... or, my second TNT Death Ride team ride.
Lee and I drove up to St. Helena very early yesterday morning for my second DR training ride with the Redwood/Wine Country group. Guests were allowed on this ride, but Lee was going to play it by ear. If the weather looked too yuck he was planning to do a short ride on his own, or just hang out in St. Helena until we returned.
Once we arrived at the start area we found the weather forecasts were pretty much accurate. Rainy & cold. Lee decided to not join in on the fun. Instead, he wisely took Ken, our SAG captain, up on his offer offer to join him in the warm & dry SAG truck.
I had layered on the wool and broke out my trusty Castelli rain jacket, which is usually too warm to wear during the day (although it's great on my early morning commute rides). For maximum dork effect I also wore one of those Saran bowl covers (the ones that look like shower caps) over my helmet. I suppose I'm the anti-Fernando, I always think it's better to feel good than to look good (and if you saw my closet you would agree). Ken was taking photos so if I come across a picture of me with the Saran bowl cover on my helmet I'll be sure to post it for everyone's amusement. Even with all that wool I was very cold as we started out. I was hoping I'd warm up once we started climbing.
We HTFU'd and headed out in the rain towards the Silverado Trail. There was one mishap early on when one of the guys rolled over something slippery and went down. He was a bit shaken up but got it back together quickly and soldiered on.
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After a few miles we regrouped at the intersection of the Silverado Trail and Rt. 128 (Sage Canyon Road). We were going to have a time trial to determine how we would be grouped for subsequent rides. I could have told the coaches they could put me in the slow-but-steady group, but, whatever. We all started out together and I fell off the back almost immediately. I stayed fairly close to a couple of guys up ahead of me, they were my rabbits. I would almost catch up to them when the grade kicked up over 10% thanks to my super-low gears, but when the grade was under 8% they were able to pull well ahead of me again. Oh well. At least I was warm by then, almost too warm. We all continued up Rt. 128 for nearly 8 miles, until just before the turnoff to Chiles Valley Road where we all regrouped, and Ken & Lee were taking down our times.
We all set off again and headed along Chiles-Pope Valley Road. The faster folks vanished in no time, and I was in a nice group going at a manageable pace so life was good. The rain backed off some although the roads were wet so it really didn't matter whether it was raining or not (I had thought about bringing my Romulus with fenders but since I assumed on one else would have fenders it seemed sort of pointless). It was relaxing watching the arcs of spray come off of everyone's rear wheels. And the scenery was lovely, green hills with mustard flowers everywhere. I love riding up in Napa, even in the rain.
We soon reached Ink Grade, a four mile climb. I was getting tired so right off the bat I kicked it into my "great-granny" gear and spun on up at a snail's pace. Surprising to me, I wasn't alone on this climb. A guy who was doing his first ride in months(!!) and so wasn't in shape yet had to stop a few times along the way, so I would gradually catch up to him. This was one helluva ride to do after you haven't been riding for a while, Tony, so kudos! Will, one of our mentors, stayed with us to keep us company. I picked on Will mercilessly and bless his masochistic heart I think he enjoyed it. :)
Ink Grade was actually a nice climb and it was almost pleasant in the misty cold and damp. Considering the last time I did that climb it was hideously hot out, this was a nice change. After what felt like hours we finally reached the top where the SAG guys and a surprising number of riders were gathered. Some of the riders looked really cold so I'm glad they headed out shortly after our arrival.
Will, Tony & I headed off again soon after, at which point the heavens poured down upon us. On a downhill. Lovely. By then it was getting seriously cold and I was ever so grateful for all the wool and the excellent rain jacket I was wearing. One of the coaches, Theresa, waited up for us at a confusing point on the route sheet to make sure we were headed in the right direction down Howell Mtn Road. She's my hero. So the four of us continued down Howell Mtn, usually a pretty good descent (albeit bumpy) but with all the rain it was a bit dicey. But we made it fine and before long we were back to the start in St. Helena, where the rest of the team was packing up, trying to dry off, and giving us high fives. Go team.
All in all, it was a good ride and an epic Personal Growth Experience. :D My Garmin (uploaded to Sportracks) showed we rode a bit under 40 miles with about 2800 ft of climbing.
Mel, Amy, Lee and I then headed off to Tra Vigne Pizzeria for warm minestrone soup (ahhhh) and great pizza, washed down with some well-earned beers.
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