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 by: Bill Oetinger  7/1/2019

Sam’s 45-minute Terrible Two

Have you got 45 minutes to spare? If you do and if you like bike stuff—presumably you do, if you’re reading this column—then you might want to wedge out a little time to watch this YouTube video.(or see below)

It was put together by a guy named Sam Addison, 30, of Santa Rosa. It’s 45 minutes of handlebar cam shot from Sam’s bike on his way to a 15th-place finish in this year’s Terrible Two Double Century, put on by the Santa Rosa Cycling Club and run this year on Saturday, June 15.

If you think nearly an hour of watching the back country roll by at bike speed is going to bore you to tears, this might not be for you…although give it a few minutes and I predict most of you will stick around for the duration. If you have any interest in the Terrible Two, you will be fascinated. If you’ve done the ride—completed it or just attempted it—or if you worked the ride as a volunteer, you will find it essential viewing. Even if you haven’t done it or helped on it, you might be interested. Anyone who has done a ride long enough to test their limits, be it a 100-K or a century or whatever, this will take you on a journey you will appreciate.

Unless you’re well acquainted with the event already, a little background might help in your appreciation of what’s in the video. Here are a few links to more TT info…

This is my report on the 2019 event. (It was still a work in progress when this column went public. We were still working out a few kinks in the results—fact checking.)

This link goes to the Official Results page, which includes not only the results for each year of the event, going back to its origin in 1976, but also links to course records and a display of most past graphics for the event. The graphics are of interest because the prize a rider receives for finishing the event is a t-shirt with whatever the current graphic is plus the hallowed subscript: “I DID IT!”

As this year’s report notes, this was one of our mild years on the weather front: not too hot and not too windy. In addition to the miles and the hilly terrain, hot weather is the occasional gremlin that turns a typically terrible Terrible Two into something much worse. So for a little perspective on just how bad it can get, read our report from the 2012 event, which most folks who were there will agree was the worst—the hottest—ever.

Finally, if you really want to drill down into this topic—as prep before watching the video—I devoted one of these columns—back in 2006—to an informal history of the event. Much has changed since then, including all of us growing 13 years older. But it provides a good back story and probably does a good enough job of setting the scene for the present moment.

One thing we didn’t have 13 years ago was dinky cameras that could mount on our handlebars, with battery life to last out a 13-hour ride. We’re getting older and more decrepit but the technology is getting younger and fresher and more capable. So now, even if we can’t do the TT anymore, we can still watch the video and recall our days of glory…or at least our days of suffering and travail.

About Addison’s video… No long-distance ride/race that covers 200 miles and lasts at least 12 hours—and for some over 17 hours—can be condensed into a 45-minute film clip without losing something. But who would watch the whole things for half a day? Sam has done a good job of stringing together snippets of rolling road that capture the essence of the event. He has all the important elements in there: the famously brutal climbs and gnarly descents; the pacelines and the many miles of lonely solo riding. He doesn’t waste a lot of minutes on the climbs. Things happen slowly on those unforgiving walls. It’s nasty when you’re experiencing it in the real world but it makes for dull video. He’s put in far more of the wiggly, whirling dervish descents. Those are always fun viewing. There is of course an equal amount of climbing and descending on any loop ride, but with the climbs chugging along at under 10 mph and the descents whizzing by at over 20 or 30, obviously much more time goes by while climbing…and much more suffering as well. But we don’t see that in the video. Bear that in mind as we are magically teleported up the toughest ascents in no time flat. I understand why he edited that way, but it’s a little misleading.

He has put together a sound track that is acceptable, although a few elements give me pause. There was, for instance, no countdown at the start: “five…four…three…two…one…” and so on. I know because I was the one waving the riders off and I didn’t do that. I told the group to ride safe and strong and to remember to enjoy the scenery along the way, then sent them on their way. No big drama. Not my style. But overall, it’s okay, with a looping back beat that stays just this side of becoming tedious. Turn down the sound if it bothers you.

I expect the video appeals to me especially because of my long relationship with the Terrible Two. I’ve completed the ride four times—always as a solid, stolid mid-packer—and have done either the first or second half countless times…sometimes as training rides and sometimes during the actual event. (I used to do the first half with the group and then lead the bail-out ride down the valley from the lunch stop, a 142-mile ride.) In addition to riding the course so many times, I have been Chair or Co-chair of the event since 1992, getting on for 30 years now. I’ve marked all or part of the course each year. I’ve seen the riders off in the morning and welcomed them back in the evening. I’ve been the bad guy at the lunch stop who tells the later riders they can’t continue onto the second half of the course if they’ve fallen behind our time windows. I hurt just a little bit every time I hear about a bad wreck or medical meltdown out there, and over the years there have been many of them. I visit the riders in the hospital. Having been there and done that myself, I feel the joy and the pain of all those tackling this implacably hard challenge.

So as I watch the countryside rolling by in Sam’s video, I am recalling all the riders who crashed in this or that spot we’re passing. I am recalling just how leg-breakingly, head-bakingly hard it is to get up some of those climbs and how fun-but-sketchy most of the descents are. If you haven’t been a part of this event the way some of us have, all those miles of forest and meadow and sea cliffs might not mean anything more to you than just a long travelogue through the North Bay back country. If it is only that, it is at least scenic! But I expect most of you will relate to it with a cyclist’s eyes and with some muscle memory in your legs and cardio that makes you feel it, rather than just looking at it.

Give it a try. You can hit “pause” and move on if it doesn’t do it for you. If, on the other hand, it does speak to you, well then…enjoy!

Bill can be reached at srccride@sonic.net

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