Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The World's Greatest SIERRA CENTURY Double Metric (2012)

Century #20 (June 16, 2012) Sierra Century Double Metric out of Plymouth, returned after a 7 year absence   (plus bonus Steiner Loop), w/ Ward, Dr. Dave***, Toby, 124 miles, 10,000' climbing, 15.6 mph avg. (***only person to do 124 miles after staying in a haunted hotel the day before, though one of many people haunted by the weather the next day)
Now everyone in the group has a Garmin except me so I'm dependant on them for highly reliable information--like climbing 9,928' (Dr Dave) and 10,997' (Ward)--we have to wait for Toby to settle this.
Good things about the ride
Very little auto traffic
Almost no traffic controls
Decent to well paved roads
Interesting small western towns
Ride in dense stands of pine trees at the higher elevation, fields of oak at lower elevation
Great start/ finish in wild west county fairgrounds staged by Sacramento Wheelmen
Great rest stop food/ facilities provided by Sacramento Wheelmen
Many unannounced water stops by the Sacramento Wheelmen
Bad things about the ride
It's only held once a year
(from Ward) After promising Gatorade throughout some rest stops switched to Cytomax

2012 Sierra Century page featured a 2004 photo of the huge Diablo Cyclist peloton.  I saw them come in that day and needed to join a Club that did century rides en masse.  Unfortunately our Club membership has gotten old and does less and less hard rides.  An older  local club I also saw en mass in 2004, Erma's Diner, who always did great ride reports, and showed me some routes on practice rides, was unfortunately absent from  the 2012 Sierra Century.
*******This is the #1 century--by far--in Northern California.******

After a 7 year absence, somehow that Sacramento Wheelmen finally got a permit from El Dorado County (the highland county this ride is run in--the lowland country is Amador) so they ran the traditional route with one minor change--a rest stop was moved out of the tiny tiny picturesque stop of Volcano and put somewhat before.   I was certain that the Century wouldn't live up to my idealized remembrance of the 2003-04-05 events--but I was wrong.  The 2012 Sierra Century was "spot on."

For whom the bell tolls on this 97 degree ride--Sutter Creek Cemetery (PC)
Forecast for weather was 97 highs in the oak covered lowlands (Jackson, ele 1397) and 90 in the pine covered highlands (Shake Ridge, ele 3739.)  We'd be up in the highlands for the hottest part of the day.  Only trouble is after doing a ride filled with baby roller after serious roller after super serious roller (repeat and repeat), the hardest sustained climb--Slug Gulch--is done at mile 78 in the afternoon.  It would also be very very dry--about 15% humidity. 
I love hot weather but really haven't acclimated and knew I wasn't going to take it easy for this ride returning to its seminal roots after a 7 year absence.  Borrowed lots of great ideas friends had done over the years.  To prepare I took extra fizz tabs (Nuun-Dr Dave's idea) and carried the drink mix, endurolytes, suntan lotion, lip balm, both in a jersey bag and a camera bag that ties around the stem (Christine's idea.)    Dumped loads of powder down my shorts and jersey (Mountain Bike Racer Jerry's idea from 2004.)   Also took extra drink mix of what I like (Cliff Electrolyte) to fortify my drink mix at rest stop 1--where we skip the official rest stop for the secret bathrooms in Ione.  Additionally, though we'd be well fed one bottle had a frozen Perpetuem solution so my calories would come with hydration.   Extra Chomps packed as well, which are easy to digest when its hot.
Sutter Creek--on the Sierra Century we'll see it early morning without all the parked cars (PC)
Got to Sutter Creek the day before for an easy preride and to visit some old haunts.  After 7 years things change.  Italian Restaurant that I ate at in Jackson in 2003-06 out of business.  Gone is bakery that served smoothies in Sutter Creek, it's now a pizzeria. 

Sutter Creek is the most picturesque gold country town and kicked around it for awhile before Toby and Ward arrived.  Toby had all his stuff packed in a tiny triathlete backpack while it looked like I was packed for going on a round the world cruise.  We then took an ez (small chainring) spin ride to Volcano, the quaintest gold country town.  It's stuck in the middle of nowhere with a Greek amphitheatre in the middle of town.  Twelve mile ride from Sutter Creek to Volcano is slightly uphill (it kicks at the end), heavily shaded, almost no traffic, and a stream runs nearby.   Great.   In the old days Volcano was a rest stop but somewhere it was decided that 2000 cyclists overrun a town with 103 people is not a good thing so we saw that the rest stop was moved about 4 miles short of Volcano.   This was the only appreciable change between the 2012 route and the one done 7 years earlier.

