Will Bike for BreakfastOctober 16th, 2010 © by Susan Swartz
I’ve joined a group of women who hike together every week and a few months ago some ambitious ones suggested that the bike riders in the group sign up for the 35 mile version (the short part) of Levi Leipheimer’s King Ridge Granfondo.
I’d been able to keep up on the hikes and decided that surely by October my girly neighborhood cruiser and I would be ready to join 6,000 national cyclists whipping through western Sonoma County.
I was given a new bike two years ago when I retired from my newspaper but I haven’t exactly been in training. Some of the riders in our group- we called ourselves the Fondettes – are way more proficient than I’ll ever be. They take bicycling vacations through mountains and deserts.
What we have in common is that we have reached a point where we now have more time to play. Many, like me, continue to work at least part time but are making up for those years when we toiled inside and longed to be outside. I suspect some of these new friends have been athletic all their lives. Had we gone to the same high school they would probably not have picked me for their volleyball team.
But for me the lure of the Granfondo (even the mini version) was not to test my riding skills but to be part of the big deal hoopla.
I did a few spins with the others on bike trails before the Granfondo but after I got in my car and drove the 35 mile round trip course from Santa Rosa to Occidental which includes a few daunting grades I had to admit I wasn’t ready.
I would either end up walking my bike uphill, dropping dead or calling my husband to come get me. Fortunately I had an ally. Mary, who also is not fond of punishing ascents, had pulled a muscle while jumping on the trampoline with her granddaughters. She, too, had lowered her expectations.
The speed racers going for 105 miles took off first. Then the 65 mile riders. Then the 35 mile crowd. The more serious riders looked like they all belonged on the same team with their flame shaped helmets, alien sunglasses, huggy shorts and state of the art machines. Others did it their way. Some wore tie-dyed and jeans. One cyclist was decked out like a 19th century woman in long split skirt and fancy jacket.
Mary rode her clown-style collapsible bike with its little wheels. I had my doe-de-doe bike with a ding-aling-aling bell.
With all the crowd it took us a half hour to walk our bikes to the starting line and finally take off. And then wouldn’t you know it, I got a flat. Ran over two thumb tacks. Was I a victim of bicyclist-driver warfare? Had some rural resident tired of maneuvering his hay truck around bike riders planted these tacks as revenge? No matter. A charming fix-it guy named Chad came by in his official repair wagon, replaced the tube, pumped me up and we were back.
By now, apparently dead last in the pack of 6,000, Mary and I admired the scenery, passing egrets, Canada geese and vineyards. We went up and over hills, two of them heart-pumpers, and started talking about breakfast.
When the road monitors said, “Ladies, this way,” pointing west, I shouted, “We’re going for coffee” and Mary and I swooped down the hill into Graton. After sharing a dish of eggs, spinach and cambozola on toast we turned back to Santa Rosa, arriving at the finish about the same time as our hard core friends who ably and legitimately completed all 35 miles.
It was still a personal accomplishment. Having grown up when the only girls who did sports were natural athletes and having reached an age when no one really expects you to push yourself physically, I felt like a winner.
Thankfully, sports have become more democratic. Cycling events are like fun runs, even open to slow spokes. When we pedaled over the finish line the announcer took notice of my cute wicker basket hanging from my handlebars. I gave him a ding-a-ling.