Sunday, April 1, 2012

Nifty Ten Fifty 2012 Report

Nifty Finishers at Vollmer Peak, Tilden Park, Berkeley, CA

"Events like these attract such a life-loving group."
Clark Foy

"Amazing how riding those hills quickly recalibrates one's idea of 'steep'."
Tray Basiolli

The 2012 edition of the Nifty Ten Fifty bike ride (11th Annual) was a good one by all accounts. We had spectacular weather, with crisp views, a great turnout across a broad level of riders, and we were fortunate enough to have the event filmed by Peloton Magazine. It doesn’t get much better. Riders traveled from specific geographical areas, namely, The Peninsula and San Jose, Marin County and Santa Rosa, and Davis/Sacramento Area, along with many from the East bay and a few from San Francisico. This year, the event returned to its original April Fools date (It's always the first Sunday in April).

I cautiously planned the event, not really knowing what to expect as far as turnout, but I was very pleased to see the crowd when I arrived at the start. After a short meeting, I sent the B group off in the capable hands...errr hand... of Bill Oldham, who put in a heroic performance with his injured left hand (he can’t stand and pull on the bars). Everyone in the B group seemed to find their own pace and some forged ahead on their own, some fell behind, and some stayed with Bill all day. More on that from Bill later.

The A group was good to go at 9 A.M. and as I looked around, I knew it was a strong group...Gulp! This was confirmed on Moeser Lane, the first climb, and one that features 20% grades. It’s a real slap in the face. Riders look down at their cassette hoping there is another gear…there isn’t. I quickly found myself relegated to the back of the group. In a way it was comforting — no need to kill myself to stay at the front, just keep a steady pace and enjoy the ride.

A strong "A" group at the start

We mostly stayed together on the second climb, Terrace, as most riders heeded my warning on a few complex turns, and allowed me to lead the way at my more leisurely pace. Onward.

I’d given everyone the beta on Marin Ave, and the fact that it’s the Official Nifty KOM climb. Marin Ave is .75 mile in length with an average grade of 18%. The steepest section is at the top when the lungs are burning, and kicks up to 26%. Marin Ave has the dubious distinction of sporting the steepest known paved half mile in California. At the bottom, most riders took off pretty hard. It was amazing. Clark Foy was there, on his Pinarello equipped with full race carbon wheels. Bill Laddish was hammering up, pushing impossibly hard gears and his Bianchi noted the 500+ Watts at 40 rpm by creaking loudly. Laddish had the edge going up the last bit of Marin, but alas, his gearing did him in, and he nearly toppled, while Foy slipped by for the coveted Nifty Ten Fifty KOM of 2012!

Here are the results for the Marin Ave Climb. Note that these results, with the exception of Laddish, only include those who have uploaded their GPS data to Strava. If you participated in the Nifty and would like a special deal on a Strava membership, please contact me. And if you know where you fall in this group, I am happy to add you with an estimated time.

Also please contact me if your results are missing or incorrect (GREAT JOB everyone, and special congrats to Clark Foy and Amy Cameron, Men's and Women's Nifty KOM and QOM!):

1. Clark Foy KOM!!! 7:26 (4th Overall on Strava)
2. Bill Laddish 7:35 (estimated time)
3. Tim Clark 7:44 (6th Overall on Strava)
4. Dan Connelly 7:54 (7th Overall on Strava)
5. Adam Ward 7:59
6. Nick Pelly 8:19
7. Steve Shores 8:26
8. Brooks Sizemore 8:39
9. Kea Hunt 8:46
10. Greg McQuaid 8:57
11. Daryl Spano 9:04
12. Paul McKenzie 9:15
13. Bruce Carroll 9:48
14: Bruce Prescott 9:52
15: Amy Cameron 10:16 QOM!!! (Women's Strava record and QOM!!!)
16. Beckett Madden-Woods 10:23
17: Byron Hay 10:41
18: Alan Weatherall 11:18
19. Harold von Sosen 11:36
20: Mark Elgood 13:57
21: Byron Davis 15:26
21: Dave Brunswick 15:33
22: Paul Capewell 15:59

In contrast to Foy and Laddish, Tray Biasiolli, sporting a plain wool Ibex jersey, and a powerful, in the saddle, climbing style, had a rougher time on Marin. I believe he had to stop part way up, gather himself, then forge on slowly. We waited a while for him as he struggled up the final 26% pitch, and I was concerned he might be relegated to the B group, as the A riders really don’t like to wait around much! He quipped, "This is steeper than the overpasses we have in Davis." But… as it turned out, he rode strong for the rest of the day, never faltered again, even nipping this writer (rider) on the steepest pitch of the final push up to Vollmer Peak. Ahhh… sweet redemption.

