As the #1 Century title was vacated (by the Sierra Century moving) the 2 battle has always been between Chico and Santa Rosa. After having two good rides back to back I think Santa Rosa is now #1. A comparison:
a) Starting venue-Slight edge to Chico's beautiful fairgrounds.
b) Road traffic (autos)-Edge to Chico, parts of Santa Rosa get pinched with auto traffic.
c) Bike traffic (bikes)-Santa Rosa, Chico's Honey Run and Table Mountain climb clogged with bikes.
d) Road conditions-Chico, Santa Rosa is the worst.
e) Oh wow views-Santa Rosa, the Pacific Ocean.
f) Interesting route to view-Santa Rosa, full of rolling vineyards and funky architecture.
g) Interesting route to ride-Santa Rosa, Chico has three climbs, the two big ones are crowded, and the rest of the route is flat. Santa Rosa is a constant series of rollers.
h) Support & rest stops. Edge Santa Rosa--Both rides have unique local products--Chico baked goods, Santa Rosa roasted potatoes. Both rides have nicely situated rest stops (no dirt fields) though Chico's tend to get a little crowded. Both have bike mechanics to help out. Santa Rosa's lunch is great with make your own hero sandwiches and multi-fixins.
i) End of ride meal. Both nice venues but Chico has fallen off a little (lines and limited portions) while Santa Rosa has improved over the years in a tent/ garden atmosphere.
j) Intangibles-Draw-Chico bike weekend is great but when the ride is over it's a long drive to get back to home.
Scenes from Monte Rio rest stop. 1) Whose is that guy with the green 30 mile wristband loading up on seconds? I think we saw him on the 120 mile route. I get the 10 bonus points for spotting Rusty first. 2) One of the great thing about this ride are the drop bags at the first few rest stops to get rid of unwanted clothes. 3) Jack is ready to split while Beth sits on the grass with shoes off--oh no. (Photos courtsey of Ward Industries-tm)
Even though we had to wake up at an ungodly hour for this ride, as event is 1 1/2 hours away, and check in is usually slow, I was sky high for this ride. We'd have a huge turnout of Diablo Cyclists and I was a little po'd for my being a "lazy ass" at Chico last week. Donna hoped to start about 45 minutes before me, and solo the 124 mile course, and while we lamented that we should have stayed overnight in Santa Rosa, my rationale for the early wake up being good was that this was good doubles training. And not wanting to be near the tail end of the ride like last year, Ward, Jack and I were indicating we were going to leave at 7:00 SHARP, and if you were late you'd be chasing--which occurred in two of the past three years. If I had to put $$$ on who would arrive late and chase back to us, it would be on Big Mike, but when I arrive at the back parking lot at 6:15 with few cars in sight--Big Mike was already there. No-even he didn't want to chase back this week.
Check in was in a huge tent instead of inside a cramped lobby, and it seemed to go faster than usual--though of course with no one else on any other line--there was on rider in front of us complaining about something. And finally Santa Rosa Bike Club got a clue and put some extra porta potties at the beginning of the ride.
Oh yeah-after a hot week in Chico it was now real cold-like in 45 degrees. Donna started getting ready--banging her head against the low lying Lion of Flanders flag I hung from the car so my club mates would know where to park. I quickly became the most popular rider in the club as some of our Chico riders showed up without any vests or jackets, and I handed them some of the extras I had before they turned blue. This is a good ride to overdress as Santa Rosa has drop bags to collect excess clothes at a few rest stops. Even Stephan, who had tried negotiating for a few extra minutes earlier in the week (hell, if I have to wake up at 3:15 I may as wake up at 3:00) was ready on time and off we went close to 7:00.
