Tour of California, Mt Baldy Ride Report

Tour of California, Mt Baldy Ride Report-18 May 2017

by Rob Verfurth

Riders: Oleg, Hodges, Bill & Peggy Braamse, Neil B (Rancho rider), Bernie, Todd, Len and Rob

The Tour of California was again tackling Mt Baldy. I did a quick check of the previous years ToC rides we have done based on my photo library. Descender group rides have previously gone to Mt Baldy to watch the pro race in 2011, 2012 and 2015. 2017 marks the fourth time we have climbed Baldy to watch the pros. We have also watched this race from other vantage points–Mt Palomar, Mountain High, Dawson Saddle and a start in San Diego. This was the Queen stage of the week long race and expected to be another great adventure ride for the Descenders. We met early at the North County Mall and loaded up in three cars to drive to Glendora. Traffic was heavy and with a quick stop for a bite to eat, we did not make it to the George Manooshin Park until after 8:30 am. It was a bright, sunny and cool day at the start.

We pedaled along East Sierra Madre Ave for less than a mile before we hit the start of the climb up Glendora Mountain Road. The group eventually strung out on the climb with Oleg, Bernie, Todd and Rob riding to the first stop at Glendora Ridge Road, 10 miles up the mountain. Neil rode ahead of us but looped back. We descended down GMR; Oleg, Bernie and Neil went all the way to the bottom while Todd and I turned around after a beautiful smooth, curvy descent of 3 miles. We climbed back up with Hodges and Bill joining us as they turned around from their shorter descent. Back at the corner of GRR, we started the 12 mile climb to our lunch viewing spot. GRR is an awesome climb as well, not nearly as steep as GMR. There were lots of other riders on the road, it was a beautiful day for a bike ride.

The regroup spot was close to one of the KOM signs, just up from Baldy Village. There were a few concessions providing food and drink. The crowds were thick, bikes up against the side of the road. We went down from the KOM signage about 100 yards to get a viewing spot above Mt Baldy Road. The pro race started down in Ontario at noon with a pretty direct climb up through San Antonio Heights. Eventually the breakaway group of riders could be seen climbing up the road, they made the turn onto GRR and climbed towards us. Two racers were flying to capture points at the KOM with a group of about a dozen leaders leading the race. The rest of the peloton rode by, along with all the support cars and motos. After the race headed down GRR, we all tried to get the legs going again for the brutal climb to the ski lift finish.
It is not that long of a climb, only about 4 miles from the village, but it is a very challenging road with lots of elevation gain, steep gradient and lots of switchbacks. The crowd of riders made their way toward the top. There were lots of folks parked along the sides of the road, a good deal of partying was underway. I suffered mightily on my slow slog to the top. It was sunny and nice at the top. We parked our bikes about 100 yards from the race finish and walked along to visit the many booths on the finishing stretch. The huge television screen was broadcasting the race so we got to watch the last 25 kilometers of racing up the same roads we had just climbed earlier in the day, very cool. Our viewing spot was overlooking the final three switchbacks of the race. We watched from the big screen the attacks at the start of the final 2 mile climb, it was down to four riders in the last kilometer: Andrew Talansky, Rafal Majka, George Bennett and Ian Boswell. It was still anyones race.

Talansky had a better line and position on Majka on the final turn right in front of us; he won the stage by a bike length over Majka, followed by eventual GC winner, George Bennett in third place for the stage. Great race and finish. The podium action commenced almost immediately while other riders finally made it to the finish. Riders grabbed a drink and/or jacket for the steep descent back down to the team buses in the Baldy Village. Len and I had kept our bikes on the far side of the finish ramp so we had to wait for all the riders to finish before we could get back to our bikes. Other Descenders had taken their bikes to our viewing spot so they worked their way back down when the roads opened. Bernie and Todd waited for me and Len.

