The previous year, Team Stanford C-YA rode the 70-mile route. That ride seemed relaxed and easy enough that this year many of us decided to do the century option.
I spent the night with my cycling buddies Dave and Debby at Debby’s new townhome. We watched the Buena Vista Social Club and Debby cooked us pasta while Dave worked on her bike. Then Debby let me sleep in one of her rooms for the night. This allowed me to avoid having to drive from Fremont to the Port of Redwood City—the start of the ride—and provided Debby with a second “alarm clock” as she woke up about on hour late last year.
We agreed to meet at the Port of Redwood City at 6:30 a.m. Adam and his friend Randy—who was only visiting, not riding—were already there when I arrived. Then came Dave, Dan, Phil, and Stacey. Radisha opted to come later as she was doing the 30-mile route so we never got to see her, but we would hear later that she had a terrific ride.
Phil and Stacey had planned on doing the 65-mile route on their mountain bikes, but the rest of us intended to do the 100. We realized that there would be tremendous overlap between the two routes and after a brief discussion, we took off in two separate groups. Debby, Dave, Dan, Adam, and I rolled out of the parking lot at 7:30 a.m.
The First 15 Miles
The morning was cool and overcast, and Debby remarked just how much she preferred this weather. “I’m so glad it’s not going to be hot like last year,” she enthusiastically said. She was definitely in a good mood. She had warned me a couple of times before that she tends to be grouchy in the morning, but I have yet to witness that.
Like last year, Adam and I frequently alluded to the Tour de France, which Lance Armstrong is dominating this year. Otherwise, the first leg of this ride was unremarkable. It was simply a nice “stroll” through the west Peninsula with my cycling buds.
We arrived at the first rest stop on Foothill Road. All the guys decided to hang around for 15 minutes or so, but Debby decided to leave and get a head start, saying “you will catch up quickly anyhow.”
Cool, I thought, I like a good chase. So after indicating to the others that I’d like to do a fast “time trial,” I lead the group onto the road, got into an aerodynamic tuck, and gradually increased the pace.
But it wasn’t gradual enough because after a couple of minutes, everyone was a couple of hundred of feet back. So I slow a tad, hoping they would join me and we could do some sort of rotating paceline.
Adam eventually bridged the gap. Dan, however, decided to conserve energy for his upcoming triathlon next week, and Dave’s knee apparently was bothering him. So only Adam and I ride together.
We rode at speeds upward of 26 mph, passing a lot of cyclist down Foothill Road. We even maintained 20 mph past the I-280/Foothill junction where the road started to go uphill.
We finally saw Debby up the road, near the Stevens Creek Reservoir. Hooray. The lead group now was up to three people.
A few minutes later Dave and Dan arrives. Later on I talked to Dan for a bit. “I’m actually glad you dropped us back there with that psycho pace,” Dan says. “It just gave Dave and me an opportunity to make fun of you,” he joked.
Apparently Dan and Dave noticed how women “influence” me. For example, earlier in the ride I was asking Dan about swimming and wetsuits, because the week before “a woman got you to go swimming in Pittsburgh”. Dave especially found this peculiar because just a month before I had revealed to him that I did not even own a swimsuit. They also recounted how Sarah had got me to commit to climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with her, and how I even was planning to buy a motorcycle because of her.
Anyhow, we got to the rest stop in Cupertino, which was in a different place than from last year. Here we even met Cornelia, a teammate of Dave and me in the 1998 Low-Key Hill Climb Series. Cornelia was the women’s champion of that event. It was good to see her and we saw her often during the rest of the entire ride.
After the rest stop we rode through Cupertino again, back onto Foothill, and got to the rest stop we had just stopped at 1.5 hours before.
Once again, Debby decided to take off early, and this time Dan joined her. Unbeknownst to us at the time, they started out the wrong way, and soon afterwards, the Adam and I started out in this incorrect direction too. That shouldn’t have happened considering I did the ride last year and was even a “route sweeper” for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society this year. But instead of heading south on Foothill and onto Moody, we headed north as did other riders.
We later found out from Dave that he and Cornelia went the correct way. “Actually, I did ride the ‘correct’ direction after the second Los Altos rest stop,” he wrote. “I rode with Nealy through Los Altos Hills and it was quite hilly and quite painful. That was pretty much when I started hurting. Earlier I was a little tired because I followed a racer down foothill going pretty fast, and I didn’t feel like chasing you after that.”
Adam and I soon realized we made a wrong turn but decided it wasn’t worth turning back. Instead, we went directly to the the next rest stop in Portola Valley, whose location we already knew since we did the ride last year. That cuts off about three miles from the ride.
We waited for 45 minutes to see whether Dan and Debby would show. Finally, I guessed that since they started out doing this leg of the ride the wrong way, there were no signs to direct them to this rest stop and they probably went directly to Whiskey Hill, bypassing the entire Portola Loop altogether. Hence we took off without ever seeing them again, but at least we encountered Dave and Cornelia here.
