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Part 2 - Mulholland
Trystan knows just about everybody that has anything to do with cycling or L.A. He’s friends with Cole’s girlfriend so when we went looking for an exceptional Los Angeles local to guide and host a weekend of Continental riding, we found Cole. Before now we had only talked to him on the phone and seen a picture or two. This was a blind, internet-style date: would he be too slow or too fast; will we like him; does he know the riding here as well as he seems to?
Cole looks like the archetype of turn-of-the-century fitness, as if the cyclists in Triplets of Belleville were drawn or modeled on his stature and style. He has a silent-movie mustache, like he should be a weightlifter in a bathing suit in the 1920s. Cole was born in Tennessee but has been in Los Angeles for the last three years. He’s a minor celebrity in cycling circles and is actively involved in leading and participating in many hard group rides. In a word, he’s perfect…
Our crew is now Ira Ryan, Ryan Thompson, Cole Maness and myself. It’s 11:30 in the morning and we’re fully kitted out and standing on the corner of Heliotrope and Melrose, 100 feet from Orange 20 and College Café. We start by zigging and zagging north for about 15 minutes until we reach Sunset Boulevard. Sunset is brutal. It’s wide and loud and the traffic is unkind. We’re single file but not drafting, just surviving. In fact, we’re keeping about five feet, with enough time between us to bunny-hop over and swerve past all the ridges,holes and trash in the street. There’s so much of it, and some of it is so treacherous that calling it out was no longer an option.
Once we make the right onto Nichols Canyon we realize how loud and frenetic the last 30 minutes have been, it’s like we were just released from some man-made device designed to make holding a train of thought impossible. At this point nobody is pushing too hard. The streets are lined with pick-up trucks and L.A.’s flourishing migrant work force; an army of landscapers, gardeners, handymen, nannies, house cleaners. Rock n' roll and Hollywood houses are stilted, wedged and tucked into any flat spot on the steep hills sandwiching the road.
With each switchback the tempo quickens and the reality of being on our first climb together is no longer deniable. I’m beginning to sweat and I’m working hard because Cole is too fast. Ira, sensing the top, around yet another 180-degree switchback, leans forward and into the climb a little bit. I think he’s genuinely surprised when Cole, talking and gesturing and seemingly just 'out for a ride', doesn’t leave his side. Ryan falters but maintains his composure. I fade—almost out of sight for a minute—but recover, though barely.
Mulholland is a theme park ride which runs from the Hollywood Bowl in the east and – if you’re willing to ride a fire road on a road bike – you end at just about the ocean, in the west. It’s rolling, undulating and riddled with blind corners and sweeping, banking turns. It goes up and down but is mostly constant. It’s steeped in Los Angeles mythology and it provides, like a tennis match, a back and forth view of the Valley, in the north, and L.A. to the south. Except for the obscene amount of erratic and hurried drivers and the lack of a shoulder, it’s a perfect road to be led (make that dragged) west by Ira and Cole, up and down, left and right, for 12 miles to the coast.