On the Roadby: Bill Oetinger 9/1/2006
The Terrible Two revisited
A couple of months ago, I wrote what I characterized as a brief history of The Terrible Two Double Century. I wrote it right after the 2006 TT, and I wrote it quickly, one step ahead of my deadline. The result was certainly brief and, for me, only moderately satisfying. There was so much more to tell. I barely scratched the surface.
This month, I hope to fill in a few of the blanks in that story, and I hope to do it in a different way than just as another chapter in that same chronicle. My thought is to focus on a few people who have played significant roles in The Terrible Two down the years. The people featured here have generally had good success at the event. In fact, nearly all of them have finished first at least once, either overall or in some other category. But others who have finished first and done well are not featured here. Partly that’s because I no longer know where some of these people are, and partly it's because of space constraints in this column. I’m not setting out to cover every year in detail. I am just cherry picking from amongst the results lists, pulling out names that seem to me to be classic TT personalities.
First though, before diving into the bios, I want to clarify one point of TT lore. Our official history credits three local riders--Rod Mowbray, Gordon Burns, and Clifford Scott--with getting the TT off the ground in 1976. But in the November, 2005 newsletter of the Santa Rosa Cycling Club, a letter appeared from Ron Crandall describing how he and several other riders had been kicking around the idea of a North Bay double since maybe 1972. In addition to the three fellows listed above, Ron mentions Steve Kaiser, Tim Kelly, Jack Spaulding, and Dave Allen as having ridden one prototype TT course or another at some point in the early ’70’s.
I was recently riding with Gordon Burns and I asked him about Ron’s letter. Gordon acknowledges that the general notion of a TT-type course had been bouncing around in the minds and conversations of several local riders for a number of years. Many test rides on a variety of routes were logged. But--according to Gordon--it wasn’t until he and Rod and Clifford pulled the pieces together in 1976, and most importantly, pulled the small but growing Santa Rosa Cycling Club into the picture as the supporting agency that the event became more than just a glimmer in the eyes of a few hardcore riders.
Gordon recalls Rod doing one solo test run on the course before the first official ride in ’76. He says Rod ran out of gas somewhere out in the west county hills and he phoned his dad to ask if he would drive out and pick him up. But his dad refused. He said, “You got yourself into it; you get yourself out!” So Rod was forced to dig a little deeper and struggle on home. Which he did. And that proved, to a few folks anyway, that it could be done.
Later, when they did the first official test run--Rod, Gordon, and Clifford--they were met by their wives at the top of the big Fort Ross climb (generally considerd the last big challenge on the course, but still a good 30 miles from the finish). Clifford, feeling a bit weary, tried this line: “Well, now that we’ve climbed Fort Ross, I guess we know it can be done! So how about we get in the car with our wives and wrap this up?” And his wife said, “If you think I supported you on this crazy ride just so you could bail out with 30 miles to go, you’ve got another think coming! Now get back on that bike and keep riding!” See...people like Rod’s dad and Clifford’s wife were already setting the tone for the Terrible Two that would define it down the decades: we’ll support you, but you by god better do the miles.
Now, on to the faces in the peloton...
• Ed BuonaccorsiEd is one of only six riders to have finished first on the Terrible Two multiple times. That he did so in the first two years of the event’s existence makes it extra special. Ed is a local guy. Still lives in Santa Rosa. I was surprised, when looking up his records, to see that he was only 23 when he won that innaugural TT. Ed only did the Terrible Two one other time after his two victories. In what probably ranks as the longest hiatus between TT’s, Ed came out of retirement in 2000 to do the ride one more time. He finished, although a long way from first place. He sent us a note after the event...
“I would not recommend waiting 23 years before repeating this ride. A lot of things change and mostly for the better, as you have proven with this event. My bicycle no longer has sew-ups, it weighs a lot less and should go a lot faster. The problem is I’m much heavier, not as crazy, and my legs are unable to recover like they used to. The other simple truth is I have not completed an 80-mile ride in a very long time.
“Some other changes that have occurred in 23 years: old Skaggs Springs Road...now under Lake Sonoma; the old main highway run through St. Helena, replaced with a much safer route along the east side of the valley; Reynolds 532 frame then, titanium now; I weighed about 145 then...about 185 now (and I lost 25 pounds to get down to that weight this year); few riders then...more riders now (greater chance to find someone to talk to); my son wasn’t even one then...now he’s graduated from Cal Poly.
