I survived this year’s Grand Tour. Don’t let the title deceive you, it was a great ride, and I feel great about the finish. More patches to add to my ride collection … but to really tell the story of the day, it starts with the wake up call.
I was planning to start sometime between 4:30 – 5:00 am. So I was originally planning on waking up at 3 am, hit the road by 3:30 am, so I can get there a little before 4:30. Well, my cell phone alarm didn’t go off, and when I awoke, it was 4:15 am. Holy crap … had to quickly get in my jersey, grab whatever is necessary, then hit the road. Got to the start a little after 5 am, but all the parking lots were full. Had to go find some residential street for parking.
Didn’t get on the road till 5:30 am. By this time, most the highland double riders were already on the road. I rode most of the ride solo. This made it a bit tough. I hardly even saw other riders on the road when I first started. Eventually, I saw a few riders (both passing me, and me passing them). That made me feel a little better, but the prospect of riding 200 miles solo was not very attractive.
Coming into Ventura, we pass through Pt. Mugu, which is a naval airbase. Finally, I get a group of cyclists, so now I feel like I’m actually on an organized ride. I hung in with a group, and we were joking around a little too much … we missed the turn to the rest stop. Oh well, time to backtrack. This is not the first time I will miss a turn … I think I did that about 5 times on this ride. I guess I’m used to have the course marked on the road (they let us know in advance that this wouldn’t be the case, and completely rely on the cue sheet).
The rest stops are very well equipped. They had all the usual hammer products in powder form … heed, perpetuem … as well as e-pills, ibuprofen … everything a cyclist needs for refueling. They also had the usual bananas, muffins, cookies, cantelope, watermelons … kudos to all the volunteers at the rest stops.
Ok, onto the climbs on the ride. The first one is Protrero Canyon. It starts out gradually, then pitches up for a moderate bump, and then kicks up to 16%. Even though this seems moderate, compared to other climbs in the Bay Area, it was still tough, and it did require use of my triple. 🙂
Basically, I had to use the potty, and as I was finishing, suddenly I hear a “plop”. Uh oh … what dropped. Check my wallet .. it is there. Search around for my phone … oh crap. Since the phone has some weight, and most likely does not float in water, it’s at the bottom. Ugh … I’m not about to get that. Well, at least I’m saving on some weight that I won’t have to carry up the hill.
Continuing on beyond Protrero, I was left out there alone again. I kept second guessing myself if I’m on the route. As a result, I had to backtrack several times, which added about 5 miles more than everyone else had
Onto Grimes Canyon, and I’m starting to feel a little fatigued. It’s a good thing I know this climb from past rides. I just want ahead and grinded it out. Once you get to the top of Grimes, you have this great view, and a really nice, fast descent. I probably should have taken a picture somewhere along the way, but I just wanted to get down the hill.
Once I got down, I was faced with fierce headwinds going towards the Ojai climb. The winds had to be in excess of 30 mph, so that sucked my energy even more. This stretch through Moorpark was predominatly farmland, with lots of orange trees. This kept going on for about 7 miles .. 7 miles too long in my opinion.
I get to Santa Paula, and I haven’t even made it to the climb up Ojai Rd (Hwy 150). I’m low on water, so had to duck into a general store. Now this is pretty cool … a small bottle of Gatorade, and a small bottle of water, for $1.50. Wow, just a small bottle of water will cost $2 in Woodside. If I was to make a suggestion to LA Wheelmen … provide a water stop somewhere in Santa Paula. It wasn’t really that hot, and I still needed a refill on water.
I am not ready for Ojai, and I even had thoughts of doing SAG at the lunch stop after I push through Ojai. But I guess I’ll make a decision when I complete this. By this point, the sun was out in full force, but the temperature was not unbearable. I figure the temps were in the 80’s, but I do feel a little soreness in my knees. I can’t power up this hill and switched up to my 25 tooth cog in the back, and at times, into my granny. I’m still out there all by myself, and don’t see another rider out here for miles. I think this added to the head games while climbing this. It’s also not that steep of a climb, so I’m not sure why this causes me such problems. I finally get up to the top, but the rest stop is not there. Looking at the route slip, it’s not till you get down off the mountain and at the bottom of the hill.
Finally roll into the lunch stop, and to my surprise, there are still a bunch of people here. Boy did I chow down here. They had someone making burritos … mmmm … then a turkey sandwich and some pasta. Wow, that went down good. While there, I saw my friend Chris there (knew her from my LA days … she’s such a hoot). I didn’t spend too long there, but just enough to recover, and fuel up. That little rest was what I needed. Funny what a little rest can do for your energy.
I decided not to SAG in, and just continue on (even if I was finish in the dark of night). We continued on Hwy 150, through Lake Casitas. In the past, I’ve always had a better time climbing this than Ojai. I don’t know why, but this was the case again today. I felt good, and was charging up the hill (not passing everyone, but still feeling good). I caught up with another group, and seeing a group of cyclist really increased my enthusiasm and mood. I had that extra step I needed.
The descent on Hwy 150 was just fun. This made the stretch leading to Rincon just so much fun. This definitely gave my legs the life I needed to complete this ride.
Rincon is a fun rest stop. Everyone knows most of the hard climbing is done at this point, and it’s the stretch home. Cup o Noodles, water melons, and even margeritas … or so I heard. I didn’t stick around for that, and heading onto 101 for the stretch home. I guess I’m the only one who continued on, so it’s a solo stretch for me. But things are different now … I’ve got my time trialing legs.
The home stretch involved riding along Hwy 101 for a while. It’s not as bad as it sounds … you get a wide shoulder, and you get a great view of the ocean. Eventually, it takes you off the freeway, and onto a bike path. Getting into Channel Islands, I did catch up with another group. We had a nice pack of about 8 riders. It was nice to actually ride in a pack for once. Only now, do I feel like I’m in an organized ride.
Rolled into the last rest stop, picked up my lights. By the time I left, it was still dusk, with about an hour left before darkness would fall. I hooked up with another pack of 6 riders … and I was able to ride the last leg with them. It was a nice pace, and something I can sustain for 30 miles coming back after riding 180 miles. Riding with a pack at the end of a ride makes the completion all that much more enjoyable. Even though we only rode together for 30 miles, we felt we all endured the suffrage together. Riding in the dark feels a bit safer riding in a group.
Got to the finish, and checked in with a time of 15:57. Wow, even with all the problems I had on this ride, I still got in under 16 hours. That was a shorter time than the others I was riding with.
Stats: 202 miles, 8824 feet climbing.