I went hard from the start. 1) I was freezing. 2) I was freezing. 3) I was freezing..and if it has stayed this cold I gladly would have pulled all the way to Roubaix. Apart from freezing I was also wound up and pissed--the first few sections on looping small roller orchard roads that are narrow and not well paved. We had a nice single file paceline but some riders insist on riding three across and blocking the road. Yes--you can BS while riding behind someone. Another delightful move is that you pass a slower group and then get to a stop light and cue up in the order you arrive in--when some numbnut thinks he is in the Junior High cafeteria and starts sneaking to the front. Then of course there are the people that can't hold a line and weave on whim. There were also tons of Team in Training cult* members who are usually the prime culprits of the the three across and the stop light sneak up while weaving (what the F do their mentors teach them apart from chanting "go team"?) but eventually it is apparent that the North Bay Team in Training riders are a cut above many of the clueless ones we see in the East Bay. But one rider in particular (white shorts) drew my ire--doing the stop sign sneak up ever time we passed him, while wildly jumping out of the saddle and waving his arms on a roller while not holding his line. Ward would usually yell at someone like that, I just started bombing past him on every uphill. (*"Cult" as referred to by my friend Melissa whose husband had leukemia, and was associated with the group for awhile.)
It is great riding with a big group--especially the one we had. Joe and Stephan are great climbers, Big Mike, Big Jim are powerhouses on the flats, Jack and Ward have loads of endurance, Dave can keep up with anyone on the flats so we'll stick him and his funny bike (low wind resistance) on the back of a paceline of any unwanted folks hook on, mostly everyone (except for me) are wonderful descenders, and we have four really fast women who can motor. If we hit a series of uphill rollers I'd try to ride harder than anyone, but in any other condition I'd be more than happy to lead out or help my clubmates in any way.
We're all together until Occidental, which starts the big climb of the day--not that long but steep in places, but with lots of recovery areas. We break up a little with Big Mike climbing great, and Joe slowing down to my pace--no doubt caused by all the fishing weights I had put in the jacket I had given him at the start. But now I was down to a jersey--it was beautiful, and our trio stayed together on the climbs with the rest of our group close behind. Only animation was off a roller past Joy Road (which I mistakenly took in 2004, and is a key road on the Mt. Tam Double) some guy sped past without calling out which pissed me off, as I'm always trying to call out to cyclists we pass as a courtesy. He's a strong rider and now 100' up on a flat road that leads into a steep short climb. Normally getting us back to a rider up ahead on the flats would be Big Mike territory but my dander is up and I don't wait for Mike to react--I yell "lets go" and lead him and Joe out. I sprint out to the riders wheel where he pulls us to the base of the next climb where all three of us rocket past, and up to the Ocean Song (mile 26) rest stop overlooking the ocean. Yes!-a few minutes of bonus time before Jack rolls in and its "time to go."
1) The Big Belgium Squad "Domo Diablo Farm Frites" pacelines up the Pacific Coast coast-relaxing seeing this from the back. 2) Some of the rollers that I love and may be leading the charge over. Thanks for Ward for playing ticket collector and taking these great action shots.
Actually June and I are the worst descenders, by far, and we leave early to go down the steep, twisty Coleman Valley Plunge to the ocean. Both of us would much rather be climbing it. Across a few hidden cattle guards on the turns and we are at the ocean where we wait for our Club members for the traditional ocean photo. The Benecia Cyclists come down and they take about a half dozen photos of our group (and us of them)--meanwhile lots of groups have passed while we were posing, and we'd run down most of them in the 7 rolling miles along the Coast. But our group was kinda lazy--at one point I took a long pull and then managed to get off the front on a long roller, and was ready to go back to the group when June joined me, so we two "manned" until the River Road turnoff.
Yep, across a nondescript bridge on Highway 1, sudden right turn, and the mild crosswind on rollers suddenly becomes a nice tailwind on the flats. All of a sudden it was like the charge of the light brigade as everyone picked up speed--I enjoyed hanging in the back as the speed kept revving up. But the worst was yet to come, another right in Duncan Mill's for a 4 mile run into the Monte Rio rest stop (mile 44) is traditionally a sprint and Big Mike ramps up like crazy, Joe hanging on his wheel and me desperately staying in contact with them both--barely.
