By BOB NORBERG

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Vineman athletes were here Saturday, 2,000 strong, some serious riders doing two laps of Dry Creek and Alexander valleys in an 112-mile bike ride.

Vineman competitors at Highway 128 and Alexander Valley Road on Saturday, July 30, 2011.

That’s in addition to a 2.5-mile swim and 26-mile run.

Since there was little way to avoid them, we structured our ride to pretty much stay out of the way.

They came down Highway 128 from Geyserville and made a sharp left at Alexander Valley Road, where a highway patrolmen was directing traffic.

It was a good vantage point for a couple of dozen spectators, who held handwritten signs and shouted encouragement to their friends going by. I heard a few then make plans to hit a few wineries on the way to their next vantage point.

The riders were all sinew and muscle, few looked to be older than 20 or 30, men and woman in equal numbers, a few crouched over aero bars.

During a break in the riders’ line, we pulled on to Highway 128 and headed towards Jimtown staying as close to the shoulder as possible, enjoying the closed road. We got passed by several riders and fielded some good-natured invitations to join in.

We peeled off at Pine Flat Road and headed over to Geysers Road and Highway 128, where we picked the Vineman route up again.

Riding head-on into the Vineman route on Highway 128 towards Geyserville gave us the best view. I was surprised how many were smiling and how many acknowledged us with a small wave or a nod.

There was another crowd of spectators at Geyserville and a feed zone where riders got bananas, water and energy drinks on the fly.

This was the beginning of our training for the medio King Ridge GranFondo, now nine weeks away. It’s a simple plan: Ride a lot and ride hills.

We did 46 miles up Alexander Valley to the north side of Cloverdale and back to Healdsburg through West Dry Creek.

Cloverdale downtown always seems sleepy. Picks Drive-In is pure and genuine Americana, you can park your bikes right next to a picnic table and get a burger and refill water bottles, and Dry Creek Peach & Produce on Yoakim Bridge Road is a worthwhile stop for the lemonade.

You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@pressdemocrat.com.