“In 1976, the support was a lone car and a prayer...now, support is everywhere. It was extremely helpful and encouraging. Great food stops and strong support from those in the SAGs. You have improved this event: it is superior to the event I recall. Thank you for accepting my application and allowing me to participate in this year’s ride.”
That last sentence sums Ed up: humble and gracious. He thanks us? The original winner of the event? We should be thanking him. What a guy.
• Art ReadArt is the only rider on this list who was not a winner or front runner. In fact, he only did the ride once (1980), finishing in 8th place out of 20 starters and nine finishers. But Art is not on this list because of his riding. He’s here because of his writing. And his illustration skills. For the first ten-plus years of the TT’s existence, Art cranked out the fliers that were the event’s only form of promotion, aside from the cycling grapevine.
Those early fliers are collector’s items now, and I am happy to say I have a full set. Every year he wrote new copy with some new angle to capture the attention of cycling’s lunatic fringe. And when I say he wrote the copy, I mean that quite literally: the copy is hand-written. I included a copy of one page of Art’s ramblings in my Brief History (two months ago), but those scribbled copy blocks were hard to read in the original and probably even harder to decipher on your monitor, so I’ll give you just a small sampling of his wordsmithing (this from the ’82 flier)...
“What is it this year?
“That’s the question I ask myself each year as I sit down at the old finger writer like some crusty monk who hasn’t heard of Gutenburg, and try to talk people into riding this Terrible Two craziness.
“The first few years I merely described the course in graphic enough terms that if you still thought it might be fun after reading the rap, then you probably did have an equally perverse notion of fun and were probably suited for this ride. Fine.
“The last few years I’ve used the ploy of stating how easy this ride is because of its relative lack of flat roads...flat terrain being the ultimate adversary on any ride of this length. So with upwards of 15,000’ verticle (sic) feet on the Dirty Double, those who bought the lengthened logic of my argument had to have had minds that were pre-stretched in that direction anyway...
“Well, I don’t want anyone else saying that I’m the reason they felt so raunchy one afternoon in June, so I’m through talking people into this ride. Finito! Done! Kaput!
“Besides, we had over 50 people start this wretched wride last year. What if a few hundred more started thinking it was just TOO MUCH FUN to miss? We’d have to get organized or somethin’ to handle the crowds. These things have a way of snowballing, y’know!”
That represents about 25% of the closely spaced copy for just one year’s flier. Multiply that by several years, all of it original; all of it fun and funky and foolish. It went a long way toward creating the personality of the Terrible Two. A demented, ragged-fringe ride; a brutal ride, but also a fun ride; immensely entertaining in an off-beat, kinky way. And above all, a ride that never takes itself too seriously.
Art also contributed his art to the event. His famous little suffering cyclist was the event’s original icon. We still trot it out for the t-shirt graphics each time another ten-year anniversary rolls around. Ans it still looks good, in the style of R Crumb and Zap Comics.
Art was a featured columnist at the old California Bicyclist magazine (along with Maynard Hershon). He did a great job. He’s still around, living in Healdsburg. I run into him now and then...at the Bear Republic brew pub or at a party for low life biker scum. He’s still the same. Like Ed Buonaccorsi, he too was lured out of retirement...not to ride the TT again, but for his art. My buddy Rich Fuglewicz got him to design the t-shirt graphics for another ride we have up here called The Terrible Two’s Bad Little Brother. It makes a nice companion piece to his original TT biker.
• Pete PennseyresPete Pennseyres needs no introduction among cyclists. His accomplishments in RAAM are well known, winning at least twice (that I can recall) and setting the record for highest average speed for a transcon. To say he is a legend in the world of ultracycling would be an understatement.
Pete only did the TT twice, but both were memorable. He wrote about it a few years back...
“It all started with this flyer we got that advertised the Terrible Two in 1977. This one was different from anything I’d ever seen. I read it and couldn’t believe it. They didn’t even bother to make it sound like it was fun. Just climbs, vertical climbs. The best part was these cartoons, guys with bulging legs, trying to climb Mount Everest, sweat pouring out of them. The more I read, the more interested I got.”
(See what I mean about Art Read’s influence on the event?)
For some perverse reason, Pete decided to do the ride on a tandem with his wife Joanne, in spite of the fact that they had never done a century, let alone a double, before. And the very hilly TT is not a tandem-friendly ride.
