We met in the parking lot of Surf City Cyclery at 8am. There were only 7 other riders, two of which were married and newer to cycling than me. Sizing them up I was confident that at least wouldn't be last. The leader/shop employee promised that no one would be left behind, but I didn't want to be the one he was doubling back for!
We went down 17th Street and over to the Back Bay. We looped around that and ended up on PCH. We rode through Corona del Mar and to Crystal Cove State Park. From there, it was a left on Newport Coast Drive. It was absolutely beautiful out and I was able to cover a lot more ground than just running. I realized how lucky I am to live here.
The group leader had me practice drafting, but I am still overly cautious and find it hard to get my front tire close enough (under 1 foot) to his back tire to feel the 30% reduction in effort that comes along with it.
At several points, I would meet up with the riders in the front who were stopped, waiting for the rest of the group to catch up. It was nice to have a break, get some water and take some pictures. The climb up Newport Coast Drive is no joke. It's a 1.9 mile climb with an average gradient of 5.3% with 529 feet of vertical gain. I used to run up that when I was training for the Big Sur Marathon and was doubtful that I would be able to ride up it without stopping to rest. But I was pleasantly surprised. While I was a bit out of breath, going all the way to the top was not a problem for me.
The husband and wife took a few rest breaks on the way up, so I had time to kill at the top of Newport Coast and talked to one of the older cyclists in the group. Marshall started racing the year I was born, and he has put in so many miles (350.000) that he has virtually circled the globe 15 times! We were preparing for a steep decline down San Joaquin once the others caught up so he gave me some pointers for going down a hill that could easily give you speeds of 40mph: don't break suddenly, you can wear a spot in your tire and it will blow out, don't tense up and hold on too tight, watch the road but don't focus on something that you want to avoid- you'll drift toward it.
"That's what happened with the cyclist that was just killed on the road we're about to go down. He was struck and killed by a 22 year old who was drunk. Drunk people focus on things and then hit them...that was the 4th cyclist killed around here in the last 2 years..."Here I was, telling myself that I would be okay because there are safety in numbers. But you can't control what comes up from behind you. As we went down San Joaquin, there was a white bike chained to a post, a make-shift memoriam for the 41 year old father who lost his life to a 22 year old was driving drunk. Read the full article here.
We rode by Fashion Island and then back through the Back Bay:
Back at the shop I enjoyed free coffee and 1/2 of a bagel, talked to the husband/wife team and thought of the cyclist who died and how I never, ever want that to be me.