Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sierra Century--BEST Supported Bike Ride (2013)

(June 15, 2013) (Sacramento Wheelmen's) SIERRA CENTURY (Plymouth) ***BEST SUPPORTED BIKE RIDE*** w/ Cisco Dave, 124 miles, 10,000' climbing, 15.4 mph, 6:30-4:00
This must be the GOLD COUNTRY !! (PC)

Second year that the classic Plymouth (via Slug Gulch climb) route was back after an 8 year hiatus, with some tinkering with rest stops all for the better:

-Ione (mile 20 after mostly downhill) went from a REST STOP to WATER STOP, which was fine as we continue to bypass this and use the secret bathrooms in Ione anyway.
-Sutter Creek (mile 30 after some serious, warm rollers) now had a full REST STOP.
-No rest stop in the tiny tiny town of VOLCANO (mile 42) like the good old days, or on a dirt lot on VOLCANO Road (@mile 34).  Now, instead of a WATER STOP at the top of Rams Horn Grade (mile 46) there is a full REST STOP on Daffodil Hill.

Greek Theatre in Volcano (PC)
For those that don't know the ride--the above is meaningless.  All you have to know is:

 1) great start-finish venue, great support
 2) mostly well paved roads
 3) little to no traffic
 4) only about 8 stop signs for 124 miles, with half being in Ione.
 5) surrounded by fields of oak at the lower elevations, pine forest at the upper elevations.
 6) riding through "old west" towns

And I didn't even mention passing the alpaca ranch.

Shades of 2004, I thought I was going to be doing this ride solo.  I've now done a double metric with most of my riding group--Ward, Dr. Dave, Cisco Dave and Christine--trouble is that we haven't been together on the same ride.   Either people are going on the injury list, already on the injury list, or in the case of Ward also trying to purchase the see through yoga pants division of  Lululemon (inspired by CA Mike.)

Video of ride the day before from Sutter Creek to Volcano, one of the great preride routes of all time, 24 miles out and back and gentle climbing along Sutter Creek.   Riding solo so lots of thinking about past Sierra Century rides in 2000 & 2002 (metric) and 2003, 2004, 2005, (2006-2011 self supported centurys) 2012 double metrics.  Famous cinematographer Cisco Dave  joined me for the ride the next day and got some good action shots on the double metric.  When I having a great time a song usually repeats in my head, both days  Siouxsie and the Banshees' Switch and Rhapsody (music in video) kept appearing at opportune moments.,
Great to have large group on a ride to BS with, but riding solo is cathartic also.  You get to think about alot of things, sometimes to the point of driving yourself crazy.   On day before the event took a small chain preride from Sutter Creek to Volcano.  I thought I'd be riding solo and this blog entry would be about the past seminal Sierra Century rides in 2003-2004-2005*(bastardized version)-2012, and the self supported versions our Club did while the Sacramento Wheelmen's was "out of town," so thought alot about the past events up here.   Also spent to much time trying to figure out if the Sutter Creek-Volcano 24 mile preride on a mostly gentle climb is the BEST day before preride--or is Blue Lakes Road before the Death Ride/ Alta Alpina better?

 (Blue Lakes Road wins--though its a little steeper.  Blue Lakes pavement is very good--Volcano Roads is fair to poor in places.  Blue Lakes pine forest and snow capped mountains beats Volcano's trickling stream and California buckeye.  Both roads have almost no traffic.   Conversely, Volcano Rd does have a better destination--the unique tiny town of Volcano at the end--including hotel and Greek theatre, while Blue Lakes has a campground/ staging area and the lake is nothing special.)
I'm  relaxing on Mayor Rosie's Memorial bench in Volcano--in the old days she'd be sitting on the (former) bench yelling encouragement to the riders as they came into town (PC)

To my surprise Cisco Dave texted me (actually about 4 times and called twice) to tell me he might come up.  When I finally called back my full disclosure of my snoring didn't dissuade him--he'd arrive at the motel later at night.   Great that I'd have a good Clubmate to ride with--bad news is that he's the fastest person in our club (30th on Devil Mountain) and I'd be in for a workout.  But as he's gotten faster he's also gotten better ameliorating the pace so our group can stay together. 

Walking around Sutter Creek I ran into a guy who knew the tractor driver who had a cyclist fall under his wheel in 2005 (no one ever blamed the driver--cyclist fell while trying to pass the tractor and slipped under the wheel.)   Guy told me that his tractor driver friend was "seriously messed up" for years.  I remember when word starting going around the course about a death in the ride, and days latter the ire of the locals who had to put up with cyclists tying up the road after one key country pulled their ride permit and the route had to be screwed around with.   All of a sudden 2005 didn't seem too far in the distant past.

