TandemHearts

Tour de Cure of Napa

May 5th, 2009

We don’t usually do large organized bike rides. There are usually too many people on the road and long lines at the rest stops. Riders are often either “racer boys” – not stopping at stop signs, passing without warning, riding 3 abreast etc or they are novice riders – shaky bike handling skills, wandering across the road, riding 3 abreast. As a bonus, if the weather is bad you have to ride anyway.

So when a friend asked us to be Ride Marshals in the Tour de Cure, a fund raiser for the American Diabetes Association, of course we said, “Yes.” With our spiffy “Marshall” vests, we would be in a position to gently advise riders to ride safely (or else).

Saturday dawned cool and showery. The forecast was for improving weather, but the closer we got to the start, the harder it rained. We saw a fair number of cars driving away with bikes inside them. I guess once you’ve done the fund raising it doesn’t really matter if you go out and get water logged. Sadly, we had not raised any money, so we had to go out in the rain. We were assigned the 25 mile course and told to start about 15 minutes apart. It’s a good thing we didn’t bring the tandem; that would have been a trick.

  • The bikes fit in the new car and Veronica tries to stay dry.
  • I don't usually drink from green water sources, so I'm not sure what this sign is supposed to mean.
  • The morning was a dreary as can be.

The rain let up just as we were pulling out. Veronica waited about 10 minutes behind me and off we went. We started right at the time the 25 mile route opened, so the course was not crowded. We rolled out of Yountville, in the heart of the Napa Valley, and went looking for people to herd in. The course was very well marked, but at mile 3 I saw 2 riders miss an obvious turn and cross a small bridge. At this point, the course was not on a very large road, but the road these riders picked was even smaller. The first rider was easy to catch, but the second one had a good lead on me, so it took a while to reel him in. Across the bridge I went, down this country lane. Right passed the signs that said “Private Drive” and “Do Not Enter”. Passed the house, where I think they didn’t see us. By the time I caught this guy he was on a double track path, going by their barn. I called out to him and pointed out that he was off course. His response? “You know I did this ride last year and I didn’t remember this part of it.” He was on a mountain bike and I guess he was just going to keep going until he came to the wood line.

By the time I got back to the course, Veronica had caught up with me. We were both shedding layers, because the rain looked like it wasn’t coming back. She took off and I back tracked a bit to check on a rider with a flat. The rider was OK, and a SAG motorbike pulled up, so I headed back on to the course.

This small, low traffic, road encouraged riders to take the whole road, so I spent a fair bit of time reminding them to ride to the right. After a few miles we got out to a larger road, the pace picked up and the rider spread out. Within a few miles I came upon Veronica helping a guy with a flat. I had better tools and a better pump, so she took off while I watched this guy change his tire. He had a pretty nice late ’70s Raleigh, but it was a bit rusty and his tire was showing rot. It wasn’t dangerous, but it sure wasn’t well maintained. He did have a spare tube, so he was quickly on his way. As he was pulling out, another rider went by with a flat rear tire. I flagged him down and let him use my pump. He did not have a spare and I wasn’t in the mood to share my one spare tube this early in the ride, so he had to use his patch kit. 25 minutes later he was back on the road and so was I. Since I had been standing around so much, I decided to ride hard when I could. At this point I’d only covered about 7 miles in the first 75 minutes.

I started moving pretty well, passing riders at a good clip, occasionally slowing down to offer help. Everyone had what they needed, so I kept hammering. Around mile 9, I passed a rider by the side of the road – it was the first guy that Veronica and I stopped to help. He had another flat and had called his girl friend to bring him a tube and a new tire. He was set, so I went on my way. 500 feet later, I pulled over for a group of 4 riders. One of the bikes was on the ground, upside down, clearly getting ready to change a flat. I told the guy to pull the wheel and I’d grab my tools. After digging around in my gear I turned around to see the wheel still on the bike. Hmm. That’s not good. A quick glance at the bike showed that rather than having a the typical quick release mechanism to remove the wheel, this bike had some weird locking device. It took a special tool – one that I’ve never seen. We talked about her options. If it was a slow leak and she really wanted to finish the ride, she could pump it up as needed and amble along. If it was a fast leak, she’d have to get in the SAG van. As we were talking, I glanced up and saw 2 riders miss a turn and head off down some crazy route. Great. Now I’d have to throw on my gear and chase them down, then come back and figure out what to tell this rider. As I was getting ready to mount the bike, the SAG van pulled up. I got the driver to chase down the wayward riders while I broke the news to the girl with the flat. The SAG van came back and I left them to make a decision.

Once again I hammered between stops so that I got a decent workout. I fell into a routine of hammer, slow and check on a stopped rider, hammer. I got to the 12 mile rest stop just as the fire trucks pulled in. Apparently somebody fell as they got off their bike and twisted/sprained/what-evered their ankle. The lines weren’t too bad so I wasn’t there long. As I prepared to leave I heard the bike mechanic telling somebody, “That takes a special tool to take that wheel off. I don’t have one here. I don’t even have one in my shop. I can change the tire, but I’ll probably mess it up pretty badly.” I knew which rider it was without even looking. I guess her ride was done. I’ve been slowing down and stopping so much that I covered 12 miles in just over 2 ½ hours. Later on we decided that Veronica was already at the end of the ride when I left the rest stop.

The second half of the ride continued the routine of hammer, slow/stop, hammer. It took me so long to finish that Veronica eventually came back on the course to find me. I wasn’t far from the end when she found me, helping a rider with a flat. We finished together, 3.5 hours after we started. I stopped for a half a dozen riders who needed help, but Veronica only had to stop for the first rider. Everyone else she offered to help said that they were OK. She finished an hour ahead of me.

I only saw one rider with an iPod and most riders were keeping to the right nicely, so there was very little corrective action needed. It ended up being a very pleasant day to ride. The post ride lunch included a tasty pulled-pork sandwich that really hit the spot.

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