By Bob Norberg

The Press Democrat

Tuesday morning was the last ride before the medio fondo, an 18.6 mile trek on West Dry Creek Road and Geyserville Road, 13 mph average, 31.6 mph max, an hour and 26 minutes.

I was at a slow, sightseers pace to keep my legs ready for the Saturday fondo.

I am insufferably upbeat, brimming with confidence after my ride Sunday, the last real day of training, when fellow PD reporter Brett Wilkison and I rode “first peak” Geysers Road, 2,400 feet of climbing, an hour of work, and a valid test for the Coleman Valley Road portion of the Levi Leipheimer King Ridge GranFondo.

Geysers Road is a relentless climb into the Mayacamas, steep in some places, still steeper in others, with only a few sections that ease off enough to relax and recover.

The road gods also said heck, let’s make it more interesting, let’s throw in some gravel sections and bone-rattling cattle grates, so jarring they reset by CatEye computer.

There is a rider in a red jersey a hundred yards ahead of me that I use to gauge my pace. I’m inching up on him, until he pulls over on a turnout to admire the view.

It gets quiet while climbing, eerie still, no idle chatter. There is the whir of the chain and your own breathing; you can hear the birds and the mice rustling in the underbrush.

I concentrate on my breathing and cadence … inhale pedal pedal, exhale pedal pedal … granny gear all the way.

Someone thoughtfully painted a line and FINISH at the summit. There is an incredible view of Alexander Valley, vineyard greens and the late-summer golden browns.

The rider I had passed on the turnout, from Santa Rosa, is also in fondo training mode. We all take cell phone pictures, all are terribly back-lit.

So Tuesday, I am feeling my Cherrios. I am a well-oiled machine. I say ‘hi’ to someone just getting on his bike by Ridge Winery, where the road is sticky with grape juice. And then, I don’t know why, but I blurt out, “Last ride before the fondo.”

There are grape trucks everywhere, lots of odors in the wind; the harvest and crush are in full swing.

Former PD entertainment writer John Beck is in front of Rafanelli Winery, filming a segment on the harvest and crush for Wine Road. Farther up West Dry Creek, there is an old piece of farm equipment parked as yard art. I have been looking at it for months, with its rusted steel wheels, rusted frame, old engine called a “one-lunger” and a wood barrel on the back.

A man watering his lawn identified it as an old orchard sprayer, with a platform for men to stand with hoses to spray the trees, back when Dry Creek was full of orchards.

Geyserville is quiet, except for children at recess at Geyserville Elementary School. An antique store is open in the former Lampson Tractor building, but there is no sign of Alexander Valley Bike Co., which was supposed to open there soon.

The work at Coppola Winery is winding down to the landscaping. The parking lot is a light brown pea gravel, not the best for bikes. Maybe they didn’t think of that.

So that’s it, months of training are over, now its time to trust to a measure of luck.