Sampling that thrill of the hills

Blue skies and $3,000 Auburn-made bike welcome novice rider
By: Sara Seyydin, Journal staff writer
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Editor’s Note: Journal sports writer Sara Seyydin took a 25-mile bike ride along the Amgen Tour of California course Tuesday. Following is her first-person report. By Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer The Challenge: As Auburn bursts at the seams in anticipation for the Amgen Tour of California, many locals are hopping on a bicycle and feeling the energy. I decided to ride the wave to see what it would be like for a cycling newbie to cruise 25 miles on some of the same roads that will host world-class riders in just a few weeks. That may be just a small sliver of the 121.9 miles the pros will power through during the third leg of their tour of California, but it would put me well on my way to joining in on the fun of the Gold Country Half Metric (31 miles) Century Ride on May 14th. Dan Tebbs, owner of Victory Velo in Auburn, and his team bravely accepted the challenge to be my ride guides — from setting me up with a bike to crossing the last mile marker. The last time I set foot on a bike was over three years ago and this would be different than my standard loop around the park. As my eyes locked on my borrowed racing machine, a Felt ZW-series road bike designed especially for women, it was love at first sight. The robin’s egg blue accents and sleek design made my heart beat a little faster, while the 19-pound full carbon frame would be light enough to keep me fast, even on hills. Knowing the $3,000 beauty was made right here in Auburn helped me feel even more connected to the Endurance Capital of the World. Fitted out in padded bike shorts (an essential I was thankful for going into mile 20), a coordinating blue top and helmet I definitely looked the part. Now it was time for me to put the pedal to metal and prove that almost any Auburnite could follow suit. Dan planned out our route with a website called map my route — a loop beginning in Downtown Auburn and winding down Auburn-Folsom Road through Penryn and Newcastle all the way to Granite Bay and back. I was fitted. I was pumped. I was uncoordinated. The Ride: Any overly ambitious dreams I had of becoming Lance Armstrong’s protégé were promptly distinguished as I got off to a wobbly start. I felt more like Frogger than a would-be cycling pro as I made my descent out of Auburn. Those first few minutes I seriously wondered what my curiosity had gotten me into and if I was capable of going one mile, let alone 25. The challenge lied in adjusting to the lightness of the bike and learning how to use the gears. Dan told me to trust the bike, relax my arms and turn into the curves rather than using the handlebars to steer. In the wrong gear I would careen down the hill, out of control or have to work too hard to get up a hill. For a good five miles I still wasn’t at ease, but somewhere in the midst of scenery that rivaled Thomas Kinkade’s paintings of the countryside, I got lost in the moment and it all started to click. As we weaved up and down back roads a new sight would greet me around every corner — horses, wildflowers and even the occasional fellow biker. Under the perfect cornflower-blue expanse of sky I reveled in the fact that I wouldn’t feel guilty skipping my trip to the gym later on. The open road sure beat being on the treadmill next to sweaty strangers anyways. Just as I was starting to feel like maybe I should quit my day job to train for the Tour de France, I veered a little too far to the right and knew I was going down. Strategically, I took my tumble into some tall, soft grass. My fall was not without an audience, as some members of the Sierra Foothills Cycling Club cruised by. I may be a little better suited for the sports beat desk job at the Journal, but that didn’t stop me from getting back up and finishing the ride. The Finish Line: By this time we were looping back around to Indian Hill Road, where I had to get ready for 1-2 miles of a steep grade. Dan told me it was our only way back into Auburn and we’d only stop for a break if I really needed to. There were a couple of times that I thought about pulling off to the side, but the thrill of reaching the zenith kept me pumping forward. As I looked to my right I saw picturesque ranches and a sweeping vista of Folsom Lake. The elation I felt at the top of the hill was worth the burn of the lactic acid surging through my legs as we cruised back into town. My one ride may not make me a cycling aficionado, but it did give me a whole new respect for the sport. I will be cheering on the professional cyclists who will whiz through town shortly after the Stage 3 start of Amgen on May 17, but now I have also tasted a little bit of the adrenaline that drives them and so many other weekend warriors. Auburn is the Endurance Capital of the World and we owe it to ourselves to take advantage of the world-class terrain the other 364 days of the year. If I could do it, anyone can. Reach Sara Seyydin at ______________________________________________________ What: Amgen Tour of California Stage 3 Start When: 8 a.m., Tuesday May 17th Where: Starts at Central Square in Downtown Auburn, at the intersection of High Street and Lincoln Way Highlights: This is Auburn’s debut year as a host city and the tour features world-class cyclists For More Information: Connect with Bike Auburn on Facebook or Twitter, or at