Friday, December 9, 2011

nepal ultra 250 - the pitts's story

Racing the planet does 4 desert races each year: antartica, gobi, atacama, and the sahara. In addition there is one roving race - in 2011 the choice for the 5th was Nepal. The 6 days consist of a marathon a day with 2 on the 5th day. In sum the total vertical is just under 10k meters with most of the up and down found on stones cut into the side of the mountains. This makes for dangerous going early in the morning as the dew pools atop the rocks making the surface worse than a saskatchewan skating rink - in addition the spacing can be deep making for extreme pressure on unprepared knees. I played witness to an unfortunate flat lander who despite his ironman tattoo, rolled off the course in front of me holding a snapped i.t. band. The race is entirely self supported which means you must pack your own food (one must prove 2k calories per day), sleeping stuff, and whatever else you consider important to surviving, what is provided by racing the planet is water (every 10k) and tents.
Nepal, while being undeniably beautiful, is also in the sub tropics and as such - is the perfect place for baddy germs or bits of disease fueled vermin. The mountains are dotted with villages and no matter how remote you think you are, the familiar waft of open sewage comes trickling by throwing ones senses back to the dark congested ally ways of Delhi. Nepal, my old doctor friend Calvin warned before i left, is the dirties cesspool on earth - disinfect at every opportunity. So i did.
Emphasis is on keeping ones pack as light as possible - one would be amazed at the number of blogs, chatrooms and the like devoted to ultra light backcountry gear. My 32 liter osprey weighted in at all of 8.2 kilos. Simone opted for a few comforts (wool booties for sub zero nights, a camera, and slightly more food as she planned to be on her feet more than me). The key to getting through the race which averages a 50% drop out is somewhat whats in your engine - but more - how your skeleton holds up (knees, turned ankles, blisters, backs). The unforeseen knock out punch in Nepal was a gastro-intestinal bug that ripped through camp putting 50% of the participants in a 24 hour tizzy of vomitting - soupy runs - and shivers. Remember, that all this sickness comes at a time where you are racing to meet cut off times and spend as little time on your feet as possible given that blisters are what keep most athletes from continuing. An example of one of my more admired pieces of equipment is "my feathered friend" sleeping bag coming in at under one pound and good until -3c, which i buttressed with a silk liner giving me an additional 5 degrees. I ordered this bag from Seattle as it has an almost cult like following amongst the climbing community - the guy whom i spoke with over the phone lectured me for 30 minutes on my gear choices - love that guy and love that store.
Simone and I agreed to both go at our separate pace - however the second day she woke up doubled over with the bug so my job was squarely and uniquely to get her over the line. Despite her friends telling her that it wasn't worth the effort given she had 2,800 meters of climbing ahead of her in +32 weather - she put her head down and plowed ahead. This made for a challenging marital dynamic: remembering its my wife that was near death so compassion need be demonstrated - yet coming to grips with the AAA nature of a competitive middle aged canadian beast i obviously didn't want my race to come an abrupt end, sick wife or no sick wife - thus the delicate balance began. Pausing after the first hour to projectile vomit which funneled out on a 5 foot arc, it was obvious the day was going to be eventful. The puke pauses became our hourly ritual until later in the afternoon when, the odd bit of bile aside, the condition degenerated into dry heaves that would scare any freshman at chico state. She keep her calories up by licking GU gels and nibbling at lance's own honey waffle stingers. After crossing a 200m swinging bridge over the most striking deep gurgling gorge - the end of the day was in sight and she trotted into camp with 30 minutes to spare. Our tent mates, and other friends ripped her pack off - got her mat and sleeping bag set up, and warmed some beef broth with dried noodles which she had thoughtfully brought as a one day alternative to dehydrated expedition food. By 6:15 she was snoring away with a double imodium dose - waking up 12 hours later feeling somewhat fresh and ready to race. God bless my wife - so strong. Below is a shot of her at the start of our day together - i love the way the picture oozes pale pain.
The week really pivoted on the 85km day. Containing 3,500 meters of up and down - its estimated that one will burn 15-17k calories. For a posterity, a picture of our "game faces" morning of the biggie.
I paced the day with a pal of mine Ali who was on his 3rd ultra so he knew what to expect and we worked together entering camp around 11 at night after our 7 am start. Very much a consistent slog with us running the flats and the downs until night hit where we marched at about 5km per hour under headlight. Never having put that much strain on my legs before - getting to sleep despite being bushed - was a challenge as my quads wouldn't stop quivering and i felt real water retention on my left shin which wasn't as achey as it was pulsing a heavy gooey sensation. Simone came in with her crew in just about 24 hours to the minute. Incredibly her laughing as she came across the line was what woke me up - and all smiles - blister free - she silently downloaded and slept until late morning.
The final day was an easy flat 16k run back into Pokhara - where pizza and beer were waiting for us - pictures were snapped, people hugged and most felt a certain sense of achievement - and i just sat - content but without the tingle that i used to get racing the bike - i would describe the feeling as a nice warm thud. Would i do a race like this again - absolutely. No question if i don't have a race to train for, a well articulated goal with a tangible chance of failure to scare - i lack the intensity and drive to maintain what i consider an acceptable level of condition which ultimately insulates us all from growing old where it matters most - in the mind. The happy clear minded couple um ziel.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tour of Romandie CycloSportif–It’s Not Easy Being Green

