Monday, March 8, 2010

Gran Fondo San Diego

Wow. What a ride, not race, but timed, with a winner just from the timed portion, which is in the middle of the ride and is a climb, but not a triple crown.....Whilst you and your loved ones were basking in a glorious Santa Barbara, sun-filled day, Steve Boelter (aka Platinum Chicken), Dave Lettieri and I ventured south to tackle the 101 mile Colnago San Diego Gran Fondo (Now and forever known as the Gran Flash Flood-o). Rain was the threat from for the last week with percentages dancing around the 50-70% range, which for our ilk means 50-30% chance of sun! PC and I left early on Saturday in order to retrieve numbers for ourselves and for Lettieri who was leaving late after Luke arm wrestled yet another customer for the chance to purchase a new bike (if I win, you buy a bike. If you win, you buy a bike). Saturday evening showed some signs of rain ranging from nostril blast while riding to genuine, that'll clean the car downpour. Again, optimistic that any rain the day before means less chance the next day. After dinner and a game of "where the hell does a helmet number go", it was all about the ride.

Up early Sunday and out the door with pockets full of rain jacket, zip lock of spare dry gloves and the anticipation of the "wild indian" start that is a Dave legend, we got to the start line with nary a drop falling from the sky. By 6:40, PC and I were standing under a bus shelter several blocks from the start watching water creep up over the curb. Some city workers offered to put sandbags around our location, but we replied that we would be riding our bikes 101 miles in just a few moments. You can imagine the looks. We watched straggling riders dutifully riding to the rear of the start queue in the monsoon and later heard from Lettieri's dad that it took 45 minutes to clear the start area in waves. Sweet. 75 minutes in sky dumping rain waiting to ride in it.

Our little plan to jump the start almost went of course when we realized we weren't on the right street, which meant having to roll down a few blocks and then sprint to catch on with the lead group. So cool! They had three Ferrari's and a motorcycle escort leading the pack through downtown SD, but the weather was so lousy no one saw it. We followed 950,000.00 worth of cars to the on ramp of the Coronado Bridge. Just as they made the turn they stopped and those crazy Italians started yelling that we had missed the turn and we were supposed to take and that everyone needed to turn around in the single lane of the on ramp. Easy! Just like Poor College Kids last year, eveyone chose their own little u-turn in a direction they felt expressed the level of hypothermia they would return with. Back down the street and a left turn put the group onto the exit of the bridge so that we rode up two dedicated lanes on the left side. Great, except for the metal expansion joints with the shark teeth shape that threatened to crash out anyone going over 15 MPH and the still blasting rain.
As we headed down the strand from Coronado, I hooked up with the first of my ride saviors, a guy from the Amgen Giant masters team who was happy to tap out 21 MPH in a head wind whilst I drank the gravel filled water from his back tire and didn't even whimper a complaint. He was also quite effective at organizing our group of twenty or so into a two abreast group ride. One not so fortunate tri athlete type was sent packing after he continually bolted ahead dropped back and then blew a stop light. Doyle, you would have loved this guy. Around that time I noticed that PC was no longer in our group, had flatted and decided the jacuzzi at the hotel was the more prudent activity for a rainy Sunday.

Around mile 40, we stopped at the Olympic Training facility in Chula Vista/Otay Lakes, grabbed sandwiches and then smaller groups headed out the 9 more miles to the start of the timed climb. I was feeling pretty good until I needed to shift and my chain hopped around the cassette like Shaun White in a half-pipe. OK, now I wasn't feellng so good with marginal gear management possibilities. The next sag was 1.5 miles from the top of the climb so I handed my bike off to the Campy support, who said, guess what? "Oh, I see the problem, you're running Shimano." Oh, wow, there's a new one! I grabbed some coffee and sandwich while the comedian worked on my bike. I don't remember who said that clothes make the man, but I can tell you that the right clothes keep the man from shivering like Chick Hearn Jell-O and the groups of team riders under the leaky tent. I was wearing leg warmers, arm warmers, vest, rain jacket, head warmer, long fingered gloves with a shell over the gloves and these knuckle heads looked like they were headed to a summer crit in Ontario. Much to their extreme discomfort, the descent was 15 degrees colder than the climb and it was still pissing rain.

