This weekend, I took the family on a road trip up to Napa, CA to participate in the Echelon Napa Gran Fondo. In Italian, gran fondo means "big ride". Big ride indeed at 100 miles and 4500+ ft. of climbing. I was joined by my college buddy Ryan Grenier, and his friend Chris.
We left LA on Friday and made pretty good time up to the Bay area. We stayed in SF Friday night so that we could have dinner over at Jeremy and Damara's house. It was great to visit with them and introduce them to Baby Scotty. After a great steak sandwich dinner, we headed back to the Airport Westin. Got up Saturday and had a light breakfast before heading into the city to do some shopping and meet up with Ryan. I had previously agreed to transport his bike to Napa, since he drives a very small sports car (he's a pretty small guy). As always, we had a lot of fun shopping in the Union Square area of SF. Alison, picking up some new clothes, and myself getting a new pair of Oakleys for riding and some new Livestrong apparel at Niketown. You'll see these awesome eye shields in the pics that follow.
In the afternoon, we headed up to Napa, and checked into the Westin Verasa. A fairly new property, it's located right on the Napa river, and just over the bridge from downtown. They set us up in a two room suite, complete with a kitchenette! Since we had some time to kill before our 7:30 dinner reservations, we took the opportunity to enjoy happy hour in the hotel bar. We had a great carb loaded dinner that night at Bistro Don Giovanni with Ryan and his friends Chris, Gina, Brad and Mickey. It was a great evening, and despite the late hour (for us anyway), the kids were great! By the time we got back to the hotel, it was 11PM - much later than I had planned to go to bed. Oh well.
What perfect weather for a ride. It had rained the evening before, but today - no clouds in sight. The temp was a pleasantly cool 65 degrees with no wind. We took position in the starting chute and waited for the gun. We had lined up a bit early though, and wound up waiting for about 45min. Eventually they got around to it, and kicked things off with the national anthem. Shortly thereafter, the starting gun fired and off we went. Despite the intense rotor-wash of the helicopter that was on hand to take pictures, we crossed the 3rd street bridge under Police escort and made our way out onto the course. We rode the first 20 miles or so at a rather lively pace, averaging almost 25mph. Life's pretty easy when you're in the middle of the peloton! At the turn towards Lake Hennessey, I backed off my pace a bit and settled in for the first big climb of the day. It wasn't too bad, about 6% average and 2 miles long. Ryan and I caught up with Chris at the first checkpoint. After a quick bio break and water refill, we were back in motion. This was the starting point for the time trial. Another climb of about 4 miles, and we were at Lake Berryessa. Chris took off somewhere during the hill climb, and that was the last we saw of him for the rest of the ride. He ended up finishing about 45min ahead of us. The route paralleled the lake, with several rolling hill sections for about 15 miles. Ryan and I got separated during this section, but I ended up waiting for him at the next stop.
At Mile 60, the Howell Mtn. hill climb began. It was a 4 mile long climb up Ink grade, with the grade varying from 6%-14%. It was brutal. Thankfully, it was well shaded by trees. At the top was another rest stop where I had a sandwich and rested my rather sore ass. Filled up the water bottles, and back on the bike. The ride down the hill from there was pretty awesome. Speeds of 40+mph and some fun curves. The road made its way back down to Silverado Trail, where we turned north to Calistoga and the turn around point. This was a tough 10 mile section, as a strong wind was in our faces the whole way to Calistoga. We were only averaging about 14mph here. The final aid station was at the turn around, offering the last energy drinks and snacks of the ride. I downed a Coke, grabbed a handful of energy gels, and went to wait for Ryan who was frequenting another Port-a-Potty. With 25 miles to go, we got on the road heading back the way we came. This time with the wind at our backs, as evidenced by an average speed of about 24mph. This section was relatively flat, and was pretty much just a mindless spin back to town. The last few miles were kinda fun as the excitement of finishing got closer! We made it back to the Start/Finish line just barely over 6 hours after we started. My goal was 6:30, so I'm pretty pleased with that.
Will I do this ride again? Absolutely. It was a beautiful and challenging ride. I will certainly work on my training strategy though. Next year, sub 5:30 for sure!
Final Metrics from the ride:
Avg Speed 15.8
Max Speed 41.8
Avg Heart Rate 153
Total Ascent 5075 ft.
Last Week in Review–June 20th, 2017
2 days ago