(above) on day before ez spin Ward and Toby arrive in Volcano (PC) , i'm resting on Mayor Rosie's bench (WI) (below) we're shooting the shit in an empty Volcano (PC)

Ward/ Toby/ I got to Volcano and it was quieter than usual--no one else was on the street for about 15 minutes.   Bakery in town only opens on the weekend and general store later had one visitor about every 5 minutes.   Nice ride back on the slight downhill--though Toby's idea of a small chainring is not the same as mine and I had to madly spin in order to keep up with him and Ward.

Meeting Dr. Dave for an EARLY dinner was shot--more so when we drove to Plymouth to check in.  Plymouth is kinda nondescript but the Amador Fairgrounds where the ride starts is awesome--made up to look like a town from the wild west.   There was a ton of food being stockpiled here for the next day, and lots of friendly staff worker.   It never took me long to tell them that our Club annually did a self supported century ride tracing the highland portion of the old Sierra Century Double Metric route backwards--while the Sierra Century had been in exile.
Toby, Ward and I at the Amador County Fair check in--our route profile is in the red on the map (PC)
We're finally ready for dinner and Dr. Dave suggests eating at a restaurant in his hotel in the big megalopolis--Amador City.  Amador City may be the most realistic gold country town--a bunch of rundown old buildings with an uneven wooden sidewalk.   The Imperial Hotel is in the middle of town, it would disappear in Sutter Creek but istately in Amadort's  City considering the surroundings.  Good pasta dinner there--and there may be a connection between suffering the next day because Chairman Ward chose the "gem salad" instead of the "IMPERIAL SALAD."  Ward just got a power meter so Toby, who long trained with one, was giving out tips.

(above) The boys at dinner (PC) (Below) Ward & Toby's Power Meter Measuring Watts & The haunted hotel that Dr. Dave stayed at --I think I got a ghost in the picture(PC)

We arrive in plenty of time for the planned 6:30 start.  Inside is coffee, bananas, bagels and other food--grab some extra for the Ione rest stop we'll skip.  Already nice outside but ride starts downhill so Mr. Cold Wuzz takes a vest--which I'd get rid of for good at mile 5.  Wonderful, no arm warmers needed, and can ride with mesh gloves.   Knee has been a little sore when I crashed two weeks ago and open scrapes still open--so I am a little worried about that, so besides the permanent ace bandage on my bad right knee I have some bandages under minimal wrap on my left.  The knee tightness has been the only damper on my unbound enthusiasm leading up to this ride.  We see Sacto Doug I who became a Doubles Triple Crown Rookie with me in 2005--the day before he thought he might ride with us, but changed his mind as work has gotten in the way of training, and set out with some other friends to do the 100 mile course.

Plymouth to Ione
The first 20 miles starts off downhill, flattens out, leads into some baby rollers and some minimal serious rollers--serious rollers are ones you can't use your momentum to fly over and have to do some work to crest.   These are my favorite.  Then the road flattens out as you ride through the edge of Ione to the first rest stop.

Knowing that we'd be doing 120 miles and that it would be close to 100, the wise thing to do would be to take it easy and spin gently.   That's a great plan--with minimal effort we could do 18 mph on this section (I think this is what Sacto Doug I told me he registered.) 

Solid plan quickly went down the toilet as soon as our group was passed by some swerving riders who didn't call out that they were passing.   Our group upped the pace to stay with the folks who passed, and then as soon as the rollers started it was "hit it" --attack on every roller that appeared.    More important than beating someone to the top was our calling out to let slower riders know we were passing--we were thanked alot for that.

I'm on the edge of Ione (WI)
When we neutralized going into Ione (about 6 blocks in a row did have an intersection we had to stop/ slow at) I talked to one of the people that started the festivities and he turned out to be a nice guy.  Not NICER than Dr. Dave (Stanford) though, as when route turned right to go up to the first rest stop and we turned left to go to secret bathrooms, a guy in a CAL kit followed us and Dr. Dave (Stanford) was nice enough to tell the CAL guy that we were going the wrong way and not to follow us. 

Finally slow in Ione right before 1st rest stop (PC)

The secret rest stop in Ione (WI)
 21.6 mph average speed and relaxing, quiet time at the locomotive park.

Ione via Sutter Creek to Volcano
Leaving Ione is a 2 mile ez climb.   Its not steep--its long.  Lots of folks on it, lots of folks I pass at tempo--friendly greetings exchanged or folks glad I called out "on your left."  On it I passed a guy in a Triple Crown Jersey--looked familiar, but didn't acknowledge when I called out I was passing.  Strange.  Later he'd be known as the Triple Crown Wheelsucker.  (Actually Dr. Dave and Toby would call him a "limpet" and "dingleberry," as one of them is from England and the other a professor of English I'll defer to their judgement.)

