Cogal Report: Bay Area Cogal 2013
Sometime this spring I got an email from @xyverz suggesting a second annual bay area cogal, along with some route suggestions. Before long, plans coalesced around a ride starting near Palo Alto, going over the mountains, down the coast to Santa Cruz, and back over a bigger part of the mountains to Los Gatos and Palo Alto. I doubt I would have gotten a Cogal off the ground on my own this year, so most of the credit goes to @xyverz and his (if I may call him that) Sensei, Velomilurker Dave, who I understand helped with the route planning.
At 8:0V @xyverz, Dave, @EricW and I were present and almost ready to got. Introductions were made, bikes and rule compliance (or lack thereof) were inspected.
In particular I had a look at @EricW’s innovative attempt at skirting Rule #29, a clever lycra sleeve strapped under the seat. He claimed it is not an EPMS because its ends are open, and therefore it is not a satchel. Rather, it more closely resembles a burrito or perhaps a taco. I had a hard time evaluating his assertion, because the bike to which this rule-bending innovation is attached is a unique and somewhat stunning older steel Colnago, blasted clear of paint, re-decal’ed with clearcoat over raw steel, and sporting deep section carbone wheels. Bel mezzo.
We set off and soon climbed over Old La Honda Road. Not being a local, I am told this is The Climb on this part of the peninsula. It is a lovely climb with little traffic, well worth its reputation. Then we dropped down into the vicinity of Pescadero on lovely back roads full of cyclists and devoid of traffic.
The next phase of the ride took us down California Highway 1. We were sizzling along with a nice tailwind. Unfortunately at about 65 km in to the ride, @xyverz caught his handle bar on the edge of a passing RV and we had a man down. Praise be to Merckx, he escaped with a nice bit of road rash and ruined kit. The RV must have suffered some serious hidden damage. We had paramedics on the scene quickly, and @xyverz and his steed were off to the hospital to be checked out. Please remember to be careful out there, brothers and sisters.
I felt a bit somber at this turn of events, and quite gutted for @xyverz who really was the impetus behind the ride. However, we felt he would not want us to abandon or truncate the ride on account of the accident, so we pressed on, flying south with the tailwind. For a while we maintained a decent paceline, largely with Dave’s nose in the wind. By this time it was quite apparent that Dave had what I might call “million mile legs” and for this I was grateful, especially when he didn’t ride me off his wheel even though he could have at will.
Lunch in Santa Cruz and the sun coming out improved spirits. After a stop at an LBS to remedy someone’s mechanical issues (the Rule 65 scofflaw shall remain nameless) we were soon climbing out of town.
After the first part of the climb we met a real character. Way back in the Santa Cruz mountains lives Mountain Charlie. Given his name, and these being the famously laid back Santa Cruz mountains, you might think Mountain Charlie is a friendly, banjo-strumming old git. An old friend of Alice, of Alice’s Restaurant fame. Maybe has a pot garden out back.
Being as you are a cyclist, you would be wrong. Mountain Charlie is an asshole. He is here to tear your legs off, chop them into little pieces, and feed them to a stronger rider. Mountain Charlie is a wily opponent with many tricks up his sleeve: poor road surfaces, steep pitches, continuing to go up, when you think you’ve reached the top. If Mountain Charlie were in the Alps, Dolomites or Pyrenees he would be called a “goat track.” Dave disappeared up the road, leaving @EricW and I behind, hurting, cursing and appreciating the climb. Chapeau to @xyverz and Dave for finding Mountain Charlie, for he is a first-rate climb, capable of dishing out great big servings of Rule V.
At some point the road mercifully started going down. @EricW and I lost Dave and then found him again, cleverly letting him ride down a hill and back up it to find us in the hope it would tire him out even a little. We rode a lovely stretch of sketchy gravel into Los Gatos, where, disappointingly, we only saw one Ferrari. We got a call from @xyverz, reporting that he was scraped up but otherwise had a clean bill of health. Good news indeed. We were about on the home stretch, mostly flat roads through Silicon Valley back to Alpine Inn. I was completely spent and had my share of bad moments. The Man with the Hammer was lurking somewhere nearby. Dave was still amazingly strong, even trackstanding at most stoplights.
