Sunday, September 2, 2007



Oh, how I miss the world's most perfect ride--the old Sacramento Wheelmen Double Metric Sierra Century. Needed to do some thinking so went up on a hot Labor Day to do the gradual 24 mile climb from Sutter Creek thru Volcano up Rams Horn Grade and out to Highway 88--and then back. No stop signs for 12 miles along the mostly 1-3% nicely shaded run into Volcano with the usual slight tailwind. 3 whole cars passed. I started late and a few cyclists on the return trip, trying to beat the heat. A young guy came my way and we both picked up the pace to Volcano, but I then remembered that this was supposed to be an easy day so I didn't play on Rams Horn and beyond--though he eventually pull off the road.

Traffic picked up for the next 12 miles among the tall pine trees and cooler air at elevation--6 cars passed. A few noticeable long rollers--lots of great houses with distant neighbors--Cliff Bar picnic in the shade by Highway 88. Fast return trip in half the time--little traffic but ONE usual ass in a pickup did buzz closely by. . Last time I returned via Shake Ridge but I wanted to get a cold drink in Volcano, so down there--if there were 5 less people out it would be a ghost town. Sat on Rosie's bench sipping a soda. Unlike last month was NOT going to climb the 20%'s on Charlestown Grade as a bonus (some bonus.)--so continued on to Sutter Creek. Ice cream in this great Gold Rush town as thermometer hit 100 degrees was perfect..

(September 2007) AUBURN DOUBLE METRIC*** CENTURY 139 Miles (***The NEW Math), 14,000-15,000'+ Climbing (126 mile route had advertised 14,000+)W/ Doug For most of the route**censored** miles per hour (6:20-@6:10)

This is supposedly one of the hardest century rides (used to claim the hardest) and at $80 definitely the most expensive. But after skipping Napa/ Holsteen wanted to do an organized ride, and wanted to do a tuneup for the Knoxville Double. When fellow 2005 Triple Crown Rookie Doug, who had moved to Sacramento, said he was familiar with much of the course, it was beautiful, he'd do it, and I could crash at his place, I was in. Except for a short time trial in the middle of the course this was not a timed event--which was good as I wanted to take it easy after Mt. Tam, and I hadn't seen Doug since Santa Rosa Wine Country and it would be fun bsing with him while riding.

Auburn is in the Gold Country but further North than the Sutter Creek-Volcano area I am familiar with--in fact I had never been to Auburn so I got up there early the day before just to kick around and take advantage of the early check in. Route sheet showed that supposed 126 mile ride was really 139 miles, but I had no clue what the terrain was going to be like--not that many ride reports on the web. Iowa Hill, where they run the time trial, was supposedly an average of 13% but only 1.7 miles. Course seemed like a mini Climb to Kaiser.

In fact the ride would prove to be one of the MOST BEAUTIFUL I had ever done, on nicely paved roads, great scenery, interesting towns, and an endless series of uphill rollers and looong uphills but no real difficult climbs. A combination of the OLD Sierra Century, the Grizzly Century, and Climb to Kaiser. Support was OK but spotty--if the Sacramento Wheelmen ran this event it may be the best century of all time.

Riding with Doug means an early bathroom break at MILE 7. Doug would quip that no one passed us on the course--yeah--they passed us when we stopped 7 miles in.

Recommended that 139 mile riders start around 6:15--which is barely first light, and we rolled slowly at 6:20. First time in awhile that I need a buff over mouth as air is cool and damp, and could barely see the road with sunglasses--though HUGE arrows poured from flower highly visible. Doug usually rides the lower triangle of the inverted A, and one of his friends, Ken, joined us but he'd just be in for the metric--so we just spent the time bsing away and not pushing the pace. Auburn real picturesque and built on an endless series of little hills, so we were meandering about nowhere fast. Once out of town I joked that we are skipping the first rest stop at mile 9--put there for the folks starting later doing the 40 mile route. But no surprise--Doug announces we are stopping. (How the hell did he do the Terrible Two--and was our club winner--when the first rest stop is at mile 55??) So we stopped and when we continued on Doug marveled that not many people passed us---hmmm, maybe they passed us when we were at rest stop mile 9.

