Chris Winn: Ramblings From The Road


11 March 2012


So I've made it out to California a week before the racing starts and life is brilliant!  There is sun, there is warmth and the riding is simply incredible.  After a drive north from San Fran I am staying in the sleepy town of Occidental, which is just west of Santa Rosa and not too far from the coast.  The roads here, although at times are pretty beat up, are a real treat to pedal on, in fact the whole area has a real Dandenong Ranges feel about it.  Seriously.  With it's cooler climate and dense vegetation including eucalyptus trees (!) and ferns, there has been many a feeling of deja-vu out there.  It's actually been a surreal feeling where it seems oh so familiar in sight and smell, but then I've snapped back to reality that I am actually a million miles away from sleepy Ferny Creek.  I'm hanging out here with handmade bicycle guru and former Jamis/Sutter Home racer Nick Frey.  He is part owner in creating handmade bamboo bicycles which are really cool.  You can check them out more here, but they are very much a work of art when seen up close.

Yesterday was one of the coolest riding experiences I've had in the last few months, participating in the local 'Grasshopper' ride.  Despite the name, we didn't go bug catching and then drop a line in the local river, but do a non sanctioned back country group ride/unofficial race.  What makes it unique though, is that there is a ton of crazy goat track roads and trails around here and our 65mile loop constituted of 1/3 off road.  So at the start line gathering we had a mixture of road bikes, cross bikes and full blown mountain bikes.  Not to mention a very fast and fit Peter Stetina fresh of a block of Euro racing with Garmin.  So the hopper started out at a decent pace until we hit the first full blown climb which was a nasty steep bugger within some vineyards.  Pete turned the screws and at times my 25T was clearly not enough and by the top I was on my own before plunging down an amazingly tricky descent.  The tight hairpins just kept coming and combined with steep grades and poor pavement it was pretty white knuckle down there.  Coming to the bottom I was faced with the reality that I was alone, and with no signage or corner marshaling had no idea where I going!  Such as the relaxed nature of these events, I sat at the intersection and waited for the next group to roll in and with their local knowledge I was my way.  With another cool tarmac climb in our legs we reached a dead end in the road.  Well, a dead end for cars that is!  It was time to take the 23c's off road and we descended some wicked forest singletrack on our road bikes.  It was chattery, it was rough but it was so much fun, and plunging back down to the bottom of the valley we then faced a river crossing to be hiked across.  After more gravel roads and climbs it was back on the pavement heading towards the coast and to the final climb that wound through a beautiful forest.  Back on the dirt for the last time it very much reminded me of climbing out of Silvan Dam up towards Olinda.  So overall it was a super cool experience of just getting out there and riding a bike in the wild.  On road, off road it didn't matter it was all a hoot as you never really knew what was coming up next.

So today is a easier day before we pack up and head to San Dimas on Monday.  Almost time to put the game face on!

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