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Ride report: Giro d'Vino (11/1/2009)

The headline of the day is that I completed a metric century in my fastest rolling time ever: six minutes faster than my previous best, which was set in Fresno in September 2005. Today's route was similarly almost-flat, although a couple of surprisingly "big" hills (which in reality weren't big at all) in the middle of the ride caught me off guard.

Starting in Lodi, it's a given that any ride will begin flat, flat, flat. And that's what today was, as we rolled out of the Woodbridge winery just a few minutes before the official start time of 8:30 a.m. (Many riders had left earlier, as I saw throughout the first part of the ride as I passed them.) A couple of 20mph-plus pacelines came by early, and I managed to hang on to one of them for something less than half a mile before deciding that doing so was just plain silly.

DSSF president David Gaus rode with me for the first few miles but then went off ahead on his own; he finished even faster than I did, although I finished first because I took less time at rest stops and even skipped some entirely. (More about that anon.)

The nominal raison d'etre for the ride was to taste (and, hopefully, buy) a wide variety of wines from the Lodi region. The organizers had even arranged to ship riders' purchases to the finish line. As a result, the route was a convoluted zigzag whose main purpose was apparently to pass by as many wineries as possible. In fact, the official route sheet showed a whopping 61 turns on the route. Most were marked well (although David managed to miss a turn somewhere), but there was hardly any opportunity to get into a groove for any extended period of time. There were five designated "tasting stops" in addition to the two rest stops and one lunch stop. (And if you care, no, I did not partake of any tasting.)

The rest stops were, in a word, odd. The first "tasting stop" at mile 2.7 had its entrance blocked and a sign out front saying that the winery was "closed for the day." When I reached the first official rest stop at mile 21 at the Michael-David winery, there was nothing set up outside. I took a quick look inside and didn't see anything other than typical winery stuff and lots of tourist snacks available for purchase. I didn't feel like buying anything, so I quickly left and resumed riding. (I was told later that there were indeed a few freebies such as half-bananas, but I didn't see any signage or people directing me to them.)

Lunch at Vino con Brio, on the other hand, was very well organized and very pleasant. The winery staff was making every effort to make us feel welcome, and they even had a duo playing live music in the courtyard. I almost wanted to buy a bottle just to thank them.

The route sheet said there were about 16 miles from lunch to the next rest stop -- the only real rest stop in the second 30 miles of the ride. Actually, here's what it said:

At Go and Cycle on For
44.1 R Hwy 12/88 0.7
44.9 L Mackville Rd 1.2
46.1 Rest stop - Chocoholics 0
46.1 R Jahant Rd (at "Y" merge to left) 0.6
So I interpreted that as "turn right on Hwy. 12/88, go 0.7 mile, then turn left on Mackville, go 1.2 miles, and at the 'Y' with Jahant, there will be a rest stop."

Wrong. I made the left onto Mackville Road, but as soon as I did, I saw something looking very much like a very small rest stop (a couple of tables) on the right side of the road. I immediately concluded that this was a "bonus" rest stop and decided I didn't need it because the real rest stop would be just another mile up the road. Nope; that was the real rest stop, and when I reached the "Y," I realized that I'd blown by my last chance for food, water, and portapotty.

That wasn't the only route sheet fart of the day; there was this little sequence, too:

56.6 R Woodbridge Rd 0.3
56.6 R Buck Rd 0.5
Perhaps I'm just becoming too picky about my route sheets! The result was that my ride ended up being 63.1 miles, not the 60.1 that was advertised on the route sheet. (Bikely said 61.7 miles.)

But since I missed the last rest stop, I had to make a brief unscheduled stop in the middle of nowhere to eat my emergency Clif bar, and I used the last of the Gatorade I'd taken at lunch. My speed also slowed a bit; my first 20 miles were in excess of 17 mph, but the rest of the ride was not quite as aggressive. Some of that was due to the poor condition of some of the roads we were on -- the chip-seal was old and had lots of ruts and sudden holes that were difficult or impossible to see. That's just the way things are in much of the Central Valley. But when we were on good roads with nice asphalt, my speed picked back up.

I rolled in to the end at Woodbridge in just a little under 4:30 of elapsed time and 3:55 of riding time, which makes me happy. After collecting my complementary winery glass (I got another glass from them last time I did a ride from there -- the Delta Century in spring 2005) and sampling the mediocre post-ride meal of pasta, salad, and bread (I declined the chicken) that's a staple of so many organized rides, I quickly changed out of my riding gear and made the 90-minute drive home.

That's my fill of Central Valley riding for a while; besides, today's near-perfect weather (temperature near 70 and very light winds) will be but a memory in that part of the state in just a few weeks when the fog settles in for the winter.

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