This is my second year of AIDS/LifeCycle and the differences are incredible. The ride is different, and I am also a very different rider. I have put down over 2,500 training miles. I am riding a lighter aluminum tube bike, which replaced the bike I broke on ALC 2019. I am one of three representing Team Germany, Jens and Ulf flying all the way from Berlin to raise money and support the community in California. Today was day one, 81 miles from the Cow Palace in San Francisco to Santa Cruz. Today was incredible.

I also posted a thread to Twitter for today with more pictures.

June in California is typically dry and hot, typically. The hoard of cyclists departing the Cow Palace this morning were greeted with an atypical day: it rained practically the entire ride to Santa Cruz.

Ride out is always slow and stressful, add slick and bumpy San Francisco city streets into the mix and my focus was largely on staying safe. Ride safe, be safe. Jens, Ulf, and I spent a few miles chatting and meeting Jens’ adoring fans. The electrolytes I had in Cow Palace got the better of me and I increased pace so I could find a bathroom sooner rather than later.

I had also left Cow Palace with empty water bottles, so I pulled into the water station ahead of Rest Stop One and got myself situated on both fronts.

Departing the water station I reminded myself of the rules I developed during 2019:

  • Whenever you see somebody drink, you drink.
  • When you see the “1 mile to go” sign for a rest stop, drain your water bottle.
  • Do not pass a rest stop.
  • Do not leave a rest stop until you have gone to the bathroom.
  • Eat at every stop!

As the pack opened up departing San Francisco, I found myself passing people with some frequency, especially on climbs. I do a lot of climb training around Santa Rosa which is flanked by fabulous mountains to the east and west. At Rest Stop One I started to realize the benefits of being fast: unused toilets, fresh drinks, and plenty of snacks.

My feet were soaked, my front was soaked, my butt was soaked. My thinking shifted towards getting to Santa Cruz, or dry weather, as quickly as possible.

The rules of ALC prohibit drafting, which is an important part of the overall safety program. The headwinds that started to push against us as we made our way towards Half Moon Bay really made me resent the rule however. By the time I got into Rest Stop Two I was feeling warmed up, very comfortable, and pleased with my progress. I could not stop for long unfortunately, after about 5 minutes I would start to shiver.

I ended up not being able to stop for more than 5-10 minutes the rest of the day, not even at lunch, as the wet weather, wind, and generally miserable conditions made me shake uncontrollably. Leaving lunch was an immediate climb, at the top of which I was warm again, thank goodness!

Cranking along the coast any other year cyclists are greeted with spectacular ocean views along Route 1, this year it was soup. I pushed further, passing more cyclists along the way. There is always somebody up ahead triggering me to ride a little faster and focus a little more on my pedal strokes; AIDS/LifeCYcle is a ride not a race but that doesn’t keep my competitive monkey-brain from pushing me along.

As I arrived into Rest Stop Three, there were five other cyclists in the rack. A stark difference from 2019 where I felt like i was in traffic the entire ride down to Santa Cruz. I took a picture in front of a big rainbow display against the side of the Roadies’ truck. “Baby Got Back” started to play over their sound system, a little dancing helped stave off the shivers, but I had to keep on trucking.

Somewhere between Rest Stop Three and Four, I got a flat tire! Angry and shivering, gloves and hands wet, I fought the tire off my rear rim and started the process of clearing the tire of obstructions. A tall gentleman rode up and stopped “I’m okay!” He replied “I can see that, I thought I would just be your thumb.” Michael stood there to give passing riders and ALC cars the thumbs up since we had the situation under control. Making conversation in between the shivers, I learned that he’s done the ride for twenty one years! I used up a whole CO2 cartridge, and we rode off.

Unfortunately I lost Michael on a climb, and didn’t see him at Rest Stop Four. When I arrived they hadn’t even set up Bike Parking yet. I knew I was hauling ass, but that surprised me. I visited the Bike Mechanic to buy a new tube, new cartridges, and make sure I did really clear the tire of whatever punctured the tube.

76 miles down. Camp was close.

The last few miles bring us into Santa Cruz city limits where there are a lot more cars and a meandering course that brought me and a fellow cyclist finally to the park where Day One Camp was busily being constructed. As we dismounted a Roadie kindly told me that I was the 23rd cyclist to arrive at camp.

I am so proud of that. Day One is the only day when we all depart together, and while everybody stays at rest stops and lunch for different durations, I don’t feel like I unnecessarily pushed myself.

My baseline speed is faster, my handling skills are better, my flat repair ability is superb!

After Bike Parking, I grabbed gear, setup the tent and finally got a warm shower and dry clothes.

81 of 545 miles, through the driving rain, blistering headwinds, with a few thousand of my closest friends. What a great start to ALC 2022!