Thursday, March 20, 2014

Two rocks, no waiting

Photos courtesy of Patrick

In the gentle landscape between the growing town of Petaluma and the coastline, there is a small, and perhaps mostly forgotten community named Two Rock, CA. Two Rock never became a commercial center, never became the western seat of finance, and in fact the road doesn't even widen as you pass through. Most people can travel along the highway here and never realize they've passed through a town, and never even notice the three rock outcroppings that gives Two Rock it's oddly singular name. An oft quoted American author once commented on the attributes of cycling and the resulting understanding of the true contours of the landscape, and should you be riding west on Petaluma-Valley Ford road in the early months of any year, you'll have time to look around at the rolling green hillsides and wonder what it must have been like 100 or 200 years ago, and if this is where the photo for the Windows XP desktop was taken. (No, but darn close.)

Each year since 2010, the San Francisco Randonneurs (SFR) have held the Two Rock-Valley Ford 200km brevet in Feburary. The original motivation for creating the event was to take pressure off of the Point Reyes Lighthouse 200km (PRLH) event, always held a few weeks earlier and which is unique for SFR in that there is a rider limit. Riders who couldn't make the roster for the PRLH could then get their early season 200km in a few weeks later. What came to be instead though for this event is that many randonneurs sign up for both rides, and more often than not, there are more names on the Two Rock roster than for the PRLH. On this day in February, my busman's holiday (two SRCC brevets in a row) is now over, and I'll be both administrating and riding the Two Rock 200km for the club. We have nearly 160 riders on hand at the start at East Beach in The City, and it is already shaping up to be a great day. The pre-ride meeting covers various notes about the route and who will be riding this day, and as a bonus we learn from a local just what the rabbit should have done upon arriving in Albuquerque. This latter bit could be wisdom one can barely live without.

Many of the SFR brevets that start in San Francisco start more specifically at the Golden Gate Bridge (GGB) Pavilion plaza but this route today only reaches that location after a northern transit of the former Presidio and warm up climb to Lincoln Blvd. Some how I end up as the first rider onto the west sidewalk on the Bridge so it falls to me to lead a group through Sausalito on toward Bothin Marsh and Mill Valley. The climb up Camino Alto does its usual task of spreading out the riders, only some of which will regroup into smaller packs on the way to Fairfax and the next climb on White's Hill beyond. I made the climb up Dixon Ridge, away from the San Geronimo Valley ahead of the tandem. My plan was to get far enough down hill to be able to grab on to the tail end of the tandem-led paceline on the far side. It is a near thing and I just make the last position for the run past Nicasio and on past the reservoir. Between here and Hicks Valley and beyond to Petaluma there is a minor climb and along the way I gamble that I can jump ahead, take a bio break, and then catch up again to the pack. I lose that bet and the Paul and Paul manned tandem pulls the pack over the crest ahead of me, and I end up riding solo all they way through Hicks Valley and over the climb toward the Petaluma River watershed.

Though I kept a few of the riders in sight along the way into the first control at the 7-11 store, when I roll into the parking lot Max and most of the other riders were already leaving, rushing to catch Paul and Paul, and Carl who were already gone. I still boggle at this, how quickly they are in and out of the control an I only see the stragglers. One rider, Craig, is not rolling out with the group and instead he waits for me to be ready and we are joined by Brian, who was stalking me along D Street on the way into town. We three chat a bit as we finish the ride through town and then settle into a rotating paceline past the turn to the inland Coast Guard Station and on out past Dos Piedras. On the last rotation before Valley Ford I tell (beg) Brian not to surge. I'm beginning to feel the effort and I'd get dropped if he upped the pace at all. Still, I feel great and enjoy the sun on the porch in front of the Valley Ford General Store. Lunch here was potato salad washed down by some mineral water. A few riders come in and then leave ahead of us, and the first riders, including Matt, Vidas, Gintautas, the aforementioned tandem, Max, Morgan and still more, were long gone before we ever stopped at the control here. Brian plans to ride off course and on up to Sebastopol for an art exhibit with a couple other riders before returning to the course and resuming the ride. My goal is to take it a bit slow at first to let lunch properly settle. A brief moment of wooziness surprises me but it passes along with the climb up the first roller on Highway One. By the time we pass Tomales I'm feeling my old self again and under the sunshine of a perfect riding day we finish the run south to Point Reyes Station (PRS), Craig telling me stories of long ago brevets along the way.

We haven't seen many riders on the run south but out front of the Palace Market Erik, a rider from Gothenburg shows up, looking for a bike shop to deal with a mechanical issue. Erik is a much stronger rider than I am, and it is only because of his mechanical, and my tagging along with Craig that I leave before he does. The route from PRS takes us east toward the canyon that holds the spillway that drains the Nicasio Reservoir. The climb is a modest one and the Point Reyes-Petaluma Road here frequently has a tailwind in the afternoon. The right turn south on Nicasio Valley takes us further around the reservoir and two things, the preceeding drought which has lowered the reservoir, and the clear skies combine to give us a view of the partially submerged old bridge on the former road through the valley. Dixon Ridge, usually a problem for me isn't such of one this day and the west side of White's Hill isn't one either. Now that we are in the suburban section of the ride there will be plenty of traffic controls. Through this area we picked up several riders: Matt, Steve and Vernon. Some how they managed to get in and out of PRS much quicker than Craig and I. It must be their youth.

From Fairfax to the finish at East Beach the major impediments are the Corte Madera climb (aka Camino Alto from the south side) and the climb out of Sausalito to the GGB sidewalks. The cracks in the edifice begin as leg cramps as we climb up the Corte Madera grade and though the road is rough on the downhill, that and the long flat path across Bothin Marsh allow me to stretch my legs out and overcome the cramps. I think I am feeling pretty good here as we make the trek past the tourists in Sausalito and begin the climb out. The climb is not fabulously steep, and is broken up into several segments by a series of 90 degree turns. I make the first turn fine but at the point of the second one going left I crack. Matt checks on me here and offers me a homemade rice cake from the batch he has used to fuel his ride. Like spinach to Popeye, the rice cake does it's magic while Craig patiently waits for me to recover and then we tackle the next 90 degree turn and the longest segment of the climb up to the tunnel under US 101 and the west sidewalk across the bridge. Craig and I negotiate the short trip through the Presidio and down toward Crissy Field and the finish picnic at East Beach. We arrived at 14:58, for an elapsed time of 7:58. This was the first time ever that I've finished an SFR 200km brevet under 8 hours.

And because the whole point of these write-ups is really Jason, I am honor bound to mention that Jason came steaming in to the finish a short while later.

Ride date: 2-22-14

Host Club: San Francisco Randonneurs

Total km: 200

Km remaining needed for K-hound: 9,000

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