Most of my training and cycling has been solo, but today was so much fun because it was all about teamwork. The day starts with a good steady climb known as “the evil twins”, includes a gorgeous and long descent to the coast, and finishes outside the town of Santa Maria. For one reason or another I found myself cycling in largely small groups of 2-4. Teamwork means coordination, communication, and speed.

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

The alarm peeped at 4:15 and I immediately started marching over to the breakfast tent shivering like a little dog. Hustling to take the tent down and drop off gear before scurrying off to bike parking I had stopped shivering which is a good sign, but also an indication that the day will be quite warm.

The route today was meandering through Paso Robles and had me riding next to some fixed gear cyclists. They’re known for their siren call of “Fuck yeah rider!” Pulling up alongside them at a stop light I ask if they were riding freewheeling hubs or true fixed gears. Freewheeling hubs are effectively single speed which allow you to coast if you stop pedaling, while truly fixed hubs means that the cyclists legs have to keep moving as long as the wheels are spinning. The curly mustachioed man smiled and said “Freewheel? Never heard of her!” and then laughed exactly the laugh you’d expect from a man sporting curly Qs and covered in tattoos. I watched them descend a small hill and it was mesmerizing as their legs pumped almost in unison, quite like cylinders of an engine. As we approached the evil twins, I gave them a “fuck yeah riders” for good measure and commenced climbing.

It’s not a race, it’s a ride.

But I’ll be damned if I don’t get competitive on the climbs. En route to Rest Stop One I started passing people on some of the rollers, jumping out to the side “on your left!”, standing out of the saddle, and really pushing as much power into the pedals as I could. In Rest Stop One a fellow cyclist told me that it was a lot of fun to try to keep up with me on those climbs. I felt quite flattered! We chatted for a bit, turns out we were both former members of Team ALCaholics. We parted ways and I fell in with a woman I had met and rode with over the past couple days,

Despite her insistence of not being a strong cyclist, she very truly is, and for whatever reason doesn’t ride with clips. You see that more than you’d think at ALC. Cyclists of all skill levels and with all kinds of equipment load outs riding the route, raising money for a great cause. What you don’t typically see are such strong cyclists riding without clips and this year I have ridden with two very strong riders, mashing pedals with their street shoes.

The two of us chatted as we climbed before I pushed onward from evil twin one to evil twin two, where I ran into the Triathelete. I had chased him a couple of days prior, but this was the first time I caught him. He was obviously taking it easy. He’s probably 6 inches shorter than I am and can absolutely smoke me on the route. We climbed together and chatted, passing people as we went up evil twin two. As we went by the Googler I had met on Day Two, he called out “well don’t just have a full on conversation while I’m struggling here.” Sharing a laugh we continued to push to the halfway point.

There’s a pull-off on the side of the highway at roughly half the mileage between San Francisco and Los Angeles. I was pushing hard so I could get heir early, get my pictures, and start the long descent to the coast with as little traffic as possible. We all arrived around the same time, got some great pictures, and started down.

In 2019 this descent terrified me. I had never lost so much elevation or ridden at these speeds before. Most of my training had been indoors and I just didn’t have the exposure to massive climbs like I do now. I also had rim brakes which I knew could heat up and would require lots of feathering. This time around I am a much more confident rider and actually pedalled downhill most of the way. At one point I approached a fellow who helped me out on day one. “On your left!” I shouted at full volume, as we rounded a curve I saw his head shake. I assumed he didn’t want to move over because he felt unsafe or saw some hazards up ahead. I gently braked, waited to until after the turn and then came into the lane and sped past him, returning to the shoulder after I was clear.

We caught up later and I apologized if I came up onto him too fast or made him feel unsafe. He didn’t even remember it and had no problem with my passing. “I must have hit a fly or something.” I shared with him how much that descent terrified me and how important it was to be respectful of other cyclists boundaries, he smiled, wished me a good ride and I departed Rest Stop Two with the Googler and somebody from Twitter.

The Googler offered to “pull” for a while, which basically means push at the front through the headwinds for the benefit of the others. After a couple miles it was my turn, and so I pulled in front, set the pace at about 20-21mph and we all rocketed along towards lunch. I was happy to pull and they were happy to let me! I stayed up front pulling them through the mild rollers along the highway along the coast towards San Luis Obispo. The sights were stunning; the central coast of California is definitely worth a visit.

Parking at lunch, the Googler says “when you asked if I wanted to ride together, I didn’t think you meant that you would drag my ass all the way to lunch!” No complaints were tendered however, I was happy to challenge myself, and worked up an incredible appetite in the process!

I sat around in the shade at lunch so long that most everybody I knew had left, my bike computer timed out the ride, and I had to ride out solo. The cycling was nonetheless great and as I closed in on city limits I caught a couple of folks at a stoplight.

A new group of bike friends, hooray!

After pulling all the way to lunch, I figured the karma of cycling owed me and I happily accepted a free ride towards Rest Stop Three. My post-lunch efforts I have been doing low effort segments, which seems to work out well, so I may continue that in the future.

Closing in on Rest Stop Three the bike in front of me popped and psssssssssssh went flat. They both stopped off and needed no help so I continued onward to Rest Stop Three which ended up only being about a hundred yards ahead. As I was wrapping up with my business I saw him walk up with his bike over his shoulder, the sidewall of his tubeless tire had a tear in it, but the bike techs believed that he’d still be able to ride with a tube in the tire.

I rolled out again solo.

The segment from Three to Four includes a water stop, which I skipped, and an unofficial cinnamon bun stop, which I also skipped. Unfortunately I spent all my day’s fun money supporting the lunch fundraiser, so I pressed onto Rest Stop Four.

My right knee started to nag. I could not figure out what sequence of behaviors would lead it to hurt, but it was intermittent so my pace took a hit as a precaution.

Still, I cannot pass up a good riding group. When I came across a strong wheel I met on day two, I decided to hop on and not let him go. I wanted to get to Rest Stop Four with as little energy as possible. We picked up a first timer along the way, who was also quite happy to have a group to raise his spirits and pace.

Closing in on Rest Stop Four, pop! Psssssshhhhhhhh. Our strong wheel had a flat! The two stayed back as I continued to Rest Stop Four which was roughly a mile ahead. When I arrived I just sat in the shade, stretching my knee. The stop was still being set up and my knee was the first priority. Somebody from Medical came over unprompted “you look like you could use a bag of ice.” “Yes, thank you!”

The first timer rolled into camp looking for a car to pick up the strong wheel; his sidewall was shredded and he had two flat tires.

I am not good luck today.

With some much needed ice and rest, I departed Rest Stop Four with two older guys who kept making jokes about being slow. I left them behind at some point and found myself alone.

“Damnit, I cannot believe I made a wrong turn again!”

I must get real stupid after Rest Stop Four, two missed turns after Rest Stop Four on this ride.

I backtracked and only lost a couple blocks. Eventually I caught up to the older timers, shared a laugh at my missing a turn. They had hollered at me but I clearly didn’t hear them. Oops.

Rolling into camp, the very nice Roadie who has been there every day at the finish line called out “30!”

Despite all my goofing off, I am proud to have arrived 30th to camp.

It’s not a race, it’s a ride. But cycling is all about competing with myself and am enjoying the challenges of each day of the ride.