Uno, Dos, Tres Diablos

The Maratona is four weeks from now. We leave for Italy in ten days. So Saturday was the day for one last big climb-fest in preparation.

After the bad weather of the past few weeks, and last Sunday’s ride about steepness, quantity of vertical became the goal. Ben decided that the best way to get vertical was to do repeats on Mt Diablo. Sherie and Ben had led a ride called Double Diablo, but this time Ben wanted more. So the goal was a triple climb, or about 11,000 vertical feet (3300 vertical meters).  This is about three quarters the vertical of the full course Maratona dles Dolomities.

We started late to not be done too early, as we had a social event with Sherie’s inlaws in Walnut Creek that evening. They had volunteered the use of their shower for our post ride ritual, and planned an informal dinner with some friends. So we started from Heather Farms about 9 AM, and climbed North Gate. Ben waited a couple dozen minutes at the junction for Sherie, who had spent considerable time arranging layers on herself and her bike. Ben chatted with many riders doing double and triple Diablos today in preparation for “the Death Ride”, aka the Tour of the California Alps out of Markleeville. (Ben had done this in the mid-eighties when he lived at Tahoe, and the event had become bigger over the years.) In a sense, Ben and Sherie were doing the Italian version of such a ride. So it was interesting to compare training status with such riders, and also interesting to note that many riders had started earlier in the day and were on their second ascent.

When Sherie arrived, she rode right on by Ben toward the top. Ben followed her up, through the high winds (it had been a tough headwind on the first climb) into the cloud that was on the mountain. Dripping from the trees, water was on much of the road, with cross winds swirling as one moved on the bends around the various spurs and gullies. However, just above Juniper Campground (3000 feet elevation) Ben and Sherie were happy to break above the clouds, looking down on the fluffy white below the summit area. Interestingly, the cloud was only to the west and south, not the north and east. Steady pacing lead to the top; and the final summit 17% push was mearly difficult.

Uno Diablo summit

Uno Diablo: The summit picture was taken at 11:24 AM.

The descent to South Gate was fairly uneventful, except for being cold enough to make Ben shiver (how do you keep the front wheel steady when your arms are shaking?) until near the bottom. A cyclist was down, lying prone in the gutter, with two others standing talking on a cell phone. Ben passed them, then waited for Sherie at the “end of the wall.”

While Ben waited just off the road, a doe and fawn wandered into the backyard greenery across the road. The fawn was still in full spots, but moved well and kept close by her mother. Ben got to watch them munch for a minute, and mosey about. When some cars approached from the downhill direction, the doe darted across the road and the fawn froze. One car stopped and flashed his blinky emergency lights, waiting for the fawn to cross. But it was not to be. Then Sherie approached from the uphill direction, and both of us watched the fawn traverse across the hillside in the yard above the road away from the doe. It was sight; one could barely see the fawn’s legs move, but watched the bouncing hops for several dozen meters until it moved around some covering brush. The driver in the car wanted to wait for the doe and fawn to get back together, but Ben said that it could be a while but he was sure the doe would find the fawn soon enough.

The question had been to go into Danville for coffee (about 3 more miles, slightly downhill) before turning around, or just turn around here. As it was already past noon, Ben and Sherie ascended directly from here back up Southgate. When we passed the down cyclist, an SUV was there with a couple other people. He was sitting up, and they lifted him (obviously in great pain) into the car. We were thankful he was being cared for, and mentally noted that it was better to be cautious than hurt. When we passed through Rock City, some GPC riders on the Presto version of the ASSR passed us from the other direction, calling greetings as they move passsed. By now, the cloud had cleared on the mountain and it almost felt springlike (not summer heat, just mild) as we came to the junction. Sherie soon caught Ben, and we proceeded upward again. Now the toll of the climbing was showing; Sherie was dragging and Ben had lost a little snap for the steeper ramps. And the 17% ramp at the summit now felt well over 20% to our tiring legs. The summit was breezy, but temperatures mild.

Dos Diablos: Sherie rests on top

Dos Diablos: the summit picture was taken at 2:19 PM.

After the summit stop, we knew we had to eat. Ben went ahead down Northgate to the shopping center on San Carlos and Ygancio Valley, and ordered a burrito and two street tacos to share. Sherie showed up to sit in the sun just before Ben was tempted to eat her portion!

Feeling better, but getting pretty late (3:45 PM), Ben decided he needed to do the third ascent on his own. Sherie was doubting her energy to go on, and agreed to text message Ben with her status as she progressed. But we knew we needed to be at the Katagoue’s by about 6:30.

Ben made steady progress up the lower part to the junction. The headwinds had died a bit, it was sunny, but mild temperatures. Still, the nearly 2000 vertical feet do add up to some real work, and Ben was pretty drenched at the junction. He stopped just long enough to fill one water bottle and stretch out his back. (Ben’s lower back is where he feels the strain of lots of climbing. While the legs still have power, the back shows fatigue first. Ben is vowing to work on his flexibilty in the coming weeks.) He texted Sherie telling her he was going on towards the summit, but there was no message from her.

Early evening found the summit road with many fewer cyclists than earlier in the day. However, there were still quite a few cars. The wind was gathering force, but had shifted to more westerly. Temperatures were cool (great for climbing, but not for descending) as Ben kept a steady effort the remaining 2000 feet to the summit. And this time, his legs could just barely summon the power to make it up that summit ramp without getting off the bike.

Tres Diablos: Ben on top

Tres Diablos: Summit picture taken at 5:53 PM.

At the summit, Ben saw Sherie’s text that she had made it to the junction and turned around. She was going to get the car and bring it to the Katagoe’s house. Ben zoomed down as quickly as safety, the gathering chill of the evening, and the car on the road ahead allowed.

It was great to roll right off of Walnut Ave just below the circle to a shower, a great fajita dinner, and friendly company.

Ben’s stats: Tres Diablo climbs:
129.86 km (80.69 miles), 3328 vert m (10,918 vert ft), 7 hrs 12 mins ride time, 18.00 kph ave  (11.21 mph), ave grade 5%, max grade 17%

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