Hillclimb Worlds Redemption Tour


Four years ago, retired pro cyclist, Phil Gaimon, invited me to race in the Hillclimb Worlds Championship in Santa Barbara. “It will be fun,” he said. I went but knew everything was against me.

Pacific Ocean – West Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, Calif.

Earlier in 2018, I had a memory-loss head injury. I had a knee replacement. And I was carrying way too many pounds. If that wasn’t bad enough, I rode two of southern California’s toughest climbs, Palomar Mountain and Mount Baldy, the previous two days. I had no legs left.

Two riders climbing Gibraltar Road

What happened that day was that I finished dead last in the world. We went in waves by age group although these were individual time trials. I got dropped by my group before reaching the base of the climb. So I truly was racing the clock.

Gibraltar Road

I think had I stayed with my group I may have been able to win a 2-up sprint at the end. But it doesn’t matter. I am the world’s worst hill climber.

Today was not the ideal day to attempt a do-over but it was the only day I had. I left the Hampton Inn and Suites Hotel in Agoura Hills precisely at sunrise and drove to Santa Barbara. It was farther than I thought but had always been my plan to ride here no matter what. So I would make it happen.

Hang gliders just chilling

It was a beautiful sunny day although a little on the cool side. I wore arm warmers at the start knowing they would be coming off. And I had a technology failure. I’m not sure how it transpired but it did.

I needed to do two things before this trip. The first was to find the hillclimb segment on Strava from four years ago and “star” it so that it would show up in my Live Segments on Wahoo when I rode. The second was to “pin” the route so that the route would show up. Alternatively, I could create one from scratch.

Gibraltar Road

I do not remember doing the former. But I did find the route and edited it to remove two miles of riding back and forth in Santa Barbara. And then I needed to sync this with my Wahoo, which I did around midnight before leaving for LA. I think.

The Pier in Santa Barbara

Actually, I thought I synced this and checked to see that it was there. When I reached Santa Barbara I turned on my Wahoo and did not see the route. And I certainly did not remember the turns we took from the oceanfront to the start of the climb.

However, on my Wahoo app on my phone, the route was there. I don’t know why or how it’s on the app but not on the Wahoo computer itself. So I looked at the map and tried to remember the turns I needed. This would be a mistake.

Gibraltar Road
Rattlesnake Canyon Park

Some did look familiar to me. But every canyon road looks the same after a while and I was climbing. But it didn’t feel right. I stopped. I tried to find out where I was and could see that I was not on the right road. I went back down, turned, and thought I was on the right road until I came to the intersection of Coyote Road and Mountain Road. It wasn’t right.

Gibraltar Road (for real – here’s a sign)

I had to ride back DOWN Mountain Road to get to the start of the climb. But it was a pretty road. Along the way, I passed a house that I didn’t really notice. I noticed the mailbox. It was a piece of art – a cyclist with deliveries in the rear. I would learn this house was owned for 20 years by comedian Steve Martin.

This was Steve Martin’s house for 20 years

I got to the start of the climb and thoughts about abandoning the day came over me. I did not have all day to ride because I would have to return the rental car by 2:00 p.m. in El Segundo.

“Delivery in the rear,” Mailbox sculpture in front of Steve Martin’s house

Without a map, I was playing in my mind how I could time the climb. I knew that I could ride it and once it’s uploaded to Strava the data will be there. But I would like to know how I was doing.

I decided that I would make it a Lap. And then I could display Lap data which would include time and distance. I would switch to kilometers knowing it was a 10 km ride. And I would have to average 6:00 per kilometer to finish in 60 minutes.

Gibraltar Road
Rattlesnake Canyon Park

My time, which got me dead last in the Hillclimb Worlds, was 1:12 (one hour and 12 minutes). I wanted not only to beat it but beat it by enough that it would be clear it was not the worst time in the world.

And thus I started. Whether it’s a canyon road or a cliff road, it sure is pretty. To my surprise, the Live Segment popped up so I would not have to resort to a mishmash display of lap data.

Hang gliding from near the top

The Live Segment data displayed includes distance remaining (10.0 km), time elapsed, prior best time (1:12:23), time ahead or behind, and provides an ETA for the pace one is riding. Just to punish you, it also displays a graphical representation of the entire climb that is color-coded by section depending on the steepness. (Avoid the red)

Gibraltar Road

Almost from the start, I was ahead of my pace. I expected that. Then I started to focus on the ETA. The first time I looked I was on a 58:00 pace. Good, I wanted to continue that. Based on my experience over the weekend at Phil’s Fondo, I seem to improve more significantly on the lesser grades. When the road really gets steep, the 2022 Barry does not seem significantly better than the 2018 Barry. I could see the second half was steeper than the first.

In fact, I went through the first five kilometers in 28 minutes and I knew that double that was 56. Yet my ETA had slipped to 1:00. It also knew there was real pain ahead.

Hang gliders in flight

I gave it my all. My bike was a little clunky. Shifting wasn’t right since I landed at LAX and rebuilt the bike. I did not have access to a pump. Normally that would be OK but since my Saturday flat was refilled with CO2, it bleeds faster. My tire was low. And I did not have perfect rolling resistance as my rear brake rotor was out of true and rubbing.

The last kilometer seems to be the steepest. My ETA was showing 1:00:30 and I was getting it down to 1:00:10. I was watching the countdown to 0 meters remaining and it came and went. It was -4 then -20 and so on. I’m not sure when the climb ended and if it ever displayed my final time. I was deprived of seeing PR displayed on the screen.

It would not be until I finished the ride and uploaded it that I saw the “official” Strava time. And Strava time is official whereas Wahoo time is not (although it is usually the same).

But screw the disappointment of not breaking one hour. I shaved off 12 minutes. That’s huge. But I wasn’t even close to the best of the day. It looks like five of us rode and I was 4th. But all are younger and I’m doing OK for tackling this climb.

