Wednesday, November 17, 2010

November 14, 2010: Battle of The Warriors - The Fight for Palomar


The last EPIC RIDE for the VeloViet 2010 season is finally here. It is a ride rich in history and excitement for the VeloViets, and it is again on this final climb that the 2010 VeloViet King-of-the-Mountain will be revealed. The VeloViet’s mountain goats have been salivating for this route, but they will be hard pressed as The Lady will not let them have an easy passage. Welcome... to the world that is... The Lady Palomar...


They wavered in the relentless attack from Lady Palomar. She broke them, but yet they came charging back. Her attack came again, broke their mental might, but yet again they came charging. And with each attack, like the tide rushing in from the ocean, they penetrated deeper into her magical forest and higher on her majestic slopes.

Cap’t Thomas voice trumpeted loudly to the VeloViets, encouraging them not to quit and to bear this unbearable pain in the climb. His vocal assertion is like a giant wind, pressing the men and women up further and further as one, and riders leaped forth from their saddles to push even harder. The A1 riders riding in the front were like a giant shield, protecting the A2 riders from the buffeting winds. Lady Palomar howled loudly as she increase the gale in her relentless attacks.

The slope steepened, the forest thickened, and it was as if the soldiers of Lady Palomar are regrouping to make their last stand, to protect her secrets from the VeloViets. At last up ahead, the riders spy her golden gate. They have come upon her entry into the kingdom of heaven. Suddenly… a loud roar came out from beyond the walls. At last... Lady Palomar has release her strongest soldier and it is her last attempt to stop them.

Time suddenly stood still for the VeloViets... Their hearts slowed to an unbearable painful beat... To gain entry into this golden archway, they first must defeat THE PALOMAR BEAST...


The VeloViets once again turn to their trusted cycling friends for help. Riders from the River Velo Cycling Club, and Tim and his San Diego cycling soldiers, have been asked to accompany the VeloViet pack. Will this joined force be enough???


For those who don’t know Palomar, she is a majestic mountain rearing high at 5240 feet. The trip up to her top takes 22 miles of climbing, with the last 7 miles of the highest gradient. Palomar is often compared to the famous Tour de France ascent Alpe d’Huez, as both climbs have roughly 21 switchbacks and is similar in distance, vertical gain, and altitude at the top. Palomar again will help decide who should deserve the 2010 KOM for the VeloViets.

VeloViet has a deep history with Palomar. 2010 will be the 3rd time the VeloViets attempt to ascent her deep curves. The first year that the VeloViets climbed her slopes, Thanh “Danielson” surprised all that went, and took her first. This was the beginning of the epic story.

The second time the VeloViets met with Palomar, a relatively unknown climber named FedEx made his first appearance with the club. What a phenom he was on that day! FedEx obliterated everyone except for Cap’t Armstrong and Ironman Duc. Shortly after that day, FedEx joined the VeloViet rank, and he still continued to grow as a cyclist and surprise us even to this very day. That year, enamored by her beauty and lush curves, the VeloViets named this ride Lady Palomar.

History again will be made in 2010 on these slopes. With the huge rise in members this year, the VeloViets no longer just have a couple of phenomenon climbers, but now guys like TZ, Sang, Steve, Bang, Keith, Greg R, Ironman, Toan, Long, Luke, Duc, and Cap’t can generate the strength-to-weight power that is needed to dominate Palomar.

But... FedEx is still King... King of the Mountain. To defeat him on Palomar, some of the others will need to ban together... and... ATTACK FedEx!

No guts... no glories... stay home!


Boom, Boom, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM...

The sound of the battle drums echo louder, as the VeloViet soldiers march closer to the gate of Palomar. Finally to the giant gate, they stop. At the front of the VeloViet army, rode the gallant Cap’t Thomas. Astride on his white steed Trek Project One, and wearing his favorite yellow shoes, Cap’t looked upon the battle scene.

To Cap’t right, rode a lean warrior dressed all in black. Riding on his black Felt stallion, Fed-Ex was an image of pure speed and quickness, a warrior designed to strike fast and hard. Palomar is his favorite terrain for battle.

To Cap’t left, there rode another mighty warrior, The Animal. Dressed all in scarlet red, The Animal’s muscled figure imposed an image of astounding power and endurance. This is a warrior who can by himself pull the VeloViet’s cycling army all day on the road.

