Centuries & such:
2002 Top Hat Classic Ride Report
(Saturday, April 27 in Pleasanton, CA.)
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
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
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
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
||100.5mi (including 22 extra miles getting home)
||~6,000' (including several hundred feet extra from getting home)
||5 - saw tons of SAG motorcycles, excellent route markings
||2.5 - lame lunch food, and little non-Clif bar non-gel eats
||3.5 - tail end through San Ramon & Pleasanton wasn't very