Hillclimb Worlds – Proud to wear these socks (now)

In terms of speed, at Hillclimb Worlds, I averaged 5.1 mph. Today was 6.0 mph. That’s 18% faster (than a turtle). But 18%!!! I’m happy.

TIME: 1:00
WEIGHT: 177 lbs.



And a word about the logistics of this trip. I wanted to minimize car rental costs which I did in two ways. First, I did not rent at LAX. The additional fees heaped on the rental cost are best borne by business travelers. Go offsite somewhere.

I rented offsite at Enterprise Car Rental in El Segundo. I avoided the LAX fees. Many places allow you to return vehicles to a different location. Three years ago, Enterprise charged $100 to return the car to LAX. I didn’t even inquire this time.

I arrived Thursday but didn’t need a car until Friday when I drove to Agoura Hills. I made my reservation for 2:00 p.m. Friday returning on Monday at 2:00 p.m. A three-day rental was enough.

LAX shuttle to the hotel

I took a free shuttle from the airport to the Hilton Garden Inn – El Segundo. On Friday I went for a long bike ride (70 miles) and finished at Enterprise Car Rental. I put the bike in the car, drove back to the hotel, and picked up my stuff.

The car was inadequate based on its description as a midsize SUV. It would not hold my bike and my bike case. I asked and the staff (Marissa, actually) at the HGI, told me that I could check it there. I also asked if when I return if I could take their shuttle and they said of course.

Jeep Compass – A “midsize” SUV

I returned the car today at 2:00 p.m. and the Enterprise staff took me back to the hotel. I picked up my bike case, tore down and packed my bike, then took their 4:00 shuttle to LAX. Keep in mind I stayed there on Thursday only, having to stay in Agoura Hills, Friday through Monday.

Bike packed and ready to fly

So a 3-day car rental. No additional shuttle charges to or from hotels. I am quite pleased with how that worked out.

Phil’s Fondo


I was out the door of the hotel shortly after sunrise for the six-mile ride to the start of Phil’s Cookie Gran Fondo. I watched the Chocolate Chip route depart at 8:00 a.m. then got in the back of the line for the Sugar Cookie route when Reggie Miller rolled up. I asked him how he was feeling and he said OK. He had a stiff back yesterday and was walking gingerly. Frankie Andreau called for more riders to go to the front. Reggie went up front. I stayed in the back. 

VeloFix – Before rolling out I paid $10 to true a front rotor

We had a neutral rollout with a police escort for three miles. There were a number of riders up ahead. Even though we stayed together to the Westlake Blvd climb, I never saw Reggie again. Imagine that, a world-class athlete 10 years younger than me and I never caught him.

The Chocolate Chip route rolling out

I had no goals planned. Like I have for the past two-plus weeks, I did not display speed or distance. That was not a goal. Stopping at the rest stops was. This was a ride to enjoy. Take it slow if you must, And eat cookies. Lots of cookies.

Good Morning Thousand Oaks!

At the first rest stop, I ate a cookie. The second one came on Pacific Coast Highway and was much too close to the first one. But I stopped and had a cookie. The third one I rode by without stopping. 

Rest stop #1 – Sponsored by UCLA Cycling Club

I was pretty happy that I went over the Westlake Blvd climb in record time (PR). I wasn’t watching speed but Wahoo was displaying Strava Live Segments. I lowered my time by four minutes. 

Descending Mulholland

I was hopeful on PCH I could beat my prior time on a flat stretch. But that was set with a tailwind three years ago and today there was a stiff head or cross headwind. I was losing time on a segment which I wasn’t going to finish because we would turn to Potrero Road before the end of the segment.

View of the Pacific Ocean from Mulholland

A small group went by and it was the only draft I would take all day. There were six riders being led by a guy in an Israel Premier Tech kit. A pro kit by itself doesn’t mean that much as they are available for anyone to purchase. 

Mulholland Drive – The rider farthest up the road on the left is Rick Zabel

The rider was young and strong. I thought we might be trading pulls but he was nose in the wind all out and we were hanging on. It was glorious. 

Rest stop #2 – on PCH

After 4-5 miles he pulled off as we began the approach to Potrero climb. I pulled alongside side of him and thanked him for the monster pull. 

Cookies at Rest #2

As the group pulled away to attack the climb I was next to rider #101. We both remarked on how strong that rider was. As I was reaching the top of Potrero I saw the Israel rider headed back down the road. I remarked that he was probably going to ride it a second time. And I think he did. 

The Cookiemobile would lead us out on the ride

It turned out that was a pro. Rick Zabel who rides for Israel Premier Tech. I also saw him going back up Mulholland as I was descending. And he passed us on the descent on Mulholland. It all makes sense now. 

Rest stop #4 at the top of Potrero

Potrero Road is a beast. I hit the first ramp with a PR then had a mile and a half of a false flat (actually 2-3%) before the real climb began. It’s tough. Some people were walking. One guy broke his chain and had no choice but to walk. Another was paperboying so dramatically that he almost got hit by an oncoming truck. 

Riding on the PCH

Although I had a PR on Potrero, it wasn’t nearly as much as on the other climbs. I think the lesser grades I pulled back more time. But at 16% grade, I creep. I wasn’t going to pull back time on the steepest section. Or perhaps, this year we hit Westlake early and Potrero late in the ride. In the past Potrero was at Mile 8 and Westlake around Mile 20 so maybe I was fresher in the past.

Waiting for coffee at the start

At the top of Potrero Road, I stopped at the Rest Stop. Half of a cookie was enough. Plus a banana. The finish was just 12 miles away. 

A cookie on PCH

But first, three more Live Segments. The longest was an 8-minute effort in which I shaved off one minute. That was followed by two smaller climbs. Then finally it was downhill or flat, flat and windy, to the finish. 

