Posts Tagged Levi’s Gran Fondo

Willow Creek Road

The dirt option. The gravel section. Stairway to heaven. Relentless.

If it had been paved the Willow Creek Road climb would be nothing spectacular. It would have been just another tree lined climb up yet another hill through yet another series of switchbacks. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have noticed it. But, it wasn’t paved and for those of us who quit mountain biking because we fell too often, riding an 11 mile dirt road on a road bike doesn’t seem very logical. Some of us did it anyway.

It took me a bit to get used to picking my lines up the climb. I couldn’t always just aim for the least steep path and head up-most of the time the outside of the switchbacks were littered with loose gravel…anyway, you guys are probably tired of me talking about Levi’s Gran Fondo, so here it is:

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Levi’s King Ridge Gran Fondo, 2011

If you follow me on Twitter you might already know that trip didn’t go exactly as planned. Sam and I got to Santa Rosa on Friday night as planned check in and headed downtown to have some dinner and a couple of drinks. Everything was great and both of us were feeling quite keen for the ride. But shortly after we’d gone to bed Sam got ill and in the morning he was barely able to get out of bed. Riding the bike was out of the question.

So I ditched him. I did offer to drive him home and just skip the ride, but in the end his wife drove on down to get him and I went out to ride by myself. Or with 7500 strangers.

The conditions were a lot different than the previous two years. Most of King Ridge and the approach to the coast were socked in with fog. It was cold, the roads were wet and the wind was blowing, but it was a good day. Amazingly, when we got to the coast, the sun came out and it started to warm a bit.

I felt pretty good and just ground out a good rhythm most of the day. After crossing the Russian River near Jenner I opted to turn left on Willow Creek Road for the dirt option and, while it was hard work, I was glad I did. Willow Creek was probably about 10 miles of dirt and gravel roads, all of it gradual climbing with about 3 miles of proper climbing.

I’ll put together another video in the next few days with the footage of Willow Creek Road I have, but for now, this pretty much captures how the day went:

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Countdown to #LeviGF, 0 Days

Rolling out now…see y’all in about 7 hours.

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Countdown to #LeviGF, 1 day

It’s a long video, but I can’t think of a better way to close out the countdown. I particularly like the part where, I start picking my way through the other riders on King Ridge. Of course, that’s probably not going to happen this year.

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Countdown to #LeviGF, 2 days

I actually got to ride my bike today. She’s quiet again and shifts like a dream. Glad I took her in.

The shoes. They fit well. A pair of Shimanos, because they were on sale and had my size (admittedly not the best way to choose cycling shoes, but it was the best way I had time and money for). In a perfect world I’d have at least a few days to get used to the fit and dial in the cleat placement but I don’t so, you know…

I don’t have much else to say right now. I’m ready for the workday to end and for the weekend to begin. Here’s a little pre-Fondo walk down memory lane:

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Countdown to #LeviGF, 3 days

At lunch yesterday I ran across town to pick-up Eva. When I got there the guy working the shop said something like, “you sure sounded keen on the phone.” And yeah, I did, I was anxious to get in a couple more rides before we leave on Friday. Back at work I rode the bike from my car about 30 feet to the bike locker – that counts as a ride, right? Later I rode the 30 feet the other way.

At MadCat I also picked up a new pair of cleats to replace my well worn pair – the old pair were worn to the point that the felt loose on the pedal. It wasn’t supposed to be a big deal. So, early this morning I tried swapping out the cleats and found one of the bolt holes on my left shoe was stripped out. After an hour or so of fiddling and troubleshooting I realized I was never going to get the bolt threaded into the shoe.

Three days until Levi’s Gran Fondo and now I need to buy a new pair of cycling shoes.

Preparation for this ride has been a comedy of errors. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll actually get to ride my bike.

