Today I rode the 2012 Tour of Napa century ride. I’ve done this ride enough times that I don’t really take it too seriously anymore, seeing as how I went on a hike the day before. And I guess there’s really nothing special about the Tour of Napa century– other century rides have better scenery and better food at the rest stops, and are better supported as well. There’s only one thing that makes this ride special to me– it was my first century ride, way back in 2008. It feels like such a long time ago and a lot has changed since then- I ride with a largely different group nowadays and even ride a different bike.
But as I sat in my bike for the almost seven hours that it takes me to ride a century, I realized that a lot of things are still the same. Every year this guy plays his bagpipes at the top of Mount Veeder. Hearing the bagpipes provides a nice mental boost that gets me to the top.
The descent down from Mount Veeder still scares the crap out of me. I’ve descended a good number of hills on my road bike, and I’ve done this particular one several times already, but it still scares me. It’s a relatively steep descent, with tons of curves, and the pavement is terrible, with tons of cracks and potholes, and it’s often hard to see, because it shifts from bright sunlight to dark shade often. I’m a much more confident rider nowadays, but I can honestly say I still fear coming down from this hill.
After the descent from Mount Veeder, the course is pretty much flat and easy for the next 40 miles or so. Ray and I had started the course pretty late, so during this easy section I wanted to try and make up for lost time and catch up to a paceline ahead of us. We rode at a pretty good pace, but didn’t really find any pacelines to draft off of. So we pretty much rode the entire time on our own.
After lunch is the second big climb, the infamous Ink Grade. I always dread it, even though in reality it’s not all that bad a climb. I don’t think that will ever change for me– I will always dread climbs. The descent from Ink Grade is still the remarkably smooth and fast stretch of pavement that I remember. It makes up for the really scary descent down Mount Veeder. I always hit my fastest speed of the year here, this year I hit 42.1– slightly slower than the 43.2 I hit last time I was out here. I’m not sure if that means I’m slightly fatter than before. Actually now that I think about it, the speeds don’t really compare, since I was riding a different bike last time. The Bianchi that I used to ride would be faster downhill, since it had a slightly more aggressive riding position.
For some reason or other, every year the group I ride with on the Tour of Napa finishes after the official course close time. There’s a bunch of different reasons why, from crashes to riders getting lost to sheer exhaustion. This year, with just me and Ray riding, I thought we’d actually finish on time for once, since Ray’s a pretty experienced rider. But I ended up riding into the last rest stop just as they were closing it. I didn’t know this, but as I sat in the rest stop waiting for Ray, a SAG wagon sat outside of the rest stop waving everyone past. I waited for a bit and then decided to continue on, at that point not knowing whether Ray was ahead or behind of me. So I rode for a bit and luckily found Ray pretty quickly. We ended up pacelining in the headwind the rest of the way back.
When we finished the post-ride meal had already closed, so we found a barbecue joint on our way back. The greasy fried chicken I ordered really hit the spot after a long grueling day of riding.
My experience this year was pretty much the same as the last time I did this ride, which was in 2010. You can read my ride report here- “Le Tour de Napa.” I think it’s a much better read than this year’s ride report, but if anything my thoughts from this year reminded me that the more things change, the more things stay the same.
When I got home I hung my jersey on the wall, adding to my growing collection. I think I’m done with the Tour of Napa– it’s been a great few years riding it, and I have great memories of the ride, but from here on out I’ll be riding other rides (Strawberry Fields, Marin, Sierra or Foxy’s) instead.
Things I’m thankful for:
- Despite coming in after the official course close again, it was a good ride– no crashes, no one SAG’d, no one got lost– that’s always something to be thankful for.
- All the friends that have done this ride with me over the years.