Funny how people are--I was just maintaining a rational pace so I could stand most of the whole--and slowed near the top so our club could do the next segment together.  Like a bat out of hell some guy streaks by me about 10 feet before the turn into the back road that would take us to Sutter Creek.  He was now dead and after the turn I could have passed him walking backwards.  So either:
1) This was a Strava Segment for him,  or
2) He HAD TO beat me to the top of the gentle climb even though he'd promptly blow up.

We turned onto the next segment which featured more difficult rollers, and some that actually became hills.   Recumbent friendly hills that Dr. Dave loves when he's on the 'bent--10-12% for 300'.    Toby displayed an utter lack of skill riding with a group, when the Photocrazy robot appeared Dr. Dave, Ward and I slowed to cue up for a group photo but Toby upped the pace.  Those triathletes.

On Sutter Creek Road, (1) me, and (2) Dave followed by his Triple Crown Wheelsucker friend (WI)
I get ahead of the group after a series of rollers and stop off to the side to take a photo.  Here comes Dr. Dave with a new friend, Triple Crown Wheelsuckers is almost on his butt.  In the next 20 miles I'd take a few photos of our group and Triple Crown Wheelsucker is always in them--but NEVER in the front..

The gang going up Highway 124 out of Ione (PC)

Dr. Dave makes friends on Sutter Creek Ione Road with Triple Crown Wheelsucker (PC)

Ward on Sutter Creek Ione Road (PC)
 At one point we got rid of Triple Crown Wheelsucker but as series of rollers end and we have to cross a main road on the outskirts of Sutter Creek--police have traffic control set up and they keep us from crossing for a minute or two--so loads of people now cue up behind our group.  EZ ride through Sutter Creek-admiring the town, and then we are on Volcano Road.  This is the road we took it easy on the day before.  Now we form a paceline--Ward--Toby--me--Dr. Dave-----Triple Crown Wheelsucker.  I'm pulling and miss the festivities in the back.  At one point Ward tells him to move up to take a pull and the wheelsucker says:

"I don't want to..I can ride where I want to" 

Our trio arrives in Volcano rest stop, hmmm, who is that fourth guy in the photo--its the Triple Crown Wheelsucker (PC)

Lots of "Stuff" at the rest stops (PC)
So I go to the back and do a "2001" on him (watch Paris Roubaix 2001.)  I'm 4th, Triple Crown Wheelsucker is 5th.  I start to soft pedal and the rest of the gang soon is 200' up the road.    Idea is now Triple Crown Wheelsucker has to go around me and take a pull or I sprint up the  road.    First mistake-I should have waited longer and let the gang go further up the road.  I sprinted back to the group to soon  and dropped Triple Crown   Wheelsucker and I kept going solo to the rest stop before Volcano.  Second mistake--with him off the back we should have organized a 4 man paceline.  Instead the guys in our group slowed to let me go and if TCW wanted to catch he'd have to ride solo.  Instead TCW latched on to the back of our slowing group and there he stayed till the rest stop.

Rest stop good except guy in tux who used to serve fruit on platters to arriving riders in Volcano no longer part of the event.  I miss him.

Volcano to Fiddletown
We now continued on to Volcano--now mostly on the part of the road that kicks up--after the FABIO road lettering that has been there since 1999.  How did they know about FABIO CANCELLERA back then???

Quick ride through quirky Volcano that Ward, Toby and I lingered at the day before.  Too bad no longer rest stop there--I'm sure more riders would have noticed the general store with the porch and bakery, and would come back another day.

Right after Volcano started the first serious climb of the day--Rams Horn Grade.  Though sun is now out the road is mostly in the shade cast by the tall pine trees off to the right.  Not steep but a constant grade for a few miles where you need a better aerobic that I have.  I was passed here by one young guy and Toby, I tried to hang with them but no dice unless I wanted to instantly blow up.

False summit as a series of long uphill rollers.  At the end of the first, Daffodil Hill, a water stop with a water mister was set up, nice.  We all regroup and head off to the next roller--eventually we'll be on the "E" Ticket-Fiddletown Expressway.  As I'm the slowest rider in our group in a downhill course I tell Ward I'll push on the rollers to start the Expressway before the group.