This portion to Colfax was mostly gentle uphill rollers--the kind seen on the Old Sierra Century, but no real areas to form a paceline and sustain some speed. Just when I thought it was warming up we'd hit a downhill and the downhill combined with a cold pocket was quite a wake up call. I wasn't keeping ride statistics but Doug later told me we got to Colfax, mile 20, at 8:00. Real picturesque, kind of like Sutter Creek. Was going to grab a banana but--hmmm, there were none. Lots of veggie wraps at this and all other stops but I like to eat simple food while climbing, so I'd just have tortilla shells. Rest stops also had lots of mini Cliff Builder bars, which are the high protein bars great after a ride but not the greatest while riding. Luckily all rest stops had diluted Heed--and they didn't mind if you added powder to the mix.

Anyway, people doing the shorter course now headed West to Iowa Hill, but we continued North to Dutch Flat. The rollers now got a little steeper and longer--it didn't help that following Doug off a downhill we missed a turn so we had a gentle but much much longer climb while we slacked a little thinking we were hopelessly lost. But only an endless 3-5% and beautiful country with good roads with little traffic--though Highway 80 was well hidden but nearby.. We eventually joined the road we were supposed to be on, 3x rolled over monster railroad tracks, and wound up in the tiny tiny (Volcano's sister city??) of Dutch Flat. Little rich pastries here which Doug enjoyed and pushed (like his vegetables) but I had to decline--though I did have a veggie wrap figuring I'd digest it on the downhill back to Colfax--which didn't completely work out.

Long downhill rollers back to Colfax but something real noticeable about rollers. When they are predominantly 70% uphill you think you are climbing all day. But then on the return which is now only 30% uphill, as the downhill is 3x faster than the uphill it still seems predominantly uphill. Only nice relief was on road we had detoured on was part of the return, and very straight, so I was able to stay on Doug's wheel which I can't do is the road is undulated.

Me at Colfax before we did an out and back to Dutch Flat.

Now back to Colfax rest stop which is fairly empty--mile 50--10:30, I'm enjoying the rollers but between them and our bsing so much it is like riding in quicksand. Plus no energy from other riders as we didn't see any on our whole return trip from Dutch Flat. We now head West to Iowa Hill and the 13%, 1.7 climb and optional time trial. The first @5 miles is a curvy--steep downhill on an undivided road in a canyon in the middle of nowhere, nice looking but not the thing I do well as Doug says "this is a fun section" and speeds away from me. Bombing downhill-suddenly in a gully--and a few workers there who start the time trial riders. Told that the TT closed 15 minutes ago, and mostly done by the riders on the shorter course that didn't do the 30 mile out and back to Dutch Flat. But they let me register for it---so I fill out some paperwork while Doug takes off.

Ride is like an inverted A--with out and backs on the upper portions of the legs. But 4 segments of mostly climbing compared to 3 segments of downhills would make for a long day.

Doug vanishes uphill and they hand me my starting time so I'm ready to go--absent mindedly forget to start my watch, and more importantly slam down on the pedals on an uphill dead stop and FORGET I was still in the big ring. F-my ankle hurt immediately and hurt the rest of the day. Still with an adrenaline rush I don't pace myself but want to get back to Doug as soon as possible.

Iowa Hill is steep but never a killer like the Diablo ramp (17-18%) nor are there any places that slack off--which is NOT to my liking. (As I power up rather than spin I rather have a 20% and then 4% relief section than a constant 12%) Road is real rustic--with a long drop off to the side but I am not spending much time looking around. Soon get to Doug, who is a good climber, and fly by him--but then some of the impetus goes out--and so does my back--which now hurts worse than my ankle when I stand. I climb much better when I stand rather than sit so I am praying for a relief section I can stretch out on but no dice. One rider up ahead than would usually provide a challenge catching but he is...walking his bike. I'm starting to think that I'm NUTS for doing a time trial in the middle of a 139 mile course, with @15,000' climbing, and I rather finish the course than kill the time trial section, so I take something off the pace, get pissed at myself for slacking, try to stand but back yells "are you nuts" and sit down quickly. Odomoter seemingly registered @1.5 miles--try to kick it in around the next turn--no dice. Then cruelly I get to the finish line and there is NO ONE THERE to record final time so I slow to wait for Doug, but my back is still hurting and I need to stretch in the drops, so I figure I'll start the downhill which he'll pass me on anyway. Damn--all that effort and time not even recorded. I roll out slowly and about 500' around a turn is a water stop with two enthusiastic "podium girls" cheering wildly. How cool--kind of like the Terrible Two. They figure out my time--22 minutes--which is pretty good (in prior years would put me somewhere in the middle of finishers, when looking at the results saw that VERY FEW people do this for time), and if I would have kicked it into gear toward the finish and ridden directly down to this water stop I probably would have hit 21 minutes. I get refills while waiting for Doug and am talking to the "podium girls" when he finally appears, and unlike Jack who gets us moving with grace and style, Doug is yelling "lets go, lets go, come on lets go"--like he had a bad case of hotfoot while the podium girls giggle away.