The four of us cruised down the steep sections and climbed back up to the KOM spot where we had our lunch break hours before. It was a sharp rise, making the speed of their riding up it earlier even more impressive. The 22 mile ride back along GRR and GMR was awesome, it was mostly down and provided great views as we flew down the curvy roads. Bernie did the lion share of the work on point. I dropped a water bottle when I hit a hole, Bernie waited to help pull me back to the group. I hit the front for a bit on some of the last sections of descent but it was too fast for me. Todd and Bernie flew by me while I backed off the pace; some of the tight radius turns were a bit much for this wimp. My Garmin also died with about 5 miles of descending to go so I lost another incentive to push the pace; I cruised to the bottom. Bernie was waiting for us at the corner. Len was still a bit behind so Bernie waited while I pedaled back to the park. I had the car keys for my guys who were waiting.

We loaded up, had a cold drink from the cooler and said our good-byes; every car was on its own to drive back to San Diego. Our car stopped for a much needed food break at the In-Out Burger in Corona and got back to the mall about 8:15 pm, long day but well worth it. Our ride was just over 60 miles with almost 9K of climbing. The guys who went all the way down to the San Gabriel River got in 5 more miles and an other 1K of climbing. The link below has photos of the ride and racing.

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Lake Wohlford & Couser Canyon Ride Report

Lake Wohlford & Couser Canyon Ride Report-13 May 2017

by Rob Verfurth

Riders: Bernie, Rick B, Jim W, Rick W, Neil, Eric R, Dave Sheehan and Rob

What is wrong with the first picture? You are looking at only "A" team riders at the start; A team plus me. I was in big trouble. I pedaled over to the mall from PQ. Hodges told me he was coming so I was hopeful that someone would ride my pace; he did not show. Sheehan was not at the start, I got some temporary good news later in the ride. As I rode up to the group, Larry Murray was also there, resplendent in his new Ranchos kit. Larry said he was over saying hi to his "homies"….then he went back to start the Ranchos ride. I know the Ranchos ride hard, kind of surprised Larry did not think about riding with the Descenders on this Saturday, the A team looked pretty good.

We rolled out a few minutes after the Ranchos left, I was still hoping Hodges would show. I started burning matches on the climb up Mary Lane. I held onto Eric’s wheel as best I could while the rest of the guys went well away from us. The pace over to the start of Wohlford was civil, but still work for me. We hit the start of the climb and I was quickly dropped. I kept Eric in my sights and caught up to him at the 2-mile mark. We all regrouped at Lake Wohlford, where my good news awaited. Sheehan had some early mechanical issues so he got dropped off and rode up in front of us. I now had someone I could ride with, or so I thought. Lake Wohlford looked good, lots of water and it was still very green.

Rick W hammered out from the lake, everyone was strung out on the way to Woods Valley. Sheehan was up near the front; I struggled to hold on at all. We did a quick regroup at the turn and then hit it hard. I somehow was on point when Sheehan said let’s go. I pulled for a bit and then quickly retreated to the back. The pace was furious,32-33 mph along Woods Valley. I thought about getting my camera out to capture the beauty of the 7-man paceline in front of me, but I would have lost pace before getting the photo. Near the end of Woods Valley, Sheehan stuck his nose out and then Eric & Rick B hammered for the corner. I was pretty far back so not sure who got their first, looked like a tie to me. We spun along into Valley Center and then to Lilac, past Daisy Deli and to the start of Couser. I was riding now with Sheehan at a much more civil pace. We climbed Couser, chatting about various family updates; at the top Dave said he was turning around to get to Old Castle Road. I was bummed since I was losing Sheehan and now had to push to get back with the A team riders. I flew down Couser, but not too fast; very scary for me. The guys were patiently waiting for me on the corner of highway 76 at the end of Couser.

Bernie led Eric and me along highway 76, the other guys were a bit slow to restart the ride and were just behind. I cut through the neighborhood ahead of the guys as they waited for some traffic to clear before turning. I thought about staging for a good group photo up the Old 395 Highway climb so pedaled fast to get ahead. I saw no one behind me so just kept up my pace. I looked back about halfway up the climb and saw a few riders well back, at least they were finally coming. I could see the final curve ahead. I was almost to West Lilac Road at the top when Neil and Rick B caught me, at least I made them work for it. Jim W caught up as we hit the overpass bridge. They were flying towards the planned campground rest stop. At one point, Rick, Jim and Neil all were giving their best "Chris Froome" impersonation, lying on the top tube, head at the handlebars. Another great opportunity for a photo, but I was working to stay just behind them. We got the RV Park and had a nice water break.

