Thursday, December 6, 2007

Colby rides the trail

Surrounded by thousand dollar carbon fiber, titanium and aluminum bikes, I stood next to my father-in-law’s turquoise, 1987 steel frame Trek wondering how many pounds, not ounces, more my ride weighed than the others.

It was nearly 11 a.m. yesterday morning and about 200 people gathered in Solvang Park to hear where the Santa Barbara County routes for the 2008 Tour of California would go.
My boss, Daily Sound Editor and Publisher Jeramy Gordon, thought it would be a good idea to ride the Tour’s time trial course, which will weave through the Santa Ynez Valley on Feb. 22.
For some reason I didn’t even protest and just said “Let’s do it,” like I was the star in some glitzy Nike commercial.
After all, it was only 15 miles.
The only person in worse shape than me, as far as equipment was concerned, was Santa Barbara City Councilman Das Williams. Williams wore slacks and, because his bike was unavailable for one reason or another, saddled up on a city loaned beach cruiser.
Since it wasn’t a race and the stacks of Danishes made my stomach rumble, I decided to enjoy a cup of coffee and some of Solvang’s finest just before stepping onto the starting line.
Moments before this, Max Hanberg, co-chair of the Solvang Local Organizing Committee, announced the official 2008 time trial course.
The only significant change over last year’s course, Hanberg said, was a short, but significant climb within the first half-mile of the ride. This climb, he explained, was at a 20 percent grade and when all was said and done, would include 200-feet of elevation gain.
Oh great, I thought, my legs will fill with lactic acid and turn into rubber with a mere 14.5 miles left to ride.
With my notebook and pen filling the back pockets of my early 1990s Lotto jersey, the only other things that really set me apart from the other riders were the running shoes on my feet and my baggy, black shorts, which lacked any sort of padding.
While contemplating these things, the race began. Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone darted out to an early lead, riding shoulder to shoulder with former Team Discovery Channel rider Tony Cruz, who plans to race this season with Team BMC.
The 71-year-old Firestone effortlessly glided out of sight of Gordon and this author, both 25.
Whatever. We can take it.
Two hundred meters into the ride, we turned onto Alisal Road, where we began the steep climb. The rear derailleurs on dozens of bikes began clicking and much of the conversation stopped.
Halfway to the top, Williams, minus the sport coat, was standing tall on the pedals of his beach cruiser in front of me. He must have shot off the starting line like a rocket, slacks and all. That effort had no doubt gotten the best of him, and Gordon and I cruised by.
As I crested the top of the hill, Gordon was nowhere to be seen. I reached for my water bottle and took a swig before speeding down the other side towards Alamo Pintado Road.
But halfway down the descent, the 6-foot, 6-inch Gordon shot by me in a blur.
We laboriously made our way up Alamo Pintado toward the town of Ballard, where we briefly missed the turn onto Baseline Avenue. We didn’t realize our error until we looked back and saw a swath of riders speeding away in the other direction. This is where we abandoned our hopes for a course record.
Back on track, we climbed the small rolling hills before turning toward Los Olivos on Roblar Avenue.
By the time I made it to Grand Avenue — the main road through Los Olivos — I was alone with one of the many spandex clad riders whose jersey looked like a miniature billboard for at least 10 different businesses.
My wife and daughter were supposed to be at the Los Olivos flagpole to cheer me on, so when the decked out cyclist yielded at the four-way stop there, I sped on through and imagined how cool I must look, taking the corner sharp, leaning into it slightly.
In the midst of my fantasy, I realized the other cyclist stopped for a Ford pickup, which began to pass through the intersection before slamming on the brakes for me.
I could hear Daily Sound Photographer and Co-Publisher Charles Swegles in the background, “Don’t get killed Colby!” If I had been killed, at least my obituary would have made the front page. Maybe.
Since my family abandoned me for an extra hour of sleep, I trudged on toward Ballard Canyon Road, which is host to the steepest climb of the ride.
As I slowly made my way up the hill, I could see fragments of spray painted names on the road’s shoulder, undoubtedly left over from last year’s time trial. If I had thought ahead, I could have chalked some motivating phrase on the pavement, like “Catch the 71-year-old politician that’s kicking your ass.”
The majority of Ballard Canyon Road, which is nothing short of picturesque on a bad day, is deceivingly downhill from Los Olivos toward Solvang. I glided past vineyards and fields with cattle and buffalo, not seeing more than three vehicles on the six or so mile stretch.
Entering Solvang, it looked like I’d finish in just under one hour. To put that into perspective, Levi Leipheimer, who rode for the Discovery team, won the time trial last February, which was slightly shorter and lacking the Alisal Road climb, in 29 minutes, 40 seconds, with an average speed of 29.4 mph.
I didn’t even go that fast downhill.
At the finish, as I chomped on my third pastry of the day and had another cup of coffee, I couldn’t help but think if not for the first and second Danish, I could have beaten Firestone.
Maybe next year.


Anonymous said...

ouch, my thighs are burning reading the story.

Anonymous said...

THERES ALWAYS NEXT YEAR!!! What happened to SHANKLES?? He could have powered you through!!!