Référence : les chiffres de Contador sur la montée de Verbier 2009:
Temps: 20’53”                   Pourcentage: 7,5%
Distance: 8’700 m     
Poids du coureur: 62 kg     Poids du matériel de Contador : 7 kg
Contador pèserait 69 kgs, ce qui porterait sa puissance à 550 watts sur Verbier

September 11, 2011 dawns and another Bite/Howe Ranch adventure is upon us.  Riders SharkBite and Howe do not set their sights low: todays challenge is to equal or exceed Alberto Contador’s time for the Le Chable to Verbier climb, set in the 2009 stage of the Tour de France. 

Consistent with best practice, comprehensive preparations began…ah…the night before…um…around Howe’s dining room table.  Healthy amounts of protein and vegetable items were consumed, along with grape and wheat-derived beverages, in an atmosphere of maximum sociability.

7am and SharkBite and Howe are in Bite’s rented station wagon, en-route to Aigle.  Today’s objective is the Verbier La Romandie Classic, a special event conceived by the organisers (and, as we’d soon see, the sponsors) of the annual Tour de Romandie pro UCI race.  It would be a cyclosportive with a difference: start with 90 or so kms of cycling in a marshalled and escorted peleton (cruising beside the vineyards and fields of the Sion valley floor), rise gradually from Martigny to Le Chable, then—upon arrival in Le Chable—hit the first timing station at the base of the climb and let the demons rip as 500 or so riders do their best against the clock to pound it up to the Verbier finish line.  Not your usual format, and it produced some interesting experiences.

Summary of race profile: flat…followed by one big ol’ JFG ‘er.

Howe and Bite pulled up to the suburban retail zone parking lot where the start was taking place and headed to the pre race registration area (which turned out to be inside a large 5 storey gymnasium kind of building).  Everything went smoothly, with both race numbers and freebie gift bags and jerseys being obtained with typical Swiss efficiency.  The usual next step ensued: Ranch riders searching out and evaluating toiletary facilities.  It was while waiting for Rider Howe in the hallway for a few minutes that an important realisation dawned.  In a concrete alcove all along this hallway there were bicyles stored in racks.  But Sharkbite noted that these were not road bikes for today’s event: they were track bikes.  It was at this point that both riders realised that when they registered at tables set up in the large open floor of this round gymnasium type building, they were not (as they had unconsciously assumed) in some generic conference centre space.   This place was a full on bad-boy velodrome…in the middle of Aigle Switzerland!!!  This of course started to make more sense in the context of the UCI Cycling Academy being about a mile away, closer to the centre of Aigle. (An institution riders Howe and Sharkbite were only too familiar with, given the tendency of a small group of UCI academy juniors to show up at the Martigny Mauvoisin race and comprehensively blow away the field…and the hopes and dreams of your hapless Ranch brethren.)