The A group was riding the course about as fast as it’s ever been ridden with several strong men setting the pace. Foy, Laddish, Marc Moons, Tony Lee, Steve Shores, Dan Connelly, Adam Ward, Mystery Strong Man Kevin, and others set a furious pace on the climbs, such that I didn’t even see who was first to the top most of the time! So forgive me if I've not given kudos where they are deserved.

We began to pass the B group on the 4th climb, El Toyonal, and many stronger B riders elected to latch on to the A group. In the past, these attempts have been mostly futile, but not this year. We had at least 10 riders who were able to make the cut and ride the rest of the way with the A group, including 2011 vet Beckett Madden-Woods. We were about 30 strong at this point, certainly the largest A group ever. I was very pleased to see this happen, as I’d altered the start times such as to facilitate this possibility. If you don’t know if you belong in the A or B group, start with the B, get a nice warm up at a manageable pace, then latch on to the A group when they come by. If you can’t hang, no worries, just slide back into the B group!

We elected to do the descent to the Merry Go Round and the Canon Drive climb BEFORE the rest stop. I do this so that the B group catches us again and we can intermingle at the rest stop with everyone. This also made it possible for some B groupers to have faster times up the 6th climb, which is Canon Dr. and South Park Combined. We also connected with the smaller Nifty Lite group, Janet, Bill, and Dave. Perfect.

Riders grab some refreshments and fuel at the half way point

We made our way over to the Snake and Broadway Terrace climbs, where most of us with tired legs kept a sensible pace. At the top of Broadway Terrace, I warned everyone about Hiller, and to be sure to keep momentum descending Tunnel Rd. on the approach to the 20% grade. You really feel your legs at this point, so Hiller can be a monumental challenge.

We had a pleasant stop at Peet’s with coffee and pastries before tackling the final, and longest climb of the day, the 1500' climb up Claremont, Grizzly Peak, Vollmer Peak with at 28% kicker to finish off the day. I was again relegated to the back while endurance strong man Marc Moons, and Bill Laddish battled for the summit. Neither will tell me what exactly happened, but suffice to say, they got up there quickly while the rest of us followed. Hats off to everyone for a great ride. Of course we enjoyed Pizza and Beer at Lane Splitter later in the afternoon as is the tradition.

A few mentions and thanks. First, to Bill Oldham and Janet DeHaven, for leading the B and Nifty Lite rides respectively, and to Bill Dunn for being such a cheer leader to all things Nifty. Thanks to Chris Leavell and his assistant from Peloton for coming out and filming the event. Can’t wait to see the result. Thanks to my friends at Clif Bar for donating some product for you all. Best cycling food on the planet. Thanks to everyone who put up the $5 donation. Most of you did, and it’s much appreciated. I covered my expenses and had some left over to buy my trusty guides a beer at Lanesplitter! And finally, thanks to you out of towners for making the trip to attend the Nifty.

Looks like Clark Foy had a moving time of 4:15 in the route, which is an unofficial record. Our previous best as a group was 4:20, and I think, until now, that was the fastest time. My time was 4:25 moving, and most of the A group was somewhere in the range of 4:15-4:30 moving time.

Congrats to Clark Foy (Marin KOM) and Amy Cameron (Marin QOM). Great performances on Marin, and also the rest of the ride. And for those of you who don’t get up the hills as fast as Clark and Amy, well, you’re the real heroes of this ride. It’s a great accomplishment to complete this route, so congrats to ANYONE who did. Bruce Carroll and Amy Cameron were able to navigate the route with GPS, which I highly encourage. They know the roads, so have an advantage, but the GPS is nice to have for this complex route. And for those of you who actually followed the entire route with the Route Sheet, well, you get the "Dave Batt" award, as he was the first, and for a long time the only, rider who actually competed the route as an out of towner with only the route sheet to follow! Thanks for coming out and we hope to see you again in 2013! Paul McKenzie

More comments, quips, and observations from riders below the reports. Feel free to send comments or better yet, just comment on the blog!

Also please send along your email address if you would like to be added to the Nifty Ten Fifty mailing list. You will receive no more than a few emails per year. Send to:

B Group report from Bill Oldham:

Great turnout and great weather again. About 21 folks formed up nicely, got fair warning about cycling behaviors, and left on time at 8:30. Some speedy riders showed their stuff already on Moeser Ln ; it appeared that we had some ringers in the B group. But we lost a couple of folks who were just testing themselves and were 19 by climb 3, Marin.

By now it was certain that our group included a number of people who should be with the A’s, but they were patient and we stuck together through the next climb, taking the steeper route up Loma Vista and Alta Vista. We were caught here by the A group and the fast riders took off with them.

