Photo by Mike Martin
Other than the weather, gearing is probably our most frequent topic of conversation. These courses are throwing a really wide range of terrain at us; finding the perfect setup will be essential to make it all the way through the trip. But most of the roads are completely unknown to us and you can only learn so much from the course profile, so there’s a lot of guesswork involved.
Tuesday’s 100-mile stage* from San Jose to Modesto started with the super steep Sierra Road climb right off the bat, followed by some gradual descending, a smaller climb over Patterson Pass, another gradual descent, and then about 50 miles of pancake flat, windy roads through the Central Valley.
Our gear selections:
- Garrett: 44×20 and 44×15
- Blake: 44×22 and 44×14
- Walton: 47×19 and 47×17
- Josh: 44×21, 44×17, and 44×15
- Rainier: 46×21 and 46×17
Sierra Road is so steep that Cervélo TestTeam (including last year’s Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre) told me they were going down to a 38t chainring. So all of us would have been more comfortable on a smaller gear, but we managed. I can only speak for myself but if that climb had been at the end of the stage, I would have really struggled.
For the rest of the stage, the 44×17 was perfect on Patterson Pass and the 44×15 was good for the flats. I was maybe a little overgeared for some of the block headwind sections.
Wednesday’s stage has probably more total elevation gain than today but the climbs are more gradual. Sierra Road is roughly a 2,000 foot ascent in three miles, and the first climb tomorrow is about the same elevation gain but over maybe ten miles. I’m thinking that the 44×17 should be okay as my climbing gear, and I might run a 44×14 on the flop-side since there will be some long, wide-open descents. But it’s all a crapshoot, really.
* We had to skip about 20 miles in the middle in order to get ahead of the race’s rolling road closures. So it was more like an 80 mile day for us.