Monday, October 15, 2007

stage one – santa clarita to california city

82.3 miles, 6176' vertical

we watched the solo riders start at 7 am from the comfort of the coffee shop, then began our own final preparations. sunny morning for the 9 am team sendoff, very cool breeze but warm in the sun. mindy shed her jacket for the start, and the rest of us took off for the first support point.

since she doesn't carry any y-chromosome baggage, mindy knows better than to start out hammering at 25 mph like the rest of us goons. (of course, some of those guys took off at 25 mph and didn't look back.) she just warmed up before the long climb up san francisquito canyon, then caught a bunch of the fast starters on the climb, a phenomenon we witnessed often this year. we call it 'being chicked.' mindy's far too nice to rub it in, though. she just spins past at high cadence, smiling, probably even chatting. you can't hate that girl, no matter how many times she beats you to jelly on a climb.

san francisquito canyon is narrow and crowded with bicycles, so support vehicles would absolutely clog it. crew support is not permitted until mile 25, where there's a wide and long shoulder for crews to park and wait. at the single bush taller than twelve inches, fifty guys peeing. on some unspoken signal, it became the women's room. civilized, these 508 crews... we repacked the van and chatted with rocky mountain goat and some other teams – lots of bike talk, stories of past rides, mostly lies, i'm sure – while mindy carried her own tubes and other support gear up the canyon. at the turn, chad practiced the bottle hand-off like we were briefed. it worked – mindy barely had to slow down. we cheered – the rocky mountain goat crew called her by name, so she knows we were talking about her with them – and she was off again.

over the crest of the hill and after a long descent, we started playing leapfrog support, spending most of our time behind our rider. mindy would breeze past, we'd hang in the car for ten or fifteen minutes, then we'd go find her again, see what she needed, 'vitamin I and sunscreen,' and get it ready for the next stop.

the day was almost perfect, clear skies, hot sun but cool air, temps in the 80s – a little warm for cycling, but come on, this is the mojave desert – and a cooling but drying breeze. hydrate. you can see approximately forever in the spare landscape, so the windmills climb (imagine an uphill section of road through an extended windfarm...what else would you call it?) loomed many miles before the grade ramped up. distances deceive: since you can see it, you think it's close. not so... dusty red mountains fading up into grey, brush cover near the top at elevations high enough to coax the little water out of the wind...

chad was quiet in the back of the van, still an hour or so left in mindy's shift. wait for it...

a few more leapfrogs brought us down from the windmills and into time station 1 in california city around 2:30pm. mindy kicked butt.

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