Scary in Ventura County


PR-Westlake Blvd Climb – 18:35 (Old 23:26) Today: 313/451 All-time: 4214/7108
PR-Potrero Grade – 18:06 (Old 18:52). Today: 214/432 Age 44/105 All-time: 3905/6704


I took almost five minutes off the Westlake Climb but only 46 seconds of Potrero. Yet today I was only in the top 31% while on Potrero I was above the line (top 51%). I am thinking Potrero is so steep in its upper pitches that it didn’t matter how much I weighed – I was going to go slow,. But the weight difference in three years paid big dividends on Westlake.


PR-Phil’s Cookie Fondo Westlake – 15:47 (Old 19:35) Today: 307/459
Potrero Wall – 10:12 (PR – 10:02). This was surprising. Hmm

Pizza chefs

PR-Potrero Final Ramp – 3:56 (Old 4:02). This section is 0.27 miles at 14% grade. I’m going to go slow no matter what. Or fall over. Today 199/430 Age 45/106

DISTANCE: 59.6 miles
AVERAGE: 14.9 mph
WEIGHT: 177 lbs
COOKIES: 2.5 (plus one more at lunch)

It's Phil's Fondo. It was a good ride with lots of cookies.
At the silent auction, I was the high bidder on an ELEMNT Roam

Hanging with Mr. Miller


My plan was simple although I blew it yesterday. Today I would ride the shorter of the two routes offered for Phil’s Cookie Gran Fondo. I was already in a huge deficit by accidentally riding 70 miles yesterday.

Riders gathered at Whizen Plaza

I left the Hampton Inn Agoura Hills hotel and rode the mile and a half to the Whizen Plaza. Retired pro, Frankie Andreau, was the emcee getting the rides started. The 45-mile “Chocolate Chip Cookie” ride would leave at 9:00 a.m. while the 35-mile “Sugar Cookie” ride would depart at 9:30 a.m. While 35 miles doesn’t seem like much, these have some big climbs in them. In this case, there was 4,500′ of gain over 35 miles.

Phil Gaimon and Reggie Miller lead the riders out

At the start, there were only about 20 of us remaining for the Sugar Cookie route. Almost everyone went with the first group. Frankie asked how many first-timers there were and more than half raised their hands. But I knew from my ride four years ago not to do the longer route to have something left for tomorrow.

The Cookie Car

We rolled out and followed the “Cookie” car for two miles until it pulled off. We were in a group although it was splitting up as the roads turned up. I did not want to ride in the front of the group but it was the pace I was comfortable at. So there I was in the front group of nine when we came to rest stop One. While some were debating whether to stop I knew we must get a chocolate chip cookie.

Rest stop one – Cookies!

We stopped and I got a chocolate chip cookie. I split a banana with another rider and was debating whether to roll out with the group again and let them go. That decision was made for me. I got my bike off the rack and the rear tire was flat. A quick inspection and I found a goathead in the tire.

Goathead. An invasive species normally in grasses – not on the road.

There were still three riders behind me as one had a triple flat – also goatheads. They stopped at the rest stop and saw me. But they left before I was finished. I thought they might wait for me but two of the riders, Razzle Dazzle, were clearly together, and I think the third one was too. So they were a unit and I can see that they may not have even thought about waiting for the last rider on course.

Cookies. Why we ride.

Decision made. The CO2 gave me enough air to continue but I did not want to ride the route without a spare and another CO2 cartridge. I told the guy at the rest stop that I was turning around. He seemed surprised but I was comfortable with that decision. I just wanted to get back, and get a new tube and CO2.

Mulholland at Malibu Creek Park. I caught and passed the rider in blue.

I held my breath. On the descents, the bike did not handle well. The squishy tire required me to brake more than I wanted to. But I came to the Mulholland climb I had done before a couple of times. And this time I was more than one minute ahead of my PR, even with a soft tire. That alone made the ride wonderful.

Barry with Frankie Andreau

Arriving back, I was first. Well, I didn’t complete the miles anyone else did. I got a new tube and CO2 from VeloFix. I grabbed lunch and sat with Frankie Andreau. Reggie Miller, the former US Olympian and NBA All-Star joined us. It was fun meeting Reggie. I called him Mr. Miller and he corrected me – “please call me Reggie.” I guess I was hanging with Reggie.

Barry and Reggie Miller

DISTANCE: 22.4 miles
SPEED: 14.5 mph

The Best Highway — to Avoid


It’s one day before Phil’s Cookie Gran Fondo. I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn – El Segundo. Yesterday I did a short test ride after I rebuilt the bike. I reserved a rental car and would pick it up at 2:00 p.m. I had time for a ride. Even a long ride.

Bike trail in Santa Monica

Pro cyclist, Krista Doebel-Hickok, posted a ride yesterday on Pacific Coast Highway. It looked like a recommendation and I scrubbed plans for a shorter ride (35 miles) and decided I would do this. A quick search and I found a site called Spinlister that referred to PCH From Santa Monica To Malibu as the “perfect California bike ride.”

In fairness, there were some warnings that this trip wasn’t for everybody. But I decided it was good enough for me. The views of the ocean, the sound of the surf breaking on the beaches, and the smell of the fresh salt-water air would offset any negatives the highway experience might throw at me. Right?

El Segundo Trailhead

The trip through El Segundo to the beach was through a mostly residential area with lots of stop signs. I counted 12 and most were four-way stops with traffic so I had to stop and put a foot down for each one. It wasn’t bad, in fact, it was a pleasant ride. But it wasn’t one where average speed would be great.

Presented without comment

Once I made it to the beach I got on a bike trail. It was the Marvin Braude Bike Trail. It is generously wide and weaves back and forth along the beach. At Culver City, it becomes a combination of urban bike paths and bike lanes through Venice. There I picked up the bike trail again.

