Sunday, December 30, 2007

Balcom Canyon- Tour de Francis Feb-2007

A look back at the 2007 February Tour de Francis. If you didn't go last year, perhaps these photos will persuade you to make it this year.

Above: AdoboVelo boys at the KOM at Balcom Cyn
This was an easy 80-mile ride from Castaic to Balcom Canyon and back, along Highway 126. It coincided with the 6th stage of the Tour of California.
Above: Route from Castaic to Balcom Cyn, and back
The highlight is Balcom Canyon Road, a very steep hill (with some pitches of 20%+), where the Tour of California's "King of the Mountain" competition was marked.
Above: GoogleEarth image of Balcom Canyon. The white line with red dots is 1 mile long. The steep section starts in the middle. If you're going to do it in front of the gathering spectators, and you're not a strong rider, suggest that 5 miles before reaching Balcom Cyn Rd, take it easy (in other words, reserve your strength).

The AdoboVelos and other participants of the Tour-de-Francis stopped at Balcom Canyon, and waited (partied?) for 2 hours along with hundreds of other like-minded cycling spectators, waiting for the peloton to arrive. The scene was like Alpe d'Huez.

At Balcom Canyon Road, people were having good wholesome fun barbequeing and playing music.
Above: It's still early, spectators are starting to gather at Balcom Cyn Road

Above: Balcom Canyon Road packed with spectators and tail-gate parties.

Spectators in full cycling kits would go up and down Balcom Canyon Road just for fun. (If you're going to do it in front of everyone, make sure you have the lungs and legs, because it's embarrassing to run out of steam in the middle of the climb and walk.)
Above: Wannabe's in full kits went up and down the hill repeatedly.

Above: Moe taking photos of Adobo boys posing at the KOM placard.
Above: Fans take up position in the slopes and atop RV's

Above: Fans stood on trucks to get a better view

It's also a great place to meet friends. Adobo's met Rosalie there.
Above: At left is Rosalie, before she was an Adobo. L-R: Rosalie (in Amgen jersey), Mang El, Albert, Kuya Abe, Louie R., Efren, Ramon, Deo

It's also a chance to bond and swap stories with fellow cyclists.
Above: Very happy to be at Balcom. L-R: Tour director Francis, Mike G., Jeff S.

Above: L-R Mang El, Jaimer, Roy, Ramon, Efren (with the beard), Henry, Cheryl (seated) and another rider

Above: Vendors gave away cowbells, t-shirts, cycling magazines, balloons. Francis Jr spars with Vince.

Above: Cheryl poses with the venerable Mang El while Regina looks on

Above: Waiting for the peloton, at the KOM marker.

Finally, the peloton arrives! The spectators go wild when they finally see the peloton enter into view, at the start of the climb.

Above: The Pros start climbing.

To spectators who had themselves tried the hill on a bike, at 3MPH to 5 MPH, it was amazing to see the Pros go up the hill so fast, probably twice the speed of the wannabe's. But even then you could see the pros swaying their bikes left-and-right like they were having difficulty.
Above: The Pros are unbelievable up the steep sections.

But first, you have to get to Balcom Canyon. The TOUR DE FRANCIS group started at Castaic's Del Valle County Park at 7AM, which is 40 miles from Balcom Canyon. About 30 riders went.
Above: TdF starting Line, Castaic, 7AM

Then they biked about 30 miles along Hwy 126, a flat course, and 10 miles in the gentle hills. Only Balcom Canyon is the difficult section, and that's only 1/2 long.

Above: Hwy 126 (connecting Castaic to Fillmore and Sta Paula)

The road conditions along Hwy 126 were excellent.
Above: Jaimer having a blast
The scenery was beautiful.
Above: Efren and Mang El working in the front.
The air quality was great.
Above: Edgar O. pulling this group

At Balcom Canyon, vehicles were not allowed to enter after a certain time. This was a problem for the TdF's SAG volunteers, because they needed to deliver food an drinks to the top of Balcom where the Adobos riders were waiting. So the SAG cars had to park at the bottom of Balcom, and carry the things uphill for a mile. We should be very grateful to them: Francis and his 2 kids, Albert and Dong Javier, Allan Messara, Ricky Herrera, Regina.

Because of them, the AdoboVelo's TdF "party" was excellent.
Above: Checking out the bikes at Balcom Cyn

Above: Having fun at Balcom Cyn

Above: Camaraderie at Balcom Cyn

Above: Francis' 2 kids having fun

Above: Pete says "What are you looking at, me, or something else?"

