campy's keeping a strong pace on the farmland flats. Even a Tandem hops on our line, quite the compliment! All these riders are fairly stable and safe, but I'm glad to be sandwiched between friends rather in the rear or the front of the line none the less.
Eventually dawn breaks, and I can see an amazing purple haze out over the fields of wheat. Clear skies, with the Sierra mountains in the horizon, flat fields as far as I can see. We ride on a raised roadway, and the view was incredible (added to lifelong mental photo album).
Finally we begin to approach the first big climb of the ride. Cardiac Hill. Nice intimidating name for a reasonable climb up past Monticello Dam and the "Glory Hole". This is an overflow point for the dam and I was anticipating a great show as millions of gallons poured through the overflow... eh water level isn't even close.
Climb up Cardiac passing quite a few folks, when finally we come to a long bend to the left and that's it. One done, many more to go.
Overall the hardest climb for me was on Cobb Mountain. The elevation profile shows straight up! This is at mile 96ish, and I made the choice at one point to hop off and walk with a friend for a very short stint. Chug up the rest of the way, then enjoy a forested fast downhill.
Last climb of note was up the much dreaded Resurrection hillclimb. This comes along at roughly 135 miles in to the ride and of course by then your legs are getting all achy from being used all day. The climb has a nasty reputation as being hot and miserable, but I actually find it to be one of the easier climbs of the day, similar to cardiac. Plus leading up the rest stop there's scripture in chalk on the way. I love that touch! Suddenly the name of the hill makes sense, and I thank God for giving me the strength for the day, and much more.
We finish off the day with a long run (about 20 miles) back across the flat farmlands, and I begin to miss the hills! Long flat Time trials are a nice break, but quite boring after awhile. A friend and I take turns drafting in to the finish line right as the sun was setting. In fact we pull in to the Vetrans Memorial Center (starting line and chow hall) just as it seems useful to turn on the red blinkers.
Park the bike, take off the nasty shoes and socks, go inside and chow down. BBQ chicken never tasted so good. 13.5 hours riding 15 hours on the road, the Sustained Energy and Nuun were finally starting to get old. Gimme some SOLID FOOD!
Best part, there was someone there doing massage and people hadn't noticed him yet. So we got right in for a massage, and hung out going back for 2nds and 3rds and 4ths in the food line. Finally after a very long time we head back to the hotel and I jump in a bathtub full of ice (for recovery like the pros do of course) I love cycling!