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Saturday, November 19: Three Sisters and Wetlands Park, 36 miles

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Distance Training 2012

The fifth season of Distance Training rides begins Saturday, January 14 in Mountain View. These are challenging rides for intermediate and advanced cyclists, with a focus on increasing distance to and beyond the longest days of AIDS/LifeCycle. For many riders, ALC is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical challenge, and the Distance Training rides are a great opportunity for you to get experience spending long hours in the saddle ... and dealing with all of the issues that come up for you on such long rides.

Here's a quick preview of what I'm planning for this season. As always, the routes and descriptions are subject to change, but this will give you a good idea of what to expect. Distances are approximate. All rides leave our new location across the street from the Tied House on Villa Street in downtown Mountain View (just one block from our old location). All of the climbing numbers are from Strava; stats from RideWithGPS would read a bit higher, and stats from MapMyRide would read a bit lower. Dates are tentative in case we need to schedule around the ALC Expo and Day on the Ride weekends.

1. January 14: Woodside, 42 miles. No real surprises or giant climbs here; just a typical ride through the Arastradero nature preserve and Portola Valley. We'll take Cañada Road as far as Edgewood, where we'll descend and return on Alameda de las Pulgas. 2,036 feet climbing.

2. January 28: Los Gatos, 45 miles. We'll take the gentle route to Saratoga via Quito Road, over to Los Gatos, and then up the Kennedy climb. We'll then hang a left and do the last part of the Shannon climb before returning on Highway 9 through Saratoga. 2,172 feet climbing.

3. February 11: Westridge Plus, 50 miles. This is a ride with a message -- pace yourself. By design, the first half of this route is almost completely flat. But then we shift into a festival of hill-climbing, starting with the Quadbuster-esque Westridge in Portola Valley. This year, there's a new challenge (that's the "plus"): We'll then head up to the bucolic end of Alpine Road and then climb (or, in some cases, cross-train) the fairly short but even steeper Joaquin Road. The reward is an amazing descent down Los Trancos Road back into Portola Valley. 2,877 feet climbing.

4. February 25: Crystal Springs, 59 miles. We start with the rolling hills of Alameda de las Pulgas all the way to San Carlos. After a rest stop, we'll continue on Alameda all the way until it ends in San Mateo, which means a couple of rather significant climbs along the way. Then it's up the Polhemus hill that made its debut on ALC10 (and probably will be back for ALC11), down the Ralston bike path, and back via Cañada Road. 2,890 feet climbing.

5. March 10: Metcalf, 69 miles. New route this year! After taking the gentle route to Los Gatos, we'll do the "Santa Teresa slog" in reverse for the first time and cross over to Monterey Highway, where we'll pick up Metcalf Road, a steep 2-mile climb that's a local favorite and has been part of the Lance Armstrong Livestrong Challenge in San Jose. The good news is that it's the only significant climb of the day; the return is mostly urban along Capitol Expressway, Capitol Ave., and past the Great Mall into Santa Clara. 2,644 feet climbing.

6. March 24: Pacifica, 80 miles. New route this year! We've headed up the Peninsula toward San Francisco in past years, but this year we'll head down to the coast in Pacifica. Of course, this means we have to climb back up from the coast, and we'll do that via Sharp Park Drive, which is somewhat steep but not stupidly so. This ride includes, as we've done in the past, some of the freeway-legal segments of I-280 and closely approximates Day 1 of the ride in terms of both climbing and distance. 5,194 feet climbing.

7. April 7: Palomares/Calaveras, 90 miles. New route this year! We'll head across the bottom of the bay on a flat route to Milpitas, and then make our way up Mission Blvd. to Niles Canyon and tackle the 4.4-mile northbound Palomares climb (the "easier" direction). After a lunch stop in Castro Valley, we'll head across the Dublin Grade (again in the easier direction) and then down Foothill Blvd. into Sunol, where we'll do, yes, the "easier" southbound climb of Calaveras Road. 4,137 feet climbing.

8. April 21: South Bay Century, 100 miles. We used a slightly new route in 2011, and it went very well, so we'll stick with it in 2012. This is a giant loop around the South Bay, starting in the Palo Alto hills, across the Dumbarton Bridge, along the eastern edge of San Jose, around Evergreen College, and then up and over Silver Creek Valley Road, which includes one of the most thrilling urban descents anywhere in the Bay Area. After that, it's a mostly urban return through San Jose, Los Gatos, and Saratoga, which gives tired riders several chances to rest and refuel. About 3,000 feet climbing.

9. May 5: Gilroy, 112 miles. New route this year! We've gone to Gilroy in past years, but this year will be different. We'll take a flat, direct route through downtown San Jose (which should be quite scenic and not very stressful at 7:30 on a Saturday morning) and down Monterey Highway into Morgan Hill. But then we'll climb the eastern foothills and go part of the way to Gilroy Hot Springs before riding along Cañada Road (a different Cañada than on the Peninsula), stopping for lunch in Gilroy, and then riding northbound around the western reservoirs on the way back. This should mean fewer headwinds on the return! About 3,400 feet climbing.

10. May 19: Altamont Pass, 125 miles. The fifth annual Altamont Pass Double Metric! Everything you've heard is probably true: This is an epic ride that has a little bit of everything the Bay Area has to offer, yet it is usually very doable by any ALCer who can maintain the pace that's needed to complete the route within the 14 available hours of daylight. There are no stupidly ridiculous hills on the route; in fact, thanks to the prevailing winds, the descent from the original Altamont Pass on the historic Lincoln Highway often is more challenging than the climb! The final 40 miles of the ride are mostly urban and include a long haul through Hayward, Union City, and Fremont down Mission Blvd., which has been resurfaced since last year and should be less painful. About 2,800 feet climbing, and plenty of stories that you'll tell in the years to come.

Rides 1 and 2 run at an official pace of 10-12 mph. Beginning with Ride 3, the pace increases to 12-15 mph. Faster riders are always welcome, but be sure you know how to read a route sheet so you can navigate on your own.

When RSVPs are open, the rides will be posted both here and in the official ALC training ride calendar.

I look forward to riding with you on the 2012 Distance Training rides.

Photo: At the top of Silver Creek Valley Road on the 2011 South Bay Century.