The organisers were requesting that all participants wear the green Vaudoise assurance jerseys given to the all the riders, but Howe and Bite had other plans: the colours they displayed today, would, as usual, be black, white, red and yellow. 

A totally phenomenal, clear, blue sky, sunny day was dawning: a Ranch day.

Learning from the Gruyere experience, Howe and Bite arrived at the start area in good time and managed quick vaults over the barriers and into the start area (when the burly Swiss man charged with controlling the start group size had turned the other way to bellow at some other dude who got caught doing the same).

Although Howe and Bite couldn’t see it at the time, up ahead the full escort and cavalcade of motorcyle marshalls had formed.

…The customary Skoda station wagon escorts, complete with flashing yellow lights.





…And our leather-clad pals from the Valais Motorcyclers Federation.  Respect.




Yup, we had a great big convoy…and she was a beautiful sight. 

Howe and Bite slotted comfortably into a mid-peleton position in the long, snaking sea of green jerseys and sat back to enjoy the tour of the flatlands.  They knew what their only priority was: conserve energy.  And on this beautiful day they had about 498 available humanoids (sitting atop a wide selection of the best bicycle technology out there) to choose from, like they were put there specifically to help Howe and Bite achieve their plan.  Even better, quite a few of these other humanoids were sized and shaped to provide maximum headwind-sheltering benefits to anyone behind them.  God bless the chubby, Swiss weekend warrior: we like the way you roll (as long as you do it in front of us, not beside us).

It became clear pretty quickly that this phase around the valley and on towards Le Chable was not going to be like any “normal” event.  With it not being a closed-road event, for safety reasons the Swissies wanted the escort to hold the peleton in one long pack (and to keep it on the right side of the road only).  This meant that permanent vigilance was required, because even though the peleton was half a kilometre long, there were immediately accordion effects every time the front reached any incline, roundabout, or negative change in velocity.  All of a sudden, hands of riders up front would wave, the squeal and smell of brake pads on carbon would break out, and Howe and Bite would have to drop half their velocity and be careful not to impact riders in front.

Despite this challenge, things passed smoothly.  Totally clear skies, warm temperatures, views of the mountains, fields and vineyards…and locals lining the way all along the route to clap and cheer.  This wasn’t racing, but it was a training ride like no other.




There were only a couple of deviations from the energy conservation goal during this 2 hour period.  First, Bite and Howe both simultaneously felt the need to urinate on the Swiss countryside.  There were two dangers inherent in this: 1) Not getting slammed by some dufus from behind as you pulled off to the side of the road and stopped, and 2) the obvious: re-joining the peleton once you were a couple of minutes off the back.  Howe and Bite executed successfully and quickly on satisfying their biological needs and were able to power back together to reach the whirring green peleton beast.  A burst of effort that provided a welcome stimulation and prep, by getting the heart rate up.

The second energy expenditure came in the gradual climbing section from Martigny to Le Chable.  The riders stuck religiously behind others, but found themselves nonetheless moving gradually forward in the pack, as heavy riders moved into slower relative speeds once climbing a gradual slope.

But with around 3 hours down, the duo duly rolled into the last couple of kilometres to Le Chable.  SharkBite narrowly escaped a peleton wipe out on the gradual climb from Sembrancher, when a rider to his side lost his pedal, bumped Bite and Bite bumped the guy on the other side.  A close one, but no one went down.

Coming into Le Chable, it was time to move into stage 2 of the race plan.  SharkBite pulled over beside a field and reduced his bodily fluid burden.  Howe pulled into the food station before the final climb.  Both of them knew what was coming next…

JFG ‘er






And of course, while we were doing a lot of that, we weren’t really able to enjoy much of this…


Alex Moos of the BMC mountian bike team brings it home in a winning 24:56 time for the climb.










