By Bob Norberg

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

32.36 miles

10.5 mph average

27.8 mph maximum

3 hours, 4 minutes riding time

Pine Flat Road is just nasty, 11.1 miles of winding road that ranges from serious to ridiculous to seriously ridiculous, climbing 2,936 feet out of Alexander Valley into the Mayacamas at an average 5 percent grade.

The pros use it in their training schedule, with hometown hero Levi Leipheimer reportedly climbing it in 47 minutes.

For a taste of what the road is like, there is a great February 2009 video on YouTube taken by the old-school Team Strawberry Pancake, search YouTube for Astana and Pine Flat Road.

So what better place than Pine Flat Road to train for the medio Levi Leipheimer King Ridge GranFondo, which has been haunting me with Coleman Valley Road, a steep climb from the coast.

On Saturday, fellow PD reporter Clark Mason and I made it up 10.3 miles, to the point where the road gets crazy steep just above the shooting range. It was plenty to figure out we had done the most of the beast.

It’s Tuesday and my legs are still sore.

The shooting range was thankfully not in use. I’ve heard tales from other riders how unsettling it is with people shooting in your general direction.

Being September, the land was tinder dry and golden yellow and even though it was well before noon on a moderate day, you ride exposed to the sun and the canyon just seems to generate its own heat.

It’s an arid, desolate, other-worldly landscape, once populated with grizzly bears, with only a couple of homes and a bird sanctuary.

There were about a dozen other riders on the road … we took a break with three that were climbing near us at the 7-mile mark, on the guardrail of a sharp curve that laid Alexander Valley at our feet. And we encountered only two cars the entire time, one of which was a sheriff’s deputy.

It’s a perfect bicycling road … if you like insane.