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Three Hill Winter Trainer

Sunday, March 04, 2018 8:49 PM | Paul McKenzie
Another great day on the bike if a little cool. We assembled at Howarth Park at 9 AM for this 107 mile adventure. Looking around, it was clear the field represented the who's who of "D" riders in the club... for this supposed "C" ride. The group that left Howarth, right on time, totaled 16, and the group swelled to 20 by the time we got to Pope Valley.

The specs:

20 riders, 106.4 miles, 8500' elevation, some ice, some sand on roads, 7:06 riding time, 7:52 Elapsed time. 15.0 mph average speed, which I would call a C/D pace, no flats, no crashes, one minor mechanical that was fixed quickly. Hundreds of noisy croaking Toads.

At the rider meeting I stressed two points. First, being careful on the wet, slippery Winter descents. Second, asking the D riders to hold back a bit when in a pace line to accommodate the C rider pace that was advertised. The first point was heeded by the group, however, the second, not so much. Asking these thoroughbreds to hold back in the pace line turned out to be a fool's errand.

The group split up nicely going up Calistoga road, allowing cars to pass. Ice was visible at the edges of the road, but the tire track was free of ice, and we didn't experience any slippage. Descending Calistoga Road and on to St. Helena Road, it was evident that the County had sanded the roads heavily, as there was black ice last evening and early this morning. Again, clear for us, but frost still visible at the edges of the road.

Everyone set their own pace up St. Helena Road, and descending Spring Mountain, I found myself behind John E and John M. These guys are two of the most competent, experienced riders I know, and to watch both of them dissect this tricky descent at a safe but efficient pace was quite a joy!

We regrouped in St. Helena, and it didn't take long for the large group of 16 to reassemble.

As we headed out of town, I'd heard that Matt had a mechanical, so I sent the group ahead while I returned to find Matt. He and Michael came rolling along with the issue already resolved, and we chased to catch the group. The group had stopped at the Porta Potties left on the side of the road by the Marathon that was happening today. Craig had told me about the Marathon event on Silverado during the pre ride meeting, and I thought to myself... "This could be interesting." As it turned out, the only inconvenience was later in the day when the trucks were stopping on Silverado to pick up the Honey Buckets, and we had to swerve into the traffic lane to avoid the trucks.

At this time, just before ascending Howell Mountain, we picked up Eduardo and Gilberto, two nice Irish lads (just kidding), who'd ridden from Napa to meet us. Following the climb up Howell Mountain, we stopped for supplies at Pope Valley, where we picked up Jady and Nick.

As we left, and Jens was setting a swift pace at the front, I suggested, "I sense there will be a split in this group."

Heading out Pope Canyon Road, the likes of Marc, Jens, Jady, Michael, and several others, lit up the pace big time. The speed varied between about 20 mph to 35 mph over the rolling terrain. The pavement was terrible, and I found myself going into race mode, fighting to stay near the front so as to stay out of danger, and not get dropped should there be a split. Sure enough, the group did split, and when we came to the final little climb before Lake Berryessa, I cried "Uncle" and let the front group go.

Jennie Phillips was with me at that point, and we found ourselves in no man's/woman's land. Dropped from the front group, but ahead of the chasers. The good news is that we worked very well together splitting pulls on Knoxville Berryessa Road. The group was pretty shattered at that point. We later encountered Chayan and Eduardo, who'd stopped for a break, and they later passed us again. We also picked up John M and Gilberto, who'd been shelled by the front group, and Jennie and I towed their carcasses into Yountville. Jennie and I worked together for the entire stretch from Lake Berryessa to Yountville trading equal pulls. Thankfully, Jennie is still recovering from a broken wrist sustained in November, so I was able to match her pace, and we worked together like a well oiled machine.

We had a quick lunch stop in Yountville, and the main group was ready to go, though the later riders had just arrived. I elected to go with the main group, knowing the riders left behind could find their way.

The last obstacle of the day was Trinity, and I, along with a few others, struggled to turn the pedals up the steep climb, running on fumes after bouts of riding very hard throughout the day.

When clouds blocked the sun, it was quite cool, but at other times, the warm sun and gorgeous clouds were comforting. Every time we passed a pond, we could hear hundreds of toads croaking so loud it was almost deafening. Apparently they are enjoying the aftermath of the wet weather!

For the final stretch back to Howarth, the group had dwindled to 9. Some were ahead, several broke off to head back to Petaluma or Napa, and a few were behind. The group of 9 arrived back at Howarth a few ticks before 5 PM.

We didn't have any takers for Pizza and Beer at Mary's, but Jennie and I went there anyway, to enjoy some well deserved food. As we finished up, Jay came in to let us know that the riders behind were in safely. They'd finished at about 6 PM, a long day, but still in daylight. Jay was in good spirits, and I was relieved to find there seemed to be no hard feelings about the ride leader leaving a few riders to fend for themselves.

Overall it was a fabulous, hard, training ride, with many competent riders. It was a large group for such a difficult ride, and I am very pleased with the turnout.

We'll up the ante again with the Four Hill ride in April. This one will include Geysers, Old Toll, Hopland Grade, and Mountain House. Although not for the faint of heart, the Four Hill is by far my favorite of the series. I think I'll call this one a C/D ride, knowing it'll attract mostly the D crowd again.

Thanks to all riders for heeding the warnings and riding safely, even if you ignored the pacing request ;-)

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