Rider Howe brings it home in a hard fought 44:52, pushing through an energy crash and the midday heat.






SharkBite, oxygen starved and confused, wonders what the numbers 36:24 mean, where he is and what he is doing there…and takes a photo of himself in the hope it might help him figure it out some day.


In a sea of green, the Ranch is duly represented.  Rider Dazed (L) and Rider Confused (R) absorb the sweet, sugary taste of energy replenishing beverages.  They smile at a job well done.  And they smile because they know the secret weapon to beat Contador’s time by 50% every time, with no performance enhancing drugs or doping required…

the telecabine.  Yeah, baby. 

Alberto, eat your heart out.  And enjoy those preserved meats, by the way.

P.S. Verbier TV put together this short piece on the event, complete with Ranch-appropriate 70’s porn movie soundtrack.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Gruyere Sportif–Smell the Cheese, Feel the Breeze

So much to cover, so little time to post it. It’s now been a month since yet another successful tactical strike by Ranch forces. Let’s break that down—plus other Summer ’11 updates--for the global Ranch-loving community…


First, we don’t really have that many photos to post…but this one above obviously says it all as far as the summer ’11 Verbier rides went. Good times in the heartland of Ranch ridership.

The summer activities by the Verbier chapter included yet another successful participation back on July 24 by Riders Howe and Sharkbite (this time accompanied by local Verbier rider Raph) in the greatest regionally-organised, homemade bicycle race of all…the annual Le Chable Mauvoisin race. Howe and Bite commenced the day with a descent down the Verbier road at about 7.30am in steady rainfall. Our heroes’ technical cornering skills were tested both by the soaking road conditions and the finger-numbing chill. A slow descent indeed, but the boys made it down safe. As usual, this year’s race featured a start in Martigny for semi-pro Swiss types with fancy “elite” cycling licenses…and a normal human being race starting from Le Chable.


It was a chilly, wet morning and both Howe and Bite were feeling it, big time. Even the long pre-start visit to the local café (including pre-race stress testing of its toiletary facilities), plus some uphill warm-up rides, could not remove the chill on the bones.

Yet another strong performance from Howe and Bite ensued. About 15 or 20km and a good 1000m of steady alps climbing up to the Mauvoisin inn…and once you get going on that, you warm up pretty quick. Both riders deployed their local “domain expertise” to the max, knowing the steeper ramps to lay down bursts on…and where to hold energy in reserve…in what is a long and testing climb. And this year, there were no flat tyres for RiderHowe.

There was one clear objective: show the rear of the London Ranch cycling jersey to as many local “Happy Sport” team riders as humanly possible. Unfortunately, it became clear that some of these local mountain-goat-biker-men are definitely not human at all, since a couple of them beat the Ranchers to the top (including the overall race winner, who put in a mind-crushing 51 mins 30 secs time). But every year the Happy Sport fear levels grow, as the Ranch boys push it to new levels and lay down new PBs each time. This time the combination of RiderHowe’s relentless power deployment and slick Cervelo frame brought him to the top in 1:12.02, while SharkBite duelled with relentless junior riders to bring it home with a 1:04.48 time.

Promptly recognising the tit nipply temperature conditions, the boys checked in to the Mauvoisin inn for the best thing of all: a long, long coffee in the warm café with maximum post-race banter.

Mauvoisin was just one of many, many excellent summer 2011 riding experiences. Here is a typical shot…LoneWolf dorking it just above Volleges. What a day! What a view!


And here we have 3 stooges at the top of the Le Levron climb, taking a pause to discuss future applications for lycra textiles in the 21st century.

