tldr: rode the Giro Bello century in the Alexander valley, wonderful weather, gorgeous scenery, great ride.
Well, my second century is in the books and what a great ride it was.
This ride, the Giro Bello (heh, italian for ‘nice ride’ according to the web) was a benefit ride put on by the Rotary Club of Santa Rosa, with proceeds funding all sorts of area programs.
RBR and I went up Friday evening and crashed with friends of Rich’s in Healdsburg. After a great dinner, it was to bed and up early (5:30, ugh) and down to Sebastopol for an originally intended 6:30 start that somehow turned into a 6:50 start. This was not a mass start, but there were lots of riders on the road. We didn’t feel alone ever during the day.
Going into the ride, we and apparently every other rider signed up for this ride were concerned about the weather – it was just plain hot for 5 or so days leading up to the ride. However, the heat wave ended in a timely fashion and Saturday at 5:40 it was a chilly 54 degrees out in Sebastopol. Arm warmers went on, and didn’t come off will after 10:00 am, at mile 60.
A Tale of Two Rides
Rich and I headed out and from the start realized that this was going to be a very scenic ride. The first 60 miles is mostly flat (one climb, Chalk Hill, that was pretty darn easy). The route led us east to the edge of the valley, and then headed north-west, skirting the vineyards but staying out of the foothills. Lots of rollers, but generally an incredibly pleasant ride. The first rest stop was at La Crema (who just coincidentally make one of Julie’s favorite Chardonnays) and the second was at Robert Young – one of our all time favorite wineries. Fortunately(?) they weren’t open for tasting yet, and yes, I’m questioning my sanity in saying that. There’s something simply inspiring about riding on a cool morning past acre after acre of beautiful vineyards. This must be what its like to tour in France, I’m thinking that I need to try that some day.
After the stop at Robert Young, we headed over to Geyserville, and then on north towards Cloverdale, passing under Hwy 101 and turning south just south of Cloverdale. Much of this section we rode with a couple from Danville, proudly wearing their Mt. Diablo climb jerseys (available at the ranger station on the mountain). As we turned south, we also encountered Bruce and Jennie from the 2wheelcycling club – a Sonoma area club. Later we added their teammate Brian (or maybe not Brian, honestly, I was tired when we got to the introductions at the end of the ride and am feeling good about remembering two out of three). In any case, we followed the three of them back down the valley, this time on the west side on what I would describe generously as a ‘very exciting’ road. Again, it wound its way along the boundary between the hills and the valley, with incredibly beautiful vineyards to our
left, and dry grassy hills to our right. This brought us into the 3rd rest stop of the day, at mile 60 at the Felta School House. This was billed as the Lunch stop, but we got there around 10:00 AM. Rich and I found ourselves thinking (and this is a first) that doing the metric century would have been too easy. The metric route would have placed us here at about 50 miles, and even at 60 we were still feeling quite fresh. Knowing (in some limited sense) that we still had a lot of climbing to do on the Century route, we still felt energized and on top of the world. I was having a few stomach issues, and it would take me two more rest stops to figure out that drinking the energy drink they were serving wasn’t working for me.
Another Type of Ride
After the mile 60 rest stop, the nature of the ride changed considerably. We started to make our way up into the hills, eventually getting to two challenging climbs: Harrison Grade road, and Coleman Valley road. These are not long climbs like we ride in the coast hills, but have a lot of up and down and back up again to them – several steep pitches, but not a lot of extended agony. Through this stretch, a riding pattern developed in which the 2 wheel cycling guys and Rich would slowly pull ahead, I would cover the middle, and Jen would bring up the rear. Then, at the top and after a quick regroup, Jen would bomb down the hill as fast as anyone, until we got to the next climb. It was super nice to be riding with these guys, as they explained each climb before we started so that we didn’t have the uncertainty of how the climb would unfold to worry about. Its a lot easier to navigate unknown climbs with local knowledge available.
Close Encounters with Nature
Somewhere in the hills, I think on Jonive road, and interestingly not far from Hawk Hill vineyard, a small hawk swooped out of a tree, passing within a foot or so of my head, I think with a snake in its claws. A quick swerve on my part as I was completely startled, and then on I went.
Short Cuts Anyone?
One interesting attribute of the route was that there were a number of tempting points where you could chop a number of miles off your ride. I’m proud to report that we resisted temptation – especially on the Coleman Valley / Joy road / Bittner road loop, which left the eclectic town of Occidental, took us on a very hilly 5 mile loop, and then deposited us BACK in Occidental, just a block away from the rest stop from which we’d started.
From there, there was a wonderful descent down to the Bodega Hwy, a fairly easy climb up Bodega and Jonive roads and then another great descent down Occidental road back to Sebastopol and the finish line. The five of us finished together, after I wisely decided against unleashing my explosive finishing sprint.
We then grabbed a quick bite to eat, chatted with our ride mates and headed home.
Well, I can handle Centuries now. I was sore and hungry, but generally feeling ok and Sunday’s recovery ride left me feeling great. Feeding on these longer rides remains a bit of a puzzle. I was going to eat Honey Stinger energy chews, but these proved to be difficult to manage while actually riding. Actually, I think almost anything that requires chewing falls into this category. So, I’m going to go back and investigate drink solutions – I’ve been happy with these except that they eventually dribble on my hands which leads to sticky fingers and handle bars and brakes and yuck. I’ll be looking at the tabs (endurolyte and the like) that you can add to your water bottles as something easier to handle. I’ve also found Clif shot blocks, which while still chews pack a lot more calories into each chew – so less chewing to do.
My new saddle seems to have worked out well – no numbness in places where I don’t want any numbness, and I’m learning to get out of the saddle more often, which really helps with just plain discomfort from too much saddle time on these longer rides.
The bike continues to work like a charm. I had all the gears I needed, and it handled the rough roads really well. This was by far the roughest surface over all for any ride I’ve done. In several places, previous riders had painted supplications to who knows who asking for the roads to be repaired. Maybe not the best idea to generate civic activity, but entertaining for those of us out on the roads.