Above: Just chatting

Above: Chatting some more

Above: Super-clown at Balcom Cyn

Then the pros arrived. Above: Super-Clown runs alongside the pros at Balcom Cyn

Above: The Discovery Channel boys

In yellow was Levi.
Above: Levi on Julich's wheel

At the KOM, the Discovery boys were pulling Levi.
Above: Levi following his team-mate in Discovery kit

Above: Adobos watch the pros wheeze by at Balcom Cyn

Above: What a show !
Above: Tony Cruz

Above: Fans line up the street

After the "show", it was time to get back to Castaic, where a complete feast was waiting, care of Francis.
Above: A feast awaited the TdF riders at Castaic

Above: The SAG volunteers: Emre, Regina, Francis, his daughter, Ricky, Allan

Friday, December 28, 2007

TdF Beginnings

The TdF holds three stages during a calendar year. Stage 1 is held in February, usually at Balcom Canyon on the same day as one of the stages of the Tour of California.

(The above photo shows AdoboVelo riders in February 2006 atop Balcom Canyon Road waiting for the Tour of California peloton to arrive. L-R: Moe, Pete, William, Jesse. Date: 02/24/2007)

Stage 2 is held in July. In 2007 it was in Big Bear. In 2008 it may be at Frazier Park/Heartbreak Ridge. The name alone strikes terror.
The above photo shows riders atop Onyx Summit in Big Bear, July 14, 2007)

Stage 3 is held in December in Castaic.
The above photo shows the starting line of the December 2006 TdF.

The 2008 season will be the TdF's fifth year since its first whimsical ride in 2004, when it started with a group of 12 riders and one SAG person (who else, Francis), and financed solely by Francis. Now it is a big endeavor that has 3 stages held annually, almost 100 riders representing eight clubs, over 2 dozen volunteers, and the financial support and manpower of the AdoboVelo organization. (AdoboVelo is an American/Filipino cycling club with over 50 members, headed by Pres. Jesse Santa Maria. The Tour de Francis is directed by Tour Director Francis Marlon Ignacio.)

Cyclists love a party. Although a cyclist can ride a bike alone, cyclists prefer company, because misery loves company. It takes a lot of suffering to climb steep hills or go long distances, and the suffering is easier to endure when you're in a pack than if you ride solitary.

That's why cyclists need group rides. They even pay good money to join organized rides that offer food and support. The more organized a ride is, the more expensive the entrance fee.

The TdF is one of the better organized rides, yet it is offered free of charge. (AdoboVelo club members support it financially, and other riders from other clubs do make unsolicited donations to support the ride). Why is it free of charge? Because hospitality is deeply ingrained in the Filipino culture. And they like to throw parties.

The Tour de Francis was a whimsical idea by its namesake, Francis Marlon Ignacio, an accomplished long-distance cyclist who wanted his buddy cyclists to have a taste of the long courses he'd ridden.

In 2004 he plotted a course in Castaic, called it the Tour de Francis, invited 12 cyclists to ride it (including his cycling buddies Allan M, Vince and David Y from the Los Vultos club), and served as the lone SAG support. Thus the TdF was born. In that first ride, only four of the 12 cyclists managed completed the entire route.

(By the way, did you know, SAG literally means "support and gear", and it can be mobile [a SAG vehicle following the cyclists) or stationary (rest stops along the route). To weary cyclists on a long ride, the sight of SAG volunteers is such a morale booster. They provide everything from food, hydration, first aid, mechanical repair, to pickup for tired and injured cyclists.)
Pictured above: SAG stop at Elizabeth Lake during the Dec. 2007 TdF

With the February 2008 stage just a few weeks away, now would be a good time to look back at last year's February TdF.

Check back in this space as I add photos and comments.

Above: Adobos watch the riders of the ToC cross the KOM line

Above: Adobos along Hwy 126 (Fillmore Hwy)

Above: Hwy 126. William, Mandy, Cheryl, Moe

Above: Hwy 126. Efre, Elpidio, and others

Check back later for more photos and comments on the 2006 February TdF. It is a hard job to pick and upload photos. And my PC is old and slow.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Part 8: William, Pete, Egay, etc


In a bike "race", besides the "main contenders", there are "mini-races" within the race. These are the little competitions that happen in the back of the ride. Sometimes it's a race to make your personal best time. Sometimes it's just to finish the race for the first time. Sometimes it's a race between 2 evenly matched riders.

The following 3 photographs are one of the most interesting. It is a competition for the 8th and 9th position at Mile 10 KOM.

The first photo shows 2 riders sprinting for the KOM line. William(AdoboVelo) is trailing an SFVBC rider, but William is standing on his pedals, while the other is not. (If you know the other rider name, please comment! There's a "pencil" icon at the end of this article to let you comment. You don't need password or registration). Just 5 miles before this photo William had a 30 second lead on this rider. Now he's behind.

The second photo shows William nipping the other rider.

The third photo shows the aftermath.

OSCAR SAGALONGOS (bib number 8)
of the South Bay Wheelmen is a cat 3 SBW racer

He rides the Tuesday and Thursday night crits in Carson/Home Depot Center.

On this ride he broke his rear derailleur cable before rest stop 1, and had to jabandon.