Riding between the water

In Venice, the bike trail next to the ocean got very crowded. I am sure it was nothing on a Friday morning in October compared to a Sunday in August. Large parts of the trail were two paths. One was marked exclusively for cyclists while the other was for pedestrians. Despite the presence of the large green markings for Bikes Only, this did not stop many people from walking among the cyclists. We shared the trail with many roller-bladers who were logically welcomed on this path rather than with the walkers.

Rollerbladers. Welcomed,

The trail came to an end north of Santa Monica and then the adventure on the Pacific Coast Highway began. This is a four-lane highway with a small shoulder. There are stretches where cars and parked, and worse, a food truck. The food truck, in order to open to customers on the grass side, parked right up to the white lane. Cyclists have nowhere to go except into the traffic lane.

World-famous Santa Monica Pier

Traffic here, Santa Monica to Malibu, was heavy. While a Friday morning around 10:00 a.m. seems better than rush hour or possibly weekends, it may not have been. Bumper-to-bumper traffic creeping in this stretch would be safer than the cars whizzing by at 50-55 mph.

Diversion off PCH and through Malibu
Malibu Road – it runs parallel to PCH for 2.5 miles

My ultimate destination was Point Dume Recreational Area. There were no signs to the area from the south as I went in through a residential area. It looks like a beautiful area for hiking with absolutely wonderful overlooks. It is here where there are some of the best viewing areas for humpback whales migrating from December to March.

Point Dume Natural Preserve

Going north, there were a number of pinch points where I had to merge onto the highway. At each one I stopped, took a photo, took two looks behind me to make sure it was clear. And I relied heavily on my Garmin Varia radar.

Food trucks blocking the PCH shoulder

Going south, there were a lot more times that I had to ride in the traffic lane. Despite the presence of one sign which said Bikes May Use Full Lane, I wondered if any drivers saw the sign. More importantly, I felt that none cared.

Point Dume

I was so thankful I got back safely to Santa Monica and picked up the trail again. I diverted to In-N-Out Burger in Culver City. It was busy and I found a dad with his son, maybe 13 years old, and told the son I’d give him $1 to watch my bike while I went in to order. It was perfect.

In-N-Out Burger, Culver City

I head back to El Segundo to pick up my rental car. On the trail.

I gave him one dollar to watch my bike

The bottom line is the ocean views and saltwater air did not counter the angst of riding on the PCH. I would not recommend this stretch of road. I’m glad I did it once but I am not looking to ride it again.

To be certain, this is only the stretch from Santa Monica to Malibu which is a 💩 show. About eight miles north of Point Dume on the PCH is where Mulholland Highway meets the PCH. We ride this stretch north during Phil’s Fondo. And this stretch is fine for most road cyclists. Wider shoulders and no pinch points. Also better ocean views. In short, avoid PCH from Santa Monica to Malibu. But further north, enjoy the ride.

DISTANCE: 69.5 miles
WEIGHT: 177 lbs

California Dreamin


Having just returned from California from the Phil Gaimon Cookie Gran Fondo weekend, I need to revisit my planning – for next time, you know.

What went right – what went wrong.

All in all, it was a great trip.

Bike packed in Thule case

In 2019 I am celebrating my 10-year Cancversary and will ride 10 miles (at least) every day. That affected the flights that I could take. If I fly out early it has to be real early so I have time to ride when I arrive. Or I can ride in the morning and travel late – but that one isn’t for me.

Barry and Ernie Rodriguez

I left home by 4:30 a.m. for Washington-Dulles. I parked in the long-term Economy lot and was still at my gate by 5:43 a.m. – two hours before scheduled take-off.

In Terminal B is a Five Guys that served breakfast sandwiches. I had the bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. And it was good.

The flight arrived LAX on-time. My only checked bag was my bike and despite the luggage arriving at Terminal 6, mine was an Oversized bag and arrived in Terminal 4 at the Oversize Baggage.

Building the bike at the hotel

I took the hotel shuttle to the Fairfield Inn and Suites – El Segundo. Arrived by noon. No room was ready but I built my bike in the pool area (only a few funny looks). I jumped on my bike and visited – In-N-Out Burger which was right next door. Then I rode west – towards the ocean.

El Segundo at the beach
Bike path El Segundo

I had texted Robert Hess and he offered to pick me up at the hotel for a ride. I told him I already found the bike path and could ride to meet him. That was better. We met close to Manhattan Beach then rode north towards (but not to) Venice Beach. We found a straight section used for KOMs and both went moderately fast.

Manhattan Beach
Bike Path in Hermosa Beach
Robert and Barry

RIGHT: By taking the hotel shuttle from the airport I avoided one day of car rental charges.

RIGHT: By renting in El Segundo, I avoided the LAX fees on rental cars. In addition, a much higher rate.

I drove to Thousand Oaks where I stayed at the TownePlace Suites by Marriott. I was going to stay at the official hotel of the Fondo, the Hyatt, but the rooms were $60/night more.

TownePlace Suites by Marriott, Thousand Oaks. The pool wasn’t so nice.

I was 10 miles from the venue on Saturday and decided to ride there instead of drive. That also made my decision to choose the 40-mile ride over the 50-mile ride.

The official Cookiemobile

One problem was I was riding directly into a low sun on Thousand Oaks Blvd. Even with two rear lights, I was worried about the traffic seeing me.

The hotel was only about 15 miles from Sunday’s venue so I could not complain. Plus it was very close to an In-N-Out Burger and a Chili’s.

I was initially going to ride in Santa Barbara on Monday but decided to ride again in Manhattan Beach. I did not explore the southern end of the trail before and I could save a day’s rental charge.

RIGHT: By getting the car back before 11 a.m. I would have three days’ rental and not four.

Wildfire on the 101

One problem was there were wildfires including one I went by one Hwy 101. Waze found a better way but that meant hundreds of drivers all used the same side streets. I got in a little late but within tolerance.

Wildfire on the 101

Once packed, their driver took me back over to the Fairfield Suites where I boarded the Fairfield airport shuttle, the one that dropped me there four days earlier. I don’t know if this was cool or not but when I checked out on Friday I asked Scott Trexler at the hotel and he said it would be no problem. Of course, he wasn’t working when I returned.

