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Distance Training 2011

The fourth season of Distance Training rides begins Saturday, January 15 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 from the Caltrain overflow parking lot in downtown Mountain View.

Ride 1: 40 miles, January 15. We'll visit Woodside on routes that will be familiar to anyone who's done the Palo Alto rides this autumn. Nothing overly challenging, but this is a good introduction and gives you the chance to meet other riders.

Ride 2: 45 miles, January 29. To Los Gatos and a little bit beyond, with a significant climb up Kennedy Road and briefly into San Jose before returning on an easier route.

Ride 3: 50 miles, February 5. (Note that there's no week off before this ride! This is to keep our calendar in sync with the major ALC events of the upcoming spring.) This is one of the more devious rides -- 25 miles of nearly flat terrain followed by 25 miles of quite hilly roads. Your challenge is to resist the urge to ride all-out in the first half of the ride so that you'll have sufficient energy for the second half. Many riders are surprised at how easy it is to run afoul of this ... and this is a very necessary skill to get you through the ride in June.

Ride 4: 60 miles, February 19. We'll head up the Peninsula into the Crystal Springs area, but not quite to the dam because of the ongoing closure. We'll climb the Polhemus hill and then enjoy the thrilling descent down Ralston before taking Alameda de las Pulgas all the way back to Menlo Park.

Ride 5: 70 miles, March 5. We'll go out into seemingly the middle of nowhere around Calaveras Reservoir, high in the hills above Milpitas. We'll climb Calaveras in the shorter, steeper direction and then cruise through the hills before returning through Sunol and Niles Canyon and across the Dumbarton Bridge.

Ride 6: 80 miles, March 19. Get ready to climb! We're going to Half Moon Bay via Highway 92, just like the traditional Day 1 route of ALC, and we'll continue down the coast to San Gregorio before turning inland and climbing Highway 84 to Skyline Blvd. Total climbing for the day is about 4,400 feet.

Ride 7: 90 miles, April 2: Get ready to climb again! After taking an easy route into Hayward, we'll climb into the CSU East Bay campus on the notorious route from the Seismic Challenge ride in October, all the way to the top of the Hayward Hills, followed by a steep descent into Dublin Canyon. We'll climb over the Dublin Grade and drop down into San Ramon for a somewhat less stressful ride into Sunol and back through Niles Canyon. One long, steep climb, but only about 3,000 feet total for the day.

Ride 8: 100 miles, April 16. For our first century ride of the season (and quite possibly your first century ever?), we'll make a giant loop around the South Bay. We'll visit Los Altos Hills, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Newark, Fremont, Milpitas, San Jose, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino, and Sunnyvale. One significant climb: Silver Creek Valley Road in south San Jose, and our reward will be quite possibly one of the most exciting urban descents in the Bay Area.

Ride 9: 110 miles, April 30. We'll do another favorite of Distance Training riders -- a ride all the way to Gilroy and back. We get there by going along the Calero and Uvas reservoirs, and we return on the east side of Highway 101 to Morgan Hill before taking Monterey Highway back to San Jose. Although the second half of the ride is almost flat, strong headwinds are possible, making this ride more challenging than it looks. (Then again, in 2010, the headwinds were almost nonexistent.)

Ride 10: 125 miles, May 14. This is it ... the Fourth Annual Altamont Pass Double Metric. Now part of ALC legend (the longest one-day training ride on the nationwide ALC calendar), this ride has a little bit of everything: scenic backcountry, suburban sprawl, and busy city streets. About the only thing it doesn't have is any extremely steep climbs; total climbing for the day is only about 2,600 feet, so the ride is more a test of your endurance than of your climbing strength. Weather can be the biggest challenge on this ride; in the past, temperatures have exceeded 100 degrees along parts of the route. But in 2010, riders were lucky to have an unusually cool day in the 60s, so anything can happen. We have outstanding volunteer support on this ride, including well-stocked SAG vehicles and a group of dedicated roadies who are committed to helping you conquer this challenge.

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.

You can't sign up for these rides quite yet, but save the dates. 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 2011 Distance Training rides.

Photo: Riders descend Altamont Pass almost halfway into the 2010 Altamont Pass Double Metric.