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Countdown to #LeviGF, 4 days

I dropped Eva off at the local bike shop yesterday. They promised to overhaul or replace the bottom bracket and have her ready for me sometime today. Taking your bike to the shop 5 days before a big ride isn’t ideal, but I’m pretty sure a creaky bottom bracket all the way up King Ridge would drive me and the other 7500 riders crazy (or, at the very least, drive Sam crazy since I plan to sit on his wheel pretty much all day…shhh…don’t tell him).

My plan had been to continue to bike commute through Thursday, just to keep my legs primed and ready, maybe even go for a short spin on Friday when Sam and I arrived in Santa Rosa. The trip to the shop doesn’t ruin everything but it has me a little anxious.

I’ve decided to distract myself by obsessively checking the Saturday forecast in both Santa Rosa and Jenner to get an idea of what conditions are going to be like. Right now, it looks like it’s going to be nice, but I’m not convinced.

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Countdown to #LeviGF, 5 Days

Even the best plans laid plans…

This weekend Sam and I were going to head out for a 65 mile jaunt. It didn’t happen. Instead we rode 15 miles and drank beers. On Sunday, I went out alone and dragged myself up as many hills as possible.

A couple of weeks ago I set aside time to replace my chain, adjust my cables give the drivetrain a thorough cleaning – all in hopes of avoiding an additional expenditure I couldn’t really afford. Everything went well except that this morning I rode to work and found that my bottom bracket – I think – is making a wonderful creaking noise. So, a little later I’ll call around and see if someone doesn’t have time to give it an overhaul (or replace it) before Friday. The lesson we should all take from this is: never let me work on your bike.

Also, I shouldn’t write things like, “at least the bike’s ready.”

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Countdown to #LeviGF, 8 Days

It’s time to start planning. Obviously, the hotel is booked, the registration is paid, the bike is prepped the legs are…well there…but now it’s time for the details. Who is going to bring the beer? What are we going to eat? What time will we leave? Will we ride the gravel section?

It’s actually that last question I keep trying to answer – some people think I should talk to Sam about it.

Gravel sounds scary (I’m pretty sure it makes my wife nervous) but having ridden Levi’s Gran Fondo the first year when gravel wasn’t so much an option as it was “the way” I can say that it doesn’t make me all that nervous. No, I figure the gravel will be less crowded and, since Willow Creek Road bypasses a large section of Highway 1, more pleasant (you can read that as saying there will be fewer cars).

I’ve been googling Willow Creek Road trying to get a feel for how long the “dirt” section is and really haven’t found much except for the little offered at the Fondo page and this tidbit in an article on cycling in Sonoma County (links to PDF):

When I descended Coleman Valley Road to the coast, he says I could have gone up Highway 1 for a spell before turning right onto Willow Creek Road, which features an 11-mile climb away from the coast that loops back to Coleman Valley just outside Occidental. The route becomes a dirt road at one point but is pretty smooth and is popular with road cyclists, Keene says.

I thought about tweeting @levisgranfondo to ask for some more detail, but those guys are probably busy.

There’s also Coleman Valley Road to consider, my enemy. This was the year I was going to vanquish the beast! Though, unlike many others I saw, I’ve never had to dismount and walk my bike up Coleman Valley Road it has always lead me to question my commitment to cycling up hill – I think the first year I said something like, “I never want to do that again,” at the top.

I’m ready to do more, at least a little, than just survive Coleman Valley Road.

But, Willow Creek Road, which doesn’t appear to be a significantly easier option, bypasses the beast and robs me of the opportunity to yell something profane at the summit of the Coleman Valley Road Climb.

What to do?

If you have an opinion drop it in the comments (they’re moderated, but as long as you aren’t a jerk or SPAM I’ll approve it).

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Countdown to #LeviGF, 9 Days

It’s starting to look like I’ll log my 3000th mile of the year during Levi’s Gran Fondo – as long as I get out for a ride this weekend, which is sort of required. I put a new chain on Eva the other day. New brake pads too. There’s a cable and housing set on my work bench I meant to install, but now it seems too close to the event to be messing around with my components, especially considering I, mostly, have no idea what I’m doing. Anyway, at least the bike’s ready.

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