Near Manhattan Beach

I rode south to Redondo Beach then one last time to In-N-Out Burger. I went back to the car rental location where I had left my luggage. I think they were more bemused than annoyed that I tore down the bike in their office and packed it in the case.

At the airport, I found a restaurant and watched the Steelers-Dolphins on Monday Night Football (Steelers won 27-14). About one hour later I boarded the redeye flight to Dulles.

Watching the Steelers at LAX

Arriving Dulles, I had to figure out where my bike would arrive. It came in on the Oversize Baggage belt. It has come down the regular belt before (ugh) so I have to figure out by airport where it will arrive.

I went back to my car in the Economy lot then to Chick-Fil-A, Ashburn, for breakfast before getting the Trek Pilot out for a ride on the W&OD. I had packed the Domane for California but also brought the Pilot and left it in the car. It was on its side covered by a blanket in the car. Then when arriving back, rather than trying to rebuild my Domane, I could just jump on the Pilot and ride.

After riding and dropping the Domane at the bike shop (broken front derailleur), I found myself fighting drowsiness on the 30-mile trip home. That redeye took it out of me but was necessary if I was to ride today. The other option on American was 10:30 a.m. arriving at 6:30 p.m. It would be hard to ride in the morning, tear down the bike, and get to the airport on time. And it arrived too late for an evening ride.

I am comfortable with almost all the decisions I made for this trip. I like the hotel shuttle and the first night near the airport. It worked out renting off-site. And getting back to the hotel. Keep this in mind if I do this one again.

San Francisco


Rodrigo Garcia and I met at the Mill Valley Community Center parking lot. We rode to meet the 4K for Cancer group on the last day of their 70-day journey across the U.S. and were surprised when they went by us in the opposite direction. We turned, gave chase, and caught them – because we could.

It wasn’t just surprise but something seemed odd. Rodrigo had delivered a mail stop to them yesterday and we left with solid plans including their roll-out time. A number of them had our cell numbers and were to contact us if that changed, It did and no one notified us. It felt as though we weren’t welcome to see them today.

Ever since saying goodbye to them in Manassas, Va., two 1/2 months ago, I wondered if I would see them again. I rode with them, from Baltimore to Alexandria, and then to Manassas, and it was great that my west coast trip coincided with their finish.

Patrick Sheridan, Barry Sherry

We were on a bike path and I first rode behind Kelly Schofield. Her rear tire was split and looked as though it would blow at any time. I was horrified, knowing the risks one takes on bad tires. But a number of the 4K cyclists rode on tires as bad or even worse than Kelly’s. With pride.

Splitting tire – no problem

The lack of safety awareness greatly concerned me. They told tales of descending at 40 mph on worn-out tires.

But one need not have bad tires to cause a crash. On an easy rollout to San Francisco, Michael Wray crashed hard in Sausalito. No one seems to know why – one second he was upright and the next second he was down on the road. He had some pretty nasty road rash on his legs and arms and a busted lip. Ouch.

Michael Wray

We rode with the 4K to their photo ops on a foggy Vista Point and into Crissy Beach in San Francisco. At Vista Point, Rodrigo and I were introduced to the COO of the organization, a guy named Brian. I extended my hand and said, “My name is Barry.” He looked at me and said, “I know who you are.” It was a very strange greeting and was quite unbecoming of a COO of a cancer non-profit. I guess I crashed his party. Clearly, I was not welcome.

Briefly leaving Vista Point I rode again with Jeff Graves, Chris Chitterling, and Lauren Schoener. It was a reunion from the first day. Along with Patrick Sheridan, the four of them had been my riding partners the first day.

It was also a bittersweet day for me. I started and finished the 4K as a Pedal Pal. The most inspirational Pedal Pal, Jake “The Hero” Grecco, did not finish. His health took a turn for the worse around Memorial Day. While he had hoped to be in Baltimore to meet his Pedal Pal, Chey Hillsgrove, he was too weak and tired. And just three days before the 4K ended, Jake passed away.

While the riders were wearing their 4K jerseys, I wore my special one. Cyclists Combating Cancer, I have written on the back “In Loving Memory, Jacob Grecco, 2004-2012.” I felt empowered riding with the 4K wearing Jake’s name.

My jersey for Jake
(On left – Erin Mack, Jeff Graves)

We had a nice ride across the Golden Gate Bridge and then stopped to let the 4K finish at Chrissy Park on their own to the applause of friends and family. When we joined them I met a “Pedal Pal” from Sausalito. She told me she found out about the 4K from an article in RoadBikeRider.com. Yes! I had contacted publisher John Marsh about running an article seeking Pedal Pals and was very happy that it paid off.

Chrissy Beach

The riders enjoyed a closing ceremony — I said goodbye to my Pedal Pal, Patrick, and Rodrigo and I rolled back to Mill Valley.

Barry Sherry, Peter Bai, Rodrigo Garcia
Riding partners the day before

In Washington, D.C., I have to be mindful that many people on bikes are tourists and to be careful when riding near them. But Rodrigo and I both agreed that perhaps the single largest location for tourists to rent bikes is in San Francisco to ride over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Approaching the bridge I had a tourist stop in the bike path and turn his bike width-wise and block 3/4 of the lane. I put my foot down to avoid a crash. And on the bridge itself, Rodrigo had a tourist step back (taking a picture) into his path. When he swerved it was in my path and I hit him. How neither of us crashed hard on the bridge I’ll never know. Somehow we stayed upright.

It was good to see the 4K finish. While their bicycle journey across the U.S. ended today, it is my hope that their journeys as cancer fighters never end.



Amgen Tour of California


Last year I went to Sacramento to volunteer for the Amgen Tour of California. I had a great, even amazing, experience, and returning this year was one of my post-cancer treatment goals.

