Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ronde de Solvang Century Race/Ride Report

I am quickly becoming a true Fred, and honestly, I'm OK with that. I fully expect that someday in the not-so-distant future I'll be sporting a neon-green wind breaker and a helmet mirror while riding along the bike path at 13 mph. Actually, I'm pretty accomplished at that last part already.

That brief preamble is just setting the stage for tonight's confession:
(1) I rode the Solvang Century on Saturday.
(2) I rested all week for it.
(3) I used my race wheels.
(4) The rest of this blog post is a ride report.

Saturday dawned clear and crisp, but a fast-moving storm the night before left behind some extremely strong and gusty winds. All thoughts of breaking the four-hour mark blew out the window. Too bad, because our group certainly had the horsepower to pull it off in better conditions. I wish I'd been able to take some pictures, but this ride is way too hectic and fast to be fumbling around with a camera. Instead, I'll adopt the _gavia_ methodology of photojournalism....

As per tradition, a very large group (60-70?) of SB and SYV riders rolled out from the Bulldog Cafe at precisely 8:00, and we immediately rev'ed up to 25 mph and began the chaos of riding through hordes of century riders on all manner of bike and bent. Some of them try to jump in with us, which is usually pretty awkward. Most recreational riders don't understand the subtleties of riding fast in a group. I cringed when I saw one of them nearly take down Kim Anderson. Fortunately, 25 mph ensures nobody ever stays too long. We made it to Lompoc intact and we'd only used up an hour of clock. The early effort and the wind took its toll though, and our group was cut roughly in half.

Between Lompoc and Vandenburg AFB, the wind got really nasty, blowing in off the ocean to our left. Surely this was a good proxy for the wind-swept spring races in Belgium and Holland. Normally in the Ronde de Solvang, a good strategy is to hide 20 riders back in the group and save energy for the 3rd and 4th hours. However, facing a wicked side-wind like Saturday, that strategy is a sure way to get dropped. With the lead rider out along the centerline, there's enough room for only six or seven riders in an echelon across the road. Everyone else behind is in the gutter and facing a good bit more wind. That phenomena cracked quite a few riders on the way to Santa Maria.

We rode into the third hour with a group of 15 or so, mostly Platinum, along with Randy T. and Karl W., and of course our major engines Aaron Olson and Kim Anderson. The civilian century riders were now few and far between, and our group rotated crisply and efficiently on the open farm roads. Sadly we found ourselves caught in a strange SB-county vortex, meaning that somehow we were STILL facing headwinds despite having ridden more than half-way around the 100 mile loop. Clearly we were not going to recoup the earlier time losses.

The wind was finally at our backs when we made the turn toward Solvang along Foxen Canyon. That was both a blessing and a curse. It sure felt good to go fast again, but a tailwind also means you get less benefit from drafting and it really hurts when the front rider pushes hard. After the first few rises, we were down to The Solvang Seven: Aaron and Kim, Ben the Hammer, Gary "Guns" D'Velo, M-Dubb, Me, and the defending Solvang chump Chesterini.

Very little talking in our intimate little group, and at first everyone was loathe to skip a pull. We were a band of brothers ...and a sister... and Foxen Canyon was our battlefield. Chester was the first casualty, which meant that 2010 would crown a new chump champ. After a few more miles Matt began sitting on. Naturally that energized Ben, whose pulls became a bit more spirited. Then at about mile 80, Kim finally skipped a pull and began sitting on. As an aside... for any readers out there who doubt the toughness of top-shelf women bike racers like Kim Anderson, I suggest you ride 100 miles in 20 mph wind with one of them. Kim outlasted some very good Cat 1 and 2 male bike racers!

The tension was high as we approached the big hill on Foxen. We all knew that's where the first salvos would be fired. Sure enough Ben attacked immediately at the base, finally breaking the uneasy truce we'd maintained for the previous 3.5 hours. He got a good gap as we all reeled from the shock wave. Gary, Matt, and I deferred to Aaron (wouldn't you?) and half way up he loaded up his big ring and powered up to Ben with the three of us groveling on his wheel. Kim was the only casualty of this first skirmish. We flew down the descent and I spun out my 12. A fast left turn for the second big hill, and right on cue Ben attacked again. Once more, Aaron took off after him in the big meat, but this time we didn't hold on. Aaron dispatched Ben and went over the top solo, with only 10 miles between himself and a glorious victory in Solvang. Meanwhile, us four Platinum grunts regrouped and began a frantic and furious pursuit to close down the 30 second gap. We got waved across hwy 154 by the nice CHP officers, and of course Ben attacked again on the final hill out of Los Olivos. Dissension in the ranks!?! Or maybe his goal was simply to dispense with Matt, and that's precisely what he did.