Behind this front pack lurked many other mighty VeloViets: The Gear, a warrior capable of great courage on the descent, Mad Dog & Mrs Mad Dog, a one-two punch combination of speed and beauty, The Italian, a rider who will not leave a wounded comrade behind, Ironman, a wounded soldier who will not give up and take no for an answer, Greg G, a warrior with great ride and leadership qualities, and The Beast, the GMR famous climber who can climb with the best. There are even more exceptional Veloviets in Greg R, Randy, Steve, Long, Anh Sang, Anh Minh, Big Minh, Viet, Simon, Mac, Nancy, Kyra, Keith, Loc P, Loc T, Tan, Postal Boys, Duc, The Rock Racing Brothers, Big H, Thanh Danielson, TZ, and the list goes on and on. They have all come here for one purpose, and that is to support Cap’t Thomas on this Palomar assault. This army will be fully supported none other than the beautiful ladies of Co and Fixie, ready to render assistance and attention at a moment’s notice.

Defiantly though, Lady Palomar stood at the top of the castle wall with her thousand-strong archers ready for battle. She looked down to the VeloViets, raised her hands, to prepare the signal for the onslaught of arrows.

Cap’t Thomas pulled out his sword and raised it high in the air. After a slight paused, he flicked forward his wrist and signaled the charge.

The VeloViet’s army hit a straight crushing blow to the center of the gate!

The Battle of The Warriors, The Fight for Palomar, has begun...

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LETS... GET... READY... TO RUMBLE...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Responding to the VeloViet’s attack, Lady Palomar signaled her archers to be ready and release their arrows. Acting as one, the thousand-strong archer army raised their bows upward. At the release, a thousand arrows flew upward and formed a long arch with trajectories towards the center VeloViet’s warriors. To the heart of the VeloViet’s Army the arrows flew… and took out three of VeloViet’s best soldiers! Blood and carnage spilled onto the virgin road. Here is how it went...

The start this morning was rough for me. Excited about the ride, I woke up at 2:30 AM. Darn it! I hope I have enough energy when the ride starts! Long showed up at 6:15 AM exactly. He sounded a little out of it too, as he went to his brother-in-law’s wedding the night before. Too much Sake, Long said, and he sounded very tired too. Oh boy... there goes the Plan A attack route! Plan B is to ride with the pack on the climb!

We arrived at Palomar at 7:20 AM and were the first. Within 10 minutes though, the corner of the parking lot that we were at is filled with cars carrying bikes. The VeloViet’s army and their friends came out in full force and fully equipped.

Photo 1 - The Parking Lot was Full of Cars with Bikes

Photo 2 - Ride Photographer Fixie Girl Hard At Work Already

Photo 3 - Kyra Excited and Ready to Roll

Photo 4 - Long and Can Talking Strategies

Photo 5 - The TriCrew: Ironman, Big H, and FedEx. Pumped And Ready to Roll!

Photo 6 - Luke "The Beast" Getting Ready

Photo 7 - The VeloViet Sag Car Loaded with Food and Drinks

With the call for help, VeloViet's cycling friends, the River Velo Team and the San Diego Riders, came out for battle with Lady Palomar.

Photo 8 - The River Velo Team, led by Cap't Bong (no helmet)

Photo 9 - The San Diego Cyclists, led by Tim (middle)

And yet they still rolled in after the schedules 8 AM meeting time, totaling about 40 strong excluding the Sag Team of Co, Fixie, and Tony. Cap’t “Armstrong” quickly lined everyone up and gives out the safety speech. A quick photo opportunity and we are off!

Photo 10 - Lineup for Photo Shoot

Photo 11 - Group Photo Before the Ride

Photo 12 - VeloViets Rolling Out


The VeloViet Warriors pulled themselves from the bloody road and assess the situation. The arrows had pierced their light armor and had taken out Luke “The Beast”, Long, and Greg G. What happened was that everyone was tight together at the start, as in a real road race.

Photo 13 - The VeloViet Pack Stretching Thin

About 3 miles into the ride, someone hit the brake in the front. This action caused a chain reaction down the paceline. Tien, a friend of Keith, was in front of me and when he braked, I braked and swerved to the right, my front wheel barely missed hitting his back wheel. I thought I was okay until Luke, who was behind me, rubbed his front tire with my back one. I barely hang on but managed to pull my foot out of the pedal and stop fully in the gravel on the right of the road. As I looked back, I remembered seeing Luke do a somersault over his handle bar. Long had hit Luke, and Greg had hit Long. Fortunately we were near the back, and no other casualties were taken.

