2009 Riverbank Cheese & Wine Century

Steve (dJ) picked a century to ride with Neil and me, and we invited Nat to join us. Steve & Nat drove up from the LA area, and I flew in mid day Saturday. This was Nat's and my first century. The ride is associated with a local event: The Riverbank Cheese & Wine Festival, and the local bike club sponsors the ride (elevation profile).

This route takes off southeast towards Turlock Lake Recreation Area. Along the way you'll encounter rolling hills, vineyards, orchards and dairies. After the first rest stop at the lake, you begin to enter the Central Sierra Nevada Foothills. You'll ride through grasslands, Blue Oak and Digger Pine woodlands, and chaparrals of Manzanita and Chamise. Once you pass the old mining town of La Grange, you climb and ride across Don Pedro Dam and the Tuolumne River. After riding along Don Pedro Lake, you'll soon begin a long climb to the 2948' Domingo Peak. Once to the summit, cyclists will descend +1000' in 1 mile to lunch at Yosemite Gateway Hostel in the town of Moccasin. Here you can look at the Hetch Hetchy water system which supplies San Francisco. After lunch, you'll begin to head back via the Northern Yosemite Highway. Across the Tuolumne River and pass the 1849 mining town of Chinese Camp towards Yosemite Junction, you'll view Table Mountain: ancient remains of lava flows. The route then takes you to the final rest stop at Knights Ferry Recreation Area.

When I'm in the Bay Area, I usually ride Neil's Trek 1100, but he borrowed two bikes for me to try, a red aluminum specialized bike with a compact crank, and a yellow steel Tesch with a 53/39 from his friend Tommy, which I chose to ride. I was a little concerned about the lack of a triple, but it worked out to be a light, fast, and sweet mount.

We drove a hundred miles east, and after we checked into our motel, we went over the the festival, which was winding down. We tasted some cheese, but passed on the wine, which would have cost thirty-five dollars apiece, and there was less than an hour of tasting left. Steve "tasted" some ice cream (not so good), and I "tasted" a mango, which was excellent. We decided not to have dinner at the festival as we didn't have much to do that night, and dinner would fill the bill (hopefully us too).

We ate at a steak house and loaded up with a few carbs.

Registration opened before dawn: we picked up our wrist bands, ride patches, and T-shirts. 420 people rode: 130 rode 25 miles, 150 rode the metric century (100km, about 62 miles), and 130 rode the full century (106 miles).

We got the bikes ready, and we were all eager to ride. We rolled at around 7:15; Ride On!!!! We rode into the dawning sun; lights weren't really needed.

We started the ride at an easy pace, but after a couple of miles, we found ourselves in a group riding at just over twenty miles an hour. We were tucked in, drafting, and the pacemakers seemed uninterested in any help with pulling. Although this was quite a bit faster than we had planned, it was comfortable and fun.

After quite some time of moving right along, Steve observed that it we could take a nice photo from the inside of a sweeping left curve. Unfortunately, we dropped the camera. I went back to fetch it; Steve and Nat waited, but Neil, who was riding a bit ahead of us, continued as we were only a few miles from the first rest stop at around mile marker twenty-two. There was no way we three were going to catch up to the freight train, so we rode on, with my pushing a bit too hard as I was disappointed about the broken camera. We backed down the pace a bit and continued.

Nat and I were chatting just ahead of Steve, and we missed the turn for the first rest stop. Steve yelled to us to no avail; he stopped, and we continued. A minute or two later we noticed Steve was missing, and we slowed down and then stopped. He didn't show up; we tried to call via cell; we asked passing bikers if anyone had fallen or had a flat, ... . We went back about a half a mile and could see another half-mile back, and there was no one. All we could figure out is that Steve was really ahead of us and was waiting at the rest stop which must be coming up soon. We rode on for a few miles, and not finding Steve, Neil, or the rest stop, we stopped to ask more bikers for info. Well, Neil and Steve came cruising up to us, having rested and feasted on various snacks, and we just rode on. Nat was packing goo and I had packed a couple of energy bars (that I was pretty sure I wouldn't need), so we ate on the road.

Nat & I could have used the rest stop even though we did wait around and rest on the road, and even though we then had something to eat while riding. Rolling hill climbing started after the first rest-stop. Nat and I both took a mental hit, and couldn't wait for the next rest stop at around forty-four. By mile-marker forty, I was hurting. The road had been bumpy, and we had gone out a bit too fast. My butt hurt and my legs weren't totally happy. We made it to the next rest stop, and that was a very good thing. My seat had not been quite level, which we fixed. After a PB&J sandwich, some cookies, some gorp, and some Gatorade, we were ready to roll. I felt much better than before the stop.

The big hill of the ride started around mile marker fifty-three. We had a long gentle climb of a thousand feet over about three miles. There were "cow grates" in the road, and we got off our bikes for the first one, crossing carefully. We were soon shoo'd out of the way by the following riders who flew over them at full speed. We didn't get off again for the grates. After the uphill came a nasty, steep, windy, narrow, yucky, bad, evil (can you tell I didn't like it?) descent of a thousand feet, which I took at a crawl. Neil, Steve, and Nat were waiting at the base, and Neil burned his leg on my front rim. I'm lucky I didn't have a blow out due to brake friction. One rider did blow out that day. As I read the ride description, it says 1000'+ drop over a mile, which is twenty percent average grade. Yuck. Lunch was just a few miles ahead.

For me, lunch was the same fare as the first rest stop. The big climb and the bad, bad, bad descent over, I was looking forward to the rest of the ride. There was still a 500' hill to come, but we were told that a good bit of the return was on a bigger road, and there was lots of shoulder.

We rode off and caught up to a couple of riders who were riding just faster than I could pull, so we tucked in behind them and enjoyed the climb. Most of the return trip had a head-wind, so tucking in was nice. They pulled us up about two-thirds of the hill, and at this point Neil and I were riding together, and Steve and Nat had fallen back a little. I thanked the boys for the pull, and offered to return the favor. Neil and I passed them and began to hammer up the rest of the gentle hill. We dropped our short-lived friends and had a great time riding into the wind and up the long slow grade. At the top we waited for Steve and Nat, and they joined us presently. Steve and I rode a bit ahead, flat and then down a very long hill at the side of this main road. Steve schooled me in echelon riding into a cross wind. We flew down the descent, getting passed by "the shark", a recumbent with a colorful cloth enclosure that we saw all day long. The shark must have been going around fifty or more to our forty; he flew by us.

We rode to the next rest stop in the high eighties and took our time. We were less than twenty miles from the finish, and we were going to make it. Just after the stop there was a nasty little hill that caught us unaware. I had expected mostly descending to the finish, but I was dead wrong: rolling hills. The last six or seven miles were flat. We decided to skip the last rest stop just before mile marker one hundred as we were almost done. The last few miles were flat.

We rolled to the finish having averaged just over fifteen miles per hour, almost seven hours in the saddle and almost nine hours on the road. We all seemed in decent shape, but none of us were moving very fast. My legs were okay; my butt was a little sore; and my palms took the most abuse.

The ride offered an early dinner of salad and chicken which we enjoyed. Steve and Nat took off for LA, and Neil and I headed to the Bay Area. An excellent event in excellent company, fun was had by all.

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