I knew I was the weakest of the riders so I rode out early while the guys enjoyed a bit longer of a break. The section from the campground, past the Lawrence Welk Resort to the corner of Mountain Meadow is always tough for me; long, straight and slightly uphill most of the time. I left early enough to barely hold off Neil and Rick B. They were breathing hard when they got to the corner. We regrouped and spun straight to downtown Escondido at a fast pace. The accelerations on Centre City Parkway were brutal. Eric was trying to tell me the story about his son’s upcoming prom date, it was too fast to even chat. The pace did not slow until we got back towards the mall. Bernie turned to ride over the freeway. It looked like he finally caught up to Sheehan on Pomerado when I saw the Strava fly-bys. Dave was ahead of us by 5 minutes or so the entire way down Old 395, we were at our water break when he came out of Old Castle Road. I pedaled back to where the cars were parked and bid adieu. Rick W & Jim rode out and I followed toward the pedestrian bridge. Lake Hodges looked even more full and very green. Rick turned left after the bridge while Jim and I rode toward PQ. I planned to stop at the gas station at RB Road, I was tired and needed to slow down; Jim was continuing to push the pace. He climbed up RB Road while I decided to head over West Bernardo Road. We both rode behind Black Mountain to home. I got in 77 miles and 5,400 feet of climbing. It was a great training ride for Monster Climbs, less than 5 weeks left to get in shape. Below is a link for the photos I was able to take during the ride.

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Five Faces of Soledad Ride Report

Five Faces of Soledad Ride Report–6 May 2017

by Rob Verfurth

Riders: Claus, Tony, Guido, Andrew, Hodges, John M, Jim W, Oleg, Len, Ernst and Rob

The start of the group ride coincided with the 5 km fun run for the PQ Festival. As I rode up the bike path toward the Black Mountain Road corner, hundreds of runners came down the hill towards me. I slowly made my way through the throng and got to the top. We started with a group photo under the banner. There were still some late-starting runners in front of us as we rode west. We picked up Oleg and Jim W on the bike path and continued on a steady pace towards the coast. It was a cloudy, cool day with rain in the forecast. We made it to Torrey Pines, I took an #obligatorrey photo of the group and caught Oleg taking his own #obligatorrey picture. The group climbed outside TP and regrouped at the top.

After a banana break, we pedaled along heading for La Jolla. Andrew, who was still on the recovery train, bailed to head down Genesee Ave back toward home. We spun past UCSD and down by the Scripps Oceanography Pier to La Jolla Shores. Guido bailed at Calle Del Oro and headed back to PQ. The fun of Soledad was still ahead. We did the usual Oleg routes up Hillside Drive to the top where we met Ernst and Len, the group was getting bigger. Sy was there and he took the group photo at the memorial cross. After a fast descent down Nautilus Street, we climbed back up Country Club, stopping for a photo overlooking the shores. John M left the group after two climbs while the rest of us went down for the third climb back up.

Oleg was preparing for a beer party at his house so he left us after the third climb. We faced Pacifica Drive next, the fourth face. The group got strung out a bit, I was near the back pedaling up with Len. He left at the top of Soledad Mountain Road to get back to his job site, the man does not know what retirement is; working machine. There were about 6 of us left to climb Via Valverde, things were really starting to hurt. We caught back up to Tony near the top, he skipped the fifth climb. Hodges was heading toward downtown, so Ernst led us down Via Capri, back up Calle Del Oro, through UCSD campus and down Torrey Pines. He pedaled off towards Carmel Valley while Tony, Claus, Jim and I pootled along the bike path. Jim and I were almost done. Claus and Tony had to get back to Poway and beyond, dark clouds loomed on the horizon.

Jim hammered the section between Carmel Valley Road and CDS, I hid on his wheel. Claus and Tony caught up to us at the light. I peeled off and got home with 60 miles and 5,300 feet of climbing. Jim finished with about the same. Claus got in another century while Tony had a flat in RB and called to get home; at least he missed the rain. It was a fun and painful Five Faces of Soledad, a few photos are in the link below.