Our smaller but elite B group of 6 was finally put together at the rest stop where we all met again (the A group was already 20 minutes ahead, having completed the Canon loop). For the rest of the ride we six were together, uphill and downhill, so “leading” the group was a dream; there were no folks rushing ahead or lagging behind, and zero complaints. Even the drivers were polite.

Only the roads, especially Grizzly Peak, were rude. As usual the Shepherds Canyon downhill was the best, and the easy climb up Snake was dreamy. That’s the point at which one starts anticipating Mr. Peets. But the crazy Thorndale downhill and the absurd wall on Hiller kind of brought back reality. (For those that did Hiller - personally I skipped the steep parts of Marin, and Hiller, so I logged only 9300 feet).

After a long break we had every intention of taking it easy up Claremont, but Team Davis had other ideas and we got sucked into a wicked pace to Grizzly Peak. The Vollmer peak path was dry and most managed it upright. Riding times were in the range 5:20 to 5:40. It was a great group!

B Group L to R: Will, Megan, Jeff, Bill, Tim, Drew.

From Tim Clark:

Thanks again for such an amazing ride. DEFINITELY wouldn't have been able to do it without you as I'd have gotten lost after the first climb !!!

From Clark Foy:

Very nice meeting you today, and thanks for organizing such an epic event. I loved it. I was introduced to lots of new roads, and lots of insanely steep sections. Events like these attract such a life-loving group. I'll join this again next year!

Smiling on the Nifty? WTF? Tim Clark and Clark Foy

From Marc Moons:

After waking up at 4am to watch the Tour Of Flanders (Holiest day in Flanders!), I was amped up to ride Paul McKenzie's Spring Classic. (ed. note: Marc is originally from Belgium)

Turning the truck onto Moeser Ln towards the start we see the 8:30am group in a distance heading straight up into the blue sky. Paul hands out a 2 page routesheet, filled with 150 left and right turns - reminds me of Bill O's San Francisco adventure - probably wise to keep Paul in shooting range.

Warm up ... my hot cup of thee in the morning, because from the shotgun it's a stairway to heaven. Looks like we have a strong group of legs on this ride (all day the group stays pretty compact).

Marin, Marin, fills the air in the cool morning. Marin Ave everybody is talking about it. A merry go round later and we're on it. A wall of pavement disappears into the trees, can't see the end?! It goes from steeper to steepest in one straight line. Guy in front of me almost zigzags his bike into a passing car. Nobody runs the STOP sign on top ... all happy feet on the ground.

Ride continues up and down and more ups and downs, stuffed with far reaching views on Bay and Mt Diablo areas.

I hear a steam train, am I getting delusional after digested too much of those steep elevated feets? We pass some well known early birdies, Bill Dunn, Famous Megan with her bodyguards and Darrin (I pass Darrin a few times but he's always ahead of me?! A smart rider).

After crossing some more walls we reach Peets Coffee at sea level. End of the ride I think and tell Tony let's keep rolling, only 4 flat miles to the car. We tell our good shepherd Paul about it, he looks at me and says "Marc, that 4 miles has the biggest climb of the day with a 28% finish". Oops. 10 minutes later I'm chasing caffeine infused racer dudes up Grizzly Peak. In the shadow of the radio tower on top, we congratulate each other to finish an epic day on 2 wheels.

If you don't mind a short (55miles) bit (10000ft) of climbing (steep), definitely one that deserves a spot on your bucket list! ... a big high 5 to Nifty Paul!

From Tray Biasiolli:

Fantastic job guiding the A group through the hills yesterday; a really challenging and rewarding ride. Coming from the Central Valley, hills are a bit of a novelty. But by the half-way point of the ride, I was staring down 15% grades and thinking "hmm, well this one will be a nice leisurely break for the legs." Amazing how riding those hills quickly recalibrates one's idea of "steep".

From Beckett Madden-Woods:

This is my second NTF, and even though I chickened out and stayed with the "B"s again, I joined a half-dozen of the faster "B"s in jumping onto the "A train" when you caught us at the top of Centennial, and somehow managed (barely!) to hang on. Seems my climb times were mostly a bit worse than last year, but I'll just attribute that to all the recovery time I had with the "B"s. :)

Excited to see what comes of the movie too. Congrats on 11 years strong.

From Drew Carlson:

Well, another Nifty Ten-Fifty is in the books, and if you weren't there, you missed a really great ride!

Kelly, Tray, Tim and I left Davis at 7am bound for the start in El Cerrito. Got there just after 8am, and the temps were cool, as was a wind from the NW. After a pre-ride meeting, we got underway promptly at 8:30 am, turning right off of Pomona on to Moeser Ave. with 14% grade! But wait, there's more! Before we hit the first (of 10) summits, I'd seen a stretch of 20% on the Garmin. As Tray said after the ride on the drive home, "It immediately changes your expectations of the climbing you expect to do that day."

