Sunday, July 26, 2009

Congratulations Contador!!!

The Tour de France ended today with Alberto Contador in yellow. He has been picked on in the media a bit, but he desrves the win and he has always deserved to be the leader of his team. I am a huge Lance fan, but I believe in my heart that AC was the best rider in the race.

Sandie might even be coming around as she suggested we open a bottle of Spanish wine to toast Alberto for the win.

One more thing... was it Alberto or was it Snake Oiler in the final time trial on Stage 18? Things that make you go, "hmmm."

So... A big congratulations to Alberto for the win, Andy Schleck for second place, and an even bigger congrats to the old man (Lance is 37) for coming in third with those two twenty-something whipper snappers! Not bad after being away from racing for over 3 years!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Death Ride Part 2: Enter Sandie

In 2007, he rode the Death Ride alone. In 2008 he was on the Mexican Riviera with his family. Now, in 2009, he has a sidekick... and they still only made four passes!

Oh well, it was a good time anyway.

Somehow I talked Sandie into suffering with me this year as we did the Tour of the California Alps. The whole ride is 129 miles, 5 mountain passes, with 15,000 feet of climbing. We did 88 miles, 4 passes, and 12,000 feet. Not too bad considering we didn't have time to train very well. It was harder than I remembered, but just as fun.

We started out from Turtle Rock Park just after 6am, about 30 minutes later than we had hoped but sometimes that extra half hour of sleep feels good. We really didn't have a plan as to whether we would stay together or ride at our own pace. I made the decision on the way up the first climb just to hang with Sandie and enjoy the beating with her. About half way up, there is a spot that levels out a bit so I stopped there to wait for her. This was the longest I had to wait all day, just over 5 minutes or so. After that, she stayed pretty close. She seemed to get stronger as the day went on.

At the top of Monitor, I waited for about 1 or 2 minutes so we could have our picture taken together at the top. Then we headed to the rest stop. We ate some food, refilled the bottles, took a "nature break", and headed down the other side to Topaz Lake. At the bottom, I grabbed a few gel packets (this turned out to be the only rest stop that had them as far as I can tell) and we made our way back up. At the half way point, the kids from R.O.P. had a water station set up. I stopped and topped off my bottles and waited for Sandie. When she came by, I had her hand off her bottle so she could keep going. I topped that off and set out to catch her. Once she had her bottle back, I continued on at my own pace. She has a Granny gear and I don't. This makes it difficult to travel at the same rate uphill. While she can spin a little easier, I have to work harder unless I keep my momentum up.

Once back at the top, we had a pair of fellow riders snap our picture with the elevation marker and went on to the rest stop. Sandie needed some vitamin I at this point and they weren't allowed to give her any and the medics had just left. Luckily I had a stash in my seat bag. We refueled and headed down the other side. This descent was pretty scary with the whipping wind. I couldn't go as fast as I'd wanted because of it. Then I came upon the youngest rider in this year's ride and her mother. She was 8 years old and was riding one pass to raise money for the arts and music program at her school! I just slowed down and talked to them for a bit till Sandie caught up. When we made it to the bottom, we made the left turn to tackle Ebbetts.

As we were climbing there seemed to be some discrepancy among the riders as to how long the climb actually was. I stopped to consult the map as Sandie rolled on. I caught up to her after making my best guess (the map didn't have that info) at 8 to 10 miles. Just as I was telling her this we came upon the rest stop where a lady was out on the road flagging riders down saying, "Last chance for water for 8 and a half miles!" So we stopped, I refilled Sandie's bottles and sent her on her way while I did mine and mixed up some Endrolytes. It took me quite awhile to catch her, she was running strong! I was actually wondering if I might not catch her before the top. When I got to her, she said, "I like this climb better than the last one. It has more recovery spots." To which I replied, "It gets tougher..." and continued on. We rode together through a few of the switchbacks until I had to pick up my pace to keep from overworking my legs. Shortly after the photo guy, I pulled off to wait for her. When she came around the corner, I started riding again. We stayed together for a bit and she told me that she was learning to hate Ebbetts.

Riders were coming down the mountain at a very high rate of speed and as I was passing Kinney Reservoir, a rider went by and it sounded like he crashed. I told the guy next to me, "That didn't sound good," as I looked over my shoulder just in time to see the guy that was following the other descender go down HARD. I could hear the "pop" of his shoulder breaking. We all stopped and a couple of riders ran to him as the rest of us were trying to slow down the other riders coming into the blind corner. Luckily for him there was a SAG motorcycle right there when it happened. He checked on the guy, then sped up the hill to get the ambulance. It was a very spooky thing to witness.

At the top, Sandie had a Cup-o-noodles, I had 3 V-8s, and we barely made the cut off time to descend the other side. At this point either one of us would have been happy to just turn around and head back. But I told her that this was the shortest of all the legs and we might as well do it since we'd gone that far. So down the hill we went.

At the bottom, we took a quick "nature break", scrounged up some vitamin I (these kind folks were willing to break the rules to help out people in pain). They told Sandie, "you MIGHT be able to FIND some over by that truck" and turned a blind eye. I had a V-8 and a pepsi, Sandie had a gel, and we headed up the climb.

We stopped for a minute at the top as I told her I would follow her on the descent. I was worried about her and she was a little scared to do it. That crash had everyone rattled. The roads were opening at this point so we had to worry about cars too. There is always safety in numbers though and we were in and out of groups of riders. We passed more people than passed us, so we felt good about that.

We stopped and shared a turkey wrap at the lunch stop. We refilled the bottles and headed for Turtle Rock Park knowing that there was no chance to make the cut off for the 5th pass... and we were happy about it.

It was tough climbing our way out of the valley to the park, but it felt good to me that we had no real problems all day. Sandie was still in a good mood and we did better than we really expected to since we knew we didn't train well.

Sandie climbed well and mostly stayed pretty close to me. She never stopped or walked her bike, like many people do. We made pretty good time when we were in the saddle. Our problem with time came at the rest stops. Sandie is a lollygagger at those stops! I think, more than anything she was enjoying the atmosphere at those stops. It is quite fun hanging out and chatting with the other riders and volunteers. I am very proud of her for doing the ride and finishing strong like she did. She also did what I was afraid she would not do. She listened to her body and did not go beyond what she was capable of doing.

Well, I'm hoping she will do her own post (hint-hint, Sandie) from her perspective... so I'm done.

Professional photos can be found at West World Images soon. Search Rider numbers 3566 (Sandie) and 2347 (me).