Ranchers on top of Col du Lein Aug 2011 (2)

Summer rides to Le Levron, Mauvoisin dam, Bruson, Champex, you name it, meant that when August 28, 2011 rolled around, Riders LoneWolf, Howe and SharkBite were ready to tackle a healthy gran fondo challenge. That challenge came in the form of Switzerland’s Gruyere Sportif…


The tactical strike began with ruthless precision at around 6.30am, when the LoneWolf-mobile swung by both Howe’s and Bite’s houses to form up the squad and begin the mission deployment. 3 bikes on the roof and the boys were quickly on the road to Bulle, inland from Lausanne, to arrive early enough for pre-race check in and bike preparation activities. En route, the squad exploited its know-how from past missions to the fullest. Pre-fuelling on snacks and liquids and, most importantly, swinging in to the local gas station before race arrival in order to yet again test the ruggedness of Swiss plumbing installations. Anybody who saw two grown men, at 7.45am on the outskirts of Bulle, enter the hallway of the Tamoil gas station and super shop was probably pretty confused by the levels of excitement and enthusiasm displayed when LoneWolf and Bite found the two doors for the men’s and women’s 1-person facilities. (Quote of the day as LoneWolf peels left and grabs the open door of the Women’s toilet “Psyched…it’s Women’s and Handicapped!!!” Sight of the day: seeing the expression on the face of some swiss lady when Wolf emerged 5 minutes later, grinning, satisfied and race-ready.)


This race was a new challenge for the boys, as the route was unknown and the race—a UCI organised event—attracts a couple of thousand riders keen to explore the alpine scenery via a slickly organised sportif event. Riders Howe and Bite vowed to try and take it at a reasonable pace: 120km and 2000m of climbing lay ahead and both riders had had interrupted riding patterns in the preceding couple of weeks. LoneWolf, as usual, was shaved and ready to hunt.

The team got split right from the get go, as LoneWolf managed to climb over the start barriers towards the mid front of the couple of thousand starters, whereas Howe and Bite were channelled around right to the back. 5 mins after the start gun sounds, and under glorious sunny, summer skies, Howe and Bite were on the move and executing the race plan.

Tour de France level race-marshalling (including motorcycle marshalls, yellow flag and whistle-blowing guys on any road furniture, and comprehensive race direction signage) immediately distinguished this event as truly first class rider experience. From the outset, Howe and Bite powered carefully and mercilessly through a couple of thousand riders, and made their way through the first gentle climbs towards more competent cyclists.

A total breakdown of the route is impossible, but the highlights were roughly as follows. After heading up into the mountains, a long gradual valley climb in the direction of a mountain pass leading to Gstaad. This culminated in a final few kilometres of proper hill climbing, where Howe and Bite powered cautiously to the first summit and rest station.

Next came possibly one of the coolest descents ever…down 15km of single track farm road. From the outset, it was punctuated by riders on either side of the road, having either wiped out or with some kind of mechanical failure. It was all about keeping it smooth and controlled. The winding descent led from open pastures down into a forested valley stream zone, with the road winding through trees next to the stream for many kilometres. It was obvious that the road had been swept of any dangerous gravel and race signs warned of unusually sharp corners, but every corner was a new exploration and the boys never knew what would be coming next. Moments of sunlight alternated with stretches in the forested shade, and corner after corner unfolded, with brief bursts of top gear power applied in between. Rider heaven.

From there the course descended into Gstaad and began another long, gradual climb towards Le Diableret. Howe and Bite got separated into separate groups by intervening riders on the descent to Gstaad, then re-united near the summit of this next climbing section. At the top, another rest station, another opportunity to urinate all over the Swiss countryside. Unfortunately Bite’s urination hid him from Howe, so the team were separated again. But at this point it didn’t matter. It was all about tooling down another big descent, linking up with a groupetto, powering through the third and final climb, then yet another truly amazing descent…to the final rest station…then 40km of flat or gentle downwards climbing (unfortunately against a strong headwind) to bring it back into Bulle and the finish line. Both Howe in front, and Bite behind, managed to slot into highly effective 12 to 18 man groupettos, that worked with clock-like leader alternations to bring each pack home with maximum energy efficiency. And make no mistake, doing that last flat 40k into a headwind solo would have been an experience to avoid.


