Friday, October 4, 2013

2013 Knoxville Fall Classic Double Century



The Knoxville Fall Classic Double Century is one of my all time favorite rides. I only wish that I could come up every year to do the event.

This year for my 116th Triple Crown Double, I decided to do it, with the persuasion of good friend Teresa Beck, on my tandem. The tandem is nicknamed, “The Stealth”, due to its all black color and stealthy qualities on the descents and flats. As a tribute to the Quack Cyclists, I had a little, obnoxious sounding, horn that sounded like a quacking baby duck. I think it annoyed a few people because they were not moving over when Teresa honked it as we approached them from behind at high speed on descents.

I did Knoxville one time before on the tandem. It was in 2004 with my regular double, triple and 2-time quad stoker, brother in law, Vince Paradero. I think Vince and I have around 35 double centuries on the tandem.

This year, I had Teresa (tiger) Beck, stoking the fire in the rear and cracking the whip.

Teresa has lots of tandem experience, especially this year and we meshed very well on my bike right off the bat with only one training ride to get all the adjustments made to the bike, our timing, communication and rhythm. This event was her 14th double century of the year. Amazing!

We opted for the early start around 4:30am and actually got on the road at about 4:40. I like to get as much night riding accomplished in the morning rather than in the evening.

We rolled out of Pena Adobe Park in Vacaville on a beautiful, cool morning with the temps in the lower 50’s at the start. We made a loop around the lagoon before heading out on to the regular road.

We had an easy warm-up to the foot of Mount George. This section had some important turns in it to get out of the city so we had to pay attention to the course markings and route slip.

Teresa and I made good time on this beautiful little climb over to the Napa Valley. As usual we saw many friends right from the start.
We got to the top and it was getting pretty cold. We stopped, and put on another layer for the descent to Napa. This part is traditionally the coldest on the ride.
We had a very nice descent into the valley, taking it easy, in the dark before a right turn and a jog over to Silverado Trail which is the main road on the east side of the valley.

We rolled into the first check point at the Napa River Ecological Reserve a little before sunrise averaging over 17mph.
We fueled up and headed out for a nice stroll through the Napa Valley just as the hot air balloons were taking to the skies for their usual, weekend, sunrise flight. Next stop.....Howell Mountain!!

Grapes and baloons
We rolled through the wineries and grape vines with many friends including one other tandem captained by my good friend John Clare and his son Scott. Both well over six feet tall, they are beasts on the tandem. John has done many doubles this year on the tandem, both with Scott and Teresa in the rear.

John and Scott Clare

Teresa sitting up taking some pics

John and Scott.
Jeff Dewey with John and Scott behind, cruising down Silverado Trail

When we turned right onto Howell Mountain Road we were averaging about 18mph on the bike. That would not last long as now the ride really begins.

Howell Mountain is a beautiful climb especially at sunrise. Tunnels of trees, many different smells and, for a change this year, real cool temps on the climb. 
Climbing Howell Mountain just after sunrise



To this point on the ride, the climbs seem effortless in comparison to the last time I did it on the tandem. Being in the best shape of my life at 61 years young and having a very strong stoker in the rear was really making a difference. I think we were even holding back some because we did not know what to expect on Knoxville grade. We did not want to over cook ourselves knowing that the ride really does not begin until the 70 mile mark at Lake Berryessa.

Finally out of the trees on Howell Mountain

Hello
As we reached the summit of Howell Mountain I became stressed. The last time I did Knoxville on the tandem, I over heated my rims on this descent so much that I blew a front tire. That was close to being a disaster. It blew just as I came into a straight road at the bottom. I could not even touch the wheel, it was so hot.
This time I just kept it slow on the technical part and pumped the brakes and had no problems. At least, not with over heating the wheels. I had another problem which I would find later.

Into the flats of the Pope Valley we went. Back in “Hauling ass truck” mode, with many Remora fish tagging on for the ride, we motivated through the valley and climbed out toward Lake Berryessa and check point 2.
We pulled into the rest stop and as soon as I stopped I checked my rear wheel to see if it was running straight and true. (I have had trouble with the rear wheel and had to replace it after almost 20 years of good service. I was breaking and loosening spokes on the old one.)
Well.......I could not even turn the wheel; it was so “out of true”. We were just blessed that my friend and bike mechanic extraordinaire, Jason Pierce, was at this check point.
He found 8 loose spokes on the non drive side of the wheel. He fixed the spokes and re-tensioned the entire wheel. It worked fantastic the rest of the day.


Thanks Jason

After about 30 minutes rest and talking to friends while the bike was being fixed, we rolled out for the climb which gave this wonderful event its name. Knoxville Road.
Knoxville grade is a hot, relentless, never ending it seems, slog for 21 miles to the water stop. From there it is about 15 miles of more hills with some good descents to lunch.

It was slow and relentless going up this grade on the tandem but we did it.

Lake Berryessa

Arrgghh...Knoxville!


