Tilting at Windmills…

Patterson Pass Summit.

and Strava segments.

Yesterday’s club ride started in Tracy and journeyed through the Altamont hills to the Livermore Valley.  Our club rides here a couple of times each year, but in 20 years of club riding this was only the second time I had joined in. After yesterday I am wondering why I have stayed away.

15 riders showed up at the start, which kind of surprised me. I expected a smaller group. I was completely unsure of the route, but Eric Typpo knew his way through the streets of Tracy and guided us.

There are three roads from Tracy to the Livermore Valley (besides I  580, which is not bicycle friendly. Or bicycle legal either). Corral Hollow, Patterson Pass, and Old Altamont (with or without Flynn Road). After some discussion we opted for Patterson Pass over to Livermore, and Old Altamont on the return. I really did not want to do Corral Hollow; there is a lot of traffic on weekends heading to Carnegie RV Park.

We rolled out through the streets of Tracy, mostly on wide and safe bike lanes, then out into the countryside. We could see the hills on our left, and before long we were on the climb. Patterson Pass is 3.9 miles long and climbs over 1,100 feet. Strava says the average gradient is 5% and that it is a Category 2 Climb. What Strava doesn’t tell you is that the climb is very uneven and the gradient bounces between 2% and 10%, with a few short dips to keep the average down. Strava also doesn’t tell you that the steepest part is at the top.  The last 1/3rd mile averages 11%.. And as I neared the summit my Garmin  displayed 17% for almost a minute. It might not be that steep but it sure felt like it.

Patterson Pass is a Strava segment, a stretch of road where these amazing GPS devices record your time and power and heart rate and you can compare your effort to other riders and your past efforts. I decided to ride the climb pretty hard, and I did. 24:59, averaging 233 watts and 143 bpm heart rate. On the steep part I hit 476 watts and a gasping 159 bpm. According to Strava I had the fastest time of our group yesterday, but I was trying hard and I’m sure Eric and Ilia and Jeff could have gone faster if they wanted to. But I am comparing my effort to my physiology and I’m pretty happy with the result.

Of course the climb did not end the ride. We descended to Downtown Livermore, which was hopping on a beautiful Saturday noontime. We had coffee and munchies, and discussed the return route. 10 of us opted for Flynn Road, which added about 2 miles and an extra 600 feet of climbing. Although most of the ride was calm, the Altamont is notoriously windy, and there was enough breeze that some of the wind turbines were spinning. And what wind there was blew in our faces on most of the Flynn Road climb. I had never done this road, so I did not know what to expect. Liem and Ilia set a hard tempo and I stayed with them, usually behind in the draft of the headwind, although I did get out front a bit to help. They finished ahead of me on this one by about 10 seconds and I was pretty gassed at the top.

Flynn Road Strava data: 2.2 miles, 520 feet up, 4% and Category 4. I averaged 217 watts and 136 bpm for 15:21. Not bad, 40 miles into the ride with 3,000 feet of climbing in my legs.

The rest of the ride was almost all downhill and then flat on the run back into Tracy. But some ‘troublemakers’ decided to push the pace, so I was forced to pedal hard with weary legs or get dropped and get lost on unfamiliar streets. I hung on and arrived back at the start without wandering around or pulling out my phone for directions.

Final stats: 54 miles, 3,100 feet of climbing and 3:34 riding time.

The Altamont can be brutally hot in the summer, foggy and cold in the winter, and horribly windy all year. Why do you think the windmills are there? But yesterday it was none of those, and I’m really glad I decided to go. Good roads, good company and reasonably good legs made for a great day.

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