It's the greenest of springs in recent memory, recent rains washed away the gold colors of later summer and winter and painted the valleys over in Swiss green. The wind is strong, as usual, a an invisible hand almost pushing me off the road. But the air is cool, refreshing, keeping the heat from the implacable sun and our over-revving engines at bay. We are surprised by how many overdressed people, especially women, we pass for the whole 50 miles. I can't imagine pedaling with long pants and rain jackets on a day like this where the only shield one needs is sunscreen.
On Santa Rosa Road the first casualty of the day goes down on the asphalt. Nothing too bad, she seems ok, no bleeding, but the impact was definitely harsh. People are taking care of her, we continue pedaling against the wind. I pass many more people than I get passed by, which is good, although the variance in cycling power and capabilities is huge on the short 50-miles course. Often people pass me pushing me at notable speeds, only to fall back and disappear when we approach a hill, having shot their wad for nothing while I was riding their wheel.
For some reason the organization thought that a panoramic tour of Lompoc was a good thing. Definitely good to convince us to never move to such a place. Leaving town we hear the second crash, another woman against the door of a minivan. The cyclist is clearly in shock, she keeps asking if the huge driver of the oversized metal contraption is ok. She looks much definitely better off than the one holding her bike with a bent fork.
Volunteers arrive, we take off once more on 246, all straight lines and long hills which we pass in relative ease. Some guy with a black pickup truck with oversize tires and dangerously raised suspensions honks furiously at us and gives us the finger, immediately imitated by the following guy on a Harley. I laugh thinking about one of my favorite movies from many years ago, Easy Rider, where the rebel bikers get shot by rednecks in a truck. How things have changed, with the ridiculously inefficient Detroit locomotives on two wheels being now the almost exclusive domain of rabid conservatives and bourgeois poseurs. Clearly the rebel two-wheelers nowadays ride much skinnier contraptions powered by pure human energy.
But I digress. In the last ten miles Gió Turbodiesel picks up speed and disappears up a hill, I won't see him until the finish line. Right there I meet my two perfect teammates, they go exactly at the speed I want, pulling up the long hills on 246 at 20mph or so. The problem, if we can call it a problem, is that one appears to be in his early, and the second in his late sixties. Nothing wrong with that, but I'm seriously thinking of tinting my hair gray and competing in the senior categories. We chat, pull hard and get to the finish line. Good average speed, for my standards, and excellent first time out for the season. Now on to the next step.