Photo 14 - The Main Group Moved On Leaving Only a Small Crew with the Wounded Warriors

The damage was that Luke’s rear derailleur was bent and his back brake had complete sheared off! Physically he was okay, but Luke could not shift into his granny gear, needed to climb Palomar. Long had suffered a hard fall on his right shoulder, but his bike seemed okay. Greg seemed to be okay in both bike and body.

After a lot of tweaking, and taking his rear brakes off, Luke “The Beast” decided to continue with just the front brake and broken rear derailleur. Yikes! Man I sure hope he doesn’t try going downhill with one brake. Most everyone had continued on and the remaining teammates: Luke, Greg, George (Greg’s friend), Long, Kyanh, Steve, Simon, and I started to chase down the front pack. Long took to the front first and pushed a long and hard pace. I took over next and pulled the chase group to the bottom of the next hill.

Luke must have some extra adrenaline left from the excitement and quickly distance himself from most of us! Only George was able to stay with Luke. Long, on the other hand, was hurting badly on his right shoulder, from the crash, that he became the first casualty of The Lady. He abandon shortly after this stretch.

Photo 15 - We Attacked Hard Trying to Chase Up to the Main Group

Photo 16 - Luke Attacking Hard with George Following

I burned a lot of energy during this 7 miles chase, and had to rethink my game plan. So now there goes Plan B and it is onto Plan C. Plan C was just to survive the brutal Palomar climb, in anyway possible. We reached the first sag stop.

Photo 17 - The First Sag Station

The Animal pushed a hard and punishing pace out of the first sag stop. This acceleration thin out the pack, and after a few miles, the strong riders again re-established themselves as front runners. I ended up riding with Big H, Tien, and Scott M, and we were the second group on the road. In front were fast guys like FedEx, Cap’t, Luke, and Steve.

Photo 18 - The Animal Pushed a Brutal Pace Out From the Sag Station

Photo 19 - And Starts to Create Gaps in the Pack as the Road Rises

Photo 20 - Phong Still Feeling Good, Chased After the Front Pack

Photo 21 - Arnel, Big H, and Steve's Friend Chasing Hard

Photo 22 - Rock Racer Can Putting Out Huge Wattage to Stay in the Game

Photo 23 - Rock Racing Team Chased!

Big H accelerated on the start of these next set of hills, and pulled Tien along with him. I ended up alone, not having enough energy to reel these guys back, but not wanting to slow down to let anyone catch up. We came upon the second and last sag stop before the top.

Photo 24 - Steve and FedEx Capture the First Two Spots to the Sag Station

Photo 25 - Sag Station #2

Photo 26 - We Even Had Our Own Moto Support

A quick assessment of who the Palomar Contenders were revealed 10 riders who were up to the King-of-the-Mountain challenge. These were the riders who had bested what Lady Palomar had thrown at them so far, and who still dared to challenge the climber FedEx in the mountains.
A quick line up for a photo op.

Photo 27 - 2010 Palomar KoM Contenders

Attack!!! The unthinkable happened!!! Finally a serious challenge was issued to FedEx by none other than the VeloViet Leader himself, the brave Cap’t Thomas. Taking an opportunity in a lapsed of attention from everyone, Cap’t threw all his might in an EXPLOSIVE acceleration from the sag station.

Photo 28 - Cap't Attacked !!!

All of the Contenders scrambled to respond, but there was one image that I distinctively remembered, and that was the look in FedEx eyes as he went by me, focusing on the Cap’t figure as he also quickly accelerated in the response. FedEx’s look was like that of a bird of prey focusing on that victim moments before it descent for the attack. The Contenders group quickly disappeared up the road.

Photo 29 - The Pack Quickly Took Up The Chase !!!

For those who have never rode Palomar before, the first part of the climb is like lying in the beautiful Lady’s bosom, where you are stroked, nurtured, and seemingly sheltered. What you don’t know is that behind this seemingly protective exterior, internally she carefully crafting her plan of attack. In the middle part of the climb, you start to understand more of Palomar’s intention, but still are fixated as she slowly undress and showed you more of her steep and curvaceous curves. For the final part of this epic climb, it is like a brutal climax where you are just trying to hold on, to survive, to not explode and take an early exit.

Photo 30 - The Beautiful Curves of Lady Palomar

The first three miles on this last stretch, I was feeling strong and was probably the first non-Contender rider after the front group. As the slope steepen, I slowly fell apart as my body started aching, especially my back, and I could no longer force a quick pace. Stronger climbers like Sang, Big H, and Rock Racer Can passed me around the 4000 feet mark. By this time, I was struggling so hard not to explode, my entire body aching, and my pace was only around 5 mph.