Even when I hated going downhill (I'm now slow but most downhills don't bother me,) I liked the Fiddletown Expressway--a downhill run of 12 miles to Fiddletown.  It starts off semi steep and twisty--and this is where I wanted to come off before the rest of the gang joined me.  After a few miles the rollers start--most ones that you can fly offer at speed, with a few minor attention getting momentum losing ones.  When I get here I wait for our group, take a photo,  and then we're off.  We're even off faster when two guys jump ahead of us just when we regroup and we take turns chasing and attacking on successive rollers.   We then all start working together when we go into Fiddletown.

Toby leading the charge on the Fiddletown Expressway (PC)
Fiddletown is like Amador City minus the hotel but with a tennis court/ park, and here the rest stop is jammed.  Not jammed like the Sequoia with long lines, but cyclists everywhere enjoying the food.   For the 60 milers their ride is almost over--Plymouth is just up the road.  I don't think the 100 milers come back here later.  For the 120 milers, we'd do the Fiddlertown Expressway again later and roll in to a much quieter ghost town park/ tennis court.

Fiddletown to Omo Ranch via Slug Gulch 
OK-now I'd be willing to use that three letter word--HOT.  There were an immediate series of short but significant climbs with some rollers thrown in, we go through a tree lined but poorly paved back road (still might be the best pavement in Sonoma County) which would eventually get us on the main road with a few gentle rollers towards Perry Creek Road/Slug Gulch.

This part was like being on a Double--there were no riders in sight ahead of behind us.  Maybe it was for this reason we took it easy, maybe because we had been going balls out for 60 miles, maybe because Slug Gulch was coming up.  A rider came up before we hit the main road, which may have gotten us out of our lethargy and we picked up the pace a bit.  Past the alpaca farm-would have made a great photo but going to fast to stop right here.  Toby said he was going straight up Slug Gulch without stopping for water at emergency water stop I was sure they'd soon have--I was stopping as only had 1/4 bottles filled in each.  About 5 miles before the start of the 4 mile Slug Gulch climb there was the emergency water stop in Pioneer Park and everyone in our group stopped long time.

Then we then hit Perry Creek Road--a tree lined backwater road.  Oh yeah--you start off looking at a mini wall you have to climb, and then what follow is a series of mostly gentle rollers--most but not all.  In 2004 I was so wanked out I thought this was Slug Gulch and put in all my effort here.

I warned Toby we'd have a downhill kick, a sudden left turn and we'd be facing a wall-the Start of Slug Gulch.  I actually like the climb--I characterize it as a  stair climb--super steep segments followed by short recovery segments that are almost flat.  Then there are a few more serious climbs--all in full sun.   Then past a "Watch for Snow" warning, a downhill, another right hand kickass section and into the second half which is mostly a gentle 2-3%.

It certainly is a fun climb on my self supported century when we hit it at mile 25 in the morning light--but now it was mile 80 in full sun a little after high noon.  Disregarding advice I got in 2003 NOT to attack the climb, I did attack it and felt good through the first 3 stairs.  Two people on the side of the road dousing riders with water.  Then I fell apart.  Rider coming up quickly and I called out "Hope you're Toby"--but he wasn't.  Toby was by shortly chasing the guy (who unexpectedly turned around half way up the climb.)
Toby pulls away, I'm still passing riders basically crawling (or walking) up the Slug, not passed by anyone else, but my ez climb went down the toilet until I got to the half way mark and the road leveled out.

(above) Ward and Dave on Perry Creek shaded rollers--the warm up to Slug Gulch--much steeper and in full sun (below) Good Samartain ready to cool of a passing cyclist

End of Slug Gulch--the walking wounded (WI)
After the road leveled out and it became cooler I got energy back and picked up the pace. Soon at the top of Slug Gulch and one of the great rest stops, the schoolyard at Omo Ranch that is densely shaded by tall pine trees.  Doubly great as doubles riders and ace rest stop workers  Doug and Joni are up there and we spend lots of time bsing between their filling riders bottles with ice, etc.  Get the "I Made it Up Slug Gulch" Pin" to add to the collection--yippie.  Don't need a map of the "secret 20 mile bonus loop" though Joni keeps asking if I'm sure.   Heat is not Dr Dave or Chairman Ward's best friend--the Doctor is half dead and in the wading pool (he wants to be a triathlete like Toby) and the Chairman is looking worse after getting stung by a bee earlier.   Dr. Dave keeps threatening a course shortening revolution if anyone will join him, but unless he recruited the DMC girls Ward was on board for the 120--even if we had to carry him.