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Alpine Loop Ride Report

Alpine Loop Ride Report-1 April 2017

by Rob Verfurth

Riders: Jim W, Rick W, Tony, Hodges, Len, Neil and Rob

It was a cool morning and the turn-out for the ride looked to be only 5 riders at the Garden Road start. I was my usual late self getting going, so I sped along Poway Road to get to the 7-11store in time. Hodges was even later and he had to go through his medical update again so we knew what to do if he fell and explain that he was riding downtown on the way back from Alpine. We immediately picked up one more rider, Len, as he was parking along Garden. I felt bad for Jim, Rick W was going to have to leave early, there was no one that could keep pace with Jim for what is normally a tough ride. We rode to SPP, Rick W and Jim took off on the climb and then we all regrouped at Highway 67. Hodges helped shepherd Tony much of the day. With Rick leaving at the bottom of 67, it was down to Jim on point with Len and I hiding as best we could. Hodges and Tony swept.

Good news for Jim came when we made the turn past El Capitan High School, we picked up Neil. Jim had someone to play with now! Those two kept up a fast pace over to Old Highway 80. I could not keep up and also watched Len spin away as well. Hodges and Tony swept. We regrouped at the I-8 underpass, a bit before the Harbison Canyon descent. Len had to go to a job site, so he reversed course. We were back down to 5 riders. I escaped off the front at the start of Harbison and got a good lead on the group; I thought for sure I would make it to the start of the Dehesa climb out in front. Not to be, Jim and Neil flew by me just ahead of the stop sign at the bottom. They motored up the climb, disappearing out of sight. I soloed Dehesa. Hodges and Tony swept.

We regrouped at the pharmacy store in Alpine. The three of us waited about 30 minutes for Hodges and Tony. They finally showed, a mechanical had slowed them down. The five of us headed back with Tony falling a bit behind along Old Highway 80. When we got back to Lakeside, Neil and Hodges headed straight while Jim and I turned to ride towards 67; Tony was not in sight. By the time we got to the bottom of 67, Tony was in front of us. He had taken the more direct route while we rode Willow Road and Moreno Ave to the climb. Jim had been pulling me along for quite some time, I told him to head off and I would pootle up 67 with Tony.

Jim sped off quickly. Tony and I climbed together for a bit before I went ahead. I stopped for a nice view of the very full San Vicente Reservoir and pedaled to SPP. Tony caught me just before the light. I had planned to stop at the Subway store along SPP for a water break so Tony joined me. We were both in need of a rest. We finally got enough motivation to pedal home. Tony turned north on Community Road while I headed to Black Mountain Road for a final climb back to the bike path. I made it home, 73 miles and 5,400 feet of climbing; a good ride. Below is a link with some photos.

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Oceanside Coastal Cruise Ride Report

Oceanside Coastal Cruise Ride Report-29 April 2017

by Rob Verfurth

Riders: Sheehan, Guido, Paul P, John M, Tony, Cresap, Hodges, Rick W, Jim and Rob

The ride name is misleading most of the time. Tony has added a bunch of elevation after Oceanside Harbor by riding Sleeping Indian Road and over through Bonsall before circling back through Escondido; that ride is a lengthy 85 miles. It was a hot and Santa Ana windy Saturday, a great day for a coastal cruise. We started on the 56 bike path in PQ and rode to PCH. Paul, Rick W, Jim and Sheehan broke away from the group through Solana Beach, we regrouped by Swami’s. The group cruised along Neptune Road before looping back to PCH. Guido was back riding in a group ride for the first time in quite a while, good to see him out. He and Cresap bid adieu in Encinitas and circled back down the coast. Sheehan turned right at La Costa Road and looped back through Elfin Forest to get to Poway.

