Saturday's problems aside, the Foxen-Cat-Drum-Ballard Canyon loop is great for a group ride. It's ~60 miles so everyone should be able to do it on two bottles and the food you carry. We regroup twice--at the top of the only two significant hills--and everywhere else the stronger riders can pull and those that are concerned about surviving can sit in.
Here's a picture of some of the group at the top of Drum Canyon.
Coupla other things from the ride...
It took reformed tri-guy Cookie to point out that we were riding with an old-time celebrity, Chuck Veylupek, or Chuckie V as he's better known. In the late 80's and early 90's, Chuck was a damn good bike racer--if I remember correctly, he was on the National Team for a while. My brother did some training with him when he was in the San Joaquin valley and told stories of epic 8-hour rides in the foothills. But Chuckie V really hit the big time when he started doing triathlons. In a dry sport without a lot of wild characters, Chuckie V stood out with his big Mohawk hair and nomadic lifestyle. Plus he was a really good triathlete. He seems like a really cool guy, and he's obviously quite modest...no wonder he didn't make it as a bike racer!
At the end of the Canyon Loop, we rode the reverse direction on the Amgen Tour of California time trial course. The tt route goes up Alamo Pintado from Solvang to Los Olivos and then returns down Ballard Canyon. Rumor is that they will repave Ballard in time for the race but there is no sign of any work yet. Either way, that return stretch is going to be really fast. It has some bends in it that might be tricky at 35 mph in the tt bars. I know those guys are not spazzes, but I predict there will be at least one crash by someone trying to eek out every last second. Hopefully I'm wrong.
One last tidbit about the valley ride... when you finish up in Los Olivos, or take a break before climbing Fig, you can refuel at the little grocery store on Main St. and most Saturdays you'll see a guy out front bbq'ing some awesome looking tri-tips. That guy owns the place and his name is Steve Dennell. Why am I telling you this? Well, for one thing because he's a really nice guy and he deserves your business, but also because he used to be a very good bike racer. He was a Cat 1 when he was 19 or 20 years old and had a wickedly fast sprint. He and I were teammates for a year on the old Diamondback/GNC team. Here's a picture of him back then.
It seems like I've seen this guy in the RHVilla clothes on nearly every ride I've done over the last month or so. He's out riding solo on the bike path, and sometimes he hooks up with the group rides but never gets caught up in the competitive nonsense. I've even seen him doing some solo Casitas loops. He's a quiet guy and not many people know who he is, so I'm telling you now. His name is Uthman Ray and he's from Goleta but now lives most of the year in NorCal. Doug Knox touts him as a good rider and he certainly looks like he's got the discipline to train hard. He went to Dos Pueblos High School where he played varsity basketball and also got into downhilling and mountain cross racing before turning to the road. I think he's gone back up north, but perhaps we'll see him at some races up there.
Out on the bike path on Tuesday I ran into Robert Neary of the Amgen team as he was doing a big ride from Ventura around Goleta and back, so we rode together for 30-40 minutes. Robert's a nice guy, a Dad, a firefighter, and most importantly, a great draft because he's like 6' 6" or something! Anyway, he updated me about their racing team which is going to be focused on Masters for 2007, and is now led by Keith Ketterer (or KK as he's known to just about everyone). I had known that KK was thinking about leaving Sonance partly because he's a bigwig Giant bike rep and Sonance is sponsored by Specialized bikes. Even though he's just a hack amateur like the rest of us, his bosses weren't particularly pleased about that bike brand mismatch. So he quit Sonance and joined Amgen, bringing along Giant as a co-sponsor. Anyway, I guess his leadership style is a bit more intense and active compared to Jerry Jayne (who is the president of the entire Amgen cycling club). They've got a good group of guys, and with KK's experience and knowledge, look for them to be in the results a lot this year.
More... even though the Amgen Thousand Oaks crit is not currently on the SoCal calendar, Jerry Jayne says they are working hard on putting it on again. Let's hope they succeed.
I've seen some internet debate about the recent USCF rule change that again imposes gear limits on junior racers. The reasons are varied but it seems the primary issues are (1) using big gears can harm a growing kid's knees, and (2) international racing enforces gear limits, and so our Jrs should race with lower gears if they want to be competitive. I guess those are valid concerns. To be honest, I was only vaguely aware that juniors hadn't been under gear-restriction rules in recent times. We had gear limits back when I was a junior, with a 93" rollout which was a 53X15. The new rule allows for a 52X14. I can see that might be a handicap in certain elite races (I still can't get used to calling it "elites"--to me it will always be: juniors, seniors, and masters) but anyone who has been waxed by Cody O'Reilly will know that it is possible to turn that gear over pretty fast!
On the NorCal email list, Les Ernest provides his views and metions the "Greg LeMond rule" that he pushed through the USCF. That rule allowed Juniors to use unrestricted gearing in Senior (uhh, I mean "Elite") races. It came about because of a very exciting race in Pacific Grove in 1978 that 16-year-old Greg won against an all-star field, only to be DQ'ed because he wasn't using Junior gears. I was there, having done the Junior race earlier in the day. We were all outraged at the DQ. Who was the beneficiary of the DQ? Santa Barbara's own Larry Shields was given the win!
Motivation for Blingerman, or just coincidental graffiti? I'm not sure what to think about this. Our beloved teammate--let's call him Blingerman--had an unfortunate crash a couple of months ago and some people in town found it very humorous. You see, he rode through some horse poop and slid out and hit the deck pretty hard and suffered a big bump on his noggin. Being the caring teammates that we all are, we only threw up a few mild jokes about it. So check out the picture on the right. That is a sign along the bike path in the exact neighborhool where Blinger dumped it in the horse dump. Look at the graffiti... it says "Kona" ...what team did Blinger ride for? That's right, Kona. Hmmm.
More seriously, and just a block away from the above, I noticed that there is now a plaque memorializing Doug McFadden in the bridge next to Vieja Valley School. Doug was a great guy who succumbed to brain cancer in the fall of 2005. Doug was a cyclist, but it seemed I'd see him more often at the soccer fields by UCSB where he coached his daughters. Next time you ride by there, take a minute to see the plaque and remember Doug.