(above) At one of the great rest stops of all rides--Dr. Dave wants to be a triathelete likeToby so he is now in the swimming portion of the ride (there was a chance for Frisbee golf at Pioneer Park rest stop or Horsehoes in Fiddletown) (PC) (below) Our group mugging for the camera at the rest stop (Joni)

Eldorado National Forest-Fiddletown
Next 12 miles may normally be the best portion of the ride--a road through the El Dorado National Forest.  Mostly a gentle climb but unlike the Sutter Creek-Volcano section which you can take at speed, here you know you are climbing.  3-4% with 6-7% kicks are my unofficial estimate.   If feeling good lots of fun.

(above) Dr Dave not complaining in the Eldorado National Forest, about 4.500'.  A little cooler than therest of the ride and very serene.   Movie short below
Trouble is that Ward's heart rate already elevated and though the temperature down --losing 5 degrees when its 97 out ain't much.  Toby-Dave and I slowed a little on this section to keep the group together but I didn't realize how much Ward was already out of it as he dug in and stayed right behind us.

Meanwhile, while this ride has lots of unique views, no "oh wow" views--until now.  From the gaps in the trees lining the roadway you can see the rolling valley of pine trees off to the side.

I remembered in 2003 when mountain bike racer Jerry filled his jersey pockets with free crap at an emergency water stop right before the end of the road, and I was hoping they'd have it this year.  They did.  Ward sank down in a chair in the shade and was out of it for 15 minutes.  Then half way back to earth after another 15 minutes.  If we were gonna sit around a rest stop--this was a great place to sit around, surround by pine forest.  

I felt good and I took the time here to catch up on my fluid intake--I was thirsty no matter how many bottles I drained while riding.    Workers at this rest stop-like at all rest stops-- were fantastic.  At this one they were cheering the arriving riders.

Sitting around in the El Dorado National Forest (TS)
 The good thing for Ward was that the next section was mostly downhill, so he could recover a little while riding.  We had a short uphill stretch out of the forest then we turned on Highway 88-a major highway with little traffic.  We screamed down Highway 88 for a few miles until making a sudden right turn onto Shake Ridge Road.  Earlier we had to grind uphill to the Fiddletown turnoff, now, after two significant uphill rollers, we were flying downhill to the turnoff. 

Everyone together on the Fiddletown Expressway , now deserted of any other cyclists.  Toby and I still feeling good so we hammered the roller section--now familiar with the nuances I probably rode it faster this time than earlier when Toby/I raced the other guys.  Had been hot in the highland forest but temperature here was much hotter.  Ward/ Dave not far behind us and I thought Ward might take the shortcut back to Plymouth.

The Fiddletown rest stop, Toby with his Winston Churchill Victory Cigar (Rest Stop Worker)
Fiddletown rest stop almost deserted.  A worker interested in the self supported century route for the Sacramento Wheelment to use as an intro to Slug Gulch ride.  Ward indicated he was ready to go and was going to complete the 124 mile course with us.  Great.  He was even ready to go when DMC girls rolled in--I thought we'd be there for another 10 minutes.

Fiddletown to End
Out of Fiddletown are three-four annoying climbs--not real long and not real steep but long and steep enough that I used to refer to this part as the Sierra Century karma  revenge on Big Mike--who used to put the hammer down on the Fiddletown Expressway and fly away from everyone.   What is nice about this is that the sun is in a nice place to the left, and rolling vineyards are behind the riders to the right--great Kodak moment for the end of the day.

Scenes from Ostrum Road. (PC)
Last few miles keep us on a main road, Shenandoah Road,  where there is noticeable traffic for the first time all day.  We bypassed much of this by first turning on a loop the Erma's Diner folks showed me long ago--and flew mostly downhill a few extra miles around the Steiner Loop which is well shaded and surrounded by wineries.  Dr. Dave had no complaints about the bonus loop--as he had #1 Strava time on the Steiner Loop for everyone on the ride.   When we came out we continued on Shenandoah SCHOOL Road; not as direct as the official route but with almost no traffic.  I claimed that it was 90% downhill, but Dave used a correction factor whereas when I say that something is 90% downhill it might only be 60% downhill. 

Finally we were in Plymouth.  Getting close I was actually a little chocked up.  Never had 124 miles gone so quickly.   Great dinner venue in the fairgrounds where we joined Sacramento Doug I, even if one of his friends asked Doug "oh, is this your church group."    Our reward for doing the extra miles--the lady in front of me got the last pulled pork sandwich.

DMC girls getting their picture taken (PC, under WI direction)
Parking lot almost empty when we finished bsing and went back to the cars.  Toby has to circle the fairgrounds a few times to get 200k to register.    Downed two protein shakes, a coconut water, and a smoothie on the way home while sky high happy, blasting music, and holding my hand outside the sun roof for an air massage.  Only 365 days to go until the next Sierra Century.

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