No excuses. It’s taken way to long for a ride report but I have not forgotten at thing; at least nothing that I can remember forgetting. I’m deep into summer vacation and am already well into the planning stages for next year. The week after Skaggs I wrapped up final exams and was then in Costa Rica for my bi-annual pilgrimage; this time with 21 students and my family…but that’s another story altogether.
When I put Skaggs on the Hopper schedule I thought we’d scare some people away and end up with 50-60 warriors. Instead we got 90+ and the second largest women’s field of the year. Was honored to have Duncan host us in Healdsburg and I have a lot of memories of epic rides with Duncan and Nate from early racing days starting and ending at their place. Everything was falling into place as the weather stayed cool and a last minute sponsor call from Lisa and Ben from Osmo ensured that we would all be properly hydrated. Jim was camped out a King Ridge and Ted Carter was waiting at the finish with snacks and juice; ready to roll.
The start seemed smooth but I later discovered that there had been a split at the stoplight in Healdsburg. We tried to stay mellow but the tri-bullet JD “soft peddaled” like a locomotive off the front. This led to a chase by the Queen’s English who were out in mass. I drifted towards the back to take in the view of 90 riders ripping down Westside Rd but soon realized that I needed to make my way back towards the front where I felt safest. I found Roger’s wheel and settled in. Hitting 116 The Queen’s English drilled it along Korbel and kept it safe and strung out until Guerneville. The group went slack a bit and there was a crash near Northwoods’ Golf. Several cars sped by and blared their horns. A large bulge in the pavement from a redwood root took down a solo rider but we sent word to regroup in Monte Rio. This gave George and Ben Capron who had flatted a chance to catch back on and take a needed pee brake. The pace was steady heading into Caz and no one was too eager to attack the first climb. My game plan was to conserve going into the first climb and notch it back, letting the fitter riders leave me, and the temptation to ride outside my limit. This worked perfect and I managed to catch a couple and form a solid group heading into the top of King Ridge. Jim set up the feed zone early so just as we started rolling we got a quick rest and bottle hand up. “Unfortunately” I make it out of there and hooked up with Paul Whiting, Rick Pepper, Ben Capron,Chriss Hobbs and a couple other of the QE. I knew I should let them roll and rejoin the group I was in but…I recalculated and figured if I could just sit in until the climb out of the Gualala River I would then ride home solo. Mistake #1. There is no “sitting in” on Tin Barn and Skaggs. We nearly made contact with the group of Gabe Cheese, Brian Andersen and Jady Palco. I knew I was writing checks that were not going to clear but what the hell, it was a Hopper and I have a duty to stay as near the front as possible to better be able to tell a story, right? Up the road were Roger Bartels, James Mattis (who ended up with multiple flats) Mitch Trux, Nate Ripperton, Gardie Jackson and Ryan Price. Gabe Forsythe crashed behind us on the descent from the temple but I didn’t learn this until much later. I was really sad to hear there were also crashes on the cattle guard. When we rolled into Kashaya and headed east I warned the group to stay behind me and watch for CRAZY sharp turns. The first right breaks away on itself in an obscene fashion. I set myself up in a safe spot in the middle and dove right. As I made the bend a small car was coming up the road in the other lane. On the other side was a bike coming up! I glanced behind to see Ben go outside the car, around the biker, into the dirt shoulder and then dive back into the road! Not sure how I got all this in a quick glance but time was standing still. Everyone was fine. Disaster narrowly averted. As we hit the “flats” of the Gualala River valley I got an email alert from my bank. “Insufficient Funds”. I disregarded the initial message, pounded a couple of GUs and tried to take my turns at the front. Second message, this time a text from an office worker, “There seems to be some strange activity in your account and I’m afraid we are going have to freeze all future transactions”. Damn. I sat at the back as the elastic stretched and finally snapped before the first big climb. I pulled out some solid food and tried to eat, drank up and made a balance transfer from another account, this time cash. It took me a while to come to and several riders passed my. It was one of those moments when I really just wanted to take a nap. Pull over, close my eyes and watch the splotches as the blood pulses in my head but I pushed on. Near the top I still couldn’t eat or drink so actually pulled over for 5-10 minutes until I could keep food down and drink. Hadn’t happened to me in a Hopper for many-a-year. Oh well, “You see what happens Larry ?!” Finally pulled myself together and rode at a mellow pace to the finish. Happy to be out on my bike with friends doing what I love to do. Roger pulled off a gutsy win over Mitch Trux by attacking the last right on Rockpile Rd. And Katherine Mattis won in a time under 5 hrs.
It was a great Hopper season and I enjoyed meeting so many new friends and riders. To all the hard core who have rarely missed a Hopper the last 14 yrs come flood or high water, I love you like family. A huge thanks to NorCal and SagMonkey for helping with the feeds this year and to all the amazing local sponsors who generously donated and stoked the local field of riders. Thanks to Pauline and Tera for help at the start and finish and to all the people who helped me juggle my work and other responsibilities so I still get to ride these epic adventures.
And on the 15th year he said “let there be dirt”. And there was/ will be.