So for the final 8-mile stretch along Ballard Canyon, three of us chased Aaron who we could see up in the distance. I swear we averaged 35 mph the entire way but we barely made a dent in his gap. Surely he was having flashbacks of flying along that stretch of road in the Tour of California Solvang TT. Gary and I punched it on the final hill outside of town, in a desperate final bid for victory but it was too little, too late.

After pulling by far more than anybody else, and riding the final ten miles solo at 30+ mph, Aaron left no doubt who the 2010 Ronde de Solvang champion should be! I'm quite sure that his prestigious victory Saturday ranks right up there with his successful completion of the Giro d' Italia when riding for T-Mobile.

Final times:
AO -- 4:18
Gary & Me -- 4:18:30
The Hammer -- 4:20'ish
Matt -- 4:23'ish
Kim -- 4:25'ish

[add/edit next day]...and just to be clear, I don't mean to disparage people named Fred, helmet mirrors, and/or civilian century riders. I often think recreation cycling is healthier both physically and mentally than what most of us wannabe-pretender-pro-bikers do. As an old boss of mine was fond of saying to his sons and his younger cohorts, "What you see is what you'll be." If that means I'll be an older person who still gets out and rides a bike on centuries or whatever, well, I think that will be just great.


Steve said...

As always, and entertaining race, err ride report. Thanks for letting us baseball parents know how the ride went

Kimberly (aka. DrKim) said...

The drawings are awesome...especially the podium shot!

Matsfro said...

Great write-up! I've been having nightmares of relentless winds for the past two nights.

Anonymous said...

The winds were in full force on Saturday! Even in the valley at Madera Stage Race, huge time gaps in the crit! Never seen the wind that much of a factor in a crit before, only in road races


Steve Weixel said...

Great report, love the pictures. I guess I just missed being in the "Solvang Seven". You can put me and Chester down for 4:31.

Drew said...

l enjoyed seeing you guys/girl go buy me all alone out in the WIND near Santa Maria! Great pictures, did you use your Poloroid?

St(br)ainless said...

Dumbass -

Please stop with the politically correct bullshit. It is a universally moral imperative that Freds be disparaged early, often and mercilessly.

thank you for your cooperation.

Anonymous said...

Ah, we Freds see its all in good fun, and a faired lime green recumbent would wipe you tuff guys out anyways. You are a sociological and athletic phenomenon using outdated technology, sort of like Apaches and Samurais.

Great, great sketches, THANKS. You're the only one I've read who sensed that shifting wind/vortex. So it took me 2 hours longer than you, but the ride down Foxen and Ballard was just as glorious.

Anonymous said...

You guys missed the whole point of the Solvang Century. It's not how fast you ride. It's how many ableskivers you eat, and whether or not you think the Melville Carrie's is better than Foley's Pommard clone.

Next year, you should fill your water bottles with wine and join the Freds in a fine outing.

Valerie said...


It was great to finally meet you and also to meet Kim this weekend. I hope you guys do well tomorrow.
Next time down south let me know and have some serious epics to try.

La Mesa to the desert and back....


Marco Fanelli said...

MQ- Nice to meet you this weekend as well. Let's do lots more races together.

To all century commenters- I lost some sleep fretting that people could misinterpret this post. A few offline comments and emails indicated that some people thought I and our group were obnoxious and arrogant in boasting about beating a bunch of century riders. That's a completely incorrect interpretation. First of all, anybody out on a bike is a hero and deserves kudos, be they racer, century rider, commuter, or whatever. Second, the Solvang "race" is just normal group-ride training between friends and it's our inside joke that it's a competition. Nothing more.

Jen said...

Zomg, pictures!!!!

If you're really nice, next time I'll even let you borrow my crayons. And I don't lend those thingies out to just anyone.

Really, I do heart me some stick figures.