The start of the Calaveras Wall
The Primavera Century is not my favorite long distance riding animal: the majority of it takes place out in the dusty heat of Pleasanton/Sunol and I much prefer riding by the coast, even if that means gusty headwinds. But I do like this event for a few important reasons: it includes three memorable climbing points that I can easily visualize even when I haven’t ridden he course in a few years, and it consistently offers excellent ride support, from SAG to emergency responders to feed stations. I’m a rider that spends very little time off the bike, as I get stiff after about 10 minutes of not pedaling, so I blow through feed stations efficiently. I love well-stocked feed tables with some variety to them from stop to stop. Primavera has never disappointed.
A dodgy angled-view of the Calaveras Reservoir. This is one of the best parts of the ride, especially in previous years on the fixed-gear bike: big rollers and lots of water views. There’s a known eagle’s nest viewing spot, and it’s largely shaded roadway. This year it was unsettling because a rider crashed, and while I passed him he was upright and sitting with SAG support folks, soon after, on my descent from the Reservoir, it was ambulance after fire engine after EMT after police car after police motorcycle… bad omen! So maybe the rider was concussed.
This year, I decided to do it on the road bike instead of fixed as I was to be riding with Team Lope’s Jefe, who only rides road. As it turned out, he was derailed by a serious sinus infection and couldn’t go, so I headed over to the start by myself. At first, I was disappointed I didn’t bring Crook, my Cinelli X MASH, because I love the effort of riding fixed at these events, and have done so at Primavera the last two times. But since I was already there, and had, for the first time in what seems like forever, a reliable road bike under me, I decided to go for it on Rogue, and enjoy the road bike for everything that entails, especially the descents, which become thrilling instead of torturous when you can freewheel. We were signed up for the metric, but I decided, while that was reasonable, to just go for the full century. Vy nott!
Here’s a shot looking down from the top of the Wall. These never give the same sense of effort in the photo that you feel at the top…
The first big challenge of the day, and certainly the most famous, is the Calaveras Wall. In the past few years I’ve had to stop at least once on the way up, and then walk the last short section, because I just couldn’t get up and over on the fixed gearing I had on hand (and last year we even tried flip flop hubs with smaller gearing, though mine was still not enough)… this time, though, I had a great time. I plowed through it seated, and only ticked down to my lowest gear in the last section. Felt awesome. Everything about the ride, especially in that first half, was a return to how it used to be for me, and how to do it right: my bike was mechanically sound, I was properly fueled, hydrated and unblocked, and I paced myself properly.
I spent a lot of this ride fantasizing about a summer TLTC ride kit in white or gray, I have to admit. I was sweltering in the black…as awesome as it looks…
In the past few years, my event rides have been a peculiar string of misfortunes, and after what, 22 years of doing event rides, it’s been especially annoying. I’m no stranger to mechanicals: my first event ride ever, in High School, was a two-day course from San Luis Obispo to San Juan Capistrano. That was 245 miles or so over the two days, with overnight camping. I did it on my first road bike, a heavy Nishiki ten-speed, and I remember towards the end I was doing some long climb out of the saddle and bent the teeth on my chainring. Granted that was cheap componentry long brutalized and I was torquing too big a gear, but nonetheless, the last portion of the ride was challenging as a result. I had several years of no mechanical issues to speak of, but with asthma issues and the like. And up here in the Bay Area, most of my early event rides in the 90s and early 00′s went fine. Then dodgy things started to happen. I agitated my right leg IT band so any long climbing effort that fatigued me would start to inflame that tendon, and not long after that couldn’t spin the knee anymore. I had a few events where I was riding sick that didn’t feel great. I later re-injured an old back/pelvis injury that led to problems on long rides. I even had a foot tendon issue one year. And on mechanicals, I mean seriously? I jumped a Dura Ace rear derailleur and gouged the chain guard one ride, had a string of flats the next, and if it wasn’t me, it would be someone I was riding with. Most recently, after I built a new road bike and replaced my sweet, sweet LOOK, it was comical. My Dura Ace brighter blew up, so I switched to SRAM, but then the front derailleur would slip inexplicably (even stumping the SRAM neutral car mechanic on Gran Fondo the first time) and then cracked my rear derailleur in half, blew a chain, and wiped out the drivetrain, stranding me for hours waiting for SAG in the rain. The following year’s Gran Fondo the bike was still having problems on a replacement rear derailleur, and then the knee acted up, killing that effort. It became an unfortunate theme with my riding buddies. I was sort of the misfortune sponge. If I was there, chances are the issues would happen to me, and spare the others. Sort of like a bad luck heat sink.
The Ultegra Di2 was flawless…and nary a prettier Cinelli can be found.
