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The long decent down Old Caz. You can see riders in the distance.

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Local UPS driver extraordinaire, Jeff McCarthy, at the start line. He finished over an hour ahead of me.

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The creek crossing was not bad this year as one local Red Peloton rider discovered. 

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One of those Sonoma County views where you just stop and enjoy!

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The finish line with the Sonoma Coast in the distance.

 

Of all the cycling events hosted in Sonoma County, nothing compares to the Old Cazadero Grasshopper held this past Saturday morning which began in Occidental and finished atop Willow Creek Road. It has equal parts of racing, adventure riding or pleasure pedaling depending on what your take is. Sum it all up, and it is 500 men, women and a few teen’s participating in our most iconic local ride.

The Old Caz ‘Hopper as it is known, is the first of the five legged annual Grasshopper Adventure Series which is now in its 17th year. Each leg is its own adventure, but it something about Old Caz  makes this one unique. The flag dropped promptly at 10:00 am which began the day for what one person termed, “bike porn.”A right turn up Coleman Valley road barely spread out the field as pent up nervous energy blasted watts up hill for the first climb of the day until the Willow Creek dirt decent had everyone flying downhill.

My day nearly ended very badly on the second downhill hairpin. I don’t have a crossbike, so using a full suspension mountain bike was going to cost me a ton of time, but I figured  I would leave everyone in a vapor trail going down hill. On that second turn, I lost my line flying into the corner and crashed badly. The next several miles going downhill began the reassessment: anything broken, bleeding, can I finish and what about the bike? The shifter on the bike was whacked and my road rash was only superficial. The brilliantly placed bike mechanic at the bottom of the hill saved my life with a quick fix and got me rolling again.  Thank you!!

Ripping through the muddy bottom of Willow Creek turned everyone and everything into a brown mess. This day was getting more awesome by the mile! Entering Monte Rio, the ride headed sharply skyward across a series of roads and patches of dirt that until Saturday, I did not know that they even existed. It was at this point I passed a rider who could have doubled as a member of ZZ Top, where he pulled over to smoke a joint. I don’t what he smoked, but five miles later he passed me like a boss.

A never ending climb up Old Caz road ended where a well thought out rest stop with refreshments appeared like a desert oasis. I was beginning to bonk, so the combination of carb’s, caffeine and sugar gave me a much needed boost. The long single track downhill to the creek crossing, which was thankfully low, led to some amazing views that I stopped and documented with this post. Another short hill of dirt led back up and over to Cazadero. Now it was time to head home.

I had a group of guys and gals that were on the same pace as I was, so we linked together for the long transition back to the base of the Willow Creek Climb. By the time we got to Willow Creek, our group swelled to around 15 riders. My energy tank was flashing red on the climb up Willow Creek and it took everything I had to get through those last few miles. Once, I heard the cheers at the finish line farther up the hill, my mind switched completely off and somehow I was propelled across the finish.

Officially, I finished in 287th place out of the 396 who completed the ride. I could care less about the time, I FINISHED! Finishing 90 minutes ahead of me, was the winner of the day, Barry Wicks. Congrat’s Barry! I am sure he was home, showered and cracked a couple of beers by then. What an awesome day!!! Thanks to all the volunteers who made this day happen. There is no hope of a finish line without you!

 

Bruce McConnell