This past weekend was Eastern Sierra Double Century, which starts in Bishop, Ca, just south of Mammoth Lakes. Before I go any further, this has got to be one of the most beautiful double centuries you could ride.
This is like unfinished business for me. I last attempted this 10 years ago, but the weather conditions were quite ominous then. Back then, we re-routed the course, so that we would avoid the rain … well we ran into rain, and then it hailed, then snowed, so I DNF’d that year. This time, I’m determined to finish this.
This year has been really tough for ride organizers, as the participation is still not up where it was before Covid-19 lockdown, so I want to first shout out to Planet Ultra, for making all these efforts to plan and prepare this wonderful event.
Getting to the start was a challenge, before actually doing the ride. First, I couldn’t find anyone to carpool with (most people participating were driving up from Southern California). Then, I got a good tip from my friend Mark, who said the most direct route is through Tioga Pass, Hwy 120, through Yosemite National Park. However, to drive through you need a reservation. Okay, fine, so I went onto reservation.gov, to try to make a reservation for Friday and Sunday, but no option to even make a reservation. It didn’t even say it was full. Bogus! So what are my alternatives? Either go all the way down to Bakersfield, then go east, and take Hwy 395 north … but that’s a long detour. Then there’s going through Sonora Pass, Hwy 108. Okay, that’s not as long, but it is steep, and the peak is ~ 9800’ … Dang! Oh well, I guess I have no choice. However, the view did not suck!
I’m staying with my friend Victor, in his condo in Mammoth Lakes. This will be his 50th Double Century. That’s quite an accomplishment … Hall of Famer indeed
Most of the riders were starting at 5 am, and that’s when we would start. I know a couple of friends are starting at 4 am, but the condo we are staying at, in Mammoth Lakes, is 45 min drive away from the start. We would have to leave by 3:15 am, and wake up even earlier.
The temperature at the start was comfortable, not chilly at all (I probably could have started without the jacket, but I’m staying on the conservative side). As you could see, Stefan, has no jacket, and not even leggings, like it’s a summer ride.
We only needed lights for about 45 minutes, and then it started getting warm. After the adrenaline of the start of the ride wears off, we got into a good group, to pace ourselves before the climbing started.
In this group, we had the very unique situation of having two Ron’s in the group. Actually, there is a third, but we didn’t get a chance to take a picture with all 3 Ron’s, so you’ll have to settle for two instead
The climb on Sherwin Grade on paper didn’t look that bad … but doing it .. that’s a different story. The first section of it, from Lower Rock Creek to Gorge Rd is 7.2 miles, and average 5%, but I faded towards the back of the group.
Not only were we climbing at altitude (beginning at 4500 ft), but we were also battling headwinds from time to time. The climb itself was deceiving, as when you look at it from the side, it doesn’t look that steep, but looking at my power and speed, I can definitely see I am climbing.
The climb continued as we turned onto Hwy 395. I then bumped into my friend Bob (who has a last name, that is pronounced the same way as mine, except he has a vowel in his name). At least I got some company before the next stop.
I finally caught up with the group at the next rest stop (surprised that they were still there). And I finally got to meet Nora in person (who I have been Facebook friends for awhile).
We continued on where our next destination is the climb up to the Mammoth Lakes area. Again, I find myself stuck at the back.
One of our other friends, Molly, was going to ride with us from Mammoth Lakes. However, I was so far behind, I didn’t catch up with her until much later in the ride. I pretty much was riding solo, with some of the 6 am riders passing me (which I expected). Soon after getting to Mammoth Lakes area, we have a descent where we go back to Hwy 395 (we basically did a loop around Mammoth Lakes area).
I know the next destination is June Lake, which is a gorgeous area, and pretty much the highlight of the ride. With all this in mind, I somehow missed the turn to the next rest stop. I only figured that, when I see the same people that passed me earlier on, is passing me again. Wait, what happened? Then one of my friends Chris, comes up along side of me, and ask if I missed the rest stop. Well, I guess I did. Luckily, my friends Teresa (aka Tiger) and Nora, were doing leapfrog support, and I saw them parked along the side, and I topped off water, got a few snacks, then headed on. I already saw Vic and Molly pass by, but there’s no way I’ll catch back onto them, so I just continued at my own pace.
Pictures don’t do it justice, but this is the highlight of the entire ride. With Carson Peak hovering over June Lake, it is definitely a destination that should be on every California cyclist bucket list (no matter if it’s a double or not).
Next destination .. lunch … and thankfully, I got there to reunite with the rest of my group. I also found out I am not the last one on the route … one other guy came in after me, and then Andy, from New York, was about 45 min behind me, but he’s gone through the hardest part of the ride, so I know he’ll be able to make it through.
After lunch, there is still a climb up Sage Hen, which is another gradual grind, but with over 8000 feet of climbing, and 110 miles, each hill will drain you … and it did to me.
Sage Hen does have some downhills where you could really pick up some speed. I overheard Chris say on the tandem, they reached 65 mph. The best I could muster is 51.5 mph. Although that sounds fast, I didn’t feel like my bike was unstable going at that speed. However, I wouldn’t really want to go any faster than that. However, it was not all downhill. We had what Victor calls “whoop de doo” .. I guess that’s an appropriate description for it
I hate these, especially at the 150-160 mile mark … every little bump takes it out of you, and that’s definitely what happened to me. I was really laboring at this point, and just waiting for the next descent to come, where I can tuck down, and just coast back.
I did have one concern about the trip back … and that is if we were going to have a headwind on the way back. Well, we kind of lucked out, as we had a tailwind for the last 30 miles back from Benton to Bishop. That definitely made the ride back oh so enjoyable.
We got back just after dusk, where we barely had to use our lights. Once again, Memo is there to greet us as we finished … of course, he started an hour earlier, and finished an hour quicker than us. But thanks for greeting us Memo. It was very well appreciated.
I’d have to say this was one of my most enjoyable double centuries, despite the suffering, and the rest stop mishaps I had earlier in the day. The views are just spectacular, and I want to take this opportunity to thank Planet Ultra, Deb and Brian Bowling, Teresa (aka Tiger), Nora, and Evan, for the fantastic leap frog support. I wasn’t sure what to expect coming into this, especially with the thread of not being able to get this ride approved .. but I’m glad you all made the effort, and it made for one of the most enjoyable DC’s I have ever done. I think this may be my new favorite, despite how difficult it was to get here … it was all well worth it. I can’t wait to do this next year, although it would be hard to beat the weather conditions on this day.
I also have to give a huge shout out to Deb and Brian Bolling for continuing to push this ride through to reality. Despite the low turnout, and skeleton crew for support, this had to be one of the most enjoyable, and well supported ride I’ve ever done. The weather really cooperated with us, with only a few drops here and there, it was dry. We really lucked out, as it rained half the time on my drive back home to San Jose area, so this was almost the perfect ride.
Ok now for the stats … 190 miles with 10,526 ft climbing, and 1.5 hour stoppage time.
Oh and congrats to my friend Victor Cooper, for completing his 50th Double Century. That is quite an accomplishment. Well done! Thanks for letting me stay at your condo for this. And this is my 24th DC. Next up, Carmel Valley in the end of August.