We headed up the first climb and soon Mark C left the gang and I followed. On the descent, we discussed if we should wait. I could tell Mark was conflicted but a stop light brought our gang together and we soon started up the 2nd climb. Mark pulled away from poor Cindy, to whom he had made a sacred oath that he would assist. I was shocked that this man of the cloth would so cavalierly abandon cycling friends and jettison his promise but then, since I was able to hang in there and selfishly had my own plans for using him, didn't give it too much thought. We traded pulls after the climb and reached a food stop, just before a long and nasty climb #3. I refilled, ate a peach, gobbled a GU and started up this 2.4 mile climb and the steepest on the route. Mark pulled away from me and I pleaded with him to wait, begged him, sought to appeal to his humanitarian side and all I got out of him was, "I'll just coast on the down hill so you can catch up." Oh that's rich, as if I'm going to hammer on the down hill to catch after climbing this beast. To be fair, I would not have waited either but I've always held Mark up to a much higher standard so was surprised by his behavior but was especially disappointed I was losing a drafting opportunity! There are so few cyclists participating, there is little group riding (drafting) going on. However, just as I turned south into a nasty head wind, here came a group of 7-8 that included Dustin, Steve and Mark Waites. What a break and I rode to the next rest stop with this group.
About one mile from yet another well placed food stop, I remembered it was here, a year ago, where I spotted Joe G throwing up all over the ravine to the side. When I reached the food stop, who was there but Joe G again, what a coincidence and this time, sitting calmly and asking if I remembered last year's setting. He and Kevin S were encouraging me and asked me to join in as they departed but I needed time to decide if striking the sheriff, standing to the side, would get me a free ride into Monterey and anything other than an overnight stay in the jail. Soon, I shoved off, up climb #7, 3+ miles, a down hill and then immediately going up climb #8, only 1.7 miles to the top. Gawd, what a freakin grind and my speed was barely above the point at which lack of inertia forces the bike to fall over. Cramping was an issue, not the lock up kind but twinges in both legs, seeming to communicate to the brain, "What an idiot you are for putting us through this!"