Bicycling heaven in Berkeley

By Michael Collier

An unidentified cyclist zips along newly paved Wildcat Canyon Road in the Berkeley hills. Spinadventure photo.

An unidentified cyclist zips along newly paved Wildcat Canyon Road in the Berkeley hills. Spinadventure photo.

Among the things that road cyclists live for: Being King of the Mountains. Long descents. Post-ride feasts.

Oh, and one more: Virgin asphalt, which is like riding on silk.

This week, the denizens of roadies in Berkeley, Calif., were doing cartwheels over the news that a crumbling, pot-holed signature parkway through the city’s wooded hills was being repaved after months of pressure from the city’s robust cycling community.

The Grizzly Peak Cyclists club’s e-mail list was buzzing for days, with a collective sigh from members that years of excruciatingly bumpy pavement were coming to an end.

One member, Mark Abrahams, was so excited that he jumped on his bike and rode to where the paving crew was just finishing the job — giving kudos to the workers as he passed by them.

Wildcat Canyon Road, a narrow, winding street with breathtaking vistas of the wild land canyon, had reached a state of such disrepair that it was almost unbearable to ride. Hard-core cyclists grumbled and turned to other streets for their rides.

But last week the city sent crews to the canyon road, which is in Tilden Regional Park, and laid down several miles of new asphalt. The effort is part of a $15.4 million budget to repave nearly 25 miles of streets in the famously anti-car city, according to Berkeleyside, a news site that covers the city.

A rider who journeyed onto Wildcat Canyon Road one afternoon this week noticed several cyclists breezing along the route, which will be striped in the coming days. They looked very happy to be there.

Tour de France toss up

By Michael Collier
Chris Froome and now a tearful Alberto Contador are out of le Tour after bone-fracturing crashes in the early stages.

Other stars, including Mark Cavendish and Andy Schleck, suffered the same fate, creating an unexpected field of possible podium contenders.

Today is a rest day, a pause for Tour-watchers to assess who may emerge as the top tier as the race kicks it up in the mountains.

Will Vincenzo Nibali be able to hold onto the yellow jersey? He seems to be the heartiest at this point, after winning a tough Stage 10 on Monday.

What about the others in the top tier? Alejandro Valverde has shown his toughness in several previous tours, but hasn’t been a race-changer more recently.

Richie Porte appears to be strong, and Tony Gallopin, who wore the yellow jersey for a day before Nibali snatched it back, has shown that he can compete with the leaders.

Then there is Tejay van Garderen, the U.S. hope. He was collateral in a crash early in the race but rode well in Stage 10.

My podium picks: Nibali, Porte and either Valverde or van Garderen.

Readers: Who are your picks? Please post your comments below.

Mountain travel pioneer, 80, conquers peaks on his bike

 By Michael Collier

Leo Le Bon on his way to the top of Mount Diablo (elevation 3,850 feet) last month. He also rode to the top of Mount Tamalpais ( elevation 2,500 feet) on the same day. Photo by Nadia Le Bon.

Leo Le Bon on his way to the top of Mount Diablo (elevation 3,850 feet) last month. He also rode to the top of Mount Tamalpais ( elevation 2,500 feet) on the same day. Photo by Nadia Le Bon.

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It’s common to see cyclists going strong into their later years. Leo Le Bon, of Berkeley, Calif., is one of them. But getting to the top of three Bay Area peaks in one day? That’s a challenge. Le Bon, who founded Mountain Travel in Oakland in 1969, has spent his life finding adventure across the globe.