I didn’t get much sleep the night before this ride. Everything seemed to be in check … checked in before 6 pm, and finished dinner before 7 pm … so everything should be okay, right? Well, for whatever reason, I just couldn’t sleep. Perhaps it was due to all my excitement for doing this ride.
Curtis and Dan carbo-loading
I rode with Curtis and Daniel. Here we are the night before, with a pre-ride carbo load. We found a nice little mexican take-out place. Note the happy faces are before the ride!
Ron and Curtis ... riding in patch black
We left Adobe Pena park at 3:45 am. There were a few others that started before us, and I think we passed one of the groups … but most started around 4:30 am. We wouldn’t see many riders till about 3-4 hours later, when they overtake us.
First climb was Mt. George. We still didn’t get passed by anyone, so that was a good sign. We started so early that they just barely had the first rest stop set up, so we just decided to bypass it. Only one problem with that strategy … porter potties. We’d have to go 62 miles before making a pit stop. Well, as it turned out, we did an emergency road-side pit stop anyways, just before the rest stop. Oh well.
The 2nd big climb is Howell Mountain. We saw a bunch of locals out climbing this (many of them faster climbers … although they didn’t have to ride 200 miles!). I went on ahead, feeling pretty strong (hmm … maybe I was going out too strong?). What’s nice is they had a porter potty in the middle of the climb. Sweet! I definitely took advantage of this opportunity. This is the point where we started to see the later starters pass us up (oh, sorry, pass me up).
The ride organizers were giving us a stern admonishment regarding the descent on Howell Mountain. So I figure I should be taking it easy here, but I found the descent to be smooth, and switchbacks were fairly gentle. I mean, if they really want to see a scary descent, try Page Mill in Palo Alto. Anyhow, from there, we drop into Pope Valley, which is where we started our pre-ride on Labor Day Weekend. Suddenly, we are in familiar territory.
Next up, is the long climb starting at Lake Berryessa, on up Knoxville Road. What also made this difficult was the hottest time of the day. It starts off with some rollies, then it kicks up to 10-12%, but when you add mid-90 degree heat, that really depletes you. What’s also freaky is you will see some hunters up and down this road. I saw a few of them, with rifle straddling their shoulder. Hopefully they won’t be shooting at cyclists.
Around the 88 mile mark is when the climbing on Knoxville Road starts. Even though I know the hill, and when to prepare, there’s nothing that will prepare you for heat. In fact, there was a SAG wagon offering ice socks … oh how can I resist that! That felt good, but I was still struggling.
I finally made it to the tunnel, but I needed the water stop now. Two hill climbs later, then came the water stop. My legs were really spent at this point, and just wanted to soak my head into the ice chest. Ramon was here manning the stop, and had a nice refreshing mist … this is one tough hill. Later, I found out everyone suffers badly on this climb. At least I’m not the only one.
There were still a couple more hills to climb, so I just had to grin and bear it. Curtis and Daniel had much fresher legs than me (they took a slower pace on the bottom, so maybe that’s what I should have done).
We made a very quick lunch stop (I had a really quick burrito), but maybe I should have just let Curtis and Dan go ahead. My legs were still shot.
We continued on to Siegler Canyon, then Loch Lomond. We grinded it up Siegler Canyon, and by the time we made the turn onto Loch Lomond, I had to rest. Curtis and Dan came by, but they wanted to continue .. I still needed to rest. Even after the rest, I was still suffering up Loch Lomond. I was not alone either … many riders were hopping from one shady spot to the next. I got to the point where I could not turn the pedal anymore. I flagged a SAG wagon, and got then to fill my bottle with ice … but even that didn’t help me. I had to walk the last 500 feet or so. Even though I was at the summit, the road continued flat for about a mile until it descended to a general store, where Curtis and Dan were there … Curtis had a flat.
I let Curtis and Dan go on ahead … I had to take in some cool fluids. I proceeded to climb up Cobb Mountain, and was really glad to see the road sign, warning trucks to use low gear on descent. I ended up catching up with Curtis and Dan near the bottom of the hill. However, my legs still didn’t have life in them. Luckily, after going through Middletown, it was fairly flat.
The bad news is, after leaving rest stop 4, I started to get leg cramps. Ugh, everything was aching here. Saddle sores, toes numb (and they still are), and now leg cramps. I had to put this in my granny gear, in fear of my leg completely locking up due to cramps. I eventually got rid of my cramps by the time we got to rest stop 5, at Lake Hennessey.
Lake Hennessey at Sunset
Ok, now 40 miles to go. But is this all flat coming back? Of course not … first, we have Sage Canyon, which wasn’t too bad. We go through some flat stretches … and at that point, it got pitch black, which makes climbing and descending interesting. The next climb we face is Cardiac Hill. Now we have done Cardiac Hill from the other side on Davis, but this time, we are climbing it in reverse. This is definitely much tougher. This was just sheer cruelty, throwing in this climb at mile 180. This is the point where you are breathing hard, stating all sorts of expletives, and in general, just wishing this ride was over.
We finally got back to Adobe Pena Park at 10 pm. Dang, this was a really tough ride … yeah, I know, it’s a double century, but this is still a very epic ride.
I’d like to say a few things about the support. It was just great! All rest stops were fully stocked with just about everything an endurance rider could ask for … Heed, Perpetuem, Hammergel, e-pills, Ibuprofen. Then, they had SAG wagons, driving up and down with ice and water. In fact, I saw them coming into a general store, just to stock up on ice. The food layout was second to none … I love those potatoes.
The highest temp of the day was 106 F (most likely when I was finishing on Knoxville Rd). I don’t think it was nearly this hot when we did our re-con ride 3 weeks ago.
Ok, 2 down … do I go for my third? If so which one? Bass Lake is in a couple of weeks … then there’s Solvang Autumn, and later, Death Valley Double.