We finally got back to Alpine Inn. I tried to take a dig on a little rise and nearly collapsed in a heap. @EricW and I had a large pile of food and recovery beverages at the Alpine Inn. Dave needed more kilometers after the 175 we had already put in, and rode home.
The ride was awesome. Thanks to @xyverz for being the motivating force; to Dave for doing massive amounts of work punching holes in the wind and keeping the rest of us in our place; and to recent Bay Area transplant @EricW for his wit, humor and willingness to ditch his flatlander, crit racing habits to embrace our local topography. For those of you who didn’t make it, stay tuned. This was certainly not the last Bay Area Cogal.
I’ve sat down in front of my computer several times in an attempt to write a report for this Second Annual Bay Area Cogal.
I’ve tried and failed each time.
It seems that each time I sit down, I get tired and can’t coherently put into words the thoughts and memories I have of this event. There’s one feeling that comes to mind each time I try to write about it: regret.
Regret that I was unable to finish this ride. Regret that Nate had to witness everything that happened. Regret for going too far into the lane.
Regret for having one last thought after Nate’s yell, only a split second before being clobbered by the RV: This is my line and I’m sticking with it.
I was only about 12-16 inches (Rule 24 be damned right now) inside the lane when I heard Nate’s yell.
The next thing I know is that my field of vision on my left side was filled with an off-white, and I felt myself bouncing off the side of the RV. For one split second, I thought that I might be able to keep the bike upright. Just for a split second, and then the bike swerved off to my right.
I came to moments later and crawled over to the gravel on the side of the road – the very same gravel I’d maneuvered into the lane to avoid. I just wanted to lie down for a bit and catch my breath. With any luck, I could get back up an ride away from this place. I so very much wanted to finish this ride I’d helped plan
In the weeks since my participation in this Cogal was brought to an abrupt halt, I’ve come to realize just how close I’d come to leaving this world. A few more inches to the left and you guys would be writing my obituary, instead of me milking Rule #81 for all its worth. The only good thing I could say about that outcome is that I would have passed on doing something I loved dearly, no matter how much pain I’d been in earlier in the day, questioning whether I had the stamina, endurance, or fitness to finish the ride.
Four months earlier, after not having checked the V website in far too long, I saw a note for another Cogal – a second annual for that region. I don’t even remember which Cogal it was, but I fondly remembered our first annual Bay Area Cogal and sent an email to Nate about it. Then I posted on the site with my ideas for a Cogal. Eventually, a date was worked out, and Velomilirker Dave and I took off on a recon ride. A bit more tweaking and the path was set.
I was pretty stoked to be riding this event. Even though I’ve been Too Fat To Climb for quite some time, I really wanted to just enjoy myself today. I’d sworn up and down to others that Highway 1 was as safe as you can get on a busy road. The shoulder was wide enough that it would be fairly safe for cyclists.
During the approach to Old La Honda Road, I realized just how out of shape I was. The climb up OLH wasn’t too bad thought. My doubts from the first few KMs were tucked firmly away and I got into the joy of pushing myself up the Peninsula’s old standby; the litmus-test for us on the Peninsula to gauge how we compare to other riders. I wasn’t expecting to go too fast. In fact, looking back at my Strava data, I’d actually done far better than I expected to at 36 minutes and change for the 4.9km 8.1% grade. (Which, according to Strava, is my second slowest time…)
A quick descent down West OLH to 84 and a nice tuck and coast ride down to Pescadero road found us sweating it up again on our way to one of my favorite climbs (so far) on the coast: Pescadero Creek Road from West Alpine Rd. I had to note that this ride, unlike my ride four weeks prior, had FAR fewer banana slugs – squished or otherwise.
Overall, it was turning into a very picturesque day.