After last year’s event, I was in contact with Medalist Sports for a week-long position traveling with the Tour. In February I was contacted by them but respectfully declined as I didn’t know whether I would be recovered enough for the demands of the job. But I still wanted to help and going to Sacramento would be the first step.

I arrived at the volunteer check-in location before anyone else including the coordinator., Gail Keeter, When she arrived she made it known that being first didn’t mean getting the best location, which would be downtown on the inner circuit which they passed three times. I guess that if the “best” assignments were for those who got there first, there would be a rush to be first in line. This was probably conveyed to those who could attend the orientation meeting, which I couldn’t do.

So I went for a walk. A long walk. A two-hour walk along the bike path which is beside the Sacramento River. When I got back there was a check-in line formed and I was deep enough in line, I guess, to get a downtown location. One problem though, while it was “downtown” it wasn’t on the finishing circuit.

A replica of the Golden Gate Bridge across the Sacramento River – for cyclists

It was at 30th and Folsom Blvd. and I was to guard the exit from the parking lot of the KFC/A&W restaurant. Across the street was volunteer Tamy Quiqley, from Redding, California, who was dutifully patrolling the empty parking lot of the Wells Fargo Bank.

With more than 90 minutes before our required reporting time, we decided to walk downtown to the finish. We were able to watch the last six laps of the women’s criterium, won by 17-year old Coryn Rivera. She won the junior group at USA Cycling Nationals two years ago at Seven Springs, Pa., which I also marshaled.

When we returned to our posts a policeman was just finishing taping off the entrances with yellow police tape. And she told us she was assigning junior rangers to assist there. When asked if we should stay there she told us we weren’t needed.

So we then set out to get to the downtown finishing circuit to “help.” We found the corner of N and 15th Streets and started helping the marshals on site. With a phone call or two to friends watching, we could tell the spectators the ETA of the peloton.

Eventually, the helicopter arrived overhead and we knew the riders were down below. Two blocks up from us they flew through the finish line at the start of Lap 1. About one minute later they bore down on us.

When you ride you know you’re fighting, or pushing the wind. But one doesn’t realize the extent until you stand downwind from the peloton. When they were about 25 meters from our location a wall of wind hit us in the face. They made the 90-degree turn, at our location, but would not be so lucky at some other locations. Two major crashes knocked out a number of riders and neutralized the racing on the final two laps, except for overall time bonuses for the first three positions.

Peloton charging hard into the corner – and kicking up dust

One worries not only about the riders cornering safely but also the cars. These drivers are part dare-devils and many squeal their tires as they corner much too fast for the normal person.

Mark Cavendish’s HTC-Columbia Team formed the perfect lead-out train and he stayed on their wheels the next two times they flew by our location. After the last rider passed we ran two blocks to the L street where they were flying by to the finish but we missed the lead-out train delivering the “Manx Rocket” to the finish line. We did see the middle and end riders come in, all at the same time since the peloton had been together inside the final three km when they crashed.

George Hincapie

If you can limp on a bike, several later riders came limping on in. One rider from Cervelo Test Team had his entire left thigh bloodied and exposed. George Hincapie didn’t show quite the same road rash but wasn’t feeling too well either.

Believe this is Heinrich Haussler. Ouch.

We tried to get to the podium and could see a corner of it but the crowds were too large. One gentleman asked us who won and we told him Mark Cavendish. He said, “Who?” “But how did Lance (Armstrong) do?” And maybe more than 50% of the spectators fit that category. They came to see Lance and he was supposed to win. But it’s always fun talking about cycling with the spectators.

Source: ProCyclingStats.com

It was a long but rewarding day. Glad to be back in California.

Sierra Road


Rain came down, hard at times in San Jose. The boys have two mountain passes today on their way to Modesto. Have a safe trip!

My last day at the Amgen Tour. of California. I decided to spectate. I had a good time volunteering throughout the tour. In Sacramento, Santa Rosa, and especially Santa Cruz, I was the face of the Tour for many people and the face of cycling for these folks. The good people who came out in Sacramento and Santa Rosa were somewhat informed but still were inquisitive.

The folks who came out in Santa Cruz were mostly curious. My position in Santa Cruz was along a residential street and the only spectators, and there were a few, were locals who lived in the neighborhood. Most of them were retirees. I had to begin with Cycling 101. It was fun. My position on the course was necessary to keep people off a dangerous part of the course but it was a bad place to view the race.

After three days of being stuck in locations that were helpful to spectators but boring for me, I decided to head to the hill where I could simply spectate.

Sierra Road was the place. It immediately leaves the Silicon Valley and starts a climb. Sierra Road climbs from an elevation of 264 feet to 2041 feet over 3.6 miles. It has an average grade of 10%. Walking it I passed a number of walkers and a couple of cyclists.

Sierra Road, San Jose, Calif.

My thought while headed up the grade was “wow, this is really steep and this is really long.” Only after I returned did I look up the stats and discovered it’s half as long as Mount Washington, doesn’t reach 6,000 feet, isn’t nearly as steep (12% is, after all, 20% steeper than 10%), and actually has some flat and even downhill sections where the body can recover.*

Some cyclists walked. Others kept plodding along. A few cyclists came by with a pretty good pace and then a Liquigas rider came flying by. He left them in the dust (well, road mist). I know some people buy kits of their favorite teams but who owns the complete Liquigas kit other than a true rider? I figured Team Liquigas brought an extra rider or two and they are riding ahead of the peloton for their fitness. I don’t know who that was.

Once I reached the top the temperature dropped, the winds picked up, and the rain started. And it was cold. My estimate was it was in the mid 30s with a wind chill in the mid 20s. I had an umbrella and shared it with another guy.