Tim, Kelly and I elected to start with the B (slower) group, but Tray stepped up and went with the A group, which started at 9am. At the top of the B group's first climb, several riders knew this wasn't for them. Kelly, bless her, was having stomach issues before the ride, and let me know she may not continue with the group. I gave her the car keys, in case we separated, and we had all exchanged cell numbers previously, so she could ride her own pace.

Tim was having different issues, more of a mechanical nature. Though he brought a cassette more suitable for climbing, we couldn't make it fit properly on the hub before we started, so this poor man was stuck with 20%+ grades the whole ride with a 39X25 setup! Of course, anyone who knows Tim Mason knows how powerful he is, and he managed to get up the first couple of climbs, but I was concerned that the 25%+ grades on Marin Avenue would do him in. Turns out that first climb one is one of the more difficult climbs. Tim and I managed to get up climb 2, and I got a voicemail from Kelly telling me she had pulled back from the group, but would continue on her own, and that she would be fine.

Climb 3 is Marin Street, one of the toughest of the day in terms of grade. It starts with some "gentler" 17-20% grades from block to block. What makes this bearable is that there are flat portions each block at intersections of cross streets. I was pretty determined to climb Marin as straight as possible - no diagonals, no pauses at cross streets. While I did avoid diagonals, I made 2 detours off to cross streets. The hill had more blocks than I recalled, and I didn't even see the worst of the climbs (26-28%) until after I thought we were nearly done. My lungs were burning, and I could smell blood in my breath, like you get when you are pretty maxed out. The last, and steepest part was just as hard as last year. It not only tires the legs, but the arms and torso from standing for so long, and so forward on the bike. I nearly passed out when I got to the top, but I got there. After I collected myself, I waited for Tim. It took a while. I thought perhaps he may have taken an easier path, totally understandable with the gearing on his bike. I looked down Marin, but couldn't see him. I knew he would call. I was getting ready to move on, when up the top of Marin pops Tim! What an animal! He was pausing long enough at the cross streets to get some energy, and then he powered up each block systematically. He did a phenomenal job, too! After Marin, I knew Tim would finish the ride, and he did, without complaint, too. Amazing.

Not all of Nifty is climbing. After the Marin climb, we ventured over Grizzly and to the Tilden Park area, getting some cycling on flatter roads to get the lactic acid moved out of the legs. Weather was slowly warming, but the shadows were still quite chilly. Most riders wore arm warmers, leg warmers, wind vests and full-fingered gloves until later in the ride.

At mile 25 or so, after the fifth climb (I think), we had a sag station with the usual cycling foods and drinks, and moved on. During that climb the A group had blown by us, and Tray said hi as he went past. He said he was content to be the Lantern Rouge of the group. Some of the B group riders, myself included, got mixed up with the groups and chased after the A group. By the sag station, however, I gave up on that foolishness. I think I could have stayed with the back of the A group for the remainder, but I would have been miserable during the ride, and hurting afterward, too. I'm glad I don't have to do that anymore if I don't want to.

The next several climbs had great views, but were relatively uneventful, climbing-wise. It seemed that our B group had shrunk considerably from about 20 or so at the beginning to six. That small number permitted us to move along and not stop so much. Though our pace wasn't fast, we were pretty consistent. I liked that, as last year our group was large, and had to wait for long periods for the riders to arrive at the tops of the climbs.

Last climb was from Peets Coffee near the Claremont hotel in Berkeley, and it was pretty and sunny. The initial climb up to Grizzly was pretty steep, with switchbacks in places. The ride along Grizzly was much easier, until we arrived at the park near top of Vollmer Peak. We rode up a paved trail for the last half mile, and enjoyed views of Layfayette and Mt. Diablo with very clear skies. The last 100 or so yards has a steep pitch of 24%, a brief flat, and then a 28-30% section for maybe 50-70 feet or so before leveling at the summit. We did it! Photo of the B group completers is attached.

We all congratulated one another and briefly celebrated our accomplishment, but it was after 3pm, and we needed to get home. It is about 7 miles of mostly downhill to the park where we left the cars, but we got an escort from one of the locals in the B group who lived nearby. Tray was already there with Kelly. Kelly felt well enough to get in 5 tough climbs, and was disciplined enough to do it by herself, too! I know she wants another crack at Nifty, and I've no doubt she could knock it out, too. What a great day! I got 9978 ft of climbing, and I've posted it on the AA web page. WOOT!

I hope my companions would add their perspectives, but even if they don't, I think we all really enjoyed ourselves.

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