Around the 4500 feet part of the climb, I spotted a BMW next to a VeloViet rider on the side of the road. I was surprised to see Simon, who I later learned had abandoned at mile 14, and became the number two casualty of Lady Palomar. Similar to Long though, these unfortunate events became fortunate events as both Long and Simon became critical sag support staff. Simon was assisting Rock Racer Can, who had give everything he had trying to follow Big H, and had forgotten to drink and was dehydrated. I yelled a quick word of encouragement and continued on.

Photo 31 - Thang, Kyanh, and Anh Minh Resting at the 5000 Feet Mark

Photo 32 - Rock Racers and Randy Posed by the 5000 Feet Sign

By the 5000 feet mark, my back was in spasm and my mind started thinking whether or not I can make it. I spotted Cap’t waiting on the side of the road. He was taking statistics for the ride recap, and declared I was the 10th rider pass the 5000 feet mark. He rode with me a bit, and was chatting as if he was strolling along a flat road. I think Cap’t was trying to tell me the actions in this final stretch, but honestly I did not register any of it at that time. I was way too tired and was in a world of hurt.

Recap from Cap’t later revealed that after the last sag, Cap’t managed to stay away from FedEx for a short time. During this time, Cap’t was encouraged by his personal moto support, driven by Cap’t friend Ed S. Ed was shouting encouraging words to Cap’t like “why are you so slow” and “is that all you got?” to Cap’t which helped him stay away from FedEx.

FedEx though reeled the good Cap’t in, and took the lead for good. Luke and Steve decided to team up and chased down the fast moving FedEx. A little over the halfway point of the climb, Luke took over and started to distance himself from Steve also. We also see from the pictures that River Velo Cap’t Bong, Arnel, and Luke’s friend were in thick of the chase.

Photo 33 - Luke "The Beast" Attacking The Last Climb

Photo 34 - Look Hard... No Rear Brakes!

The final stretch of the climb clearly established who the true King of the Palomar Mountain is. As much of the sweet nectar that the Lady had showered him with, then fury that the Lady unleashed on him, and the challenge that other Contenders threw at him, FedEx stood strong and dominated all. On the top, FedEx was a whole 5 minutes faster than the next rider! With this win, FedEx solidifies the prize of the 2010 KOM award.

Photo 35 - Sang Was Excited to See Palomar

Photo 36 - Cap't Giving the Thumbs Up

Photo 37 - Billy Was All Smile at the Top

Long had spoken to the climber FedEx before the epic ride, and he revealed to Long a bit of his training plan. It seems that FedEx had started seriously training for Palomar a few months ago. Back then he weighed 136 pounds. At the start of the ride, he weighs in at only 130 pounds, and had lost 6 pounds while training for Palomar! For those who have never seen FedEx, he is already a lean man and to lose 6 pounds in training means serious commitments. Wow!

Photo 38 - The Five Represents the Minutes Between FedEx and the Next Finisher at the Top!

Photo 39 - So That's How Cap't Got Up the Mountain So Quick! Notice the Yellow Jersey.

Photo 40 - The Mountain Bike Crew: Khiem's brother, Keith, Khiem, and Tien

Photo 41 - The VeloViet Ladies at the Top

Photo 42 - Rock Racers on the Mountain

Photo 43 - FedEx Giving Can and Simon Tips for Next Year

Photo 44 - George, Moto Support Ed, and Cap't

Photo 45 - Cuong and Fixie Girl At the Top


The downhill specialists rolled out first. Immediately The Animal and Greg G opened a gap on the group. I was behind a group containing Cap’t, Arnel, Sang, and a few others when Tim rolled by us chasing after the two front riders. After a minute of hesitation, I decided to take off too to chase after Tim.

The chase was hard and fast, extremely dangerous as I took some risk in the curves to try to bridge up to Tim. I quickly distance myself from the rest of the group and caught up to Tim somewhere 5 miles later. The two of us started to work together to try to close the gap on Scott and Greg, whom we can see in the far distance. They though continued to increase the gap on us.

Past the halfway point back, Sang and Arnel bridged up to us. Arnel said Sang did a superhuman pull to close this gap to us. We now have four guys to try to pull back the front two, but incredibly we could not. The two strong flatlanders Scott and Greg made it back to Pala Casino first. Arnel, Sang, Tim, and I arrived as the second group. Cap’t, Steve, and a couple of other riders arrived as the third group. The remaining riders rolled in later by bikes, or by sag cars as most did not have energy left even for the descent.