Unlike Sacramento, Santa Rosa, and Santa Cruz, there weren’t any curious onlookers at the summit. Everyone there was a cyclist or cycling fan. I figured the people who were erecting signs for Steven Cozza (Garmin-Slipstream) were his parents. At the top were the parents of Scott Nydam (BMC) and his fiance. She was marking the pavement with his name in chalk although it was a losing battle against the rain. It’s neat being at the top and chatting with the families of the riders. Try that in France!

There were probably 100 of us at the top and, who knows, a few hundred more at various points on the way up. I had one time to get it right and decided to make my last view of the Tour from the King of the Mountains summit. If I had a second time I would pick a location about halfway up where I could see the entire course without my view blocked by the masses. But I don’t regret being at the summit.

We were cold. People were jumping up and down to keep warm and we cheered everyone who came across the summit. Mountain bike. Yeah! Walker. Yeah! Policeman. Yeah! Cheering kept us warm.

One cyclist recognized me from Sunday’s stage. “You were in Santa Rosa.” He thanked me for talking with him there then asked if he rode down 100 yards and came back up if he thought we would cheer for him. I assured him we would. The cyclist goes down 100 yards, turns around, and comes back. Yeahhh!

The police came through followed by a group of four riders followed closely by the peloton. Francisco Mancebo (Rock Racing) was first. Although we were only 8.1 miles from the start, and many riders were grouped, it was surprising to see some real stragglers. I had already started down when another rider came up. I first assumed it was a recreational rider — he was behind the team cars — but it may have been Alejandro Alberto Borrajo (Colavita-Sutter Home). He abandoned today.

The rain picked up and was really coming down. They were very big rain drops, almost hail. I was wet and cold and wasn’t looking forward to my trip down. My pants were weighted down with a camera, cell phone, wallet, and car keys. I could not run but run I did. I started slowly. I didn’t have running shoes — turf shoes that I probably ruined all the little nubbies. My gait was a half stride, because it was downhill and because I couldn’t really run or else my pants would fall down.

I carried the umbrella and fought the wind. It only turned inside out once. I made it down passing lots of people along the way and made it back to the car. Even with an umbrella, I was soaked. Again. But no longer cold. At the lower level, it was near 50° and with wearing two riding jackets I was sweating.

I opened the car, peeled off some of the wet clothes, but really had to go to the bathroom. I found an empty Diet Pepsi bottle and created my first “urine bottle.” The urgency was such that I could not wait.

I then reflected on four days of fun. The Amgen Tour of California is a great event. It will become a major American sport just like the Tour de France is (when soccer becomes as popular as American football) so you better plan to see it while you can still mingle with the parents and girlfriends of the riders, and even meet them at their trailer.

I would like to come back– maybe volunteer at one stage, but not four. Spectating is much more fun. Now if they offered me a position as traveling course marshal — we’ll talk. Especially if Lance comes back next year.

*Actually, with flat and downhill sections in the calculation, perhaps the actual climbing sections may have been 12% or so.

EDIT/EPILOGUE – This was my first urine bottle – ever. I had a headache and lots of body aches on this trip. With 20/20 hindsight, I likely had e.Coli at this time. A few weeks later, I had the same symptoms while officiating at the Jefferson Cup in Richmond, Va. Headaches and fevers continued until May when Dr. Semerjean at George Washington University Hospital finally diagnosed the e.Coli and was able to treat it. He also diagnosed cancer.

But it is likely that on this day, my cancer journey began.

Cold, Wet, and Windy



All day long the rain came down. It was quite hard at times.

As was typical with the ATOC, volunteer check-in was hours before the assignment. I checked in at 9:00 a.m. but didn’t need to report to my location until noon. It gave me a chance to walk around this town — in the rain, of course.

The downtown area is quite neat. Except for the driving rain, it’s a great choice for a tour city. But February is the rainy season in California, especially in northern California. It’s probably not the best time to hold a major bike race.

Downtown Santa Rosa

The tour cities make a day of the event. In Sacramento, we worked a community ride on the course two hours before the event. In Santa Rosa, it was a professional women’s criterium.

And it rained. And rained more. The women did a nice job of staying upright. The winner was the Swedish national champion Emilia Fahlin although for my money Lauren Tamayo was the rider of the day as she led out the breaks and did most of the work.

Women’s Race in Santa Rosa

After the race, which ended at 2:00 p.m., we had to kill time waiting for the arrival of the men. The bad weather grounded the race airplane and getting information was hard. Even Versus, the television broadcast network, was affected. One marshal at our location was connected to ham operators and he kept us informed as to their locations. That was useful in answering the many questions “what time will they arrive?”

Last year there was a crash on the run-in to town. In cycling, the officials can give everyone who is together the same finishing time if there is a crash within the last 3 km. This rewards the risk-takers who make those dare-devil sprint finishes so exciting.

But where are the last three kilometers? The finish in Santa Rosa was circuits of the downtown on a 3.1 mile (5 km) loop. Is a crash on the first circuit within 3 km of the “finish?” It is usually literal, that is, within 3 km of the finish line.

Last year, favorite and Santa Rosa native, Levi Leipheimer, got caught in a crash on the first loop. At the time he was near the front but lost massive time due to the crash. The race officials then decided to give all the riders the same time, making Levi very happy. It was controversial, to say the least.

Today we were not informed of the local rules. But the race director made the decision that once they got to Santa Rosa, the first time across the “finish line” would be the actual time for the stage. In essence, the second and third passes didn’t count — at least for time.

The roads were soaked. High-speed corners in this weather were a recipe for disaster. So arrive Santa Rosa safely and get your race time when you arrive.

Fransicso Mancebo (ESP) came through town first about two minutes ahead of some chasers. Although the chasers eventually caught him, they were racing on the final two laps to be the stage winner. He would have the best time regardless. (He won by 1:07)

Fransicso Mancebo

I was a marshal at a very difficult location. Although it was not a curve that I hoped for (they go slower there), it was a potential bottleneck on the course. The traffic lanes went from four to two in the space of the intersection. And we had no barriers to keep the people back. They were standing on the sidewalk.

