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Report: Hicks Road and Loma Almaden Road

Thanks to Rob Schott for posting the following report, which has been recklessly reproduced here, without his expressed written permission, or the permission of Alto Velo, for which he rides. So Rob, why didn't you ride the flat to the summit :) ?

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Low-Key Hill Climb
Installment 8: Hicks Road and Loma Almaden Road

t seemed like a promising day, the weatherman calling for sunshine, and the legendary noon ride had been a wash the day before so I showed up on fresh legs. The first indication that bad Mojo was rising was my near death experience while warming up. A woman motorist got part way around me on Hicks, and then turned sharply onto Kennedy road. I attempted to elbow her green Suburban aside, criterium style, but this thing was at least twice as big as Mark Rodamaker. I was forced abruptly around the corner with her while trying to keep out from under her tires. I suspect that the spatial orienting areas of her right brain were underdeveloped, or perhaps damaged from repeated applications of hair spray. I rode off her rear quarter panel and then gestured with both arms extended, palms open pointing heavenward asking, "what was that?" She motored along perkily, I suspect oblivious to the whole affair.

I rolled cautiously back to the staging area, where the usual suspects were assembling. After a few comments by Kevin Winterfield, smartly attired in his cow jersey, we rolled off. This being a Low-Key=81 affair, we leisurely accelerated to around 22 MPH with Mike Podgorsky (followed by Tracy Colwell) setting the early pace on the gentle climb to the slopes of hell. Kevin rolled up and noted, "kinda like a road race here". It did have that feel, a nice reminder of Saturday mornings in the summer, although there would be a price for this tempo for some of us when the road pitched up. Just when I began to believe that all was right with the world, a definite hissing sound became evident. I indulged in some magical thinking ("maybe it's a leaf"), but was shortly thereafter confronted with bad Mojo, round II: my front sew-up was going flat. I did the rational thing at this point, hammering back up to the lead pack lingering wistfully for a brief moment while my new (and expensive) tire went completely flat. I really didn't want to quit, and actually didn't for a spell, bumping along behind the leaders, contemplating my options. I had to let it go though, and wheeled around, without a spare for the 2 miles back to my car. Much to my amazement, I discovered it possible to fly along at about 20 MPH on a flat sew-up. It's a bit sloppy in the corners, but quite manageable. I just happen to have a front clincher ready to go in my back seat, so my new goal became restarting and then getting to the top before they folded operations and went home for the afternoon.

I restarted the race with roughly a 14 minute handicap according to my timer. I assumed I was in for a lonely ascent, but shortly after restarting I came across my lost teammate, Pete Heller, astride his bike at the side of the road. I rolled past, "C'mon". He inquired, "where's the start?" I nodded up the road, "about 15 minutes that way". We debated briefly the merits of hammering vs. just finishing (need you ask?). We hit the uphill ugliness and Pete surged ahead while I chatted briefly with another rider recovering from a mechanical problem. Over the wet cattle grate we locked in step with him about 30M ahead of me. I lurked predatorily behind him, and made a move when his cadence fell precipitously at the top of Hicks, sure sign of a blow. I could virtually hear his mitochondria exploding. But after a very brief rest, he was back in the chase.

Roxanne from TNT, "slow and steady" by her admission, came into view. And then Judy Colwell appeared in the mists on Loma Almaden, making steady progress up the steeps. (Anyone not convinced of the genetic contribution to endurance need only to study the Colwell clan.) Judy rides with a Paddington bear, an Alaska license plate (for a trailer) and innumerable other artifacts lashed to her bike. I'm riding stripped to the bone on carbon fiber without water or a spare (see above) so the contrast is striking. Suffering from the usual hypoxic hallucinosis, the "Grapes of Wrath" appeared to me. An Oklahoman, bike loaded with all her worldly possessions (and then some) going west over Mount Lactate in search of something better (in this case a banana and cookies at the top). Paddington's head and arms hung limp and he had shifted to the side of the rack, giving me a forlorn look as I ratcheted past.

Toward the top, I edged up to Doug Simpkinson, who I had last seen at the beginning of the race when he turned around to offer me help while I was sobbing uncontrollably over my flat at the side of the road. Doug was riding his Schwinn, I believe the "Armored Car" edition, complete with fenders and what appeared to be a radio locator beacon on the rack. I'm quite certain he's set up for instrument approaches on that machine, although perhaps that's just for crash testing when they pitch it out of the back of a plane, which I'm sure such a "sturdy" bike would survive. The unique aspect of the older Schwinn line is that they have enough mass to have their own gravitational field. I escaped his orbit and pressed on to the gate, happy to have a gentling of the climb but now contending with the stinging cold tendrils of the cloud reaching down from the top of Mt. Umunum.

Doug, Pete and I, after allowing an appropriate interval for the development of deep hypothermia at the top, looped back around through New Almaden, or "Deliveranceville" to some local enthusiasts. The ratio of cars in the front yard to populace certainly has to exceed 2:1, inspiring those of us with shaved legs and lycra to keep up a good pace through town. No untoward incidents to share, so we can give this race report a family rating.

Thursday: The final chapter on the slopes of Hamilton.


San Jose, CA 95125