September 11, 2004: Beyond Category (HC)

Now that Romulus is armed with the LeMond, it was just a matter of time before we hooked up for a road ride; a ride that I knew would really put my road riding capabilities to the test. I'm coming along on the skinnies, but there's still work to be done. I think that riding with other people (See August 20, 2004: Two is better than one) is really going to accelerate my time to improvement.

Romulus and I arranged to meet at my house around 10:30 AM and then set off on a jaunt down to Pescadero and back. I figured we'd take the Cabrillo down to Stage Road then take that all the way into Main Street, USA—downtown Pescadero; then we'd come back on the Tunitas-Lobitos-HP route. The mileage for this ride would be in the neighborhood of about 50 miles, which I figured would take us about 3.5 hours.

The day was beautiful. It was warm with just a hint of chill in the air, especially in the shade, as we headed down the coastal bike path before eventually getting on to the Cabrillo at Grove Street in HMB. As expected, we took up a pretty strong pace, and I jumped the little uphill just past the Ritz. I always try to pull mid-20s up that entire hill because it's the perfect length for a nice uphill sprint tester—maybe a quarter mile. Just start hammering before you get to it, hit the bottom with a head of steam, and then at the first hint of falter, get up out of the saddle and start dancing. It feels so good to go flying up a hill at 23 MPH and keep it going for a while. A nice, deep, robust, satisfying burn. Feel it, yes, that's the feeling of strength and confidence and health.

I knew riding with Romulus today would be a challenge. For one, he has noted before that he grew up on a road bike, so he understands the mindset. Also, nobody can hammer like Romulus on flats or rolling flatlands. He's like Ulrich, he just cranks huge gears with his huge legs and it's really hard to keep up. When he's going strong, I don't care how good I'm riding, I have to really push to keep up, and even then it's usually at a lag of about 20 to 30 feet, just kind of clinging to the back of the Romulus Express (See April 14, 2004: The rip-pahhhhh!). It was exactly as I expected and as I hoped. Romulus was on today and there were definitely times on the way down to Stage Road that I was hanging on for dear life and spinning like a motherfucker to keep my tenuous grasp on his slipstream coattails.

And as I have been mentioning, it was only a matter of time before my improvement on the road yielded quantifiable results. Coming down the long downhill on Stage Road just before San Gregorio, I topped out at 40.5 MPH. This on the same hill that I had buckled on both the LeMond and the Blade each time previously. Oh that felt really good. Not a waver or shimmy. Just committed to no brakes and focused all my mental and physical energy on keeping my weight back and staying balanced. This is the fastest I've ever gone on a road bike. YES!

One thing that was missing though was Bonzai. Can you imagine the pace if Bonzai was thrown into the mix? Romulus doesn't stop when he rides, and he gets stronger as the ride progresses. Bonzai never slows, ever, and he doesn't stop either. I'm pretty steady the whole ride and I don't like to stop either. Man, we were a good fit. Bonzai is missed. However, I do feel incredibly fortunate to have hooked up with Romulus last year. I want it all though.

In Pescadero, we stopped for a snack and some pictures on the main drag. I was ready to turn back, but Romulus suggested we go for Skyline, so we saddled up and turned east on Pescadero Creek Road. I had not brought the map, so I was not exactly sure of the route, but was fairly confident that somehow we could get up to Skyline by going east on this road. A Bike Route road sign confirmed this hunch. I figured we were looking at a 10- to 12-mile climb at most, given the 9.5-mile climb from Cabrillo to Skyline on Tunitas. If I had brought the map, we might have reconsidered our choice. Pescadero Creek Road does head past Loma Mar up towards Skyline, but then it hooks into Alpine Road and heads north where it intersects La Honda Road (CA 84) on its way up to La Honda proper and Skyline (CA 35). I could tell at about the eight-mile mark that the road wasn't heading in the direction I wanted it to and that there was no way we were going to be at the top in another three or four miles. This was beginning to the have the feel of an epic (See August 24, 2004: Eh-pic).

Romulus and Cannonball under the bright lights of downtown Pescadero
Romulus grinds out mile 15 of the 25-mile climb
Cannonball takes the Blade off-road in Skeggs

At the 13-mile point in the climb, a tinge of dismay cluttered my concentration when I heard Romulus utter "Man, we've got some climbing to do still" at the Alpine Road junction. From there things get a bit fuzzy. I remember endless uphill straightaways and countless uphill corners that held the promise of being the last one only to gradually reveal another long uphill straightway. They just kept coming. I remember a narrow stretch of road with a concrete barrier blocking off the shoulder and being pinned between the barrier and a pack of about 40 chromeosaurs roaring up the hill on a weekend club ride. I remember surging ahead and falling behind, surging ahead and falling behind. But always up, always up. At the 20-mile mark we finally hit Skyline, but there was no rest for the weary there. We continued to climb, finally passing the Skeggs lot and then mercifully arriving at the Tunitas turnoff.

We were both feeling the effects of the 25-mile climb, but we were still at least 20 miles from home. The next six miles would be downhill, but it would be tough, technical switchbacks that would test the reflexes and strain the neck and shoulder muscles. We started down and I was feeling it. I mean I really felt like I could finally go for it. Again, let's clarify, I wasn't getting Bonzai road downhill crazy, but I was nailing corners and leaning, and really feeling the speed. During this descent, I realized that this ride is the single best road ride I've ever done in my life. The Santa Barbara century was a great accomplishment, but for pure bikesmanship, today was the best ever on a road bike.

Once we turned off onto Lobitos, the heavy lifting was done for the day. We had a few more hills to pull, but we took the Cabrillo instead of going Verde to HP and that took some of the edge off. We both felt spent, but not brutally wiped like I was in Moab doing the Porcupine Ridge Trail (Again, see August 24, 2004: Eh-pic). I did completely die a couple of times during the course of the ride, but I always seemed to catch a second wind and come back. Same with Romulus. He says it's the mountain biking. That all the starting and stopping and changing speeds and paces conditions us to be able to "recover" multiple times during the course of a ride. Sounds good to me. However, by the time we hit my driveway, I was hurting. My legs were hurting pretty bad, I felt like I had daggers in my shoulders, and my perineum was threatening to go completely raw on me. Home sweet home never looked so good.

A few firsts today:

  • Romulus' longest ride ever
  • My top speed ever on a road bike
  • My longest ride in time and miles for the year
  • My first time riding to Pescadero
  • Our first of many road rides

  • Mileage: 68.19 Time: 4:41:23 Avg: 14.5 Max: 40.5 Weight: 169

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