Monte Rio is a great rest stop. Lots of shade. Lots of thick grass. Lots of outhouses. Lots of bike parking. A drop off point for excess clothes--besides my dumping my knee warmers/ vest, Joe and Beth give me back clothes I loaned out to them so my drop bag looks like it is ready to go around the world. Food is great--some spiced mini-boiled potatoes. Some hot soft tostada shells-I'm afraid to put all the fixins on them but some cheese that quickly melts works well. The ubiquitous Rusty is there, a real fun guy who rides by his own clock, he sometimes rides with us from start to finish, but more often than not suddenly appears on a ride and then suddenly disappears. Today would be no different. Oh yeah--he attacks and attacks, so one plan is to attack him early so he is quickly worn out. See Donna leaving as we pull in, we'd leapfrog with her all day--she is becoming a Jack disciple re leaving rest stops quickly.
Now it is more steep rollers at the base of the hills near the vineyards. Here we can easily lose the group--and this is when the best rider can control the tempo. Joe is clearly our best rider, I suggest to him that we slow and regroup to let everyone catch up--he is more than amenable, we do and shortly Rusty zooms by chased by Big Mike and others in the pelaton. This happens again. So much for planning--though we all do stop at some point for 15 minutes waiting for Johanna, not realizing she shortcut the course after her finishing the Boston Marathon, and will appear at the next rest stop magically ahead of us.
We get going and at a certain point I realize I'm out of control, on a roller I catch and attack Big Mike, he counter attacks and I'm ready to launch again when someone is having a mechanical but is looking over their bike while firmly on the road and I scream to watch out. OK--they shouldn't be there but I'm over the top so I go to the back of the pelaton to calm down. After the hijinx stop Ward and Big Jim take big pulls and we are soon at the Wohler Bridge Rest Stop (mile 66.) This is out in the sun with little grass, not nearly as nice as the last one. Also not a great variety of things to eat, and absolutely no protein. I think I'm living on macadamia nut cookies. Jack takes off while we seemingly are never ready for everyone to leave at once, so we stay here for awhile while straddling our bikes while someone decides to grab another handful of food or make another trip to the porta-potties.
Now on fast, straight Westside Road/ West Dry Creek Road and we can have a great looking pelaton. I sit in the back--when I ride 3rd wheel I'm always trying to figure out how to get to the front, riding all the way in the back and looking at a big line of Diablo Cyclists up front is relaxing. We start off and suddenly Big Jim, Big Mike and Joe go hard and are suddenly down the road. Lots of horsepower there. Damn, I've been wound up all day--I'm staying put, as the rest of us continue to pass loads of cyclists but losing sight of the Big Jim group. All of a sudden a woman racer I had passed earlier on the early climb of the day shoots by and I joke with Beth and Jeannie that they have to nail her back. Then the guy racer I saw with her earlier on the climb shoots by even faster and I jump on his wheel. He is hammering, and I'm lucky that the road is going slightly uphill and he doesn't ask me to go to the front. I just stay on his wheel as we zoom past other riders seemingly standing still. We pass Rusty but he can't hook on and he is fast on the flats. We pass Donna and I yell "hi sweetie," luckily she waved otherwise lead out racer may have thought I was talking to him.
To borrow from Paul Sherwin, "And finally they are there" -- all of a sudden Big Jim, Big Mike and Joe are in sight. We quickly join them and Big Mike turns around, looks astonished (a la George Hincapie in 2001 P-R when Museeuw rejoins) and says "but we didn't slow down." We all merge and now it is true speed clusterfuck as we all paceline like mad--I look to be found. Shit. At one point I'm drafting behind Joe--which is of little help, and I ask Big Mike to fill in front of me which thankfully he does. One sharp uphill appears and it is my chance to pull--and then when the road flattens out I again hang on for dear life. Big Jim drops out. At a turn racer drops out--saying he is going to wait for his female companion. Though I'm tired Joe and Mike must also be--as I pull them towards lunch where we soon come upon Jack who left 10-15 minute before us at the last rest stop. Warm Springs Lunch (mile 88) up ahead, if we missed it we'd be doing a god-awful climb that is on the Terrible Two.
