Sunday, October 18, 2009

Low-Key Tunitas Creek

Despite fears of the pumpkin-seeking-hoard wrecklessly hurtling their oversized vehicles down narrow Tunitas Creek Road, yesterday's Low-Key Hillclimb was a wonderful success.

First, Bike Hut. Bill, who runs Bike Hut and Potrero Nuevo Farms, met us and was super-friendly, extending us wonderful hospitality in allowing us to start our ride there. It made me wish we could start every climb at Bike Hut. I assure you as long as Low-Key and Bike Hut continue to co-exist, we'll be back. It's only too bad the ride options from that location are a bit limited: Tunitas is basically the only option. Lobitas Creek Road is an alternative start to Tunitas Creek Road, but it adds a dangerous, narrow descent on what's a bidirectional road.

Then the weather: early morning fog retreated to reveal blue skies and warm temperatures. Perfect!

Then the volunteers: what a great group we had! Registration went smoothly, results went smoothly, the course marshals were great, and we had fantastic photos from Josh and Christine. Josh overcame the challenging finish line lighting with is external flash: his images really capture the exact moment of riders crossing the line.

"One!" I shout my number as I cross the line, finally able to ride a climb in this year's series. Josh Hadley photo.

And the climb: I love this one! Tunitas Creek climbs gradually, then steeper, then gradual again on its run to Skyline Road. But the Star Hill - Swett detour, rarely ridden by most racing types, gives it all the more character. The detour avoids the section near the top of Tunitas Creek which was omitted from the county-specific repaving job done this past February, adding instead a narrow road with more climbing and a character-building little wall at the intersection of the two roads. There was a bit muck at the Tunitas-to-Star Hill turn which had me slightly nervous, and that little 19% wall can be dangerous if passing cars don't exercise caution (Christine Holmes had the amazing misfortune to have cars coming in both directions as she climbed it: she prudently bailed out and walked). But overall it worked very well.

Well, except for those living in the house at the finish line. I'm afraid we disturbed them with all of our number shouting. Apologies for that...

So a great day. Low-Key does take a lot of time. But the payback is so fantastic.

One example of the payback was when little Emma Stahl, racing in the under-5 junior category, reached the top on the tail end of her father Geoff's bike. It was her first bike race ever, and she clearly appreciated the heart-felt cheers as she approached and crossed the finish. That's what I love about Low-Key: Emma's out there working hard for close to two hours and she's as much a winner as those of us finishing in the 33-34 minute range. Really nice.

I didn't miss the chance to look at the pumpkins.

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