The rest of us kept up a good pace into Carlsbad. Rick W left us at Cannon Road as he turned inland. Once in Carlsbad Village, the traffic got congested and I crept out front. The group behind did not react. I continued to sneak farther away past the Oceanside Pier. Despite the protestations from Hodges, the group was too late in closing the gap. I cruised into the harbor turnaround well ahead of the fast closing pursuers. We regrouped at the bathroom, I announced I was skipping Sleeping Indian. Tony tried to twist my arm but only Jim volunteered to do the extra miles in the heat and wind. It was still fairly nice in Oceanside but the winds were gusty. Tony and Jim must have suffered to complete the full Sleeping Indian Loop. I saw 85+ miles and 4K+ of elevation gain from each of their Strava posts, good for them. Congrats, great riding gentlemen.

The rest of us–Hodges, Paul P, John M and me were heading back down the coast. Hodges was saving himself for the E’tape the following day. I am sure the ride report for that event will be coming soon. Paul had more family duties and I was just too tired to ride inland. We started together in Oceanside. It was such a beautiful day with nice waves, I wanted to get a photo near the pier. The wind gusts had other ideas. Just as I pulled out my camera and was riding with no hands, a big gust hit my bike. I was barely able to save the fall, to the delight and chuckles of Paul and Mike just behind me. Well, no photos but no fall. I rode by some friends out on their Saturday ride at the south end of Oceanside so I stopped to chat a bit. Paul, Hodges and John continued to Carlsbad. After a nice chat, I soloed the rest of the way home, hiding on the wheels of a tri-bike group for a bit and chasing other riders down the coast. I finally saw John again in Solana Beach just as a friend of Rick & Denise was pushing ahead. His name was Jay and he works at Illumina, good rider. I rode with him back to the 56 bike path. By the time I got home it was just about 64 miles and only 1,800 feet of climbing; pales in comparison to the efforts of Tony and Jim. Below are a few photos from the ride, most taken while not riding.

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RSF, Del Dios & HVR Ride Report

RSF, Del Dios & HVR Ride Report-15 April 2017

by Rob Verfurth

Riders: Neil, Rick W, Larry, Hodges, Bernie, Todd, John M, Sheehan, Tony, Bob P, Eric R and Rob

It was a ripper of a ride, we averaged 21 mph for the first hour and almost 18 mph for the full ride, at least on my Garmin; others were much faster. We met at the Black Mountain corner and the ride start innocuous enough with a small surge as we rode over the bridge to Santaluz. By the time we picked up Proulx at the south entrance the pace was on fire. The usual suspects–Rick W, Larry, Neil and Bernie–were out front on the Three Witches descent–not a PR for me, but still almost 34 mph. The group flew along El Apajo and the short climb to the start of Stud Loop.

After a short break to regroup, we hammered Stud Loop and stopped again at Del Dios. John M skipped the loop and was out front. Hodges rolled through and then we took off. Larry and Neil pushed the pace on Del Dios, Rick W was right behind and I hid on his wheel. We all spread out on the climb past the Lake Hodges dam and flew along Lake Drive before stopping at the corner of Via Rancho Parkway. The ride was now about a hour old, we had ridden 21 miles and the legs were feeling it.

Things did not slow markedly as we spun to the gas station near the mall. We met up with Eric R who joined the group for the fun up HVR. After riding over the lake pedestrian bridge we lost Todd and Neil as they had other responsibilities for the day. Hodges cut across Mule Hill to get in more BWR training. We rode to the start of HVR. Sheehan continued along Pomerado for home, the rest headed towards the climb.

Things spread out on the HVR climb. Larry, Rick W & Bernie were on point. Eric R was just ahead of me and Bob P, Tony and John swept up the group. I caught up to Eric just after Starvation Mountain and we rode to the regroup point on Archie Moore Road. Bob P rode up a few minutes later. No sign of Hodges, John M or Tony; they had told us not to wait. My plan was to go across Archie Moore and 67. Larry convinced me and Proulx to go to the end of HVR; he promised to keep it at a "civil" pace. There were 6 of us riding along the top sections of HVR. I set PR’s just barely holding onto the wheels of the guys as we screamed all the way to the light; not real civil if you ask me.