Photo 46 - Greg and Scott Were Descending Machines and Made It Back to Pala First


Half of us hit the buffet after the ride and we feasted on crab legs, shrimp, chicken, steak, and more than made up for all the calories we lost on the ride. I sat next to Simon, the Rock Racing twins, Kyanh, and Arnel. Simon had us laughing hard as he threw out jokes after jokes after jokes.

Photo 47 - The VeloViets Waiting for a Buffet Table

Photo 48 - Kyanh, Co, and Randy

Photo 49 - Fixie Girl and Long

Photo 50 - Feasting with The VeloViets


In the end, 2010 Lady Palomar did not disappoint as this epic ride became the most dramatic ride the VeloViet EVER experienced as a club. Palomar left us bleeding on the road, gasping for air, scared of our wits, but yet in a euphoric state thirsting for more of her magic and beauty. She revealed to us the true king of Palomar, FedEx, worthy of her companionship, and showed all who rode that we do have the internal strength, and physical stubbornness, to accomplish great feats that we put our mind to.

For new riders it was more than euphoric as Veloviets like Kyra, Randy, the RR twins were ecstatic at the top. For those who tried but fail to conquer her lush slopes, like a baby wanting a mother’s bosom, a desire has been planted as they thirst for the day when they can again taste her sweet milk.

There is one team who stood out heads and shoulders above the crowd. The Sag Team of Co, Fixie, and Tony, aided by Long and then Simon, did an exceptional job on this VeloViet adventure. We thank this team for their dedication and fantastic support.

Photo 51 - The Number One Team: Sag Crew Co, Tony, and Fixie

Again the VeloViet riders and their friends gazed back at the majestic Palomar Mountain for one last time, and look forward to seeing her again in 2011.



  1. Wow, awesome recap Phong! You're a good writer and I can see you put a lot of heart into that!

    I thought of a new riding name for you: "The Pulitzer".

    Man, I knew FedEx was leading, but had no idea he had a full 5 minutes on us! That guy is amazing to say the least. I'm going to call Jenny Craig right now to get rid of this extra 40 pounds I'm carrying around!


  2. I thought there is not much to said for this short hard ride but you still can make a good recap out of it. one again thank Captain for hosting this ride and the Sag crew Co, Nhung, Tony, Long and Simon

  3. Epic Ride, Epic Stories on Lady Palomar's battlefield, and most of all Epic Writer!

  4. I am reading this recap just like the ride has been rewound and playing right in front of my eyes. It really squeezing my heart beat from time to time of this detail "video clip"!

    I can feel a chill up to my spine when I was reading through the crash incident, I can also feel the pain of my fellows went down hard...I've been there, done I know. Hope you feeling better Long! and will be an expensive repair of your Campy gear, Luke!

    Reading the recap, looking at the pictures I am totally missed the team spirit, the joy and agonizing fun moments with you guys.

    The best recap of all, Phong!

    Congrats! Job well done everyone!

    Ride On...

  5. This is so cool. It is like I was there. What an awesome recap!

    Great job everyone in overcoming the baddest of all ladies.

  6. That is a great recap, thank you so much Phong for your time and soul in to it and thanks to our super SAG team Co, Nhung, Tony, Long for your support. Thanks Cuong and Simon for helping me fix the flat tire. I enjoy the ride so much this time with every one, all those 60+ mile hilly train really paid off. I truly enjoy every second of the decent as you see all the beautiful curve of her, I mean the Lady of Paloma. I can't wait to climb another big mountain with fearless V V riders, congrats to all and see you guys next ride. Ngoc

  7. Phong,

    I was overcome with a bit of nostalgia as I glanced at my computer screen the photos I took on the battlegrounds of Lady Palomar. So, I came here to relive that day's astonishing events. Your vivid recap reminisced with full accuracy the amazing feats our VV warriors endured. As always, your writing is a work of art. Your colorful words makes for an exciting read. Thank you, for dedicating your time to paint for us a memorable portrait of this epic ride.

    To All Lady Palomar Warriors,

    From the vantage point of backstage, every one fought hard to refrain Lady Palomar from engulfing whole our VeloViet riders. It was a brutal battle, but your relentless pursuits pulled on towards a glorious defeat. Congratulations to all the strong and courageous riders who give me inspiration to keep on riding. Cheers!----Fixie