By BOB NORBERG / THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Go from zero miles to 65 miles over 10 months, and throw in a steep climb over Coleman Valley Road for good measure.
That is the challenge I set for myself shortly after I started riding my son’s mountain bike last January, with a goal of riding Oct. 9 in the Levi Leipheimer King Ridge GranFondo, the 65-mile medio route.
I’m not sedentary. I’m not a potato that just rolled off the couch, but it’s really just now settling in how daunting the mediofondo is going to be. I have some serious training to do over the next five weeks.
I’m also 62, but this isn’t an older-guy-starts-biking story. The road doesn’t care how old you are. Besides, I subscribe to the theory that all men, no matter what their age, think they’re 32.
The first rides were 10 miles in Alexander Valley, ducking in to Coppola Winery to see the construction progress on the new domed museum, into Trentadue Winery where I was usually greeted by the winery’s yellow lab, into Clos du Bois, which looked like the perfect picnic stop, and to the gravel Bill Ferguson Road, where a Red Tail Hawk was often perched on a power pole, watching the vineyard.
I also remember swinging my leg over the bike getting off the first ride and immediately cramping up.
The first flat tire on my new road bike, a Specialized Sequoia, was on Healdsburg Avenue at Alexander Valley Road. It was the back wheel, of course, which Phil Scheidler from NorCal Bike Sport said it always is. He had shown me how to get it off when I bought the bike, so I changed it myself, promptly pinching my hand on the pump. The fruit stand owner gave me a couple of hand towels to clean up the grease.
The first bloody knee (I had three while struggling with my new clip-in shoes and even more near slow-speed falls. And it’s good to have a nurse as a riding partner) was on Alexander Valley Road, too.
Anyway, I have built up some miles and last Saturday we tagged along on a Santa Rosa Cycling Club, 41.2-mile ride from Schaefer School through Graton, over Green Valley Road, with a nice climb that took the lowest gear and nose-down pedaling.
The club cyclists, by the way, have been riding Sonoma County roads for decades and know every bike-friendly byway and lay out some nice routes. The two cyclists we rode with were conscientious about stopping at stop signs, riding single-file in traffic and riding safe.
Average speed for us was almost 14 mph, maximum was 28 mph down Green Valley Road, best rest stop was on the Oddfellows Park Road summer crossing of the Russian River … chamber of commerce scenic.
So 65 miles is doable, but I’m not there yet.
The fondo route includes a climb over Coleman Valley Road from Carmet, a 7 percent grade, very taxing, and that comes 35 miles into the ride.
And then there is the pack … the fondo will have 6,000 riders … that will be scary.
For the next five weeks, I’ll clean up my diet … wheat pancakes and wheat spaghetti instead of white flour. No apple fritter with my mid-morning coffee. No wine or beer, except Thursdays, at a long-standing tennis match with a close friend, which I will consider cross-training.
And I’ll plan on training three to four times a week and see where the road goes.