@Nate organized this gem up in Marin, California. Where are all you people out there? At least he was not taking you over three mountains in the French Alps. I did not attend either, disregard my name above.
Wow, what to say? Today’s ride was awesome! I found myself riding with three awesome Velominati, and found myself being a Velominati Sweeper. As promised, I was last up every climb. This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the climbing. In fact, I really like climbing. I need to practice it more. I believe that once I find myself in compliance of Rule #47 (and get either a standard or compact double), I’ll see my climbing speed greatly increase. Of course, getting my steed in better compliance of the rules (no EPMS, etc) and getting my weight down further will help immensely. Self-flagellation aside, let me tell you about the ride…
The weather at the start of the ride was cold, dreary and dismal. I woke up early and arrived at the park in Corte Madera almost an hour early. After taking time to find some breakfast and fill up my gas tank at the nearby Chevron, I headed back to the park and decided to get into my kit. Since it was about 15C outside, I got my full spring kit on, including base layer, arm warmers, and vest. It was about this time that Nate pulled up. We chatted it up for a bit while getting ready and Dave came riding up. Just as I took a photo of the both of them, Brooke got out of his car and managed to make it into the shot. This brought our group to four. A few more moments of getting ready, and our ride started sometime around 9:0V. The pace was very much casually deliberate to begin with, and the we managed to keep it together through some of the most…interesting city streets I’ve had the pleasure of riding. Not what I was used to, but fun. Our first climb up Fawn Drive took me completely by surprise, and I found myself dropping to my triple far sooner than I expected. This was the guys’ first experience at my l33t sweeping skills. If there was a broom car on this ride, I’d have been sucked under more than once. But it was a pleasant climb. More in-city maneuvering brought us to Lucas Valley Road for a lovely ride past Skywalker Ranch and on to our first categorized climb, ~22 km in. Knowing we still had 130 km to go, I dropped into a comfortable cadence and met the guys at the top of the hill. They’d only been waiting for a few minutes at this one. The descent down to Nicasio Valley Road was fun and helped recharge the batteries a bit. I tried to keep up as we got to the rollers past Nicasio, but quickly found myself dropping back. I guess I’d overdone it a bit earlier… Either that, or I really need to start learning how to apply Rule #5 to more of my rides and stop being such a pussy. At 63 km, in the quaint hamlet of Marshall, we turned and started up the our next categorized climb, known on Strava as the Marshall Wall. Again, I settled into a comfortable cadence and slowly trudged up the hill. This time the guys had only been waiting 5 minutes. Their encouragement was ambrosia to my ears, but I felt guilty knowing that these top-of-the-hill waits were only going to get longer. More rollers (and likewise, more waits for the guys) brought us to lunch in Nicasio at the 97.6 km mark. Lunch at the Rancho Nicasio Restaurant & Bar was a pleasant affair. I really wanted a burger, but decided to go with the Breakfast Tacos instead for something a bit lighter. I still think I ate too much.
We started off again at 14:30 after an hour break. I’d ditched my arm warmers and vest by this time, and applied liberal amounts of sunscreen to the arms. (Yes, I’m still white enough that I burn easily, even with my meager Rule #7 tan.) 113 km, we arrived at the turn off to the Main Event: our climb up Mt. Tamalpias. This was the part I’d been looking forward to the most, yet was dreading above all else. By the time we got here, I’d mostly burned off the Red Bull I chugged back in Nicasio, and we still had our biggest climbs to come. Looking on Strava now, the climb from Fairfax to Pine Mountain only took me 33 minutes, but it seemed longer than that. It was a very comfortable ride – until it got hot. I stopped in some shade about halfway up to put on more sunscreen (yup, still white and burn-y). The descent down to the reservoir was a lot of fun, and riding over the dam was a real treat. The only other dam I’ve had the pleasure of crossing was Hoover, and that was not on a bicycle. Climbing up to Ridgecrest from the dam was pleasantly shaded. I felt really bad for the guys, who’d been waiting at the top for me for quite some time – long enough to cool off completely. At this point, we all donned our arm warmers and vests and got ready to tackle the Seven (tortuous) sisters. This was the most painful part of the ride for me. I had burned through my energy reserves, was wearing all my clothing, and was boiling in the sun on the last of the sisters. I slogged and trudged, but I made it through all seven without stopping. At the top, we took more photos and proceeded to descend into Mill Valley. I can say that I baked my cake AND got to eat it too! This descent was more fun for me than either Mt. Hamilton, Mt. Diablo, or CA Hwy 9 from the Hwy 35 down into Saratoga. It’s definitely going to rank as one of my favorites. I *will* go back and ride that one again some day. From Mill Valley, we climbed Camino Alto up and over the hill back to the start. This was the easiest climb of the day. After Mt. Tam, it felt good to touch a climb that didn’t require me to wuss out and hit my granny gear.