I said I was done, time to pootle. The six of us still stayed together down 67, past the Mussey Grade turn and to the store. Eric needed water so they stopped. Bob P and I continued on with our now much slower pace as we yelled, "you guys can catch us!" Bob and I trudged past Mt Woodson and headed for Poway Grade. Just as we got to the turn, Larry, Bernie, Rick W and Eric flew south on 67 at a "civil" pace; boy was I glad to be heading down Poway Grade. We slowly spun back along Ted Williams and the bike path towards PQ. I left Bob to get the last few miles home himself when I hit the turn to my neighborhood. I had 58 miles, almost 4,200 feet of climbing and a pace of almost 18 mph, it was a ripper of a ride. Some photos of the ride on in the link below.

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Alpine Challenge Ride Report

Alpine Challenge Ride Report–22 April 2017

by Rob Verfurth

Riders: John M, Rick B, Len, Voris, Denise B, Paul P, Bill & Peggy B and Rob

The past few years of the Alpine Challenge have been a little tough; cold temperatures, freezing/sleeting rain and even snow on top of Mount Laguna. Only the bravest of riders, like Bernie B, made it to the top; most of us wimps went short and finished the 100 km or even the 50 mile loop. Those memories faded fast with warm weather projected for the Alpine Challenge this year. We were only able to convince a handful of Descenders to participate in this years ride. We were fortunate to have Dave Voris back visiting from Nor Cal. Paul P started very early, about 6:15 am, and completed the 100 mile, almost 11K of climbing, ride. Bill and Peggy started just before the group roll-out and also completed the 100 mile ride. Congrats to Paul, Bill and Peggy. Denise started a bit ahead of the group too due to the foster kittens she and Rick recently started to care for at their home. She sped through the 50 mile ride and overcame a flat on her way back to Alpine. Hermann and Jeremy Schafer rode the 100 km ride, with Jeremy adding in a few more miles. I saw both of them at the finish.

The group of Descenders at the 7:30 am planned roll-out consisted of Voris, Rick B, Len, John M and Rob. It was already approaching 60 degrees with bright sunshine planned ahead. We left Summers Past Farms and headed towards Harbison Canyon. Rick B glided along easily on his ElpitiGO, while the rest of us pedaled furiously to keep up the pace. We all descended the canyon together and started the climb up Dehesa. For reasons I do not recall, I took off and pushed the pace up the climb, separating myself from the rest of the guys. Voris and Rick caught me just before the turn at Tavern Road, with Len just behind; John M swept up the group.

We continued along the climb up Japatul Valley Road, passing a number of riders, and took a quick water stop at the second SAG break location. The four of us rode up and under I-8 and made our way past the Descanso pit stop. Voris pushed the pace up to Guatay on Old Highway 80, Len and I fell off the pace while Rick just hung onto his wheel. Dave & Rick descended into Pine Valley ahead of me and Len. I slowed even more and Len closed the gap to Dave & Rick. We had decided to just complete the 100 km ride and make the loop through Pine Valley; Laguna Mountain would have to wait. I was only about 100 meters behind the guys when they turned at the end of Pine Valley. I still managed to take a wrong turn and got a bit lost as I looped back to the climb. Len and I left rest stop ahead of Dave & Rick but they blew by us on the climb, we regrouped and rode hard back by the Descanso stop. I had burned all my matches and needed more water; I stopped. Dave, Rick and Len continued on the Descanso loop. It was the last I saw of Dave & Rick until we all got back to the finish.

I stopped for only a few minutes before taking up the chase. I climbed back to the I-8 underpass and sped down Japatul Valley and Japatul Road. There was a Drew Peterson sighting by me, he was riding up Japatul as I flew downhill; a quick wave and yell was all I got out. It was getting hotter, I rode alone, passed only a few riders and made my way back into Alpine. I spotted Len at the traffic light at Arnold Way. We rode together back to the start. I got in 63 miles and 5,800 feet of climbing in just about 4 hours. The temperatures climbed fast, the last few miles were hot. It was approaching 90 degrees. I am sure the 100 mile crew suffered in the heat; more congrats to them.

Rick, Dave, Len and I ate a nice lunch and drank a beer. John M finished his ride. We spotted Drew back in the finish area. It was good to see him and he spent some time talking to the guys. I had to bug out. The below link shows some photos from the fun day of riding Japatul. Hope you can come next year.

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