Live Strong—We Dare You
By Gabe Meline
Think you've GOT what it takes to train like the pros do? Then these are the famous roads around Sonoma County to hit—the very same roads that Lance Armstrong and Team Astana trained on the week before the Tour of California. Local cyclist Glenn Fant and NorCal Bike Sport manager Jim Keene rode with the team last week, and gave us the run-down of the toughest roads in Sonoma County. Lube your hubs and prepare to be in pain.
Spring Mountain The steepest, hardest road in the county, and the road that Astana rider and local hero Levi Leipheimer heavily petitioned for the Tour of California route coming into Santa Rosa. It was deemed too brutal. Leipheimer himself holds the record on Spring Mountain at 10 minutes, 50 seconds, but in training last week, Alberto Contador came within five seconds of beating him. "I've only ridden it once," Keene says, "and it was absolutely miserable."
Pine Flat Locally recognized as an unforgiving 12-mile trail of terror, especially the insanely steep final stretch before the fire road gate. In training, Leipheimer and Alberto Contador raced to the top, with Contador as the winner (Fant was riding behind, and, Fant says, "It looked like he was riding an escalator"). On a separate training day involving Chalk Hill Road, Ida Clayton Road and Franz Valley Road, Lance Armstrong and the Astana team rode halfway up Pine Flat, changed their minds, and turned around. No joke.
The Geysers Start at the Jimtown Store and hit Geysers Road for this treacherous 30-mile grind into Cloverdale, up and over the mountain. Or do what Team Astana did in training and come at it from the backside before battling Pine Flat—a day that involved 12,000 combined feet of climbing. "We couldn't speak afterwards," Fant says.
King Ridge If you're looking for an epic daylong ride, this is it. About a mile east of Monte Rio is Austin Creek Road, head north to King Ridge Road for 16 miles of completely remote, winding climbs. At the end, turn on Hauser Bridge Road to Seaview and then Meyers Grade, where the view opens to an incredible ocean view. Come back through Jenner on Highway 116 or brave the steep dirt climbs on Willow Creek Road into Occidental.
Skaggs Springs Between the coast and Lake Sonoma runs this long, 35-mile leg-killer. Beautiful, remote and without sympathy, this road isn't for the weak. Leipheimer wanted to train his teammates on this road, connecting afterward to King Ridge for a mother of an odyssey. They said no. That's how tough it is.
Cavedale Longer and narrower than nearby Trinity Road, this seven-mile climb had Team Astana working hard. Start in either Santa Rosa or Sonoma and take Highway 12 to Cavedale. Connect with Trinity at the top, then head out on Dry Creek to Oakville, where you can either turn right to make a return through Napa or head up Silverado Trail to Calistoga for a return to Santa Rosa.
Coleman Valley A great beginner's introduction to tough Sonoma County roads, with beautiful views, short climbs and a breathtaking descent to the ocean. The ToC formerly came up the steep climb from the coast, but be nice to yourself and hit its eight miles of rolling hills starting from Occidental, coming back through Bodega and Freestone. If you can move your body afterward, go ahead and try to pat yourself on the back.
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