May 2009


You know how sometimes when you start a ride and everything just seems perfect.  The ride follows a beautiful route, you are riding with friends, the weather is great and you feel good. You just know that today everything will be wonderful.  Well this was not going to be one of those days.

My riding partner Joe and I lined up along with 200 others in Paso Robles California for the start of the 2009 Central Coast Double Century, one of my favorite doubles. The 5:40 am start of the ride gave all of the clues of a great day ahead and everything was going well, until about 3 miles in. My double century bike, a Pegoretti Palo Santo started to feel a little funny, like something was loose in the rear.  I stopped to check it over and found the rear wheel was quite loose even though the skewer was tight. I seemed like the bearing adjustment had come undone. After 15 minutes of trying to repair it I came to the conclusion that it was a major failure inside the hub. It appeared that my ride was over!  A support vehicle stopped and asked if we were okay but I told them of my situation and that we were headed back to town.  We were coasting back into town when another support vehicle came along, this one piloted by super SAG guy Lee Mitchell.  He stopped to assist and I told him that unless he had a Campy 10 speed wheel, I was done.  Well, Lee carries a little of everything in his red van including spare wheels and he quickly offered me a Campy rear. It mounted up nicely and it looked like my ride was saved! There was only one problem now; Joe and I were back at the start and an hour behind the ride. We weren’t sure if we could catch up before the rest stops closed. We decided to give it a try figuring that we could turn it in to an out and back brevet if we missed the support.

The first leg of the ride starts with rollers and finishes with a short but vicious climb. At the top of this mean little hill is the first rest stop.  We were happy to see that the stop was still there when we arrived.  The staff cheered us in which was kind but annoying. They had no idea of our earlier setback and just thought we were slow. We resupplied and set off again pretty quickly. We still had some hope of catching back up to the event.

The second leg of the ride begins immediately with a steep and rough descent. You must stay on the brakes hard to safely negotiate the steep and twisty descent. Lower down the grade eases but the road remains rough.  It isn’t until about 10 miles later when you come into Cambria that the road surface gets better.  From here we went north up the coast with Joe doing most of the pulling into a stiff headwind. We were moving good now and when we pulled into the second rest stop there were still some riders there. We were hopeful for a minute that we were back in the ride until we realized that none of these riders would be finishers.

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Rest Stop #3, overlooking the Pacific Ocean

The next section continued up the coast, dipping and rolling into side canyons along the way. We still had some wind but got some relief from it in the terrain. We were still pushing hard but Joe started to falter some here.  Knee pain was beginning to slow him down so we backed off the pace a little. At the third rest stop there were several riders. We made as short a stop as we could but they were all gone when we left.  This is where the big climb starts, straight up the coast range and over the top. It is steep at the bottom and the top and a little less in between. I was wishing for the cassette I had on my other wheel which had a 28 tooth cog. With the loaner wheel I was stuck with a 23 which made the climb that much tougher. Once you hit the summit you get a good run the rest of the way into lunch. The lunch stop this year was at the beautiful San Antonio Mission on Fort Hunter-Ligget military base. It was a little hard to find but once we did find it we had a big surprise. There were 20 or so people still there. We hadn’t seen people all day! We chatted with a few friends before sitting down to lunch.  Being away from the coast a bit it was warm by now but we enjoyed a great lunch in the shade. By the time we got ready to go most everyone had already left. We were the lantern rouge again.

With the exception of a few hills and occasional headwinds the next section went pretty well for me. By now Joe’s knee was starting to get serious so he tucked in behind me to get some relief. We covered 20 miles pretty quickly to the base of the next climb. The heat of the day had peaked by now and we started to get some shade on the hill. Not too steep and not too long we crested the top and made the quick descent to the next rest at Lockwood. I might note with the exception of lunch the rest stops were a little thin and we did not really find anything we craved. We ate what we could and continued.

The route this year offered a detour to the next rest at Bradley due to some other detours on the route.  Because of our earlier setback we took it.  It was a good part of the ride. Quartering tailwinds and rolling terrain allowed us to cover the next 25 miles in about an hour. With Joe tucked in behind me to give his knee a rest we flew through this part. About 10 miles out of Bradley we had to turn our lights on and it was full dark when we pulled in the stop.

