The CTS Fig Fondo, #assortmint style
Fall is the time of year for turning pedals in SoCal. Searing heat gives way to mellower temps. The vibe is pleasant. It’s the off-season and speeds are civil. No one watches the clock at coffee stops.
Decked in Beehive and Bauhaus our Mint and Cassette & Co. ambassadors (aka Assortmints) rolled out for the 3rd annual CTS Figeuroa Fondo in the Danish town of Solvang, CA lured by the pull of new scenery and local wine. The pre-fixe, full course offering of 100 miles and 8,500 feet of climbing promised to satiate any salivating greyhound but toss in expected winds and deteriorating country roads, and the day was fast dishing up flavors only the sophisticated palate might digest. But theirs - it’s well-salted and seasoned.
The morning begins, as it should, with coffee. Pancakes smothered in stuff follow coffee. We internally honor ourselves that we choose to bite off these rides as it justifies the pancakes that go gullet-down, guilt free. We ponder one more pie and then drink more coffee. Riders group in pockets of sunshine to stay warm.
Despite forecasted temps in the 80’s, everyone is bundled up. It’s partly for fashion, partly for function – for the moment. We’ll soon do the onion dance, weeping beads of sweat and unpeeling layers–– and try to take this into consideration, suffering through the last few shivers before Dave Towle - the voice of US racing – takes the mic. The show is about to begin.
THE BATTERIES ARE DEAD AND WE’RE THREE MILES IN
Three miles into the ride there’s a problem that we’re unable to fix on the fly. We’re forced to return to the event start in search of the neutral support mechanics who, luckily, are still kicking around, tidying their tools of trade. The batteries inside the SRAM shift levers are done but the pros have us back on the road before we’ve downed our espresso and we’re now dead last at the back of the field of 800 riders. A new vantage point, we snap a few photos for the books. Nothing to lose, caution is tossed, splat! in the face of the wind and we attack! But the wind smacks back, snuffing out an entire box of matches far too early in what will lead to a very tough day - even at a picnic pace.
Chasing into the horizon to catch the back of a group that isn’t there.
FIG’ MOUNTAIN : THE UP
Proud #assortmints we are - strong and brave and true - and we hit the base of Figeuroa Mountain motivated and ready to climb. For the next hour and a half, we go up, and up, and up further, on to a dirt sector, and then up some more. Figeuroa never relents. Backs in full fatigue but legs strong, we go. The air thins, we gulp carborocket - the scenery goes YES! It never relents.
FIG’ MOUNTAIN : GOING DOWN
There are those that love to climb, and those that climb only to descend. For those in the second camp on this day, we extend you a bouquet of sorries. All the sensations of high speed sweeping turns awaited and the work - 4,500 feet of climbing in ten miles - was behind us. In the drops, click, click to the big ring, licking chops, and time to carve the canyon roads. Snap! The road surfaces would deny this thunder. It was an unanticipated technical trip to the valley floor dodging potholes, cracks, and volunteers who waved caution flags as riders meandered through challenging sectors of former yummy gummy blacktop.
HEADWIND FOR HOME
After a brawl with a bee (the bee won) and a steady, rhythmic climb – the kind even haters call ‘nice’ - it was time to point the wheels home toward the finish line in downtown Solvang. One last serving before us, we made quick work of the switchbacks of enchanted Foxen Canyon. Too tuckered to take in the wineries along the route we tapped into a tempo we could push into Solvang’s afternoon wind as Pro World Tour rider Tejay van Garderen blew past, making the conditions and grade look effortless. It was then that we knew our dessert had been earned.
Any ride in Solvang hasn’t been maxed to capacity joy until Aebleskivers are in hand. These glorious balls of pancake are covered in raspberry jam, powdered sugar, and pair well with a free pint of Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co’s summer citrus blonde. Prost, cin cin, cheers, and to your health.