Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Mostly Downhill: Wine Country Century

By Allie Burch
Novato, Cali

Awake at 5am on a Saturday. Ugh. This in itself is why I’m not a roadie. Today was the Wine Country Century and for some odd reason I was awake. To make myself feel better about being vertical and dressed at this ungodly hour, I start in on the chocolate, and I munched right on through the jeers of my “friends”: “you have a problem, it’s not even 6am and you’re eating chocolate!”

Mike, Abby, Jeni, Kyle and myself, truckin’ on up to Santa Rosa to prance around in skin-tight spandex at 7am on a 40 degree morning. Really, what the hell? But there we were. All of us, well, nearly all of us. Jeni and Kyle were still trying to find a parking spot when Abby, Mike and I rolled out. I hung out and waited for the Brooks-a-pokes as Abby and Mike pressed onward. We ended up being about eight minutes behind them, and at a pretty relaxed pace, the three of us figured we could easily work together to catch up. Thus begins our adventure.

All of us in a paceline are rotating nicely. There are two other fellas who are determined to “win” or “thin out the crowd” (yes, in a 2500 person tour), Kyle “throw the f’ing hammer down” Brookes, Jeni “Kyle, why have you stolen my road bike and expect me to keep up with you on a CX bike” Brookes and Allie “I can’t find my way out of a paper bag with a map” Burch. We are flying. As mile 13 of our “warmup” goes by, we still haven’t seen Abby or Mike, but since we’re still passing groups like they’re standing still we press on thinking that they’re just up the way…that is until we no longer see any more groups.

We climb. The five of us continue climbing alone and after about ten minutes of climbing alone the collective genius of the group determines that we have indeed gone off course. (ok, so I was probably taking a pull at that time) Kyle pulls out his gps, and we find a shortcut that takes us back to the group. We climb again and see Mike and Abby waiting at the first stop wondering just where in the hell we were.

We all continued on riding together. We rolled on through canyons, valleys and vineyards. The views were amazing and although there were a couple of steep short climbs, the majority of the course was downhill!

We were nearly to a rest stop when Pete rode up in his “Giant Strawberry Parfait” kit (I was really hungry by this time so this is what I saw) and we started yakking about the Velo Bella characters. We talked about some of the blogs, sung “My Milkshake brings all the boys in the yard…” and just had a good ol’ time for a bit. He mentioned how he saw the write-up of the Velo Bella downhillers on Michael’s website. “Yeah!” I said, “This is the 2nd year of an actual DH squad!” He eyeballed me kinda sideways like “pardon me for bringing this to your attention, “Ms. Downhiller”, but you’re fully clad in spandex. Do you notice something wrong with this picture?”

We continued chatting about Velo Bella and mutual friends and acquaintances. I was really only trying to make conversation when I said, “yeah, from what I understand Sabine and Michael are hitting the track quite a bit. I hear he’s quite good.” To which he replied and chuckled, “Michael? Hrmp! He’s soft!” Now, I’m no geologist, but I’d say them thar’s fightin’ words. Hey, I just report the news, I don’t make it up!

The course rolled on through the undulating terrain of the Russian River wine country. I would recommend this route for anyone for riding or just for wine tasting. The vineyards and wineries aren’t as commercialized and “grand” as it’s Napa Valley counterparts, but Mike and I have found that the quaintness of the wineries and quality of the wine exceeds that of the quantity some of the more touristy places of the valley pump out.

We rode as far north as Lake Sonoma, where we had lunch and then turned south to begin our ride back to the start/finish. The eastern side of 101 through Geyeserville is a bit more exposed, but still beautiful, even after logging 85 miles.

At mile 86, though I started having the “weird fantasy” phenomenon. I could think of nothing else than getting the hell out of my chamois and slipping into my Kamala skirt. It’s a dress, it’s a skirt, it’s smarter than your average bear…and you don’t have to wear a bra! Anyway, it was kinda weird, but it kept me going.

We ended up finishing and were thankful for the BBQ spread they had set up for the riders. And yes, I did get to wear my skirt/dress.

If anyone were thinking about doing their first century in Northern California, I would highly recommend this event. It’s well organized, friendly, attentive and mostly downhill.


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