Pete and Joanne were delayed not only by the terrain but by four flats and by having to replace a couple of chain ring bolts that went missing. What with one thing and another, it took them 17:55 to finish. When he wrote about it, Pete wondered if that was a record for the slowest Terrible Two ever. It is not...and we’ll get to that later.
He did set a record though. He came back the next year on a single and finished first, setting the course record at 12:45.
• Elaine MariolleThe record for slowest Terrible Two ever--a record that will likely never be broken--belongs to another RAAM Hall of Fame member: Elaine Mariolle. She entered the TT in 1983 with about as much advance prep as the Pennseyres. She had just taken up the sport of cycling and didn’t know a thing about anything. She and two guys--Larry Breed and Bud Muehlman--took just under 23 hours to complete the ride that year. Almost a full day. Bud recalls the three of them lying flat on their backs in the middle of some remote country road in the dead of night, singing to the moon.
Elaine came back to the TT in ’85 and ’86. In the latter year she was the top woman finisher. She also was the top woman finisher at RAAM that year, setting a women’s course record in the process. She completed RAAM in ’84 and ’85 too, and was the second woman at Paris-Brest-Paris in 1991 (and should have, would have been first were it not for some trickery on the part the French woman who beat her).
Women represent a tiny minority of Terrible Two participants. I’d have to do some heavy lifting in the research department to tell you just how tiny, but less than 10% would be my guess. And yet they typically do very well, with a better finishing rate than the men. We’ll talk about one other woman who left an enduring mark on the TT in a bit, but I’d like to mention in passing one lass who did the ride and whose name might not ring many bells for bike race fans: Karen Brems was the first woman finisher in 1987. You might recognise her as Karen Kurreck, 1995 Time Trial World Champion.
• Scott TerriberryThe year Karen was the top woman at the TT--1987--the top man was a local lad named Scott Terriberry. He also finished first the previous year and second in ‘89.
Scott was at that time a mechanic at Dave’s Bike Sport, the top shop for serious cyclists in Santa Rosa (and the start finish site for the TT at that time). I think most riders who did their bike business at the shop would agree that Scott was the very best wrench in town. Not only was his work impeccably correct, he always took the time to patiently explain to clueless customers--like me--what was up with their ailing bikes. He even conducted classes on bike maintenance where one could actually learn useful skills. More than that, we was always available to chat with us, the great mass of struggling, developing riders. And not just about mechanical stuff. He pretty much mentored a whole generation of riders coming up in the sport in the North Bay.
In particular, in my case, he was a font of information and advice about the Terrible Two. Almost everything I knew about the event in the early years I learned from Scott. I’m sure many of my questions and opinions about the ride must have been naive and obtuse, but he treated them all with courtesy and supplied useful, common-sense suggestions for training and nutrition and psychology for the ride. I lapped it up, and in spite of the fact that he and I have been friends now for many years, I still feel a sense of awe with Scott, as if I’m sitting at the master’s knee.
He’s still in the neighborhood too. He worked the TT as a moto-sag this year. His life is filled with ocean kayaking now. He owns a kayaking outfit and is enough of a master of the sport that he conducts classes teaching other kayaking teachers how to teach kayaking. A man of many parts.
• Eric HouseEric only won the Terrible Two once, but it was the first year that I was the Director of the event: 1992. Because of that, he occupies a special place in my pantheon of Terrible Two personalities. But he would make my short list of special people in any event. He’s a special cyclist. Here’s what we wrote about him when he won...
“House breezed through the 1992 TT in 13:08, leading all the way, to easily cover a ravaged field of over 40 riders. Eric, nattily attired in a long-sleeve, oxford cloth business shirt, and sporting a swell little fanny pack, rode to victory on an ancient Univega beater with leather strap, rat trap pedals, funky reflectors, and a pump held on by that time-honored favorite: string. This is not a sneer at his equipment, but rather a tip of the hat to a great rider, and to the fact that dollars, technology, and style don’t count for nearly as much as ability, stamina, and spirit.”
That was on one of the Terrible Two’s truly terrible days, with an official high of 106° that actually felt a lot hotter than that. Other riders who finished--and less than half the starters did--looked like Bataan Deach March survivors. But House looked cheerful and cool all day long, as if he had just ridden down to the corner store to pick up a quart of milk.
