Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge … Epic Ride

This year, for the first time in a couple of years, the Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge was delivered as an actual event. No virtual this time, but an actual event, with actual volunteers, sign up, food, and riders … actual riders. It’s as epic, and enjoyable as I remember it to be.

In years passed, some people referred to this as the local Death Ride. True, it did not have the altitude acclimation that you need for the Death Ride in Markleeville, but this included steep climbs.

I met up with my friends Amanda and Marshall, and we decided to do “just” the century option, which was just 101 miles, and 9800 ft of climbing. There was a double metric option, with 120 miles, and something like 12,000 ft of climbing … but if we did that, most likely, by the time I would finish, there would be no post ride meal. That’s no bueno!

I was hanging in with everyone, up until we did the long climb up Zayante. It’s a 10 mile, 1660 ft climb, but as with most long climbs, it kicks up at the end of the climb. I was definitely falling behind, but at least I wasn’t passed by too many people, which is always a positive sign. I was able to catch up to Amanda and Marshall just before reaching the next rest stop. All that work, and I probably could have just reunited with them at Bear Creek and Skyline. Oh well.

Was able to meet up with friends Shawnery and Yvonne (really strong riders). It was great just to say hi for a few minutes, because that’s the last we would see of them … until they passed us speeding through Ice Cream Grade near the end of the ride. Then I met up with my friend Cha Cha … and at first, I saw her face, and just couldn’t put my finger on it … I knew I’d seen her before on some other ride. Funny how that all works out … how could I forget Cha Cha … especially with a name like that! She’s a hoot! She saved me from going the wrong way later on in the ride. Cha cha hung in with us as we descended down Hwy 9 into Boulder Creek. While in Boulder Creek, we caught up with some Western Wheelers friends … Dang, we’re meeting up with everyone on this ride, that we haven’t seen in a while. Cool!

The marquee climb for this ride is Jameson Creek. Oy vey! This climb reminds me of the Decker Canyon climb on the Mulholland Challenge, that I did in April. Tough climb, with 15-17% grades … The strava segment shows it’s only 2.9 miles, but average grade is 9.8%. My friend Adam passes by me like I was standing still. I was wondering if he would be on this ride. He’s another really strong, good climber.

I finally get to the top, and my legs felt the same way when I got to the summit of Jameson Creek, as I did when I summitted Decker Canyon … like jello!

Ok, next is lunch. But lunch is all the way down in Bonny Doon, right? But Adam says it was just over the next hill. Well, Adam was wrong, it was down in Bonny Doon, but it’s mostly downhill, with a few rollies. I then saw Cha Cha, point me to a right turn. It’s a good thing, because I would have flown past that. So we ride together, looking forward to lunch, which should have been at the 77 mile mark. One problem … we get to the 80 mile mark on our Wahoo/Garmin … wait, did we past it? We then see a sign pointing us to go left for 100 mile … Lunch would have been good, but then, I started thinking .. lunch at 77 miles, and post-ride meal at 100 miles? Almost seems pointless. At this point, what I want more is water, because I have plenty of energy food to munch on.

We were a little worried that Amanda and Marshall might be wondering where we are, and start looking for us. We decided to just head over to the next rest stop, which is not that far away, and text them to tell them we went to the next rest stop. We get to the rest stop, and who do we find??? Amanda and Marshall. Apparently, they missed the lunch stop too. In fact, at least 6 riders missed it. Hmm … I wonder if the lunch stop is wondering why they have so much extra food!

The group is all in good spirits, despite missing lunch. We head down to Santa Cruz, and we could feel the nice ocean breeze from Santa Cruz.

From here, we head up the hill back to the start. We got back, and it’s only 9800′ (according to my Wahoo). We’ve done 101 miles, and we’re only 200′ from 10,000, so we gotta do an extra 200′ … There’s just something magical about a 5 digit elevation gain.

After doing some extra hills, we got back for the post ride meal. Hmm … burritos are so good after a hard ride.

The actual stats for what I rode was 103 miles, 10,300 ft climbing. Woohoo … that’s a nice ratio.

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