Descenders, yesterday we had another fantastic ride organized by Matt and Roman – the route was essentially a counter-clockwise version of Great Western Loop plus a smaller loop nested inside, through Lawson Valley.
I counted more than 30 riders total early on. About half of riders were Descenders, including Mike Hodges (who just battled 100-mile Palomar ride but was riding strong), Rob, Jeff L., Tony, Paul (sporting new kit borrowed from Jeff), Jeff S., Eileen, Larry M., Ernst, Bob Proulx, Bernie and of course "locals" Larry Tanzo and Matt Babb who were both sporting full Descenders kits. Plus me, this makes it 14 Descenders. Hope I am not forgetting anyone.
There were some really strong riders joining us, including David Santos, a pro racer and a CA state road champion as well as time trial champion for the two past years. Drew Peterson was also there.
We rolled out as one large group but were quickly splitting up into smaller sub-groups, as climbing started around mile 3. Larry and I were riding together and missed the left turn to Wisecarver Rd., which in retrospect looked like a driveway and was easy to miss as we just started our descent after a long and relentless climb. We realized our mistake when we got to four corners. We weren’t the only ones to make the mistake, soon we were joined by 5 or so other riders, including Bernie, Ernst and Matt Babb who chased after Ernst. We turned around and climbed back up – Wisecarver is a steep little road that turns into dirt, with some sandy patches. Ernst rolled away from us, descending like a madman that he is. When we rejoined with a large group, turns out that Eileen (who was apprehensive about dirt to begin with) had a tumble in the sandy patch and scraped her elbow. We waited for Hodges, Rob and a few others who were missing from the group but then realized they must have been ahead of us and kept rolling. The group separated into smaller groups as we did more climbing in Lawson Valley – the front group was represented by Matt, Matt’s son Jordan, Larry T. and Larry M. and myself. It was full-on effort to stay with that group. We regroupped again at Lyons Valley (we found Hodges standing there waiting for us) and almost immediately got split up into sub-groups again on steep climb.
I was happy to see the store as it was getting hot and a lot of us were riding with empty bottles by then. At the store we found Rob and Jeff L. who somehow got ahead of us. We refilled the bottles and formed out own "reasonable tempo pace" group of about 10-12 riders, with Larry and me controlling the pace for the most part. We picked up a few other Descenders, including Rob, Jeff L., Bob. Eileen had a few dropped chain incidents, which have prevented her from getting her best time on some of the climbs. We were climbing with a tailwind but because of the heat some headwind would have been good. It felt like an oven – my Garmin showed temperatures as high as 110F, so it must have been in high 90ies.
Our final regrouping point was at Lyons Valley/Japatul. We waited for everyone and decided not to go to Alpine and just ride back through Dehesa descent. This was my wedding anniversary so I was eager to get home early. Of course group split off immediately, even as we were descending. In the front group we had about 20 riders pushing the pace on the downhills. On a short uphill section I had to put in a strong all-out effort to catch up to Larry Tanzo and Jordan. When I looked behind me, Larry M. was right on my wheel, and a huge gap behind him.The four of us rode together steady, and we were joined by Matt and Isak just before the descent. I could see other riders trying to bridge up but the pace was too high. It was very windy so six of us did Dehesa descent and rotated nicely, in TTT spirit, with very few words exchanged except "good pull". We averaged 25+ mph for the final 20 miles. It was hot! On my drive out of the parking lot I spotted a shiny bald, helmetless rider going what seemed like 30+ mph – another Chris Horner sighting.
It was a fantastic ride on roads less travelled by Descenders, with great route and even better company. Thanks to Roman and Matt for organizing it.
Photos are at http://goo.gl/fXwPvJ.
You should have come!