That was our introduction to Eric. Over the years we have come to know him better, but little has changed in the way he rides and in his attitude about riding. The Univega has been replaced by a fancy, custom bike, but the long-sleeve dress shirt remains in place to this day.
He has completed the TT a dozen times now, including two seconds and a third. But perhaps his most amazing ride was a sixth place in 1994...on a recumbent. If the TT is tough on tandems, it is positively brutal for ’bents. They don’t climb worth a lick, and the TT’s steep walls put them at a real disadvantage.
Eric was riding the ’bent because of a wrist injury. (I think he broke it at the Tour of the Unknown Coast in May.) Never a slave to fashion, he took up the recumbent simply as a way to keep riding through the injury, and he did it better than any veteran ’bent rider has ever done it. His time that year on the old 211-mile course--12:53--is still by far the fastest ’bent time, including all attempts on the shorter courses of later years.
I rode with Eric for awhile that year, until he dropped me. We started up the big Geysers climb together, and it was amusing to watch him passing regular bikes on the steep climb. Riders would glance over at this guy passing them, then do double takes as they registered that it was not only a ’bent passing them by, but a ’bent piloted by a geeky looking guy in a white dress shirt, buttoned right down to the cuffs. These hot stuff hill climbers, trained up to a razor’s edge of fitness, legends in their own minds, couldn’t quite credit that this dweeby phred was passing them and dropping them on such a butch ascent. Boys...meet Mr. House!
We think the shirt is Eric’s version of sun screen. But it’s all part of the package: don’t worry about what Style Man says is correct; just ride the damn bike.
• Ken EichstadtKen’s first claim to fame at the TT is for what may be the quickest DNF in the history of the event...about one mile into the ride the Hugi rear hub on the tandem he was sharing with Henry Kingman packed up. But he wouldn’t make our short list for that exploit alone.
He came back in 1995 and finished first in what was then a record time of 11:20. (Eric House was second.) But other riders have finished first and some have also set course records. Tracy Colwell, for example, won twice and swiped Ken’s record with a time of 11:18 in 2000.
What really jumps out at us about Ken’s TT resumé are two other rides--in 2001 and 2004--when he completed this ruggedly hilly course on a single-speed, fixed-gear bike.
Ken and I set off from lunch together on that 2004 ride. It made for an interesting run up and over the many wicked summits on Skaggs. We would chat for awhile, then he would start churning away in whatever gear he had, using all of his great strength to chug up the double-digit pitches. Then, on the descents, I would come zooming back around him, as he would be spinning like an egg beater, completely maxxed out. Up the next hill, he’d reel me in, we’d chat for awhile, then he’d chug on up the hill. Next descent, same story. This went on for quite awhile until he finally dropped me for good.
Ken is an Eric House kind of rider: no frills, no concessions to trends or styles. Just a lifelong, hardball bike guy. Two TT’s on a fixed-gear. It doesn’t get much more hardball than that.
•Victor CzechWhen Terrible Twoosters get together and jaw about the ride, one question that comes up with regularity is: “I wonder what a really top line pro racer would do on this course?” We’ve had some fairly serious amateur and semi-pro racers do the ride, and perhaps the one who comes closest to having had real pro chops was Victor Czech. I don’t think Victor ever had a pro contract, but he did a number of races with moderately strong pro fields, and he did quite well in those events.
Victor is British, but was living in Sebastopol during his Terrible Two years of 1993 and 1994. He only entered twice, but he won both times. He set the 211-mile course record in 1994 at 11:19. That was the first year anyone broke 12 hours, and the first three riders all did so, indicating it may have been a relatively easy year, weather wise. That was the last year we used the long course, so that record has remained carved in stone in our annals. But in 2005, for our 30th Anniversary, we reprised the old long course for the first time since ’94. All the hot shots wanted a crack at that record and they got a mellow year to try it. The result: not even close. The winning time was 11:47, almost a half hour off Victor’s time.
But Victor says he’s actually prouder of his ride from the previous year. He clocked 12:15--almost half an hour ahead of second place, defending champ Eric House--and he did it on a day of scorching heat...108° the official high. His kindest climbing cog that year was a 21, and he allows as how maybe that was a bit of a tall order. (He threw a 23 on the bike the nest year when he set the record.) He might have gone faster than 12:15, but early on the Fort Ross climb, one of the sags gave him bad information on what time it was. (Victor didn’t have a clock on the bike.) Thinking it was much later than it really was, he gave up on breaking Jim Daniel’s course record of 12:01 and just noodled on in.