Post-ride nourishment was found at the Marin Brewing Co. in Larkspur. A good time was had by all, and I’m very much looking forward to next year’s event. Thanks to @nate for putting this one together!
@Dave R’s take-
A fantastic day on the bike! Thanks to the Keepers for the inspiration, and thanks to @Nate for organizing the Cogal. Marin County has world class riding that should be a go to destination for any Velominatus. I’m fortunate to be able to regularly visit from my home in the mountains near Lake Tahoe, and making the drive for this was a no brainer when I saw the route Nate had selected – a classic of the area with some cool variations I’d not ridden. The weather was just about perfect. Our group of four was a nice mix, both spirited and compatible. @Xyverz inspired us with his story of riding his way to almost 100 pounds less body weight and with his steady perseverance on the climbs. Brooke inspired us with the easy, liquid style that only comes to one who, as he said, has “been riding for a long time.” And @Nate, true to his role as Cogal organizer, inspired us by riding fully Rule compliant on his sublime Pegoretti and laying down some serious V, doing his time in the wind and going sur la plaque on some improbable climbs. Chapeau all.
The San Francisco Bay Area Cogal was inspired by the sublime ride @sgt organized in Santa Barbara last March. When @sgt told me he’d be up here in mid-July plans began to take shape. Marin was the obvious location; though there are many fine riding roads around here, the only thing I knew that could approach the magnificence of the Santa Barbara route is the stunning riding along the flanks and ridge of Mount Tamalpais, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Stinson Beach. Alas, work intervened for @sgt and @frank as well; I was honored that he planned to make the trip down from the PNW but it was not to be. Another time, gentlemen. As I drove across the Bay on Saturday morning Mt. Tam was entirely obscured by a low cloud dropping to 300′. So much for the sun, which has been fairly abundant this summer. I arrived at the parking to meet @Xyverz. @Dave R rolled up shortly thereafter, down from Tahoe and ready to go. And Velomilurker Brooke appeared just before 9 and was ready to go with impressive alacrity. We rolled through some more urban parts of Marin to start, and avoided picking up tickets from Marin’s Finest, who have been out in force lately, stamping out the lawless scourge of cyclists rolling through stop signs. Before long we turned left on Lucas Valley Road, leaving suburban Marin behind, and facing the first real climb. At the top we admired George Lucas’s Big Rock Ranch, and decided to not find out whether it is guarded by Imperial Stormtroopers, Ewoks, Wookies, bounty hunters, etc. Lucas Valley Road was called that long before the director owned his property there.
From the top, a long swooping descent past more of Lucas’s property (Skywalker Ranch), and a nice, relatively flat segment where we settled in to a nice formation and shared pulls. It even looked like the sun might come out, but then we reached the coast where it was gray and a headwind off the water assaulted us. My zest for taking pulls diminished considerably and I began to be grateful to sit in the slipstream of Dave R’s Sierra-altitude tuned engine. Before long we tackled the next climb, the Marshall Wall, on the remote Marshall-Petaluma Road. This section was something of Marin’s answer to Belgium: repeated short, steep climbs, on rough pavement (not cobbles), with lots of cowshit on the road. As if on cue, some dude in a Quickstep jersey appeared in our midst. Then the sun came out and it got hot. Suddenly conversation turned to water; we’d done 70 or 80 kms and not refilled. We stopped to regroup at a junction where a large-ish group of Spanish-speaking riders in older pro kits and on some very nice bikes (I seem to recall a Look with deep section carbon wheels) was also having a rest. A minute later their sag wagon pulled up to replenish their bidons and ours as well. Thanks, guys. Passing back thru Nicasio we stopped for lunch on the deck at the very hospitable-to-cyclists Rancho Nicasio to fuel up for the big climbing to come on Mt. Tam. Highlight of the lunch was probably Brooke’s announcement that “Beer Is Important.” Before long we were baking in the sun on the lower slopes, then swooping past Alpine Lake and over the dam, and climbing in the trees to the ridge, where the sun was struggling to break thru fog and it was probably 15 C colder than at the start of the climb. @Dave R set a challenging pace up the climbs. We regrouped, came out into the sun, and had a brief look out at the cloud below over the ocean. Then we attacked the last obstacles, charitably or in mixed company called the “Seven Sisters,” seven short, sharp climbs on the ridge. With no traffic late in the day we could ride them two-up. I briefly considered big ringing them before realizing such foolishness would cause me to black out. From the last sisterit was Rule #85 all the way down to Mill Valley, a last short power climb over Camino Alto, and recovery beverages at the Marin Brew Co, where I selected the Black and Orange Ale in honor of the V-colors.
Thanks to @Xyerz, @Dave R and Brooke for joining the ride, @sgt for being the impetus, and the Keepers for making this possible. Going out on a big magnificent ride with like minded bike nuts is great fun.