Rider Howe. 119.99km down and 0.01km to go, JFG’in ‘er to cross the line and do the Ranch proud. Final finishing times: SharkBite 4:36, Howe 4:31, Wolf 4:00.

Back at the race finish, the boys reunited promptly at the Wolf-mobile, re-fueled, packed up and exited quickly. Start at 9, finished and out at 2pm. And the Swiss race efficiency kicks in, with text messages to all the riders with their finishing times…and in LoneWolf’s case, the news that his top quartile finishing time qualified him for the UCI world championships (which unfortunately turned out to be in Belgium the following weekend, so that obviously wasn’t going to happen).


Grabbing snacks from the gas station on the way out of town, the crew comprehensively debriefed on the race en route back to Verbier and fully restored all energy levels.


Mission team returns to base, sporting (R to L) Gruyere event cycling jersey, classy Mauvoisin race souvenir T-shirt and, classiest of all, Ranch gilet/wife-beater top.


This man has found a new mentality…and it’s closer to his heart. RiderHowe sets new post-race fashion highs, twinning the Ranch wife-beater top with black nylon track suit pants, stylin shades, and (not quite in shot) ball cap featuring the Val De Bagnes “two homies in a bathtub” regional logo. Dress for success.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ride the Rockies 2011- Breastmilk Express

How much is enough? When do we quit? What obstacles will we overcome to achieve a goal? At the end of the day, what are we made of? This past June 11-17, 2011, Ranch West Coast explored these questions when faced with the layman's version of a cycling "Grand Tour."

Ride the Rockies (RTR) is an organized and supported 6 day summer cycling tour through the high alpine Colorado Rocky Mountains.

The ride covers 400+ miles total with an average of 60-80 miles distance and 2000-4000 feet of vertical climbing per day, linked point-to-point over multiple mountain ranges topping 7000-12000 feet in elevation.

Some months ago, RiderTurbo and RiderMama registered for the event in anticipation of cycling through the picturesque state of Colorado on a glorious summer ride with 2000 of their closest cycling friends.

As luck would have it, complications arose. RiderMama gave birth to RiderSasha on February 25, 2011. This meant that RiderMama would either need to sacrifice breast feeding four months into RiderSasha's infancy, or devise a way to breast feed on the cycling trip every three hours during daily rides of 6-7 hours or more. Aside from the logistical difficulty of breastfeeding on the roadside in the middle of nowhere each day, would lactic acid accumulation in the breast milk on long rides cause it to taste sour and be rejected by young RiderSasha when she had not yet made the transition to solid food or baby formula?

Complicating matters, RiderMama's very special private graduation ceremony celebrating the glorious completion of her three-year Medical Fellowship in Oncology at UCLA was unexpectedly scheduled for the first day of the RTR tour, in direct conflict with the event registration, pre-arranged travel plans and first two days of the ride. Talk about bad timing.

Beyond that, if the Ranch figured out how to manage the challenges, what would we do with the now-four-year-old RiderZoe? Depart and ride bicycles for a week without her?

And if all this wasn't enough, the apparent final straw: one week prior to the event, RiderTurbo tripped and fell on an early morning run with the dog, breaking his distal radius near the wrist. This required a rigid blue fibreglass cast placed from hand to elbow in order to immoblize the right wrist and hand.

Could Turbo ride with a arm cast over a multiday cycling event on top of Mama's breastfeeding? Maybe grandparents could drive the kids and time breast pump-breaks in the middle of the ride each day? Breastfeeding, broken wrist, schedule conflicts, and questionable logistics with kids in a 400 mile mountain cycling tour 1000 miles from home. Was it enough to make the Ranch quit?
Frailty is not a characteristic associated with the Ranch.