One Victor factoid everyone loves: he supposedly did his TT’s on a diet of nothing but organic carrot juice.
Victor is still around in the woods of West Sonoma County, but most of us never see him. Victor rumors and Victor sightings keep surfacing on the local grapevine: He’s had a killer, 15-pound bike built and is going to do the TT again; he’s given up cycling and taken up surfing; he’s going to get his old buddy Andy Hampsten to do the TT with him...loads of lore, but the man remains elusive.
• Paul McKenziePaul has never finished first on the Terrible Two, but he has made his mark in the event in other ways. In particular, he has made the TT his personal tandem playground. I asked Paul to share some of his thoughts about past TT’s, and this is what he had to say...
“In the early nineties, I met Ray Plumhoff while riding Mt. Diablo. After that we became friends and did some riding together. One day I was riding Mt. Diablo again, this time on my tandem with my 8-year-old son Daniel. Ray wondered how he and I might do on the tandem so he suggested we do a ride together. We chose a century ride on the peninsula, the Banana Century I think. We wobbled around for a few miles, took a wrong turn, but eventually got the big bike moving. We found the speeds attainable on flats and downs intoxicating. And we could climb with most single bikes.
“Later we did a few more rides and races. We did the Mt. Diablo Challenge, and subsequently did the Markleeville Death ride three years in a row. Each year we ‘won’ the ride, finishing ahead of all the singles.
“Neither of us had attempted the Terrible Two. We decided it was time, and, what the heck, why not do it on the tandem? We’d been successful on the Death Ride but knew the TT was a bigger monster to tame.
“We showed up in 1996 and rode quite well on my Rodriguez mountain bike tandem with slicks. Our time was 11:52. The ride was uneventful except that it was excruciatingly difficult climbing on Skaggs and Fort Ross late in the ride. We had several wheel suckers who enjoyed the moderate climbing pace while drafting the flats. Our time was good enough to shatter the rather soft existing record.
“The following year, I thought it would be a good idea to go for the co-ed record. I contacted my friend Sara Ballantyne. Sara was a former World Champion mountain biker, but had retired from cycling. She came out from Colorado in May of 1997 to train a bit with me on the bike. We found immediately that we were compatible and pretty darned fast. We did a multi-day tandem adventure in the high Sierra with friends.
“Sara and I started the TT in 1997. We had a great ride. Sara was never in distress, talking the whole time and enjoying the scenery. She was tired of the long winters in Breckenridge and I remember her commenting on the beauty and green of the wine country. I overheated on Skaggs. I specifically remember looking at my heart rate, which was over 175 bpm and thinking, I just can’t keep this up! But we cooled down on the coast and finished in 12:21, another record.
“Later, I began doing some tandem events with Catharina Berge. She is an extremely strong rider with solid endurance credentials. She set the women’s TT record in 2002 with a time of 11:35. By then, 2003, I had much more experience, a faster road tandem, and a solid stoker. Cat and I had a great ride. We arrived at lunch while the leaders were there. And we left just a minute or two after them. But I again overheated on Skaggs and we lost a lot of time. Again, I cooled down on the coast, and we finished strong, managing a time of 11:42.
“Well, then Ray Plumhoff caught wind of the fact that the co-ed tandem record was now faster than our men’s record. We had ‘retired’ from riding the tandem together, but this was enough incentive for Ray to once again don his stoker’s hat. We rode in 2004, and had a very good day. I remember Ray was depressed in the middle of the ride. He thought our pace would put us over 12 hours. I told him, ‘No, we’re on 11:30 pace!’ We finished strong in 11:20, which coincidentally was the overall record when we did our first TT.
“The following year, the TT followed the old 211-mile course. I figured with my history of tandem records, I’d better lay down another. I could do the co-ed record or the men’s but not both of course. Cat Berge was doing RAAM, so Ray got the call. We did the 211-mile course with similar success. With both of us being over 50 now, it wasn’t quite as easy as it was 10 years prior. But we were very pleased to break 12 hours with a time of 11:58 on the long course.
“We were very happy with that performance, but I think our days of tandem riding are over with that ride. It’s been a great experience tandeming the Terrible Two. I am proud and pleased to be part of its long history. I’ve come back every year to do the event and finished each time.”
