It’s great when work can be this fun. Last Friday, I got to take part in a media ride for Phil Gaimon’s inaugural Malibu Gran Cookie Dough and I can tell this event is going to be pretty special.
Not only does this offer a different take outside the usual routes around the Santa Monica Mountains, but I’m a sucker for a fine cookie at anytime of the day.
Oh yeah, there’s Phil too.
Phil first gave us the lowdown on the ride. Yes, this was the best picture I took.
We started off at the Mavic offices, where I hoped to be confused with one of Phil’s teammates, since I was rocking a Cannonfale frame and Kysrium wheels(spoiler alert: not so).
Already assembled were a number of luminaries from the magazine world and a number of riders from Fireflies supporting the City of Hope, the charity Phil is sponsoring for the ride..
I spotted Troy Templin from Road Bike Action Magazine fresh off his trip from Iceland. Had I put a little thought into it, we should have carpooled together.
The countryside feel of Potrero Road
Phil gave a brief introduction and we quickly headed out to the parking lot where for the first time in my life, a bike ride started on time!
After wiggling through the quintessential suburb of Newbury Park, we made it onto Potrero Road, which the first stretch of his Fondo.
This is one of my favorite roads in the county, not because its that challenging, but for its pastoral charm that equals the outskirts of Paso Robles.
All getting ready to grind up our first climb.
One of the first people I talked to was Andrew Juiliano from Road Magazine. Based out of Santa Barbara, Andrew drove to Oxnard, then biked to the ride to get extra miles in, although there was no sweatiness I could use as an indicator.
We breezed for miles until hitting a traffic signal on this road leading us to our toughest climb of the day, Westlake Blvd., better known as the “23”.
If you’re new to cycling, this isn’t the hill for you. The pitches reach above 15%, so you better be able to grind because once you get off your bike, there’s no starting up again.
Phil is all smiles as we struggle up the 23.
Even though we took it easy, everyone had to grunt a bit except Phil who was Smiles McGillicuddy the whole way.
After a regroup at the top, we swung over to one of the most quirkiest sections of Mulholland Highway. The random llamas, party winery and Frank Lloyd Wright house is enough to qualify, but the rocks jut out with a richer shade of brown that makes you reevaluate where you are.
It’s like walking from Tomorrowland into Frontierland even though I know that’s not physically possible.
The crags of Mulholland Highway(photo by @superdomestik)
After turning away from the Bachelor residence on Kanan, we turned up Latigo Canyon, one of the greatest climbs in Southern California.
Most people ride up Latigo from PCH, but everytime I do the reverse, you realize what you’re missing out on. As great of a climb as it is, you don’t appreciate the expansive views and variety of landscapes you pass through as you pant up those 9% grades.
Chris from superdomestik was taking photos including this one of me descending Latigo.
You also notice it’s a hell of a long climb for the amount of time you’re descending. I must have been riding at a KOM pace, because just in the first mile, I started hearing a buzz from my back wheel.
If there was anytime to have Mavic Support Car, this was it. Brandon was nice enough to have a look asking me simply, “When was the last time you serviced your wheels?”
I couldn’t give him an answer, but my blank stare told it all.
How timely to have Mavic Support(photo by @superdomestik)
We then headed down PCH when we stopped for(what else)a coffee break at the halfway point. Somehow, I resisted one of Jeff Mahin’s cookies at the start because I carefully studied the stockpile and deduced there would be one waiting for me at some point.
What I didn’t know was that the support crew brought them along, so that when they were revealed, I jumped up like I had won Pyramid.
Side bar: Are we living in a golden age of cookies? The Sea Salt Chocolate Chip concoction was so think and rich, it is really the dessert version of a personal pizza. Why did it I have to wait a lifetime to experience this?
700c sized cookie.
Yes, I ate the whole thing and was thankful for the extended break for digestion purposes before we started riding again.
This also gave me the time to chat with Krystof Andres from SoCalBicyclist a bit more about the publication scene.
I was pretty stiff once we hit PCH, but after Phil and ride producer Ryan Moore took some deep pulls into the wind, I was properly loosened.
Crossing back into Ventura County, we turned off into Point Mugu State Park to make our way into the biggest mystery of the ride: Sycamore Canyon.
If you’re doing the longest distance of Phil’s Fondo, this is your final challenge. The majority of it doesn’t have much of a grade, but it is dirt.
All but one of us were on road bikes, so we pretty much followed Phil’s lead on the pace until someone got a flat.
And that guy just happened to race Paris Roubaix this year.
I wish I could have queued up that Smiths song for This Charming Man.
Normally, you wait around to help, but when that guy is on the pro tour, you accept his offering to get a head start.
I love riding dirt, but I’m not totally keen on taking my road bike out there. Sycamore Canyon was smooth 98% of the time and even the rocky sections are relatively tame, but that didn’t stop Phil from getting a second flat.
The final part of the road is paved which is completely necessary since this stretch is three-quarters of a mile averaging 10%.
This was the hottest day of the year and the struggle was real. Sean from superdomestik was running dry, so I gave him my other bottle of water. That sounds like a kind gesture, but I think I emptied out the remaining supply at the coffee shop right before his turn.
Struggling up the final climb with the superdomestiks
Our little group rounded up at the Ranger Station which had an amazing cool water fountain while the rest made it up the stretch, including Phil at some point.
We headed back to Mavic HQ pretty grimey, but the awaiting showers and adult beverages hit a refreshing note before we went to dinner.
This is going to be a fabulous ride when the time comes in November. People are going to enjoy the routes and I know this is going to be run like a first class event. Plus, it’ll be perfect weather that time of year too.
My only negative is that it’s still six months away. What am I supposed to do all this time? Knowing me, probably eating cookies.