Saturday, March 10, 2012

Some days I feel like this...

I felt like that today at the 30th Solvang Century. Some things however were more difficult to swallow than my sweaty socks. And it wasn't about the slow(er) riders wandering all over the lane, or even the people with the funny hats: one gets used to them after a few years. It was more of the feeling that the organizers of this classic and successful event have got perhaps a little complacent.

 First, the ladies at the registration insisted that I needed not to pick up both the 50 miler and the metric century (actually 70 miles) route sheets, because the only the last part was different and they were the same thing. Guess what: they weren't. I wanted to ride conservatively after last weekend's crash, and I should have known better. I just wanted to leave the registration area quickly to get back to my bike before someone else decided to take off with it.

Then there was the plague of the private SAG vehicles. As pathetic as it might sound, wives, fathers, perhaps grandfathers too judging from the age of the drivers felt compelled to follow their relatives in a car. This is, of course, explicitly discourage or forbidden by all events of this kind, including the Solvang (see the SAFETY chapter). The result was a traffic jam on Santa Rosa Road, that exasperated local drivers and endangered riders lives. The worst offender (and the first car in line) was a lady advertising her pistachio product, and riding ahead to strategic point to peddle her roasted nuts to famished cyclists.

On highway 1, a pothole that looked a foot deep in the middle of the emergency/bike lane was left unmarked. A cyclist was laying on the ground in evidente pain, surrounded by others, who thankfully pointed out the hazard to me. It makes me think that the organizers drove, rather than riding the course. Missing something like that out might have deadly consequences. I wonder if the course could be redesigned leaving highway 1 out. Across Lompoc I saw a near miss (or perhaps I should say a near kill) when a cyclist was forced in the traffic by the truck left parked on the bike lane by some bozo, and a black Tahoe barely missed him. More ahead, after it becomes a divided road, some parts are now almost unridable: the rumble strip is smack in the middle of the emergency lane, making passing slower riders difficult and downhill speeds hazardous, to say the least.

Make no mistake: I had fun, and I will likely be back again next year. Traffic control was impeccable. The ride however is not getting any cheaper. Maybe we could ask for something more than bananas and port-a-potties.

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