Our descent and subsequent cruise brought us into Pescadero where food was consumed and legs were rested before another embarking on another scenic road – Cloverdale Road on the way to highway 1. I stuck with the guys until my body decided that it was tired of trying to keep up, that there was still another 110km to go, and I should conserve energy so that they’re not literally dragging my ass up the climb out of Santa Cruz. The guys were patient with this fat pedalwan and we cruised from the top of the hill down to Highway 1 in a lose group.
Along the way, I dropped my chain in spectacular fashion, and Eric discovered he was missing a few chainring bolts.
We turned onto highway 1 and headed south toward Santa Cruz, not knowing what fate would befall me before the day was over.
I have to say… I’m still grateful that I was able to at least start this ride. I’m EXTREMELY grateful that the other three finished their ride. Nate was correct in his feelings that I would have wanted them to finish. Shit, *I* wanted to finish that fucking ride.
I have a goal to finish this route sometime before December. Here’s hoping I can lose reverse this weight trend sometime between now and then.
Before I end my Cogal report, I have to send a huge thank you to the paramedics from the fire truck who arrived on the scene less than 90 seconds after the incident, to the very friendly ambulance drivers who arrived about five minutes later, to the awesome crew at Stanford Medical Center, and to my parents for driving out to Palo Alto from Modesto to pick me up from the hospital.
I’m looking forward to next year’s cogal. VLVV!
First off, @Xyverz is one tough dude. I didn’t see the accident, plus I sure as heck heard it and saw the aftermath. Through it all, @Xyverz was calm, composed, and upbeat. I remember thinking to myself that he was far more composed than I’d be in the same situation. I’m glad he’s feeling better and back on the saddle, as I enjoyed his company enormously and look forward to more rides with him.
The day started off with me arriving a few minutes after @Nate. Nate and I liked each other immediately because we are idiots who use our real names online. Also we both ride steel bikes. Soon after, @Xyverz and Velomalurker Dave arrived and after introductions we were off.
A short warm up brought us to the base of Old La Honda, a gorgeous winding climb west of Palo Alto. @Nate and Dave demonstrated excellent climbing form while I plodded up the climb. After regrouping at the top, we plunged down the other side toward the sea. The descent was stunningly beautiful, with fog covering the tops of the trees, but good visibility of the road and, at times, a beautiful hidden valley below.
The descent brought us up a short punchy climb and then down to Pescadero for a quick coffee/food stop. Afterwards, we discovered that two of my chainring bolts had evaporated (no doubt to my enormous applications of V, or something). A quick stop to tighten the remaining three bolts temporarily fixed the issue, and with no major climbs between us and Santa Cruz, we turned south down Highway 1 toward Santa Cruz.
A few miles later, @Xyverz was clipped by an RV as he was avoiding some gravel in the road. It was a very scary scene, and it was with weary hearts that we watched our friend climb into an ambulance before we carried on toward Santa Cruz. I remember that for the next 30km or so into town, very little was spoken between the Dave, @Nate and I. Luckily, the stunning views of the Pacific and the surging tailwind made the riding a joy.
Santa Cruz bought delicious pizza, fresh chainring bolts, and the beginning of Mountain Charlie. Mountain Charlie didn’t look all that daunting on the computer screen. However, in person, and after some 100 km of riding, Mountain Charlie was very very daunting. Towards the top several ~20% kickers interspersed with 10% “flats” had both @Nate and I in our smallest gears and on the ropes. A gardener at the top laughed at us. I don’t blame him.
Following the descent, rolling hills awaited us, along with several missed turns and losing Dave. Perhaps in retaliation, Dave led us onto a real honest-to-God highway as a detour. This was followed (in order) by a riding on gravel, receiving word that @Xyverz was released from the hospital, seeing a Ferrari, and sitting on Dave’s wheel for the next 30km because Dave is a robot sent from the future to tear our legs apart.
I want to thank @Nate and @Xyverz for making the Cogal happen. The route was full of challenging climbs and beautiful scenery. Dave was an awesome riding partner and if I ever start a cycling team, he will be the first person I call. Even more than the riding, I made three great friends with whom I look forward to riding and hanging out again.
I’m already looking forward to the next Bay Area Cogal.
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