When we arrived there were many riders still here and now finally 180 miles into the ride we had caught back up to the event.  We took a longer stop here than we should have, in part because they had good food but also because Joe needed some time off the bike.  We rested and regrouped before setting off on the last leg which included the 6 mile climb up Hare Canyon and the long rollers back into Paso Robles. On the climb Joe’s knee went critical and if there had been a bailout for him I’m sure he would have taken it. Without that option we continued.  After miles of rollers with a couple of short and steep pitches just to aggravate things we finally began to see the lights of Paso. The route detoured again to avoid some road construction and then finally we arrived back at the start, the park in downtown Paso Robles. We checked in at midnight some 18 hours and 20 minutes after the ride began.

It was my longest time ever to finish the CCD and with the challenges we faced it would be easy to call this one an “Epic Ride” but I don’t think I will. Sure, we had some difficulties which we overcame and some physical challenges which we dealt with but on the  Lonnie “Epic” Wolff scale of rides this one was just hard, that’s all.

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Here was a fun Portland event that we did.  Our oldest son Justin and I rode this one together along with about 3000 other riders.  Justin has been riding for a while but this was his first 100 miler. I had my Surly Cross Bike and Justin rides a classic 1992 Bridgestone RB-1. His bike is a work in progress and although it rides good, he is working on getting it back to a mostly original top notch retro rider.

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The weather was beautiful and we set out among the long line of departing riders. You pretty much saw every kind of bike here, from spiffy racers to mountain bikes and every type in between. There was even a group of unicycles doing the full 100 mile distance. We took our time on the ride and hit most of the rest stops and missing a few. We didn’t miss much food though and ate pretty well for the day. It is a nice course but there is an odd thing about the event. The farther you get into the ride the more crowded it becomes. This is because other groups of riders doing different distances on the event kept joining the route. The last 20 miles was quite congested. You had to watch out for those who were riding the shortest distances as they wobbled a lot more. We had no serious incidents ourselves just a close call or two. The last 10 miles was into a strong headwind. There were lots of riders but they were slow and no help to us in facing the wind. We finished in just over 6 hours for the full 100.

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The event finished at the Pelican Pub in Pacific City. They had a huge tent set up for the post ride meal and a beer garden.  You have to love Oregon events, every one that I have done ends at a pub! I think that knowing that a fine brew awaited us at the finish help give Justin the motivation to complete the ride!

Definition of a Fleche:

A direct translation of “fleche” from the French origins is an “arrow”. In randonneuring terms it is defined as a 24-hour team cycling event held on or around Easter weekend with a minimum of 360 kilometers being covered during the event. Each team must converge on a single destination at a specified time from a variety of different starting points. Each team shall consist of between 3 to 5 bicycles, singles or tandems. The ride must be proven by checking in at a number of control points along the way and obtaining proof of passage at these controls. Our team was named:

Lords of the Chainrings!

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A spectacular day on the Central California Coast

Fellowship of the Chain-Rings:

We began our quest in the little town of San Miguelwhich is north of Paso Robles in central California. We wanted to start in Paso Robles but couldn’t get the required mileage so we moved the start a bit north to work it out.  We had kind of a late start for a ride pf this distance and began riding at 8 am. The weather for the day was expected to be great for which was something that we were not used to. We cruised easily to Paso Robles and then up and over the coast range on Hwy 46 where we were treated to spectacular views up and down the coast. What could be better, it was a beautiful day, we were on our bikes on the California coast and now we were headed downhill. It was a breeze! Soon we rolled into our first control in Cambria after being sidetracked briefly at a local car show. This was going to be a great ride! We ate and took care of our business at the control and headed off down the coast with tailwinds and sunshine. In no time at all we cruised into our second control at Baywood Park where we took some time to eat. We were 110 km into the ride and feeling good. The next control in Guadalupe was a pretty quick stop and before we knew it we arrived at control #4 in Los Alamos. The shadows were starting to get a little long but we took our time here; we had been out for almost 12 hours and had covered about 210 kilometers.  It was time to regroup a little.