• Ray PlumhoffPaul McKenzie asked his stoker Ray Plumhoff to spill a little ink over his TT exploits, and here we have the results...
“My first TT was ’96, the year we set our first record. Paul and I had been riding the tandem for a few years, including a few Death Rides. I don’t remember what the old record was at that time, but I think we felt fairly sure we could do better. I don’t think we (or at least I) expected to do a sub-12. That ride will always be my favorite memory of the ‘early years’ riding a tandem with Paul.
“I doubt it would be possible to find a better tandem captain than Paul. He knows bikes, and especially tandems, better than anyone. He knows how to set them up, what equipment to use to get the best balance of speed and reliability. Although I am sure we must have had at least a flat tire in the thousands of miles I have ridden with him, I can’t actually remember one, let alone any other mechanical problem. That is a tribute to his skill both as a mechanic and as a bike handler. Paul has always said there are two prerequisites to doing well on a ride: first, you have to show up, and second, you have to finish. Sometimes I think he must have coined the phrase ‘talk is cheap.’ Although he is understandably proud of his achievements on the bike, single or tandem, you will never hear him talking about or predicting a great result beforehand. He lets his riding do the talking.
“After the ’96 TT, I remember saying ‘never again.’ Although I knew I would do the ride again because it is such a great course, the pain of doing it on a tandem for speed was something I didn’t think I could repeat. In the years following that ride, Paul and I rode the tandem less, mainly because I got married, had kids, and had less time for the bike. I missed a couple of TT’s in those years, but when Paul and Cat set a new record in ’03, beating the record he and I had, I was not happy. I didn’t want my name up there with just the second best tandem time. I’m sure Paul realized that and knew I would take him up on the invitation to try to get the overall record back in ’04. After having missed a couple of years I was a little hesitant, but since I knew that despite getting older, I didn’t seem to be getting much slower, I decided to go for it.
I think we were both astounded when we knocked more than half an hour off our previous time. I think Paul was confident we could, with the right conditions, beat his time with Cat, but I doubt he thought we could do it by that much. My most vivid memory of that ride is doing the Skaggs climbs, and catching up to Cat, who was on her second lap (more about that later). I was at a low point; I hadsomehow gotten the idea that we were behind schedule and would not get the record. We rode alongside Cat for a few minutes and she was incredibly supportive. I was completely in awe of what she was doing and it really helped me get my head back into the effort.
After that ride, it was a no-brainer that we would go for the old course record the next year. We managed to stay at or near the front of the ride until the turn to Annapolis, when we had a nice chat with Brian Anderson, who wished us well before saying goodbye. My only real concern in ’05 was to try to keep my personal always-sub-12 streak going.(I kept it going again this year, but with the course change, it may be the last time!) We managed to do that by two minutes, and I recall the last hour being a desperate effort to make that goal.
The real satisfaction I get out of those tandem rides is knowing that I put in the best effort I could on each of those days. I give the major credit to Paul, not just for his awesome riding, but for putting together flawless bikes and getting them through the course with no mishaps.”
Paul and Ray have concentrated on their tandem adventures in the accounts here, but what they fail to mention is that they have done rather well on their single bikes in the years when the the tandem has been left at home. Paul has done the TT every year since 1996 and has finished in the top ten in seven of those eleven years, including second in 2005. Ray has done the TT nine times. In nine tries, he has been 7th once, 5th once, 4th twice, 2nd four times, and 1st once, in 1999. That may be some sort of record for consistent excellence at this event. And remember: both these guys are over 50 now...
• Catharina BergeIn Ray’s account above, he mentions chatting with Catharina Berge, “who was on her second lap.” What Ray was referring to was Cat being in the second lap of doing the Terrible Two twice around. But let’s back up first and meet her a couple of years before that.
Cat--a charming young woman from Sweden--first showed up at the TT in 2002. In a year of generally fast times, she finished fifth overall in 11:35, lopping a whopping 50 minutes off Muffy Ritz’ old record of 12:25 (and RAAM-tough Muffy was no slouch on the bike). The next year Cat showed up as the rear-engine drive on Paul McKenzie’s tandem, taking away the co-ed tandem record from another tough cookie, former World Champ Sara Ballantyne.
In 2004, she needed a new challenge, so she set her sights on the holy grail...the mythical Horrible Four: two times around the TT course, non-stop. It had been attempted a few times but only completed once (in 1995 by SRCC member Trent Norlund in a time of 38:39).
