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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