It is the peak of the century riding season, and so far, I haven’t even begun getting into any events. DMD was this weekend, Wildflower is also this weekend, so I decided to tackle L’Etape du California, which does the same route that ATOC Stage 7 will be doing. I didn’t really decide until Friday night, and the ride was Sunday.
As part of the registration process, they required everyone to sit through a safety talk first, then register. They wanted to stress that this is not a race, and to point out the danger areas.
Since I had to drive this far, I might as well bring my bike and do a quick Patterson Pass loop, and do part of tomorrow’s course. Good thing I did, acclimated my body to the heat. It was friggin hot out there, and no wind.
Okay, Sunday morning and it’s a mass start at 7 am. The turnout was a little less than they expected .. 300, and they were expecting 1000. I was up near the front with all sorts of racer types. We rolled out pretty quickly, with a brisk pace. I started wondering what did I get myself into. People were passing me left and right. Even more people past me going up Morgan Territory.
Morgan Territory is the first climb of the day. We normally descend down this road and we call it the plunge. However this time we’re climbing it. Epic. After we crest this, it’s down the hill on the other side. This is a rough surface, and I know others are hurting, because all the different bumps. My Volagi did just fine, absorbing then all, making it a bit more comfortable than if I brought the Seven. One thing that was annoying was a slow descender, and wouldn’t allow many to pass. Took me awhile, but I finally passed him. Sheesh!
At the bottom, rest stop #1. They need to learn how to support social rides as they only had 1 porta potty. This added time to the wait. This was also the only rest stop until the finish which had bread for pbj. Epic fail.
From here, the route to the next climb would be pretty flat, out Marsh Creek onto the city of Byron. There is nothing out here, and it’s brown. Nothing scenic about this, but at least it didn’t stink. I latched onto a pelaton of about 8 riders. Nice pace, not too fast so I didn’t blow myself up, but brisk enough to make some good time.
Rest stop 2 is at the base of the Patterson Pass climb. This is their second time doing this in two days. I conserved my energy in preparation for this. It was about 10 am when I started the climb, which is a lot better than 1 pm, which is when I started this yesterday. I did do a lot better. There still was not much wind. This is Patterson Pass, which usually had wind. For once I was wishing
for some wind, as lack of it was increasing the heat factor. Some folks rested at the top, but I need to keep going, because I know a fast descent is awaiting me.
After some more flat miles, we head back to near the start and pass right through Livermore and onto rest stop 3. Still no bread, and no pbj. Damn. Oh well, load up and onwards. Soon after this I started hearing some annoying clicking from the frame. It’s almost like something is tapping into the plastic on my frame. This was happening on the top of each pedal stroke. I stopped many times to try to figure out what it was but never found it. This was in my mind but I decided I need to finish this.
Next rest stop was at the base of Diablo at Athenian School. We still couldn’t find the source off that sound, and part of me wanted to turn back … nah
It was really starting to hear up and I was not climbing really well (I have 80 miles in my legs). I would evaluate how I feel at the South gate entrance, then again at the Rangers Station. Each time I thought about turning back but something told , me to continue. First at South gate, it was the fact that the road flattens for a little bit, but once I started I said to myself I gotta get to the Rangers Station. Then, when I got there, I rested for a good 15-30 minutes, setting other slower riders making it up. That lit a fire in my belly … if these guys can do it, I sure can. I was this close to the end, I gotta do it.
I no longer had those thoughts of turning back, and all I was thinking was those last painful 200 m to the top. It was also the hottest part of the ride, at 104°F. Much to surprise, they set up the finish in the parking lot before the last final 15% grade. Part of me was pissed, but the other part of my was relieved that u didn’t have to do that. I made it, and hit my finishers medal.
Now the sucky part, going an additional 30 miles to get back to the cars. I later found out a bunch of people had transportation to pick them up from the top back down. I didn’t know anyone who was doing it, so I couldn’t prepare for this. Oh well.
Strava stats, 123 miles, 9400 feet of climbing. That was an epic day of suffering, but these guys need to learn from Quackcyclist in how to support a ride. Ice socks would have been really nice at the Rangers Station.