Cat did her first TT solo, beginning on Friday afternoon of the day before the TT and doing Skaggs and Fort Ross in the dark. She completed the first loop in a very snappy 12:33, then began the second loop a couple of hours ahead of the official TT start. She slowed down a bit on the second double, taking 14:00 to bring it home. Her total of 26:33 knocked over 12 hours (!) off Trent’s time. Amazing.
• Brian AndersonSpeaking of amazing, what can we say about Brian Anderson? He has earned for himself the honorary title of Mr. Terrible Two. How has he done this? By finishing first for the last five years in a row, including setting the course record of 10:50 in 2002. No one else has won the TT more than twice. So much has he come to own the event in recent years that it’s a bit like teeing it up in a golf tournament with Tiger Woods: everyone else is thinking about second place before the event even begins.
It wasn’t always this way. Brian had done the TT four times before his streak began, and only once in those four rides had he cracked the top 20 (7th in 1997). Brian explains that he did those early rides “socially”...riding with some of his local buddies. But in ’02, he told his friends he was going to try and ride for time and see what happened. What happened was a new course record...our first finish under 11 hours. (Let’s not forget mountain bike racer Mark Reidy of Fairfax, who finished with Anderson and shares the record.)
Brian is a bit of an enigma. He’s very modest...one might even say painfully shy. He doesn’t strut around at the TT like the cock o’ the walk, although he has every right to do so. In fact, most of the other riders rarely see him. After his wins, he hangs around for a few minutes, then leaves to ride home, usually before any of the other riders have made it to the finish. Folks who know him say he’s just a regular, wholesome, boy-next-door sort of guy.
He doesn’t race. He doesn’t do the double century circuit or any of the ultramarathon events. He doesn’t do brevets or any of that randonneuring stuff. He doesn’t belong to a club or show up for club rides. He just hangs out and rides with a few old buddies. And he flat nails the TT every year.
In trying to explain his success, one of his friends reminded me Brian is a house builder. Not an architect; not a general contractor; but a hands-on framer and carpenter. He works hard, outdoors, every day (while most of his TT competitors are riding desk chairs in front of monitors all week). He is simply a very fit, very focused rider.
Hard to say just what it is. His approach to his five winning TT’s has been interesting. He doesn’t go off the front early. He is not the first one into any of the early time stations. This past year, he wasn’t even first at the stop on the top of Skaggs (mile 120 or so). But on the latter half of Skaggs he makes his move...around Las Lomas or the infamous Rancheria Wall. Then he absolutely flat hammers the coast and keeps pouring on the coal all the way to the finish. Consider this: the time gap between his finish and second place this year was 26 minutes. That’s one minute more than the span of time covering the next ten finishers. That is total domination.
How long will the streak last? Check back next year and see...
Finally, a tip of the hat to four fellas who have finished more TT’s than anyone else.
Tom Longhas entered 16 TT’s since 1989. He has finished 14 of those 16 starts, including three with wife Cindy on the tandem. One of those--2005--nailed down the long-course record for a co-ed tandem. Tom is the same age I am--59--and while I’m not sure I have any more Terrible Twos in me, he’s still finishing in the top 30.
Bill Ripkehas also started 16 TT’s and finished 14 of them. Eleven of his 14 finishes have been in the top 30. Bill is still relatively young--42--so he ought to be able to add to that total in the years ahead.
Mike Aberghas started 16 TT’s dating back to 1985, when he was only 20 years old. He has finished 13 of his 16 starts. He was for many years the leader in the “most TT’s” category, but a couple of recent DNFs have allowed his pursuers to reel him in. However, he’s still only 41, so with a little work, he could get back on top of the pile.
Leland Geehas started 13 TT’s dating all the way back to 1980 and has finished all of the rides he has started. Leland--another Santa Rosa lad--was active in the early years of the TT, including finishing first in 1983. Then he took a decade off. But since 1998 he’s been there almost every year. He’s not sure how many more he wants to do, but I doubt he’s ready to hang the bike up just yet.
Okay...there you go. A column almost as long as a double century, and we didn’t even hang out in the rest stops too long. If you’ve waded through it all to this point, you are a certifiable Terrible Two junkie...a die-hard bikeaholic who doesn’t know when to say when. Considering the list of loonies highlighted here, that puts you in very good company.
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org