Solvang Double Century in March is probably my favorite double century. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that it is held in the same month as my birthday? It’s also one of the most popular, as it attracts riders from all over California, and it’s a nice reunion with all my DC friends.
I carpooled with my friend Dzung, who was going for his 99th DC. He did have an accident a month ago (tire blowout on a descent), so this would be one to dig deep down. As per tradition, we also met with a bunch of friends at Firestone Walker just down the road from the start of the ride.
We started out at 4:30 am, known as the “Tourist” option. That allows you more time, plus as long as you finish before midnight, you get credit for it. I probably didn’t need all that time, but I wanted to start with Dzung in the morning. It’s better to ride in numbers in the dark.
Tiger (aka Teresa Beck) messaged me the night before, as she met this kid, Quang, who was riding his first double, and wanted to ride with a group. So I agreed to look out for him, so he can ride with us. Quang is the one on the far left. It turns out he’s a friend of another young rider that I ride with, Nguyen. What a small world. It turns out he had no problem with the double, as he rode ahead about 15 miles into the ride.
There was 40% rain forecast for the area, but not till late in the afternoon/evening. By the time we climbed, then descended Foxen Canyon, it did get really misty. It was still a little dark at that time, just before sunrise, so we still needed our full lights. It got to the point I had to take my glasses off.
There was a group of cyclist, One Cycling, who is from Stockton, who volunteered to support Carmel Valley Double last year, and I saw them pass by us like we were standing still. I did catch up to them at the first rest stop.
They are such a fun group. I kept passing them, when they got a flat, and they would pass me after they fixed it. They had 4 flats on the day. Each time I passed them, I say “again?” They started on, and I wanted to see if I can catch their train. I was about 5 seconds behind, but they distanced me really fast, and no way I could keep up. Oh well.
The next rest stop was at mile 78, and at the home of Adam Bramwell (son of Chuck Bramwell, who runs the California Triple Crown, aka CTC). They were across the street from a park, so it made for a perfect venue, with ample bathrooms nearby.
From this point, we did a loop up to San Luis Obispo, passing Cuesta College, then back to the same spot, for lunch. There is one thing I have to improve upon … is the length that I stay at these stops. When I looked at the data afterwards, I had a total of 1.5 hours of stoppage time.
To this point it didn’t rain, so I decided to take my jacket off … would this be a bad decision? Uh … yeah … it started to sprinkle about 5 miles down, and had to put it back on. However, it was just sprinkles, and nothing really bad. We then encountered a new climb, Ormonde. Nice little climb, about 5-8%. There was one other cyclist, who was mentioning something about his Garmin being screwed up, and couldn’t read the map properly. However, I told him we are on the right course. Then we came up to a T, and we are supposed to go left, but he was ahead and turned right. Before I could tell him, he was already about 500 yards ahead, and I yelled out left turn, but he was gone. Hope he found his way back, because I never saw him again on the ride.
Further down, I bumped into my friend Kirsten (it’s actually pronounced sheer-sten). She was helping out another rider with a flat, who had no tools … what? On a double? Anyhow, we both continued to ride on, and she is so strong (who has ~ 140+ DC’s, done many endurance gravel rides) … i.e. She is a badass. I was actually able to ride with her for about 40 minutes (15 miles), although some of it was downhill. Hey, that’s an accomplishment for me!
Next rest stop at Guadalupe, I spent quite a bit of time there … probably 20 min … waaay too long. Of course, having the bathroom not next to the food probably took a bit of that time away. A lot of it was probably chit chatting with Shelby … awesome DC rider … such a hoot!
Onwards, and this stretch between Guadalupe and Los Alamos is always tough. Luckily there was no stiff headwind, but is going along Hwy 135, with cars speeding pass you. I was struggling to maintain a 10-11 mph pace, then came the tandem train, and Steve Meichtry was the captain of the tandem, and I proceeded to hop onto that train. My pace jumped from 11 to 18-20 mph .. nice.
Next rest stop is at Los Alamos, and little did I know it, but my friend Ron Tag, who I rode with at the end of Bass Lake, was on that same train. Great to see him. And of course, the best part on this rest stop is the cup o noodles. Ooh the salt!
From here, it’s the home stretch, last 20+ miles. I started the climb up Alisos Canyon with Q (who has over 85 DC’s in his belt). He’s quite a character. He’s a strong rider, but hadn’t ridden much lately. However, that didn’t stop him from charging ahead of me on the hill. It did started sprinkling again. By the time I crested Alisos, and made the right turn onto Foxen Canyon, the rain started getting harder. It was still light out, but that would not last. As luck would have it, when it did get dark, it started raining harder. I could see the stream of water come down, as it passed through my beam of headlights.
I recently bought a new headlight, Cygolite Ranger 1400 … that’s a really nice light … and I only had it on the low beam and it still lit up the road. That was much needed for this dark descent.
Another change in the route was to return climbing up Foxen Canyon, to follow the same route that the Solvang Century goes. It continues, where you cross Hwy 154, and takes you straight into Ballard Canyon, where you continue a short climb before descending. On the other side, the road is really rough, and that’s where the new light came in really handy. At least I was able to see where all the potholes I was about to hit.
I got back to the start around 8:20 pm, so it’s about 15:47 total time, with 14:23 moving time …. 1.5 hours stopping time. Kirsten says the only reason why I need to start so early is because of all the time I stop … that maybe partly true, but I’m not a badass endurance rider like she is.
Dzung made it back ~ 10:30 pm, so not too bad. He definitely made it within the midnight cutoff time. However, to my suprise, Q didn’t … he didn’t check in at the end, and had everyone worried. Many calls to him was unanswered (probably not in a place with cell reception). He was eventually found, and he ended up with 30 extra miles (220, instead of 193). He somehow got lost, and his Garmin got confused which direction he was going. That was strange, especially for a rider of his stature. It’s lucky he had extra supplies, like food, water … and he even left his water bottles at the last rest stop. All we cared about is that he is safe and accounted for.
This year’s Solvang DC was definitely one to remember. I’ll need to work on stoppage time, as my next DC is probably the toughest I’ll attempt … Mulholland (although DMD was right up there, which I DNF’d). Mulholland is also the first DC Stage Race … I signed up for the tourist option. I was convinced by my friend Brenda, that I should do it. We’ll have to see how I do on this one. That’s only in 3 weeks … I’ll need to do a lot of hill repeats to prepare for this.