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Distance Training 2013 (updated February 12)

The sixth season of Distance Training rides begins Saturday, January 5 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. Because so many of you liked the selection of longer rides last season, I've kept the second half the same as last year. But I've also got a set of new and "interesting" rides for the first half!

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 meet across the street from the Tied House on Villa Street in downtown Mountain View. All of the climbing stats are approximate and reflect what you will expect to see from Strava and other GPS devices. (Numbers from Ride With GPS tend to be a bit larger.)

New this season, I have 11 ride dates scheduled but only 10 rides. Given the predictions of a wet winter, I've pre-built an allowance for one rain-out during the season. If we don't ride on a particular Saturday, we'll just do that ride on our next scheduled meeting date. And if we get near the end of the season without any rain-outs, I'll add a special mystery ride to the schedule. (There are now enough other training rides in the South Bay and on the Peninsula that you will have plenty of options to ride on our off weeks, so I won't worry about trying to reschedule our rides into our off weeks.) Due to this year's Tour of California, I've rescheduled our Altamont Pass ride back to May 4. This means that our rain-out cushion is gone; we'll deal with any rain-outs as they arise, should they arise.

At least the first five rides will be Caltrain-friendly, which means a meet time of 9:30 a.m. and a ride-out of 10 a.m. After that, we'll probably need to go earlier in order to guarantee enough daylight time.

1. January 5: Cañada College, 40 miles. New destination! We'll visit the scenic campus of Cañada College, in the foothills with sweeping views of the bay. The climb to the college up Farm Hill Blvd. is challenging because the grade is very inconsistent -- everything from gentle hills to steep sections and even a couple of intermediate descents. After that, we'll go through Woodside, around the backside of Portola Valley, and through the Los Altos quarry. About 2,500 feet of climbing.

2. January 12: Los Gatos, 45 miles. Modified route! We'll take the gentle route to Saratoga (no Mount Eden), over to Los Gatos, and then up Shannon and back on Kennedy (the reverse of what we've done in past seasons; this is the slightly easier direction). On the way back, we'll take Sobey and Chester to pass through some exclusive neighborhoods. We'll finish with Rancho San Antonio and, yes, the Loyola golf course. About 2,400 feet of climbing.

3. January 26: South Bay loop, 50 miles. New destination! We mostly take a break from climbing and head across the Dumbarton Bridge, through Newark and Fremont, and up into the Mission San Jose district. We'll return on multi-use paths alongside Highway 237. Only about 600 feet of climbing.

4. February 9: Parrott Drive, 61 miles. New destination! Parrott Drive in San Mateo is one of those routes that doesn't get much love. After this ride, you'll probably feel strongly one way or the other about that! We begin with a gentle route along Alameda de las Pulgas into Belmont. After that, it's up and over the short but steep section of Alameda and across San Mateo. Then comes Parrott. Officially, it's only 0.8 mile at a 7.9% average grade. But that's deceiving, because it's got several intermediate steep descents. (This means, however, that you've got plenty of opportunities to rest on the way up.) There are even a couple of stop signs where you can (and must!) pause to catch your breath. After Parrott, we'll head down to Cañada Road for an easy run in the hills, and we'll end by doing the gentle climb up and down Alpine Road (with no Joaquin!) and the somewhat less gentle climb up La Cresta in Los Altos Hills. About 3,600 feet of climbing.

5. February 23: Coyote Valley Plus, 71 miles. Modified route! We've gone to south San Jose in past seasons, and we'll do it again -- through Saratoga and Los Gatos, around Camden and up Almaden Expwy. and over to Bailey Road. But there's a "plus" this year: We'll begin our day by heading out of Stevens Canyon to Saratoga via Redwood Gulch, the single most difficult climb of our rides this season. This climb is officially 1.4 miles at 9.4%, but it has some easier sections and some very steep sections. Cross-training is perfectly OK! The reward is a glorious 4-mile descent on Highway 9 into Saratoga ... and no other steep climbs the rest of the day. About 3,400 feet of climbing.

6. March 9: Pacifica, 77 miles. It took us three attempts to get this ride done on a rain-free day last year, so it's back this year. Our scenic but hilly route takes us along Cañada Road, I-280, and Skyline on our way down to the coast (amazing views!) into 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. About 5,100 feet of climbing.

7. March 23: Palomares/Calaveras, 88 miles. 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. About 4,100 feet of climbing.

8. April 6: South Bay Century, 100 miles. 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 of climbing.

9. April 20: Gilroy, 113 miles. 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 ... which should help reduce the ferocity of any possible afternoon headwinds. About 3,400 feet of climbing.

10. May 4: Altamont Pass, 125 miles. The sixth 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. About 2,800 feet of climbing, and plenty of stories that you'll tell in the years to come.

11. May 18: Celebration Ride! Details and distance are still tba, but I'll put together a special ride that's challenging but not stupidly so. Coastside is a likely destination.

Rides 1-4 run at an official pace of 10-12 mph. Beginning with Ride 5, 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 2013 Distance Training rides.

Photo: 2012 Altamont Pass Double Metric, by Terri Meier.