By BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Piling up the miles, 58.2 on Saturday, with a 650-foot climb up the first three miles of Pine Flat Road in the Mayacamas just to warm the legs up.
The Levi Leipheimer King Ridge GranFondo is less than two weeks away now: three versions of it, the 35-mile piccolo, 65-mile medio and the 100-mile granfondo. In four months of training, I’ve ridden the equivalent of Disneyland and back.
Alexander Valley was hot and the vineyards were littered with grapes that were being dropped on the ground as workers were thinning the crop this late in the year. In the still early morning air, there was the occasional boom of empty grape gondolas being driven over country roads.
Thirteen miles, a stop in the Jimtown Store, which was already crowded with bicyclists at 10 a.m. Too early for the wine-tasters and other tourists, but riders were out trying to beat the heat, and the store is most accommodating.
The coolest thing about bicycling is the sunglasses, the tinted blues and grays in wrap-around frames.
Jerseys may be the next on the cool scale: multicolored, earned from organized rides and celebrating bicycle shops, pro teams and brand names.
One rider had on a Merckx jersey, from Eddy Merckx, a bike racing legend and current high-end bicycle maker.
Another was in a jersey from Mellow Johnny’s, Lance Armstrong’s Austin, Texas, bicycle shop. The rider was tanned, assured and, maybe a pro, who knows; pleasant, he acknowledged a hello.
Bicycling may be the most democratic of sports. It is a level playing field, we all ride the same roads. And it also is a meritocracy; you earn respect with miles on the road. A Fred is, derisively, someone with too much lycra and too much titanium and too little bike skill. The female counterpart is a Betty.
I wear a plain blue jersey, but I am looking forward to wearing the GranFondo jersey, white with a grizzly bear on it, but only after I earn it on Oct. 9.
Mile 40, pulling out of a gas station on South Cloverdale Boulevard, where we had stopped at a store to refill our water bottles. Trucks pulling ski boats were filling up with gas.
“Which way you heading?” The elderly man was smiling as he pulled in in an American sedan. “You guys are crazy riding in this heat,” was unspoken.
“That way,” he pointed.
Mile 48, Dry Creek Peach and Produce on Yoakim Bridge Road is closing for the season, the organic peaches from 1,000 trees all picked. We have one last chance for 11-year-old Patrick Sullivan’s killer lemonade. Co-owner and mom Gayle Sullivan is gracious.
We can see the smoke from the coast, a low-lying bank of white that turned out to be the Bodega fire that closed Highway 1 through Bodega Bay.
Coleman Valley Road and it’s mile-long, 800-foot climb is a footnote on the granfondo and the heart of the medio granfondo. Steep, narrow and twisting, there is barely room for two cars and Saturday it was pressed into service as a fire detour. One motorist told me it was choked, bumper to bumper, leaving no room for the bicyclists, who ended up camping in driveways, waiting it out.
There is still a window for one more long ride before the fondo.