Starting to get steeper



One more steep kicker and then the check point.
We stopped quickly at the water stop and then hit the final hills to the summit. I think we had our fastest descent on the drop-off the mountain to the Clear Lake area and lunch at Lower Lake Park

I checked the wheel again and it was fine. We filled up our water, grabbed a coke, talked with friends for a minute, added some fuel to our pockets and were on our way for the toughest, (as far as steepness), climb of the day.
Teresa and Terri Boykins at lunch. They were both part of my awesome crew on the Inyo Ultra 466 in August. My crew chief Ken Mathis would have loved to be on the ride but he was in Japan. Missed ya out there Ken!!

Mr. Triple Crown himself, Chuck Bramwell with Teresa and I at lunch.

Off we went on Main Street, spinning easily, to digest lunch before the climbing begins again.
We didn’t have long though. Left we turned on to Siegler Canyon Road and up the canyon we went. Siegler Canyon is about 4 miles of climbing. There are a few steep sections but all in all, it is a nice steady type climb. 
Here is a video Teresa took on Siegler Canyon. Great narration too!
All I can say to newbie’s of this event is this: “don’t over cook yourself on this climb because it leads to a real beast and many, including yours truly, have lost it and almost quit by over doing it after eating lunch on this section”. You have to pace yourself on Siegler because now you have Loch Lomond!!
When you turn right on Loch Lomond Road the sign says 4 miles to the town of Loch Lomond. It starts off with a gradual climb but slowly starts kicking up with the steepest part around 16%. Most of it is around 9-12% with kick up’s from 14-16%. Brutal on the tandem. While riding our rhythm, and seated, we were cruising at an amazing 3.5-4mph. When we got out of the saddle we would accelerate to an amazing 4.5-5mph. WOW!

We reached the water stop and filled up. I got a ham string cramp when I got off the bike but it went away....thank the Lord!! It was a bad one too and the only one I would have all day. Teresa wasn't complaining at all. I don't think she complained about anything all day.
 
Over the final climb we went into the town of Loch Lomond. Now we had a short descent to Cobb Mountain, a few rollies and then a blazing descent down off of Cobb Mountain to Middletown.


Don't tell the CHP but we were going a little over the speed limit!

Through Middletown we went and then we cranked it hard in the flats with a slight head wind to check point 4 at Pelican Lake.
 Jason was at this one too so he checked over my wheel and everything was good.
Leaving the Pelican Lake Check point


Pelican Lake
 We were at mile 134.5 and feeling good. After all the climbing thus far, it seemed like we had gone much farther though.
Our next check point was near Lake Hennessey.
Before that we had to climb Butts Canyon to get us back into the Pope Valley. We then had to climb out of the Pope Valley. We still had quite a bit of climbing left on this ride.
We traded off with a bunch of guys on this section. We would pass them on the descents, then they would pass us on the climbs, and then we just rode together on the climbs and descents for the last section to Check Point 5. As we reached the summit of the climb before Lake Hennessy a large semi truck passed us. One of the best descents on the ride was now ruined because the truck was soooooooo slow on the curves of that descent. We were on the brakes the whole way down and it was too dangerous to pass him.
If we had a clear shot we would have blown by this guy.
We did not stay long. I had a hot dog with a mound of mustard; we filled up with water and were off.
Teresa kept saying that this was the first time she had ever seen this area in the daylight. She thought it was so beautiful. I guess we were doing good.
Teresa and Ken Emerson, aka Spotted Ass

We turned left on Hwy 128 which took us back toward Lake Berryessa again.


Climbing again...with Jeff still tagging along.

 We had a nice climb to get us away from Lake Hennessy, then a nice descent before climbing up some good rollers to get to the dam at Lake Berryessa. It was pretty much all down hill from there back to the final check point.
Just after sunset. Almost to Lake Berryessa
After going over the final climbs while watching the sun set, we flew down to the final stop. We grabbed a few things to eat and drink, put on an outer warm layer for the chill in the air and rolled out for the final 12.6 miles.
We both smelled the barn on this last stretch. After the initial climb away from the river, we just cranked it with our friend Jeff hanging on to our rear wheel the whole way in. I think we passed about 5 people on the way back. None had the energy to stay in our slip stream except Jeff. We hammered the flat areas and descents. We both jumped out of the saddle and sprinted up the short climbs toward the final few miles.

We rolled into the park a little before 8:30 pm for an awesome Italian feast put on by our hosts, The Quack Cyclists.
Thank you to the Quack Cyclists. You guys put on amazingly well supported events.
Thank you to all the volunteers for all the hard work.
Thanks Jason for the repair on my wheel. You saved our ride.
 I have to especially thank my stoker Teresa Beck. She made this such a fun ride with all her antics along the way. I think she knew everyone on the course and whomever she didn't know she quickly became friends with. Great job on an epic ultra cycling year!!!

Ride data is here at Garmin Connect

All the pictures are here on Shutterfly

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