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Saturday, April 27 in Pleasanton, California

I had been planning on riding the Devil Mountain Double Century this day, but due to a tendon injury at the Solvang Double, I hadn’t been able to do enough training, and so I signed up for this ride instead. This would be my third Top Hat Classic, having ridden the 50mi route in 2000 and 2001.

I rose at 5:15, had a lovely liquid breakfast of Spiz, and got ready. My legs weren’t feeling very fresh, since I rode the Primavera Century the previous weekend, and had been doing some intensity training during the week. I was planning on riding home from this ride to make it an even century, and my co-worker Guy graciously agreed to pick me up. At around 6, he and his wife, Lisa arrived, we loaded my bike up, we headed over to Pleasanton. It was a dark, cold, and blustery morning, and we got sprinkled on as we drove over Hwy 580 – we hoped that that would be the last we’d see of the rain (fortunately it was!). We arrived at 6:40 and checked in. We didn’t yet see any fellow SunSpots, so we went back to his car to finish gearing up. On the way to the car, we found Kristin and her friend Barit. Guy & I waited a while for other SunSpots to arrive, but found only Mike. After a couple of cellphone calls, we hooked up with Denise & Ralph as well, and hit the road. Kristin and Barit couldn’t find us after we left them at their cars, so they had already headed out and said we would catch them later.

Guy, Denise, Ralph, Mike, & I rolled out at around 7:45 into the crisp, breezy Pleasanton morning. We circled around PeopleSoft Plaza (the ride start), and headed west to Foothill Rd and Dublin Canyon Rd. There was a pretty brisk headwind on the (easy) climb up Dublin Canyon, so we proceeded at an easy pace. Mike fell back somewhere along here and said he’d see us later. Before long, we were at rest stop #1 in Castro Valley (12mi). I removed my armwarmers, but left my vest and windbreaker on, as it was still pretty chilly. They had some really delicious apples, of which I ate several, and after bladder relief, we headed back out pretty quickly. Like most MS Society rides, this one had rest stops a-plenty.

A zig and a zag later, we started the climb up Redwood Rd. This is a beautiful road, as it climbs (mostly gently, but persistently) through the east bay hills. While climbing the first hill, I discovered that my APS camera wasn’t advancing the film, so I couldn’t take any pictures on this ride. Drat! Our “friend” the headwind was still with us, slowing progress (as it would for almost all of the day). We finally descended to Pinehurst, and began the climb up it. Shortly after we started, I saw Ralph tip over in my mirror. What I didn’t see was him going over the edge of the hill! Fortunately he stopped on some foliage, otherwise it would have been a pretty nasty fall! With some help from some passers-by, we pulled him up, got things in order, and continued the climb. Before long we were at the top, and enjoyed a fast, winding descent to Canyon Rd., and quickly arrived at rest stop #2 (26mi). They were low on non-bike-specific food, but I snagged a bagel and some cream cheese before they were gone. They had plenty of GU and Clif Bars, but I really prefer to eat “real” food at rest stops, and save the Clif Bars and gels for when I need to eat on the bike. We met the two missing SunSpots, Rowena and Jerry at this stop and talked to them for a few. After streching a bit and grubbing, we rolled out.

The 50 and 75 mile routes diverged soon after rest stop 2, so we said goodbye to Denise and Ralph, who had time commitments later in the day. Guy & I rolled along Moraga Way at a pretty good clip, when who should I see coming up on us but Ralph! He’d decided to do the longer route afterall, so we all motored down Moraga Way, with our ever-present headwind keeping us company. We turned off onto Bear Creek Rd., and began the climb up “Papa Bear.” This isn’t too bad of a climb, and there was a rest stop about 2/3 of the way up it (35mi). While at this rest stop, we met up with Kristin, Barit, and Tim. After eating some pretzels and fruit, we headed back out to finish climbing Papa Bear.

A false summit, descent, and climb later, and we were descending Papa Bear at a great pace. I hit 47.7mph on this descent, despite a quartering wind which was making it difficult to hold a straight line. We climbed Mama Bear and Baby Bear (into a headwind, of course), and turned off onto Alhambra Valley Rd. This is a pretty, rolling road that winds its way east to … Pig Farm Hill. I’ve climbed Pig Farm a few times from the opposite direction, but this way was pretty difficult! Thankfully, the wind was at our backs (about the only time on this ride that it was!), and we finally arrived at the Pig Farm at the top. Descending Pig Farm Hill was fun, we contined onto Reliez Valley Rd, and entered Briones Regional Park en route to rest stop #4. The road through the park was just beautiful. Green hills speckled with wildflowers were all around us, and the clouds had largely burned off, leaving puffy white clouds against a nice blue sky. Rest stop #4 (49mi) was again mostly biking food, but they did have pretzels and fruit. We munched, and headed back on our merry way.

I was hoping that Reliez Valley Rd. wasn’t the same Reliez climb that was on the ’01 Primavera, but sure enough, it was. Fortunately, I was in much better shape this year, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I remembered it. A couple of turns later, we pulled into lunch at the Jewish Community Center (57mi). They were out of the good food (but there had been some as evidenced by some spilled pasta salad on the ground), so we ate what was left — PB&Js (I had two). Ralph took off so he could get back earlier, and the rest of us hung around for a bit, talking, stretching, and snacking.