I did the descent on my own, which was gnarly. Lots of water streaming across the road, some mud and all the while raining , foggy and cold and , oh yeah, not much braking power. Around mile 60, I hooked up with a guy from Canada who had caught me at a red light. He was chatty and wanted to ride back together. When the light changed and we started riding he slipped a pedal and crashed in the intersection. I would have really liked to have ridden away from him, but he turned out to be pretty strong and we eventually picked up 8 other riders, including an Eastern European riding a 29'er mountain bike with street tires, cross brakes and drop bars, for our bell miles back to SD. It should be noted that we stopped for every stinking stop light from Otay Lakes to downtown San Diego.

I'm not sure where we finished, but lots of folks came in after us. Subtracting stoppage time, the ride took just about as much time as the King Ridge Fondue. Lettieri's time was similar as well, although he is claiming 7th in the ride that's not a race.

While waiting for PC to pick me up (he had to check out of the hotel at 1:30, so no shower for you!), I decided to get some of the promised free food and wound up getting in to the VIP tent. Super bonus! Hot pasta, prosecco, ham, a Lavazza espresso and all the Italians congratulating me on doing the ride. Extra Super Bonus! Bill Walton was in the VIP tent. Why? Who knows! But the whole deal was a slam dunk!

David Jurist

Yes I know the journalist is a hard act to follow but I can add the following in the Ken style of a ride/race report:

- Woke up at 5:30 to dry roads. Great don't need to carry all that rain stuff.

- 6:15am go outside to get ready: raining, change of plans, put on everything I can

- 6:45 wait to last possible minute to get to the start line and see 3000 crazy people just standing a full downpour waiting for the start

- 7am Got a nice front row position on the start line, nice to be from Pennsylvania now and then. (the guy organizing the start area was an east coaster)

- Small start delay so the Ferraris could get warmed up and Olympic and World Champion Paolo Bettini could get out of his car.

 - Within the first 10 miles we go over Cornado bridge like its a hill top finish and I look back to see only 10 riders in the group, fortunately since the ride marking were minimal, 20-30 riders caught up while the front group decided which way to go.

- The timed hill climb was like a 7 mile Casitas hill ( the fastest guy up was a pro mtn biker). Probably would have been an easier climb if the triathlete did TT it to the base.

- Not stopping at some rest stops is a good way to catch up when you get dropped on the climb

-Like the Santa Rosa Gran Fondo, it seems strange that with 3000 people you could be riding with only one other person for a while. At least she was a former World Champion and Olympic Silver Medalist and good looking.

- In the rain, 50 miles seems like a 100, Temps were 42-49 degrees, You also can't really get food out of the pockets with big gloves.

- For the last 50, we had 5 riders chasing 3 (who we never saw after the climb) , a Triathlete, a cat 5, a 3 former Olympians

- At the 90mile rest area, a guys asks if we need anything, yes for the ride to be over :)

- 92miles, (on the bike path) flat tire, also hard to fix in the pouring rain and with big gloves.

- Finish in about the same 5:30 ish as the Santa Rosa ride with less climbing. Slow average speed with weather, lights, more stopping and small group in the early part of the ride. Charts showed 4500 ft, more like 5500 ft.

- The big city rides are a bit rough with the lights, unlike DJ, we did blow quite a few lights in the last 20 miles.

- Overall an epic hard core ride. I would say 65 miles really good roads, the rest standard big city stuff.

-Good gloves, real rain jacket, tons of Squirt chain lube, the flamingo fender and plastic bags in the shoes are key.

Dave L.

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