Not great time trial of 22:12, 36th of 42 guys. But did it after course was closed, no other riders on it, no impetus, and at the end it looked like no one around so stopped for @1 minute before final time recorded. Of course the big problem was organizers indicate that "any interested rider ?which is signed up for either the 80-mile or 106 mile course may participate."--I was one of the few riders on the the 139 mile course so I had done 33 extra miles to the start of the TT

Doug is happy about the next section which feature long uphill rollers that have kicked up to about 5-7%, where he is happy to have me slack off as we bs, and long twisty downhill sections where he proclaims "this is a fun section" and then shoots off. After a while I am tired of chasing him so I kick it up a notch on the uphill sections so he has to chase back. The weather is now perfect--probably high 70's as we continue on a well paved tree lined road with very little traffic. This reminds me of the El Dorado Forest section of the Old Sierra Century with the grade a little tougher and this beautiful section a little longer. Another rest stop before we come out of this horizontal section of our inverted A--mile 67--Sugar Pine Boat Ramp stop, which is supposedly lunch. We still have lots of climbing so just another tortilla shell , though a worker gets a banana from his car for me. Doug is still anise--"lets go," "lets go," while at the same time starting to express doubt that he will do the whole 139 miles.

Nice looking town of Dutch Flat which was our turnaround on the western leg of the climb.

We quickly get to the Western leg of our ride--where the trees start to recede and the views of the tree filled valley of the surrounding national forest are constant. No more rollers--the road is now a constant uphill but usually a gentle 3-4%. Doug gamefully along for the ride but his pace is falling off--a Fremont Freeheeler passes us at a leisurely pace and Doug can't hang--unfortunately the boy has been business travelling too much. This part reminds me of the out and back portion of the Grizzly after lunch. I ride at the Fremont Freewheeler pace until the center line disappears and the grade kicks up a bit, and I shoot on ahead. Now like the final run in on the Climb to Kaiser but not nearly as steep..

This leg would go on for 19 miles until the mile 91 turn around. With about 10 miles to go started seeing riders coming down--kind of discouraging as I'm 45 minutes out until I started looking at wrist bands--didn't see anyone with the purple bands denoting the 139 mile course--these riders had bypassed the morning 30 mile out and back. (Closer to the turnaround I saw a group of 3-4 riders who I had ridden with in the morning but dropped off so I could ride with Doug.) Not many cyclists now going towards the top--though I did pass a guy with an Orvieto jersey i had never seen.

At the base of Iowa Hill time trial.