But this ride? Flawless. I had switched from SRAM to Ultegra DI2 and it worked like a dream. Shifting, smooth and efficient. No cross-chaining. No brake issues, no flats, no seat problems. I do a an equipment check before these rides, so it’s not like previous rides I was using loose or improperly maintained gear (though one year I built the bike the night before, which was obviously unwise) but this ride it FELT like it. On the physiological side, everything was fine again. Well nourished, well hydrated, at least in the first half, well stretched, no asthma at all, and felt strong until the last climb. It was a great time.
The last climb of the day is the Palomares grade, which is just this long, unrelenting winder. It’s not as steep or tightly curved as the roads we have up in Marin County like Apline, but specifically hitting it at the end of a long ride is pretty exhausting. In previous years, I had some trouble and had to take a few rests, and that was on the metric, and fixed. This time, it was happening at mile 85, rather than 60, and I’ve always noted that my energy level seems to collapse after mile 80. Every century I do, and every ride day of Aids Lifecycle, etc I note that I can maintain aerobic respiration until around mile 80, and then feel fatigue that I find impossible to really overcome. I just have to push through. 80 mile rides? I feel good after its over. 100 mile ride? I feel wiped out. Anyway, suffice to say, I rode the entire event seated, no hop-offs, and only feed stop breaks to fuel, but then hit Palomares and did have to stop a few times to recover. But after that, over the summit and down the long descent, I felt good, if exhausted. I dislike parts of that descent because the curves are tight, there’s a bit of gravel, and cars around blind corners. Not unlike some of the descents on my normal route, of course, but still, that’s a long descent after a long day, so everything’s tired: arms, hands, back, seat. Also, it terminates in Hwy 84, which holds the record in the met dangerous stretch of highway I’ve ever ridden on (and I’ve ridden on the 101)… All in, though, felt outstanding. I was wiped at the end of the ride, but in the right way.
Having very little saddle time this year meant my recovery was longer than it might otherwise have been. My knee flamed up a bit afterwards and overnight, and I had to do a lot of stretching for my back and legs. And the rides to work the next two days were unusually weak…just no fuel. But today I felt great and did some climbing before work.
Items to change for next year, or next event ride:
1. Two bottles: For years now I’ve been carrying one bottle in my jersey, and just refueling often. It’s not because I think I don’t benefit from two bottles: it’s more because I like carrying everything I need in my jersey, and what doesn’t fit, I don’t take. I have the ride kit pretty lean for these things: tools and tube in right side pocket, bottle in middle pocket, iPhone and ID/CC in the left pocket. Prior to that I used the rear-position seat mounted dual cage system that Lung used for a long time as well until recently, and before that it was a Camelbak, which to be fair is the BEST solution in terms of frequent hydration. I’ve never been thrilled with frame mounted bottle holders. But Primavera this year taught me that I’d rather be inconvenienced and carry two bottles than have to conserve. In the middle of the century, between miles 50-65, there was a long sweep over Altamont Pass, which was made worse for being at mid-day, and having precisely zero wind (seeing the windmills unmoving was disheartening) and I was hitting my bottle hard and wished for a second. So, back to that.
2. Looser First Half: My knee didn’t flare up until after the event, and doing a century cold like that this year I felt pretty lucky for having no issues… but since I’m unlikely to have a lot of saddle time before the next events in the hopper, I have to remember that I’m more prone to IT band inflammation again and to ‘tekkie teasy’ as my Swiss cousin-in-law would say. The less big tea rmashing I do not he front end, then less fatigue on that joint I have so when I lose form from exhaustion, I’m not as likely to flip that tendon out. In previous years I had not IT band problems at all, thanks to lots and lots of fixed gear riding. But with the kids and realLife, I just clearly don’t have the saddle time to assume that I can make it through long climbs without aggravating the injury.
3. Chiro First: I haven’t been to my chiropractor in a few months, and I think I would have benefitted from an adjustment prior to this ride. I spent a lot of time stretching and suffered back and hip pain in the last 40 miles. One less thing to bother me.
4. Battery: What a dope. I bought two battery extenders with slip tube profiles specifically for long rides (and long travels) and despite making myself three notes, I left the house in the pre-dawn hour without them. So, of course, Strava killed my iPhone at mile 67.
5. Eats: I learned after the fact that all the baked goods at the event were home-baked. I tolly skipped them in favor of the usual carbo-loads like bagel bits and PB&J, and fruit and such, but had I known, I’d have engaged in some yummery. Actually, the post-ride brownie was prety amazing.
Looking forward to the next event ride on the docket: Marin Climbing Century 2013!
The route sheet for 2013 100-miler
The route mapthusly
Primavera’s Facebook page… not too early to get in on 2014!