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Who wouldn’t stop at a local car show in Cambria!

The Two Towering climbs:

Okay, we had already done one big climb this morning but now we had to contend with two more. The first was Drum Canyon which we had to tackle immediately. The other would come a little later. Drum Canyon is really not that hard of a climb but coming late in the day as it does adds a little drama to the experience. We topped it just at dusk and didn’t get very far down the backside before turning on our lights. We finished the run into Buellton and our next control in full darkness. We took some extra time here as well to get a little rest before our long push through the night. We departed again sometime after midnight. The town of Solvang is a ghost town at that time of night but they leave the streetlights on. Here is where we encountered one of our first problems. Joe’s shifter started acting up and we had to stop under a light and attempt a repair. We were not successful and Joe was stuck in his little chainring for now. Not to worry, we were just about to begin our last big climb of the night. It was probably a beautiful route, but in the darkness all we saw was the tunnel of light cast by our headlights.  Some perspective is lost in these conditions but being in the small chaniring pretty much convinced us that we were climbing. On and on in the darkness the road twisted. There were no lights to be seen anywhere, no street lights, no houses, no cars, just the tunnel. Finally we broke out into a clearing and we could see lights from cars on the highway. We were drawn to the lights like insects but the lights also happened to be our route. Now on Hwy 101 we continued climbing, up and over, and then down. The down part was fast, very fast. This is where we had our second problem. We were descending very fast down Hwy 101 in the dark. The shoulder was good but something caught Joe’s wheel and sent him towards the side of the road at 40+ mph. He was right behind me, and then suddenly he was not. It scared the $#!+ out of him and it took him a while to recover. We checked out the bike and it looked good so we continued.

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Southbound with a tailwind on Highway 1

The Return of the Kings:

Riding through the night is funny; it’s like a time warp or a dream or something. We cruised along the coast with no sense of time or distance. Our unit of measure was hunger and fatigue. Regardless of either we kept riding and kept these issues at bay as best we could. We had stops at controls in Goleta and Carpinteria but we did not use them to measure our progress in units like kilometers or hours, we calculated our progress with a chocolate milk or some other
snack. The clicks didn’t matter so much, we wanted food! So eventually, a couple thousand calories later we were approaching Ventura. Somewhere between the chocolate milk and the egg McMuffin the sun had come up. We had hardly noticed since we probably had been eating at the time. Eventually somewhere near 8am we did roll into Ventura and the final control. Most of the teams were already there but we made as grand an entrance as the 3 of us could.There were a number of other issues during the ride that hindered or helped but the only one worth mentioning was the spectacular weather. We had 75 degrees and consistent tailwinds for the entire ride. It truly was a magnificent day in Middle California!

pvm300k_09[1]You would think that by the first of May most of the crappy weather would be over for southern Utah but no, we had one more unsettled day with winds and the chance of rain. The temperatures were actually pretty nice for the day starting out at around 70 degrees at the 5 am start in St. George and reaching 82 when the first rider finished. In between temps dropped as low as 52 degrees around Cedar City with a little spitting rain here and there.

Our riders departed on schedule at 5 am from the Confluence Trailhead Park in St. George and stayed together for the first 50 miles or so until the longer climbs started. That separated them somewhat but they were able to regroup again around Cedar City. The winds had been pretty favorable for the first 90 miles or so of the day but when the route turned west out of Cedar things got a little more challenging and headwinds would dog the riders for much of the rest of the day. The rain which was forecast never really materialized and it turned out that the weather was better than expected for the day. Once riders got the climbing over past Enterprise, spirits were lifted again by cruising through mountains and green meadows and finally into St. George along the Santa Clara river. Most commented on how spectacular and challenging the route was.

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Color Country Cycling Club members from Utah and Nevada participated on this ride and even though the day was long, each of the riders seemed to enjoy the challenge of riding this distance and the scenic course. This was the first brevet for 4 of the riders although they have ridden several double centuries. Once again, congratulations to those who chose to come out and ride on this surprisingly fine day!