the weather channel predicted a 5-hour window that would be free of rain. I thought it might be just long enough to make the Simi Ride worthwhile. for the past two days it had rained non-stop but at six the rain shut down. I pulled myself out of bed and hit the road for the valley. as soon as I left my house and turned onto mulholland it looked like southern california had been transformed into ski country. there wasn’t snow anywhere near hollywood, but it had gotten close sticking to the hills directly north of the valley.
at the meeting point, only thirty riders showed up by the normal departure time. I was surprised by the low turnout. a lot of riders must have decided the roads would still be too wet to ride. but in an instant our small group almost doubled. I turned around to see three black escalades pull up to the curb. they were followed by a large diesel powered van and then a black mass of cyclists rounding the corner. it was nearly the entire rock racing team who had come to crash the party. this was unexpected and hell of a day to skip the ride by sleeping in.
while everyone else was silent with excitement and surprise I realized that the team was sans cippo. however once we took off I started collecting a list of who was in attendance. oddly enough I found myself right next to Santiago Botero and Oscar Sevilla from the start. Huff’s old teammates Creed and Bahati were not far ahead but it wasn’t until the first traffic light that I saw Tyler Hamilton and Fred Rodriguez. I guess I didn’t recognize Hamilton without a needle in his arm.
there were more too. Clinger, Sterling Magnell and I think Victor Hugo Peña. however they upstaged themselves with the caravan that was following alongside. the still photographer on the moto was a nice touch. riding amidst flashbulbs next to Botero was a new experience for me. a white minivan that had seen better days rolled alongside us and the tailgate lifted. in the back seats sat two video cameras filming riders. the cameramen looked like they had not been on a bike since they were twelve and appeared to have rolled straight out of the bar moments before joining the pack. they were probably annoyed by any non-pro that would dare get in their line of fire.
clearly it now was rock racing’s ride. it wasn’t long before the pack was really hammering. the pack stretched out so Sevilla, Botero and Creed all singled-up and I was quick to fall in behind them. with the help of the pack we kept it between 33-37mph. we hit a railway crossing with a train’s whistle bearing down on us. the lights were flashing but the italians shouted, “sprinté! sprinté!” so along with everyone else I ducked my head and hit the wet tracks. one of the escalades floored it under the lowering gates too. I thought he was going to hit them but we all got away clean.
the camera moto was in constant contact with the group speeding ahead to find a new position to take photos from and then speeding ahead again. finally I was losing touch with the group so about 14 of us took a shortcut and met up with them again at the pit stop. at the park a short stocky man climbed out of one of the escalades. this was Michael Ball and he was quite a sight. as we rolled out for more punishment clinger came alongside me and chatted me up about my bike. ball used the slow pace as a photo opportunity to get some pictures of himself riding in the group. his von dutch hat was his only helmet – after what happened to leogrande earlier in the week on the PCH you would think he’d wear a helmet.
the pace picked up again as we headed down cornell road. every other lone cyclist our group met gave us jaw-dropping looks from the sight of the support caravan that were in tow killing the planet one mile at a time. Freddie Rodriguez must have been having trouble with his bike because at one intersection some kid was standing holding a new bike for him. when we rode past the kid yelled, “hey freddie! you need this? you need this?” but freddie didn’t stop and the camera moto kept shooting. that’s when the attacks started going off the front.
the rain returned about two hours after the ride. it’s continuing to pour but now it’s raining harder and the wind is very strong. southern california wasn’t made for weather like this and I think I just heard another tree limb fall. it’s way past my bedtime but I’m still wide awake.