One rider coming back yells out " just 1/4 of a mile more" but the climb was long but gentle--I had lots of fun even with constant (but slight) pain from my ankle. The climbing was now almost all done and the word that described the ride was not "hard" but "beautiful."
Summit anticlimatic--(3:00 and mile 91) they needed the cheering podium girls at this turnaround rest stop at Robinson Flat--populated by Yellowjackets and just a few other riders--one Doubles guy commenting that this ride was much harder than the doubles he has been on, with much more climbing than on the doubles and Mt Shasta Summit Century. No pre made veggie wraps here because of the yellowjacket swarm--just more hi protein Cliff Builder Bars--but they made me a deli wrap. I looked around, no great view--and this HAD to be the furthest stop as the two roads that continued on from here weren't paved.
Ride director at this stop--he had driven past me and indicated only about a half dozen riders still coming up. I raved about the course but went over the problems encountered:
-NO BANANAS (they heard about this from a lot of people)
-MORE CARB PRODUCTS (earlier they had muffins) not Cliff Hi-Protein Builder Bars
-Arrow on the few turns marked RIGHT ON the turn, not a warning one 50' before--especially needed on downhills.
Later I'd add:
-Rest stops closing while riders on course--which affected 140 milers.
-Little food at the end of the ride for the 140 milers.The dwindling support for the people who chose to do the 140 miles would slightly po me as two subsequent rest stops and end o ride were actually being taken down--especially as I hadn't eaten much to the turnaround.
Figure I made up for it somewhat with a healthy dose of taking free Endurolights and other give aways for my $80..
Two enthuisatic "podium girls" at the finish of the Iowa Hills time trial.
Ride back is a real treat--mostly a constant downhill with lessening uphill rollers the further you went. I had vowed on the ride up that on the return I'd take some photos of the scenery so stopped a half dozen times. I seemingly played tag with the Fremont Freewheeler rider--I'd pass him, pull off to take a photo, tyhen he'd go past. Quickly pulled into China Wall rest stop that was bursting with activity at mile 76 but now at 105 was being dismantled. Another rider po'd--I commented to him that most riders I saw earlier (way in fronmt of us) had done the shorter course--skipping the morning loop, which jazzed him as he slapped my hand for being another one of the few crazy riders doing the whole tamale. With the rest stop being taken apart I could only score some HEED, Endurolights and taco chips (no veggie wraps.) Continued fast downhill--road still smooth, light traffic, nice views or tree lined as we passed where we had first turned onto this Western leg--so the rest of the ride back, via Foresthill, would be new. And still warm and dry so no vest needed on the downhill.

East and west views from the Tahoe National Forest seen on eastern leg of the climb.

About this time I started thinking that this was the greatest course ever--sure the rollers kept the speed down but part of it was my riding at a slacking pace early on. Otherwise--great roads--little traffic--not many turns--nice scenery. And we'd go over the Foresthill Birdge--the tallest span in America--another Kodak moment.
Few mistakes. Getting close to Foresthill we picked up traffic for the remained of the ride which would keep us on a mjor route--albeit a clean but strange 4-8' shoulder. Strange as it had two different pavements on it--with one being 1"-2" lower than the other --so you had to pick the shoulder level you were going to ride on and stay on it until traffic picked up or the right shoulder ended--and then be carefull when "jumping" to the other shoulder.

Foresthill Road a few miles from the 6,000' turnaround at Robinson Flat. Road as smooth as a babies butt, little to no traffic, this would be a feature until getting to Foresthill 26 miles away on the return trip.
When we hit the dying Foresthill Rest Stop (KEEP THEM OPEN ANOTHER 45 MINUTES !!!!) the workers recommended keeping on the main road though the course went on a back road for 6 miles. Didn't see anyone take the official route and a half dozen riders headed back to Foresthill Road, which was a mistake. I understand missed out on a short but steep climb but would have been nice to be out of traffic.
Another mistake was that the Foresthill Bridge not in Foresthill but next to Auburn--and NO access to the walkway.
High Foresthill Bridge next to Auburn--built sky high as Auburn Dam was supposed to go underneath. But copuldn't get on walkway to look down, and though this shot impressive no ironwork/ cables viewed on roadway so bridge seems really plain (how about the General Pulaski sjkyway here???) Photo clipped from website about the proposed Auburn Dam

On bridge had first minor run in with pick-em-up truck all day. One lane in each direction on bridge, though very wide (15-20') but sewer grates--tire traps on furthest 2-3', but no traffic has any problem passing us. One cowboy comes by hitting his horn which riles me up.

Now in Auburn and riding with Fremont Freewheeler who also using this a tune up for the Knoxville Double. I warn him that I am my CLUB CHAMP---in getting lost--and I proptly take a wrong turn that we have to retrace. Finally back in the parkling lot @6:20--90% of the cars from the morning gone. Supposedly there was chicken but none left--just a few scoops of rice and veggies. One rider keeps insisting that they are cooking more chicken for us--never see anything but more overhangs/ chairs/ tables being carted off. Funny thing is that Doug and I rode easy until we split up at @mile 75, except for STOPPING AT MILE 7 (alright it was mile 9) we didn't take more than 10-12 minutes anywhere else. I'd love to do this ride next year but start 30-45 early (they sag lights from the 1st and 2nd stop), and ride harder so that can be more a part of the organized ride--with people around and rest stops open. Otherwise why $$$ for this ride--may as well come up here and do Doug's metric ride. In any event--BEAUTIFUL AREA, will try to get some Diablo Cyclists up here

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