The day is finally here, and Eroica California is on! Approximately 700 riders have signed up for one of the three routes, a 40 mile short course, a 65 mile route and of course the 127 mile long route. My frequent riding partner Bob and I will be riding the long route.

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We set off in the first wave of riders who started at 5:30 am from the city park in Paso Robles. It was dark and a little chilly as we rolled out into the hilly countryside. Within just a few miles we encountered our first section of Strada Bianca or white gravel roads which characterize all Eroica events. This one would be the first of many we would ride today.

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Our first control was at Cass Winery where we got our route card stamped. They had a lovely spread of wine set out but it was a little early for us since it was still pre dawn. Later riders would certainly enjoy the wonderful produce of that vineyard. The route then turned into the private back-roads of the winery and we enjoyed a seldom travelled tour of the back end of the estate.

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We were just leaving Cass vineyards as dawn broke and continued on the quiet rural roads along our route. The terrain around Paso Robles is rolling hills and grass lands punctuated by vineyards and bordered by old and majestic Oak trees. The paved roads are mainly good with some rough patches here and there but the scenery was spectacular!

IMG_1089Our next control was at Olea Olive Farms, where olives are grown and olive oil is produced. They highlighted their product by offering the riders olive oil French fry’s as the snack, accompanied by fresh brewed olive leaf tea and French bread for dipping in a locally produced oil, herb and vinegar dipping mixture. All I can say is, damn that was good!

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After the French fry’s our route continued to the west, which meant one thing, the real climbing was about to start soon. Much of the initial climbing would be on Kiler Canyon Road which I believe is a misnamed but it could be a typo. It should be named Killer Canyon Road since it continues on in a ridiculously steep and narrow fashion for many miles.

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This is a public road but I really have to wonder, who the hell ever comes up here! Narrowing down to little more than a rutted double-track in places, the road goes nowhere anybody would actually want to go and obviously sees very little traffic. In wet conditions this road would be a nightmare! Luckily for us it was a beautiful day.

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Higher up, Kiler Canyon Road opens up onto more exposed terrain and we start to get a bit of a view again. We are still climbing and in the open country we once again start to see more vineyards. We are at about 2000 feet elevation now and back in the midst of many wineries. Somewhere in this area we turned into Nadeau Vineyards and into the private back-roads of that estate. It was a remarkable opportunity to pass through some unseen country.

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Following a steep descent on gravel road we regain the pavement on Adelaida road where we had a twisty and gentle descent to one of the upper valleys that shelter our next control at Halter Ranch winery, an oasis in the coastal mountains.

IMG_1111 This was a very welcome stop which included a lovely buffet plate of cured meats , cheese and pasta accompanied by your choice of a variety of this vintner’s produce. Since it was still morning I chose a light and lovely 2014 Rose, a Grenache based blend that was perfect for this light meal. Who knew that you can have wine before noon! The volunteers at this stop were having too much fun. I wonder if it was the wine?

We enjoyed an wonderful cruise continuing on Adelaida Road before turning onto Chimney Rock Road which is little more that a paved lane through the hills. It is absolutely without traffic and offers a glimpse of this unique and untouched region of the state.

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If Chimney Rock Road was not far enough from civilization then Cypress Mountain Road would be! This would be the biggest climb of the day through the most remote landscape imaginable, crossing the Santa Lucia Range to the Pacific slope.

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Cypress Mountain Road was a vicious climb. Although it started gently, the grade kept increasing as we went. I was forced to get off the bike several times to walk either due to the sustained climb or steep grades. It would be easy to blame this on the limitations of the bike and its gearing, but I have my limitations as well. Together we humbly chose to walk some of these sections rather than suffer the humility of falling over.

At the summit of Cypress Mountain Road was perhaps the best view of the day, and our first view of the Pacific Ocean which was 15 miles distant and 2500 feet below. There was a surprise rest stop here and it was well received since it had been two and a half hours since we had left Halter Ranch.

IMG_1120This was also the start of a crazy, scary and sketchy descent down Santa Rosa Creek Road to the coast. First on steep gravel, where actually stopping the bike was unlikely if required, then on steep switchbacks and very rough pavement. At one point I stopped to check my rims which were too hot to touch! Ouch, at least my old Universal center-pull brakes were trying to stop!

IMG_1125IMG_1129Thrilling would best describe the remainder of our descent to the next control in Cambria. We found the stop well stocked with pedal powered fruit smoothies and fresh goods from a local bakery. It was a brief rest and we were soon speeding down the coast with the best tailwinds of the day! The old Legnano spins out at 28 mph with its big gear of 46/14 but we kept near that for the next 15 miles.

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Cayucos is one of my favorite coastal towns in this area and it was conveniently the site of our next control. Stamp the card, eat some food and get back on the bike. The food at this stop included, Clam chowder, Pizza, Tiki Punch, BBQ and some other stuff I missed because I was too full! I know that sounds a little excessive but we still had to climb back over the Santa Lucia range to Paso Robles.

 

eroica-items-003The climbing started very soon after leaving town, first on paved Old Creek Road, then continuing on the dirt of Santa Rita Creek Road. Santa Rita was great, not only was it a gentle grade but it was also smooth gravel and almost completely covered by a canopy of trees! In the hot sun of afternoon a shady climb was much appreciated as was the water stop on the top.

The last rest stop was in a barn that was under construction for wine tasting but I don’t remember the name. What I do remember is that they were serving some chilled Dusi Winery Chardonnay. It went very nicely with my pretzels and banana!

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Of course even though we were just a few miles from the finish there would be just a little more dirt road and one more climb. The course was challenging all the way to the finish, like an Eroica should be!

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Bob and I cruised into the finish chute to a less than welcoming finish. There were few people at the end to cheer the riders on their vittoria finale! We were far from the last to finish so that was a little disappointing, but we knew that once again we were EROICI!

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