We took it easier in this leg because Dave’s knee was bothering him. Cornelia, ever the speedwoman, took off on her own. The route continued through Woodside and down Cañada Road.
During the cruise down Cañada, we passed by Jefferson Road, which is where the 62-mile route diverged from the 100-mile route. After discussion we decided to continue on with the 100-mile route, despite Dave’s misgivings about being able to finish because of his knee.
“How much hillier can the ride get?” we wonder.
That question was answered within the next half-hour or so: plenty hilly. Although no climb would compare to, say, Old La Honda Road, Skyline Boulevard north of Highway 92 was more challenging than expected especially after six hours of riding. Near Hillsborough, it was the longest climb of the day and it looked like all cyclists were going very slowly here.
The reward for this was a rest stop near the end of it. Cornelia was waiting there. Adam came in shortly after, but poor Dave. His knees were already having trouble and this climb must have been killing them.
“I think I’m going to SAG back,” Dave said when he arrives.
I figure, Dave must be really hurting if he was going to SAG in, as he’s a really tough guy. So the decision is made and we hung around for about an hour until a SAG vehicle finally came on through. Despite abandoning, Dave accomplished a lot—it was his longest one-day ride ever, at 70 miles.
While waiting around, Adam and I picked up Cornelia’s bike. Although her Trek OCLV carbon frame is one of the lightest in the world, she had a seatpost-mounted rack and bag mounted on it and the bike must have weighed at least 35 pounds. We couldn’t believe it.
“She’s hella strong,” Adam exclaimed.
Mile 70 to the Last Rest Stop
Cornelia took off on her own, so I rode with Adam. Adam was still feeling strong even though this was already the farthest he had ever gone.
The route dipped into Hillsborough and returned onto Skyline. As in many parts of the ride, there were numerous stop signs. Hillsborough is a pretty, expensive, area and a delight to go through. It was my first time through here in a year.
Midway through Hillsborough my cell phone rang. It was Debby, who was already home. “Dan and I got off course and then decided to do the 62-mile route,” she said. “I had lots of fun and was feeling good, perhaps strong enough to do the whole 100, but I wouldn’t have had such a good time.” She also mentioned how much better she felt this year than last year.
Adam and I continued and on Ralston Avenue and encountered another Cannondale rider, who asked us what ride we were doing. Then, he took off, with Adam and I unwilling to try to keep up. It underscored how much slower we were going compared to the morning, and also how much hillier the ride got since Mile 55.
The route retraced over Cañada and then went up Jefferson. It was notalgic for Adam and and me, having “Pantani’d” this hill exactly one year ago. But both of us were weary enough that neither of us suggested “Pantani’ing” it—or “Lancing” it, in honor of Lance Armstrong, who would win the Tour de France the next day—even though it was not nearly as steep as some of the hills we did earlier. Past the top was the last rest stop of the day.
Cornelia was there, ready to take off again. Three minutes later, we saw another familiar, but unexpected, face: Phil, who we hadn’t seen since 8:00 this morning and was riding the 62-mile route with Stacey—at least for a little bit.
“We got separated about 10 miles ago and I haven’t seen her since,” Phil said. “I waited around but I think she made a wrong turn.” So we invited Phil to ride with us to the finish, which was only seven miles away.
The last seven miles went through Redwood City and was similar to the final miles of the metric century route. There were lots of stop signs and traffic lights.
When the Port of Redwood City was in sight, I congratulated Adam and Phil. It was Adam’s first century. Phil wasn’t tired at all.
For me, it was nice to be back on the bike again, doing my first substantial ride since the Terrible Two Double Century. It was also great to feel like my normal, healthy cycling self for the first time since early June, when I started getting one illness or another.
Stacey rolled into the finish not long afterward. It was only then that I learned she had been riding her mountain bike with a gallon of water, a backpack, and a heavy U-lock. Also, she had biked to the ride from her home and also biked back. Therefore, she rode 100 miles total that day despite riding the metric century course of the Tour du Jour.
Five years later, Stacey was diagnosed with a rare, debilitating lung disease called lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) which required a double lung transplant. Her healthy habits—including regular exercise despite the circumstances—and mental will to live helped her beat the odds and live for 13 more years before the lungs finally could not longer sustain her.
Stacey finishing this ride with a smile remains one of the many enduring memories I have of her.
- 100 mi.
- 7:30 a.m. start, 5:00 p.m. finish—9:30 hours.
- Average Speed: 15.0 mph moving, 10.5 mph overall
- Max Speed: 43.5mph
- Total Climbing: ~5,000 ft
- Scenery: 2
- Support/Organization: 4
- Food: 2
- Weather: 4
- Relative Difficulty: 2
- Overall Rating: 3