I don’t dislike riding with the guys. In fact I enjoy being pushed to become a stronger cyclist, and the group of guys I ride with actually do not resemble a roving locker room as you might imagine. They are respectful adults who typically behave in a mature manner. It is, however, gratifying riding with women, and especially so with another Pro.
Pro Mountain Bike Racer Allison Mann was dropped at our place Sunday morning. Her husband, Justin, was on his way to Griffith Park for the SoCalCross Santa Cross race, and left her with us for a long mountain bike ride.
Allison, as you might imagine, is like any other Pro cyclist. A mobile home on feet. With 4 or 5 bags in tow, a bike and a handful of loose items, she stepped in to our tree house. We’d take our time getting ready for the ride, and checking the weather constantly to decide what to wear.
Allison and I chatted about UCI points, the Olympic selection and the long list, World Cups and World Championships. If there is one thing we are in agreement about, it’s that the domestic mountain bike scene is in dire need of a makeover.
Allison had an incredible 2010– her second year as a Pro– making the World Championship team and several podium appearances in the US Pro XCT races, but had to sit most of 2011 out due to a foot injury. Sadly, this meant she was not selected for the Olympic long team, which I suspect she would have been near the top of the list had she continued on her trajectory of 4th and 5th place results in the Pro XCT of 2010. I secretly wished, as we discoursed, that she had made the long list.
We headed out the door without any other riding partners than Alex Boone. When we hit the singletrack of Lower Sam Merrill, we lost sight of Alex in quick order and settled in for the slog. Thankfully, Allison took it easy on me. Serious Pros know how to pace and ride base miles, again, thankfully, as I had braced for a lung searing leg breaking morning. Alex offered us Spice Drops as we crested Echo Mountain, and we set off to Inspiration Point.
We had a nice spin up to Inspiration point. I love riding on the North Slopes on the San Gabriel Mountains. The pines, the ferns. It makes me feel like I am in Oregon, or some other far away place not 10 miles from downtown Los Angeles.
Our time at Inspiration Point was limited by the fact that we were inside a large cloud. This cloud was around 45 degrees Fahrenheit and blustery. We dressed for the descent, fueled up and rode down the hill.
Middle Sam Merrill is a trail I find myself being the sheepdog of the group– more often than not. No matter who I am riding with, I am aware of the dangers of the Middle Merrill. Drop offs, ravines, cliffs and decomposed granite over solid make for a very sketchy ride. The good news is Allison is an extremely capable rider, and I didn’t have to worry about her. But I did stop at the parlous lines to warn her.
As we began down the Middle Merrill, we talked about loss of confidence and crashing. We have both of late been crashing, and going through that phase where we feel somewhat apprehensive. The bonus of riding with another Pro: commiseration.
“Keep the rubber side down” was Allison’s instruction on the day.
We managed to do just that on MSM.
Back to Echo Mountain and now we’re heading over to my nemesis trail, Sunset. Sunset and I do not get along, and the trail scares me. I’ve crashed several times on various swtchbacks, and have become so frustrated with the switchbacks that I hired pro downhiller Jon Buckell to train me. As we took off on Sunset, Allison followed Alex and I sat on the back. Alex took off, and Allison had a near miss on one of the switchbacks and I took over the lead of the women. Again, we needed to stay upright– both of us. And since she didn’t know the trail, it would help if I gave her cues, like– oh yeah another switchback!
We survived Sunset and headed to lower Sunset which we all blasted down at full smile speed, then headed over to El Prieto. Allison had ridden El P once before several years ago, the trail had changed drastically, although it didn’t matter at that point since it had been so long. We flew down the trail and stopped to take a look at some of the damage from the Station Fire, and rallied the last part of the trail before taking the Horse Trail home.
After the ride, the mobile home on feet brought out her post-ride meal (thankfully since we had no food in our house) and Alex brought out a Stoic by Deschutes Brewery to share. Much appreciated by Allison, one of the most knowledgeable women when it comes to craft beer. Justin, who won his race, snagged his wife and they drove off leaving Alex and I to prepare for a dinner party.
It was a great day, and I can’t stress enough how awesome it is to ride with Allison, an incredible mountain biker, and share the being of a Pro cyclist.
The last Tango in Altadena (of 2011)
Saturday. Tango has not been banned in Altadena to my knowledge, so the part was legal. Our good friend, Tango dancer and artist Piri Mee hosted her annual dance party Saturday evening. Not your typical dance party, but a Tango party.
Students of the local school took to the dance floor enchanting guests while I took the opportunity to practice using my camera. All shots were taken in Manual mode without a flash, with Alex coaching me.
We baked an apple pie for our part of the pot luck, and dined on curry, seaweed salad, cheese and crackers, and of course apple pie.
One of the guests was from Texas and she couldn’t wait to try the pie. “No one makes their crust here,” she said as she served herself a piece. I know. I wouldn’t dare even dream of entertaining the thought of buying a pre made pie crust. I’d rather go without.
“What kind of apples did you use?” my fellow Texan asked.
“Good, those are the only kind.”
The weekend finished off with a quiet dinner party with friends and it was early to bed to ready for Christmas week.