The lunch setup is always good--though tons of folks the area is big enough that you don;t feel "mushed." One of the highlights is a gourmet "make your own hero sandwich"--turkey or roast beef with about 20 different toppings. I just want turkey AND roast beef on a roll--nothing else. Yes that also means NO mustard. Yes NO mayo. While standing on line a volunteer comes around with a box of premade sandwiches saying that these are the same as what you can get at the window and they have NO more roast beef. I don't want to take one as they have toppings that I can probably taste for the next few dozen miles (like lettuce.) In any event when I get to the window they still have loads of roast beef--and my club mates who took a boxed sandwich scramble to return theirs for a fresh one.
Nice shaded lunch on a huge tarp, though Jack quickly continues--and I poll who is going to do the Dutcher Creek loop--a 13 mile loop out of lunch that last year old Ward, Joe and I did, so our group fell apart after a long lunch. Figure we need to leave 20-30 minutes earlier than anyone NOT doing the loop to have a chance to catch onto them. At first a lot of non-committals except from Ward, and when we get up to go lots of folks suddenly indicate "if we wait 5 minutes they'll be ready also." Only Jeannie/ Jim don't follow--they indicate they'll ride slow so we can catch them but they never ride slow on the flats and it will be the last we see of them until the end of the ride.
It is great we have almost everyone together--and we start by taking Dutcher Creek slow--both because our legs are "dead" after laying around for awhile and it features a series of long rollers. We take it easy until two guys come by hammering away--and then a bunch of us jump and race up the rollers. Our group speeds down to the highway--makes the sharp right turn, and then we are on more gentle rollers on a service road next to Hwy 101. Yes--not the most picturesque portion of the ride but not a lot of cars and still more grapes, trees and huge lumbar mill off to the side. Now a mild head/ cross wind and a few of us do a lot of pulling--a big share done by Big Mike. He's a little tired now so while leading the charge up a roller he's lost a little zing so I either try to pull up these or ride pace next to him. While riding pace some guy ion a moots jersey who had attached himself to our paceline tries to jump off the front, I'm not having that and counterattack--the guy is dropped and our group rejoins on the next flat section. I later find out Ward got into a shouting match with the guy and his two friends when they cut into the middle of the paceline. We later have a lot of folks hook onto our paceline in the back, whereas we finally found the perfect place for Dave and his recumbent--as the intermediatary between us and whoever else wants to join in the back.
We are joined by folks who didn't do the 13 mile loop, and then get into Geyserville where the road flattens out as we do a clockwise semi-circle. and our paceline is in fine working form. Pull into Alexander Valley School (mile 100) after a nice display of keeping the group together for the last 22 miles. Now is the final Chalk Hill climb, which is kinda rustic. Stephan, Joe and I ride together where Stephan tries to attack Joe on the uphill, I just watch knowing what the outcome will be and waiting to see if any other rides will shoot by--no one does. Then suddenly we regroup on a flat rollin and shortly are in surburbia--but we just have a few blocks to go before the end of this great ride.
I go and pick up my overstuffed drop bag of the clothes we shed earlier in the day, hard to believe we were freezing 7-8 hours ago. Other club members who parked near me come in--with Ward directly to the left.. Donna is only 10-15 minutes behind--and she loudly thanks three guys who helped pull her near the end and who are parked on the right of me. The three guys are the ones who Ward fought with earlier, I almost double over laughing.
Nice post mile meal with great veggie burgers and other stuff under the big tent. The 120 miles seemed to go so quickly.