Those who know it as more than a gratuitous moniker, know that the Ranch represents a way of life, a philosophy forged in the rough and tumble landscape of the Western U.S, Canada, the Pampas of Argentina and places alike where men are cut from a different cloth, women are hearty, where healthy livestock roam the plains under a vast, blue sky. The Ranch isn't just a catchy white and yellow lycra outfit with colorful stars and a black horseshoe for decoration. Ranchers are durable individuals who buck up and get the job done no matter the circumstances.

Turbo and Mama rescheduled flights to attend the graduation in L.A. and depart immediately to join the RTR peloton on the third day of riding in the Colorado mountains.

Turbo dismissed doctor's orders to stay off the bike with an armcast. Mama pre-pumped and stockpiled 120 ounces of frozen breastmilk in reserve ice coolers, then got out the breast pump car charger and scheduled rendezevous points in the mountains to "pump and dump" roadside while on the move cycling, bypassing the risk of "lactic laced" milk that RiderSasha would refuse but keeping the breast milk flowing so that Mama's supply didn't dry up.

Ranch grandparents slotted in as private drivers of the support vehilcle to deliver breast pumps, bottles and water to Mama at designated points each day. The Ipad was loaded with $100 worth of the "Fresh Beat Band", "Bubble Guppies", "Imagination Movers" and sundry math and alphabet games for RiderZoe to enjoy while riding backseat in the Jeep with Grandparents.

The Breastmilk Express was leaving the station as planned. It was time to cowboy up and see what we were made of.

And leave it did. After a lovely ceremony with accolades for the now fully fledged oncologist RiderMama, the crew jetted to Colorado and met up with RTR in Avon, just outside of Vail. From there, the team pursued each day with planning and vigor.

The high mountains provided a beautiful backdrop, complete with magnficent views, great climbs and descents and snowy backdrops in the higher elevations. The trip doubled as a family vacation. Each day after riding, the family would join up for dinner and activities. A hike to a waterfall. A dinner out. A chinese food smorgasboard. A nature walk by the river. Playtime in the park. All in all, it turned out to be a magnificent week, culminating with the proud finish of Turbo and Mama in Georgetown, Colorado after hundreds of miles of mountain riding.

What seemed like an insurmountable logistical challenge turned out to be the best riding experience of our lives. Next year, in lieu of the likely long-lost idea of RAAM, we invite all Ranchers to join us for this week-long cycling event and combined family vacation in the most beautiful of settings. Maybe we can all do it together then without breastfeeding and broken arms. It just might the best experience you'll ever have on a bicycle.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Felice Gimondi 2011

So there it was. Another gathering of the Ranch for a festive Felice Gimondi. Ranch riders descended from Vienna, London, and Verbier, all prepared for victory. Rider Howe and Rider NewGuy (Kevin Connors) rolled in to Bergamo having treked 3.5hrs from Verbier. Rider Zinni arrived from Vienna. Rider EzE and Rider Reido in from London.

Registration required much negotiation, as most of us did not send in our Doctor's notes, and Rider Howe was posing as Rider Cahli. In the end, after signifcant negotiation with Race Officials, all of whom appeared to wear pink, Rider Zinni was able to use his local toung to lash out a solution with the Lead Race Official who had ridden a set of fabulous camel toes into the race HQ.

Moving onto pre-race preparations, the Ranch found savory local grub at a fine establishment in the center of La Cita Alta. Local wine and beer was happily consumed to wash down the high carbo pasta intake. Rider Reido was successful to leave multiple gaseous green cloud bombs to stimulate conversation. When asked has he been successful bringing his new girlfriend to blow her load, he responded with conviction, "oooh yeah, with my hand". Marveling in his manhood's (lack of) notable accomplishments, Rider EzE revealed his dinner fixation of an image of the waitress head-bobbing his checkbook for that extra tip. When photo emerged of the team taken by the fat American lady at the next table, it was noted that Rider Howe had mysteriously dropped from the photo while reaching down to finger her belt loop.