Pete Primavera is one of AdoboVelo's strongest riders. But at the Quail Lake stop (mile # 50), he quits. Correction: He quits, then changes his mind. Here's the story.

At the starting line in the parking lot, Pete is all smiles. You can tell he's still warm.

On Lake Hughes Rd, he's still smiling. The exertion up the hill keeps his core temperature warm.

At the first KOM, he's still good. He even has a little fun with the SAG Volunteers who are pretending like the rowdy fans at the real Tour de France. In the photo below is Pete getting an "assist" from AdoboVelo President Jesse, and cheering from supposedly neutral Tour organizers.

Soon, it starts to get cold. It is windy on Lake Elizabeth Road.

(Below: Pete on Lake Elizabeth Road approaching the picnic area. Photo by Manoling Dionisio)

On a body of water such as a lake, the wind goes greater distances and at higher velocities than over land. So at the SAG stop on Elizabeth Lake picnic area, it is windier and colder than if the rest-stop were in the hills. The common complaint of everyone is the cold. Riders who carry energy gel in their backpockets have to CHEW their gel.

(Below: Lake Elizabeth picnic area. Photo by Manoling Dionisio)

Pete has a cyclist's physique for climbing hills: Slim, with low body fat. No natural insulation.

That presents a problem at Quail Lake, the rest stop at Mile 50. It's a desolate area without trees.

SAG Volunteers wear thick clothing. The temperature must be in the mid-40's.

If you're a cyclist wearing only spandex and light gear, you are meant to be pedalling and generating body heat. But if you stand there long enough doing nothing, your core temperature will drop quickly before you realize it.

This happens to Pete. He has stayed too long.

When I see him at Quail Lake I ask him how the ride is so far. Pete replies "I'm done". He says he's quitting. He is shivering uncontrollably from the terrible cold.

So we put him in a parked SAG car, turn on the heater full blast (engine running of course). Soon he is comfortable.

Much later, he sees some of the lady cyclists get back on their bikes. They are returning to Castaic by bike. No quitting for them!

So Pete is shamed into getting back on the bike, leaving his comfy spot in the front seat of the heated SAG car. He decides he must finish the ride. And so he does.

Jordan Genato has a naturally high hematocrit of 47% (about the same as the pros; Greg Lemond is even asking the UCI to peg the limit at 46%; The UCI limit is 50%). In English, a high hematocrit means more red blood cells to deliver oxygen to the muscles during strenuous exercise. On a short sprint up the hill, Jordan can drop you. But he has a smoking habit. He even smokes right after a ride. And he's very busy (with 2 kids, soccer matches to attend, etc), so it's hard for him to find the time to accumulate base miles. So he has only modest goals on this ride: He'll just bike until he drops. Jordan gets to Three Points, and goes a few miles further. Then he hitches a ride in Ricky's SAG truck.

Time to ride the SAG car

Egay Uyan is strong cyclist, with great upper-body strength. Don't bump into him if you are going elbow-to-elbow on the bike, because you will get thrown off. Below is a photo of Egay pulling a group containing Rosalie. Much later, Rosalie sees him on Pine Canyon Road getting ready to stop. She's surprised he stops to hitch a ride. She asks why? "Because my batteries are dead... You know, the batteries on my iPod are dead. So I can't go on." So Egay does hitch a ride.

The father/son team of Jun and Cupid Grape did the Big Bear TdF in July 2007 but did not complete it. (By the way, to clear some confusion, the dad is "JUN", for Francis Jr. , while the son is Francis IV or "CUPID" because he was born on Valentine's day.) Cupid's goal this time around is to finish. 'Pid starting cycling less than a year ago. Before he was introduced to the AdoboVelos, I first took him to the hills of Glendora: East Fork, Crystal Lake, GMR, Mt Baldy. He loved it. So he trained. He did long rides. He got stronger and stronger. His dad Jun also got into it, lost weight, and got stronger too. This TdF, with 10,000 feet of climbing, would be a good test. 'Pid feels ready.

Below is 'Pid on the 2nd mile of climbing.

At the Mile 10 KOM, Cupid is in 54th position.

Jun is in 85th position at Mile 10 KOM

During the ride, 'Pid feels like abandoning many times. The cold makes it a difficult ride for everyone. 92 riders started the course. Only about 30 finish. 'Pid is one of them. Jun does not finish. He makes a u-turn at Three Points. He hitches a ride along Pine Cyn Rd.

Efren Morales is one of Adobo's strongest climbers. At last year's December TdF he finished 4th (behind Keith, Deo, and Ramon).

Efren crosses the Mile 10 KOM in strong position, at 10th.
His brother Kuya Abe is driving the SAG car. At mile 45, I get the surprise of my life when I see Kuya Abe's car drive by, and in t is Efren. He has leg problems and has to abandon.

Stay tuned for more stories. I have the placings for the other KOMs (the mile 45 KOM and mile 52 KOM) with photos. Also, a look back at the previous TdF's with stories and photos.