After missing the coastal route last year, I returned to the inland route the Memorial Day Ride did my last time riding this event, in 2011.
The Memorial Day Ride is a 4 day supported bike tour organized by the brilliant Janine Rood, who somehow manages to not only organize the considerable logistical operation, but ride at the front on a tandem with her husband Mike. She's been at this for 23 years now, and delivers amazing amount of energy to the fun.
On Wednesday, I went from work in Mountain View to the Winchester VTA Light Rail stop in Campbell. Then, carrying a heavy duffle bag on my shoulder, I navigated the combination of bike path and bike-unfriendly suburban expressways to the hotel I was sharing with my friend Jeff: the Bristol. It was a nice start, leaving only a short morning ride to the start.
Day 1: Los Gatos to King City
MDR is half bike tour, half stage race. Each day consists of 4 segments, with 3 rest stops along the way, supported by 2 food vans (one leading, one trailing). A third van carries luggage to the finish. It is a a lean and mean operation which works extremely and surprisingly well.
I was trying to resist the stage race aspect, but in the back of my mind, I still thought it would be nice to stay with the lead group. In 2011 I'd been doing a lot of running, less riding, and I had more confidence in my fitness this year. But I'd not been feeling good since Berkeley Hills, something I attributed to allergies. I'd renewed a prescription for nose spray (is this WADA-legal?) and hoped it would help.
I felt okay at the 8 am start, but it wasn't long before on a short roller the friskiness started. "This is stupid", I said, as it was a short climb and I figured I could lag climb it, sticking with the group. And I did.
But the short climb was followed by a descent, where I did my best to minimize my effective cross-section, but at the bottom the first part of the group squeaked through a green-yellow traffic light. "Shit!" I heard from one of the riders immediately ahead, who braked for the now red signal. No biggie, I felt, I'll rejoin the leaders at the first rest stop.
I was the first of the rest to reach the rest stop. The leaders were there. But when I was out of view, filling my bottles behind the food van, they apparently left. I ended up joining Jeff and some others for the second leg.
We eventually reached the second stop, in Hollister. One block from the stop (we could see the van up ahead with the lead riders) we got stopped by a red light. We waited, and waited, and waited, until finally it changed green. When I finally reached the van, I grabbed some food, filled my bottles, and the leaders were rolling out. I set out to join them, but the light at the next intersection changed just as the tandem passed through. After the delay I wasn't going to catch them, so I returned to the van to wait for another group. It was probably for the best, since I had wanted to adjust my saddle anyway (I was riding my Ritchey Breakaway, and had put the SLR which had previously been on my Fuji on that bike).
So that was the last I saw of the leaders until I finally arrived at the finish in King City. Along the way, we rode Highway 25 from Hollister to the access road to Pinnacles National Park, then from there to Bitterwater where we turned for the initial climb, then descent into King City.
This segment was the hardest of the day. I tried a good effort on the climb, and managed to beat my time from 2011, despite the block head wind (there was a head wind in 2011, as well). The descent and flat road to King City was a real challenge: gusting cross-winds made keeping control of the bike a challenge. I was fatigued when I finally reached the hotel with Jeff and another rider.
Later, we went to dinner @ Guadalajara Restaurant in King City. I had some modest vegetarian tacos, but they were delicious by virtue of there being a fresh tortilla and taco bakery next store. On the opposite side of the store is a taco stand which is also excellent. King City seems somewhat modest itself but it's almost worth the visit just for the food.
Tomorrow: San Simeon.