Post dinner and listening to his senses, Rider Zinni hit the road back to the hostel in Rider Howe's hairdresser car, while the rest of the Ranch Rider crew followed Rider NewGuy across the square to a local watering hole to sample some highly recommend herbal local liquor known to loosen the bowels (for the following morning's absolutely vital pre-race dump). The problem was that Rider NewGuy kept ordering rounds, with another crushing herbal shot and then a local tap beer to wash it down. Ranch Riders were were pushed out at closing, only to find themselves lured into another local watering hole for a round of Wheat Beer. Again, faces turned, with a local gal in the corner especially interested, as the Rancher conversation drifted to Rider NewGuy convincing everyone in a rather loud and slurring banter of the merits of cornholling.

The morning of the race, Ranchers all awoke to a downpour of rain. Ranchers were to later learn at the race start that the long course was cancelled to to excessive rain and some snow. Several Ranchers reported near vomiting at breakfast when trying to consume grub on the back of the previous night's activities. In the end, all Ranchers rallied and found themselves riding down from the hostel to the start grid to slicing eagerly through consecutive sheets of hammering rain. Arriving with 15min until the start, much of the usual pre-race excitement was clouded by doubt around the extent of the downpour that proceeded to soak the bones and leave the shivers. While waiting for the start gun to blast, Rider Howe was even spotted trying to sit on his saddle in a (hopeless) attempt to "keep it dry for the race".

At the crack of 07:00, the loudspeakers roared and the riders were off. Puddles of water had turned into pools connected by streams. All Gimondi riders held their speeds down as the field nervously weaved through the streets of Bergamo out onto the course. Everyone was thinking about the recent death in the Giro and folks were being responsible, with the exception of a few serous douche bags who sped thru the pack.

The first climb was a welcome opportunity to try to warm frozen limbs and take a break from the wall of water shooting into Ranchers' faces that was streaming off the back tires of the riders in front of us. Thankfully, the rain eventually stopped 1hr into the race and the field began to spread.

Ultimately, each Rancher returned back to the finish line, victorious :

Rider Zinni : following two punctures and a broken chain, all within the first 30min of the race . . !, then getting lost (?) at a roundabout only to find himself back on the course, he finished arms raised as he sped thru the tape to take the checkered flag.

Rider Howe : was in the groove, had found a group of like minded riders and a pace of sheer speed and "atta boy" courage, only to suddenly look-up and notice that his crew had mistakenly chosen the short course. Nonetheless, Rider Howe was seen nearing the finish line out-sprinting all of his new found mates, and then jamming his air-pump into the last fella's wheel to secure a podium finish behind Rider Zinni.

Rider EzE : was triumphant to rise from the ashes, eat a few bites of his breakfast, dodge the tickle in the back of the throat begging for a post-breakfast vomit as his system was rebelling from a third consecutive night of heavy alcoholic energy drinks and sleep deprivation, only to saddle up to the start with a cool sense of calm. Rider EzE was later spotted in the finish line with his hand on the ass of the Avis Rent-a-car chick, and accordingly found himself up on the podium for a notable accomplishment, of sorts.

Rider NewGuy : was calm and collected having been the ringleader in the pre-race bar hop, to whizz through breakfast, shirk any form of extra clothing (not even a vest, arm warmers or a rain jacket) and start the race in only a shorty top, while the sky was raining cats and dogs. Rider NewGuy disappeared into the crowd to post a remarkable 4h25min for the medio course. The courageous effort prompted race organizers to create a fourth podium for yet again another Ranch rider to step up into the glory.

Rider Reido : was also seen concentrating hard to hold back post breakfast near full hurl following previous nights untimely bar crawl, but found courage sitting on the can for his third pre-race dump. Fluids flowing from all orphus holes, Rider Reido's shorts were already soiled and soaked before he hit the sopping streets to head off to the start grid. In the end, Rider Reido was noted for his courageous descending and perseverance to replace a blown-out tube, to sprint into a commendable podium finish.

In the end, the Ranchers all walked away satisfied that yet another Gran Fondo was universally conquered.