We meandered out to Danville Blvd. and headed through downton Danville. There was rather a lot of traffic downtown, and a SUV that wasn’t paying enough attention nearly took me out. I hate it when that happens! We decided to skip the 6th rest stop (65mi), since it was only 7.5mi after lunch, and 12.7mi from the finish. A number of other folks did the same. Its good that they had plenty of stops for folks who wanted/needed them, though! We met John, a rider from SF, and we traded pulls for the rest of the ride. The route went through the suburbia of San Ramon and Pleasanton, and along El Capitan Dr. This is a strange road, with a frontage road next to it that all of the houses were on. The route went on the frontage road instead of the main road. I’m not sure why, as the frontage road has tons of stopsigns on it, and the main road has none. We rolled through a stop sign, and immediately saw flashing lights behind us – uh oh! The motorcycle cop told us he was tired of ticketing cyclists all day, but was so kind as to let us off with a warning. Wheew! It was stupid of me to roll the sign, as I know full well they patrol the heck out of that particular part of the route. It would be nice if they used a different road on the route, as the stopsigns are so numerous that tons of people aren’t going to stop for all of them, and that no doubt annoys the city (and fills their coffers, so maybe they don’t get too annoyed!). We were very lucky not to get a ticket! After being let go, we continued to Crow Canyon, where we were routed onto the sidewalk and a “square turn” onto Alcosta Blvd (another part of the route I wish they’d change). A few hops later, and we arrived at the finish at around 3:00.

They had hamburgers (meat & veggie), hot dogs, chicken, and pasta salad at the finish. I wolfed down one each of the hamburgers and some salad, and we hung around for a while. We saw some folks drinking what looked like beer, but our hopes were dashed when it turned out to be root beer – just as well, since I still had 20-some-odd miles to go to get home! I stretched and said goodbye to everyone, then headed back home at 4’ish.

The ride home was plagued by horrible headwinds on Dublin Canyon/Castro Valley Blvd – I could barely maintain 5mph up the not-at-all-steep Dublin grade! After what seemed an eternity, I got to Castro Valley and headed south through Hayward on Mission Blvd. Fortunately the wind was neutral or at my back for this final stretch, and I made pretty good time, getting back to home in Fremont at about 5:20.

This was a fun ride – the 75mi route was pretty darned hilly, but very pretty. The headwinds were the worst I’ve ever experienced in the east bay, and it was annoying how the wind shifted to always blow against us! I’m really glad that I didn’t try the Devil Mountain Double – it would have been cold, wet, and horrible!

Ride Stats:

Distance: 100.5mi (including 22 extra miles getting home)
Total Time: 10h 0m
On-bike Time: 6h 54m
Average Speed: 14.4mph
Maximum Speed: 47.7mph
Total Climbing: ~6,000′ (including several hundred feet extra from getting home)

Ride Rating:

Difficulty: 3
Support: 5 – saw tons of SAG motorcycles, excellent route markings
Food: 2.5 – lame lunch food, and little non-Clif bar non-gel eats
Route: 3.5 – tail end through San Ramon & Pleasanton wasn’t very interesting
Overall: 3.5

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2001 Top Hat Classic

Saturday, April 28 2001, in Pleasanton, California:

I arrived at the start at PeopleSoft Plaza in Pleasanton around 7:00’ish after a brief detour into a different PeopleSoft building (the security guard set me straight in short order), got registered at the team table, and waited for my riding companion Guy to show up, which he did shortly thereafter. We didn’t see any other SunSpots around, and nobody identified themselves as one upon seeing my Sun jersey, so around 7:30, we hit the road. I think most of the SunSpots were doing the 25mi route, with one other doing the 75mi route, which I would have liked to do, but I was riding in the Chico Wildflower Century the following day, so I wanted to save my legs.

The ride started with a gentle climb up Dublin Canyon Road along I580, a gentle descent on the same, and on to the first rest stop in Castro Valley. Not my favorite part of the route, especially since I ride that same stretch of road once a week after work.

After the rest stop, we went up Redwood Rd., a lovely climb up above Upper San Leandro Res. (I think) followed by a fun, twisty descent into the redwoods, a beautiful climb up Pinehurst, and a short, fast descent on Pinehurst then out to the second rest stop on Canyon Rd. in Moraga.

We then rode out to the lunch stop in either Moraga or Lafayette (not sure which :), ate a bit, and continued back to Pleasanton into a “nice” headwind. This last part of the ride wasn’t particularly memorable, but was pleasant enough.

A police officer made us ride on the sidewalk and use a crosswalk on one street, presumably because there wasn’t much shoulder on it. Later I heard (on virtually every cycling newsgroup and email alias I read) that a number of people got ticketed for running stopsigns in Pleasanton. One person apparently complained to the officer “but we’re on a charity ride” as if somehow that allows us to break the law – hrmmph, I say! I don’t stop at every stop sign if there’s nobody around, but rather treat them like a yield sign, but I’m quite prepared to pay the ticket if an officer desires to give me one. I’ll save my traffic rant for another day, though.

Overall this was a very pleasant ride, the weather was great, and the people friendly.

Ride Stats:

Distance: 56.6mi
Total Time: 5h 34m
On-bike Time: 4h 11m
Average Speed: 13.5mph
Maximum Speed: 41.2mph
Total Climbing: ~3000 ft

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