The 2018 edition of the Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge was this past Saturday. It’s one of my favorite organized ride … this is the 4th time I’ve done it. In years past, it used to start from Scotts Valley, and was set so that you do a base route, then if you wanted to, you can do optional “spurs”, or extra hill climbs. A few years ago, they moved the start location to UCSC campus, and hence, different featured climbs, and a more traditional ride, with 4 lengths (with no “spurs”). The latest design is kinda nice, as the later portions of the ride runs parallel to Hwy 1, and you ride along the Pacific Ocean coastline.
What I like about this, is that you can check-in the day prior, in Campbell (for those of us who live in Silicon Valley area, who intend to do the ride). That’s smart of the organizers, knowing that a bunch of the participants are from the San Jose area.
I treated this a little bit like a double century, where I would wake up really early, and I basically left the house by 5 am, to get to the start by 6 am. I made sure I spent a minimum amount of time at the rest stops.
Because I started so early, I rode along with the 135 mile riders. That meant, after going to the first rest stop, as I climb Zayante, I was basically the only one on the road. Eventually, I would get passed by some of the stronger, faster riders. It’s different riding Zayante first, which is nice. At least I didn’t have to do the long slog up the hill with tired legs.
The one obvious benefit of starting so early is that the sun would stay down until at least the first big climb was finished. Actually, last year, it stayed overcast most of the day, but on this day, it did peep out right before we got to Alba, the marquee climb of the day. They made Alba a time trial.
It was interesting, because there were quite a few people that did not treat this like a time trial. Most were taking breaks here and there, taking pictures, stopping at scenic points … I just continued on, even though I know my time would be twice as slow as the top finishers.
During the climb, my Garmin would keep beeping me, because it would lose a GPS signal. Later, I found out my Garmin tracking was so off course, it didn’t even know I was riding the Alba segment … so my Strava didn’t have an Alba segment. It’s not a big deal … not like I would be competing against anyone.
When I finally got to the top, I saw my friend Lorri there. She had been there for a little bit, and I was just trying to catch my breath. At least lunch was just a couple miles up the road, so there’s that to look forward to.
They had a pretty nice spread for lunch. I made pretty good time, as it was just after 11 am by the time I got there.
The ride then went down to the coast, and it was a screaming descent, with 30+ mph speeds going down Bonny Doon. We then hit Hwy 1 north to Swanton Road, where we had a nice little climb (nothing like Alba or Zayante) … then back south on Hwy 1. The next part of the 101 mile route would be to go back up Bonny Doon … the same stretch where we were descending 30+ mph. No way! That’s a little silly, so instead of doing that, I just followed the 76 mile route, where we go straight into Santa Cruz, and then cruise along the Santa Cruz shoreline.
From here, we made to final grinding hill climb back up to the UCSC campus, and onto the finish. It’s always that last 5 mile grind to the finish that gets annoying, but glad I made it through. It wasn’t a full century .. it turned into a 95 mile, 8500 foot climb ride. It was a fun ride, and I’ll probably do it again next year.