Sunday, May 2, 2010

Borrego Double Ordeal

The Borrego Double Ordeal. A double century starting in the small desert town of Borrego Springs. Heading to Oceanside, and back. Just over 200 miles.

I arrived Friday night, checked in, and found a place to park the van. Went to sleep about 10:00 PM. Up at 3:30 for our 4:30 AM roll-out.

Borrego Springs is roughly at sea-level. Oceanside is at sea-level. Nice flat ride, right?

Well it would be except for the approximate 4,000 foot mountain and other assorted hills in-between.

We got about 1.5 miles of flat to warm-up before turning onto Montezuma Valley Road. An 11 mile trek that gains 3,600 feet. Then we have a short, fast, cold descent, and hit Mesa Grande, a shorter climb but with some 13-15 percent grades. We hit Santa Ysabel for a rest stop. Julian apple pie and cold milk, otherwise known as rocket fuel!

Then the easiest part of the day; Santa Ysabel to Oceanside. This was mostly downhill or flat. Oceanside was the lunch stop. After a bottle fill and a quick sandwich, we had about 16 more easy miles out to Bonsall. Then we hit Lilac road with its short steep climbs. Finally into Valley Center, and Cole Grade Road. After three years of cycling, I’ve learned when a road has the name “Grade” in it, it means your climbing! Of course after a climb comes a rocket fast descent where even with scrubbing some speed I hit 44 MPH. A quick bottle fill and continue, now to Highway 76. From Valley Center to the base of Palomar Mountain is a 5 mile climb with 10-12 percent grades. This was brutal for me. I was going 3.4-4.4 MPH in spots, and rarely over 6. Now here is the puzzling part. My heart rate monitor was showing 120-125. I felt like I was working much harder. If I got out of the saddle and went hard it would come up, but seated it would not even if I felt like I was working. Not sure if the HRM was picking up accurately, or if I was just spent and couldn’t put out the effort to pick it up.

Finally I reached the summit and had a nice downhill. Soon, however, the road tilted upward, not too bad, but mostly uphill to Highway 79, and for about 4 miles south on 79. A short downhill, and back up again to Julian, gaining about 1200 feet in 7 miles.

Night fell on the way to Julian which meant descending Banner Grade in the dark. I scrubbed a lot of speed around the corners, safety first! Then there is a nice section of straight, so I let it go, exceeding 40 MPH again. Very little traffic which was great.

One more short climb of Yaqui Pass. Lesson two, if a road has “pass” in its name, your climbing. Hello, Borrego Springs. The desert welcomed me back with a billion stars, a near full moon, and a 25 MPH headwind for the last 2 miles. What should have been a nice easy flat finish felt like another climb. Thanks, desert.

What went well: Kept the sag stops short, climbed pretty well on Montezuma and Mesa Grande.

Lessons learned: Before the 600KM two weeks ago I put an aqua rack on my bike to hold 2 additional bottles. This was due to having a couple of long stretches without services. I left it on, but that was a mistake. The aqua rack is heavy, and it forces me to put my rear taillight on my saddle bag. I think the extra weight hurt with this much climbing, and my taillight popped off. Luckily even though it came apart, and I couldn’t find the batteries, after some fresh batteries it still works. I want to watch my heart rate monitor and see how it responds to my next hard effort.

Highlights: I met Jeff, better known as @BikeCrave on Twitter. We chatted for a couple of minutes on Montezuma before he glided up as I grinded away and fell back. We chatted again at the finish. I probably made no sense to him since I was spent after the ride and not feeling entirely coherent.
Saw lots of cows, many appeared to be watching, so I’ve dubbed them the “udder tifosi.”
Support second to none.
Going about 27 MPH on Palomar Airport Road thanks to jumping into a paceline for about 3 miles or so.

Many thanks to Anny for putting on a great event. Of course all the volunteers that kept us fed, watered, and encouraged. I don’t think I went 30 minutes without seeing a SAG vehicle just in case. That’s support! It’s a shame we only had 20 riders. If you are into double centuries, this is one that needs to be on your calendar. It is not an easy one, but with a 24 hour time limit, and great support it is very doable even for someone’s second or third double. It was my sixth, and by far the hardest, but I never felt like I wouldn’t make it. I do recommend Solvang Spring or Grand Tour for a first double.

I didn’t take any photos, but my picture was taken three times, if they are posted, I’ll relay, I think several others took pictures too, so I may add some links later.


Specialize Roubaix Expert, Ultegra
Compact 50/34 crankset
12/27 cassette
Shimano RS Eighty wheels with Conti Gatorskin tires
Pearl Izumi PRO bibs
California Triple Crown Jersey

Thanks for reading. You can follow me on Twitter. I am @stevecycles200. If you are into cycling, I also recommend following @BikeCrave and @cyclewarrior.

You can “see” my ride on Garmin Connect


  1. Great report, Steve. Thank you. ... Dan Crain (BDO volunteer)

  2. Dan,

    The thanks goes to you and all the other volunteers, you guys made it a GREAT ride.

  3. Yep, it was worth the 22 hours of driving and I would like to come back next year.