Monday, March 28, 2011

Solvang "Spring" Double Century OR an Ode to the Spring Classics

The title has spring in quotes. Why? A look at the calendar and, yes, it is spring. Yet the morning temperature was 42 degrees with cloudy skies. By 10:45 it was raining, and with a healthy breeze out of the south, the overall day was wet, chilly, and breezy. More like one would expect in January. Throw in some rough roads, no cobbles mind you, but some sections of bumpy, lumpy roads and you see how this ride can be dubbed an ode to the spring classics.

I rolled out right about 6:00 AM, a pretty easy warm up east on route 246 before diving into the Santa Ynez Valley and the mostly uphill trek up Foxen Canyon. I felt pretty good under the chilly cloudy skies. After the climb, and initial descent there is a long stretch of a slight downhill to flat roads, where I was holding 22-23 MPH. After the first aid station at mile 41, I continue to roll at a brisk pace. Before I knew it, some rain had started to fall. (10:44 to be exact) Soon after I rolled into the second checkpoint at mile 86.

The rain continued more on than off, varied between mist, sprinkles, showers, and rain. As usual, in conditions like this the cyclist gets wetter and dirtier from road spray than from the rain that is falling. The other thing you notice is lots of cyclists stopped to fix flats. My turn came as route 1 makes a 90 degree turn to head uphill; I felt the familiar thunk, thunk, thunk from the rear. I see a cut out about100 feet ahead, so I roll up a bit, pull over, and look for a semi-clean place in the mud to set my bike and work on the flat. I pull the wheel, unseated the tire and a SAG vehicle pops out. A man pops out, floor pump in hand, takes my wheel and proceeds to complete the tube change and flat repair for me. I thanked the very nice Planet Ultra volunteer, but forgot to get his name. He said he had helped tons of folks with flats. It’s always nice to catch a break and not have to do your own flat repair.

I proceeded up the modest climb, and saw three other riders with flats within a quarter of a mile of mine. There must have been something on the road camouflaged by the water. After the climb, the road continues mostly up at a fairly steady one to two percent gradient plus a head wind for several miles. My pace was slowing considerably, and despite a good start, and a real good first 86 miles, I realized I wouldn’t hit my goal of a sub 13 hour day. In fact, as I calculated my pace going into the wind I was thinking 14 to 15 was probable.

After Guadalupe the rain was light, and looking west it seemed a bit clearer. In fact, for the first time, a slight hint of sunshine. No blue in the sky, but a glint of light. Looking to the left, a bright, vibrant rainbow. So close, I felt like I could touch it! God was showing off. I admired the rainbow for several miles before the sunlight disappeared not to be seen for the rest of the day.

Mile 168 is the final aid station. I took in some hot cup of noodles, and filled my bottle with my favorite final aid station fuel, room temperature coke. I also put on a pair of dry gloves that I had put into my “dry bag.” When I do a long ride with rain in the forecast, I bring a gallon size Ziploc bag that I keep an extra pair of gloves and socks, and other stuff that needs to stay dry. The fingers were happy, and I headed back out. So much for the clearing skies, as it was raining again; we crossed onto a private road that belonged to a vineyard. Thank you to the owners of the vineyard for letting us use their road. It paralleled the 101 at this point, and I saw a sign on the 101: Buellton 16 miles. Ugh! I’ve got almost 30 to go! Soon it was back to Foxen Canyon Road, and the final real climb of the day. My legs were toast! I had nothing for this climb. Finally, the summit and what would have been a sweet descent. But it was dark, wet, and my vision was terrible. I wear glasses which is a challenge in the rain. My eyes are also light sensitive, so whenever a car passes coming at me, I’m practically blinded for a few seconds. So I took the descent slow, safety first! Tons of riders went by me like I was standing still. I came up to a cyclist pulled over and stopped to see if he was okay. It was Alfie on his fixie, and his chain had dropped descending, so he was fixing that. I stayed there and focused my helmet light on his repair, as his girlfriend explained he skidded for 50 feet. Yikes! Glad he kept the rubber down, and got control to fix the chain. The final road before returning to 246 is Ballard Canyon. This road is part of the Tour of California Time Trial, and with a short technical climb, and a technical descent you can see why Levi, a strong mountain biker, dominates this time trial. Finally, the finish!

Official times aren’t up yet, and I didn’t think to ask at the time, but based on when I started, I think I was just under 16 hours. My average pedal speed was 2 MPH less than last year, but I think the ride was successful. There is something to be said for finishing in tough conditions. A huge thank you to all the volunteers, you are always appreciated, but more so for being out during a day more suited for ducks! I saw SAG vehicles loaded with bikes, so I know the attrition rate was high, keeping the volunteers busy.

Next up for me is the TCSD club race on April 9th, then the Hemet double on April 16. Gear used: Specialized Roubaix Expert, Shimano RS80 wheels, Conti 4000S tires, Defeet wool baselayer, Pearl Izumi Lobster gloves, Showers Pass Double century jacket.

See the ride here on Garmin Connect