I worked with a Santa Rosa policeman and we moved some road barriers through the intersection and the people did well to stay behind them. This was also at the end of a 500-meter downgrade, not steep, but definitely 2-3% downhill and they were flying. Maybe worse, the support cars were flying through the intersection.

I would estimate a couple of the race cars went by at 60 mph just seconds before they had to hit this narrow, somewhat curvy two-lane stretch. My big concern was making sure no one tried to cross in front of the cyclists (ugly) or a race vehicle (death). No one died.

As in Sacramento, people came to me seeking knowledge about the race and cycling in general. And I was glad to oblige. I stood on the inside of the barriers but as the riders approached I knelt down so the spectators could take pictures without my big head in them.

My most vivid memory was not of the pro race but a local ride that also occurred. About 3:30 p.m., a cyclist came down the street and stopped to ask for directions to the finish line. He was about my age but he could barely speak the words. As he tried to talk his mouth just shivering uncontrollably. I don’t know where he was but clearly was affected by the day’s cold (about 48° or 9° C), but more importantly, the bone-soaking wetness. We directed him the quickest way through the course to his destination even though we weren’t supposed to allow riders on the route at that time.

After the race finished and the crowds left, I passed through the team bus parking lot. There, at least 100 people gathered in front of the Team Astana bus but one could find the others much easier. I made my way to Jelly Belly to speak with Phil Gaimon. Phil is in his first pro race. He is also the only rider in the Tour of California who can say that he has beaten me in a race — last year’s Newton’s Revenge up Mt. Washington, NH.

Phil Gaimon – “Who are you and why are you stalking me?”

We spoke briefly — he wondered why the heck I was there but I delivered a personal message to him from Mary Power, the events director at the Mt. Washington Auto Road. She wanted him to know he was invited to go back to MWARBH.

Soaked, really soaked, and cold, I got in my car for the two 1/2 hour drive to Santa Cruz through flooded roads.

Results from ProCyclingStats.com

Tour of California – Prologue


Although reporting time was 8:30 a.m. I was checked in by 8:00 a.m. In the Q-S line with me was a volunteer from Redding, Tamy Quiqley. We would be paired as volunteers. After getting our bright orange course marshal T-shirts we headed to our posts. But it was way too early. So we walked the entire 2.4 mile (4k) course. Even then we were back to our posts by 10:30 a.m. and the race would not begin until 1:30 p.m.

The temperature was in the low 40’s but eventually warmed up to 50. The rain that was feared held off until the last rider, Levi Lepiheimer, finished.

Early on we were treated to watching individuals riders and teams warming up on the course. And we helped get a community ride started at 11:30 a.m.

Team Astana warming up
Lance Armstrong in black

The volunteer manual asked us not to take pictures because our role was to watch spectators — not riders. Indeed, the toughest part of our task was keeping people from crossing the street once the race was underway.

But we were able to see Team Astana warming up and I felt no guilt snapping a picture of Lance Armstrong. He had retired after winning his seventh consecutive Tour de France in 2005. The rumors persisted earlier this year that he was going to come out of retirement and race again and almost all of Sacramento had come out to see the comeback.

Lance Armstrong

But what happened to Anthony? Anthony Colby, Colavita-Sutter Home, was listed in our handbook as a climbing specialist but did not report to the start line. I was carrying a personal message for him from Mary Power, the event coordinator at the Mt. Washington Auto Road. I was proud to tell anyone that Anthony beat me (and 160 others) last July in the race up the mountain, Newton’s Revenge.

Team Highroad

But I was glad to see Phil Gaimon race. He just joined Jelly Belly over the winter and was named to their starting team. Phil also beat me at Mt. Washington. He finished second in July at Newton’s Revenge but won the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb in August.

Phil Gaimon

I was on the first part of the course which went out and back. That was my penalty for signing in early — assignments were handed out in order. Maybe if I had shown up later I would have received the finish line. The out and back section created a large four-block median in which people were trapped once the race began.

It was dangerous to cross the street during the race. These time-trial machines with their aero bars and disc rear wheels fly and are very hard to control. Our instructions were to keep people from crossing the street once the race began. If we weren’t serious about this, the Sacramento Police showed up and walked the lines with us to enforce it.

Some volunteers took this more seriously than others. I tried to identify those who looked like they wanted to cross and just talked with them. With thousands of people needing to cross the street for no other reason than to use the porta-johns, the crowd eventually won. I’m for safety of both the riders and the crowd but to have nowhere out for three hours or more was unworkable. It was a bad design. When enough people ignored the volunteers and even the police, they eventually instituted one intersection where we could send people to when they needed to leave.

The first rider went at 1:30 p.m. Thereafter, one rider per minute until all 136 riders came through. Excitement rose towards the end as all the big names came by. I even violated my own rule by trying to take a picture of Floyd Landis. It was great to see him ride again.

Floyd Landis

As the first riders departed they got cheers from the folks behind us (I was on the inside of the median island) and I often turned to see who was riding. The early riders took about 1:10 to go from behind us out to the turn to pass us on the way back. But the big boys, Lance, Fabian Cancellara, Levi Leiphiemer, and others, could do it in 60 seconds. And when they went the cheers were louder. We were enveloped in a sea of cheers. While our group was yelling loudly for Floyd, just one minute behind was Levi going out to loud cheers. It was a great sound effect.

According to VeloNews, “George Hincapie described the scene at the Amgen Tour of California prologue in Sacramento Saturday, saying only Tour de France crowds could compare. And those crowds were treated to a Tour de France-caliber show, with Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) blazing the downtown 3.9km course with a winning time of 4:32.

But it was a long day. I was on my feet from 8:00 a.m. until 4:10 p.m. when I got in the car to drive to Santa Rosa. But it was a great day, made greater by the fact we missed the rain.


Results data from ProCyclingStats.com
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