Dinner at the antique Amador City Imperial Hotel, where Ward, Toby and Dr. Dave and I ate last year.  The  maitre'd had a cute phonetic trick.  He'd introduce the waitresses with phonetic nicknames--the knowledgeable Kathy will tell you about the wine list and the Lovely Lucy will then take your order.  I was off to the corner reading my Nook in the mostly empty restaurant when a party of two noisy couples (a little older) came in--decided that the window next to me was the place they needed to sit, and they were placed at the next close table.  I should revise and extend--most of the party was quite--except for Costa Rican Bed and Breakfast owner Gordon who quickly tapped me on the shoulder--apologized if they were going to disturb me--and then preceded to do so.  Normally I don't like talking to people I don't know but partially as no one had been around to talk to all day, and partially as Gordon was as full of humor as he was loud ("you need to east more pasta before your bike ride," "I like your haircut-where do you get it cut," "how many RIB EYES did we eat in China?, "before I order the lamb, where was it raised," while Mrs Gordon would sssssh him constantly) it was a welcome distraction from too much introspection for the day.

Cute Amador County fairgrounds where ride starts with faux western town (PC)

Plymouth, one of the many real Western towns (PC)
Went back to Plymouth--biggest town in the Gold Country, and window shopped in the historic business district--now closed.  Seemed like all the same stores that were here in 2003 were still around--except the bike shop and cookware store had moved a few doors down.  Cisco Dave showed up later and alleged he could have woken up at home at 4:30, the same time I set the clock for our 6:30 start.

In the morning air was cool but much dryer than in the Bay Area.   The ride starts at the Amador Country Fairgrounds--a cute tiny fairground with an old west theme.  See some other guy in an Alta Alpina 8 jersey and yell out Brian--taking a guess who it was.  Sure enough, it is "the other Brian" who did the Alta Alpina on a recumbent.  He was planning to do it again but this time on a regular bike with mountain bike gearing (which is what I had on my bike in 2003.) and the Sierra Century would be his test ride.  Dave and I would see Brian all day--seems we'd be ready to pull out of a rest stop and he'd pull in, we'd BS awhile and check on how he was doing.

Disclaimer--Only bad thing about the Sierra Century is that on the coldest part of the day it starts downhill for 6 miles on a rough road,  (Bad roads in the Gold Country means bad patch jobs, uneven surface--not the ruts and potholes  in Sonoma,)   with baby rollers interspersed, and a line of cars first coming to the ride on the other side of the road.  Usually a crowd of riders take off at the same time all trying to hammer each other.   Today there weren't that many people who cued up for the start at the same time and only one guy who put in a dig and then was easily caught once the baby rollers started, he turned out to be a good guy we'd see all day.  It was cold in this section and took my arm warmers and stuffed a ride poster down my vest.
I'm on early morning rollers towards Ione--soon can get rid of arm warmers, vest, and poster stuffed in my jersey (DD)

Cisco Dave on same part of course (PC)

We then cross Highway 16 where the Sheriff/ CHP waved us through a stop sign, and more serious rollers on nicely paved Carbondale Road.    Ride poster in vest and arm warmers no longer needed.      I like attacking steep rollers and Dave and I had fun on the series of them.   A few times people we were about to pass put in a dig and Dave was off to the races while I'd just settle in until the next roller  Dave had dropped whoever he was racing and slowed for me to catch up after I passed the exhausted rider.

When we got to the flats of Ione we had a large group of riders were were pulling along which was fine.  I was going to uphold the tradition of skipping the official Ione stop and going to the secret bathrooms.  This used to save 10-15 minutes when there was a real rest stop 1/4 mile away, but now the water stop was right on the route and seemingly people got out of it fast--we'd catch up to alot of people we had passed earlier on the next segment.   Time to leave the ride poster in the secret bathroom and pull off arm warmers and buff.  Another bike group was cuing up here for their weekly ride.
Dave liked this waste water treatment plant at the edge of Ione with the plants growing in the water so he got a photo of me in front of it. (PC)

Big group of riders with us as we go into Ione.  Only place with multiple stop signs on ride.   (PC)

Dave and I at the secret Ione bathrooms instead of the water stop.  (--)

The next segment is serious rollers in full sun between Ione and Sutter Creek.  Here is where Dr. Dave made friends with Gustavo last year.  Like last year it got warm in a hurry  At one point I yelled for Cisco Dave to slow down--some woman thought I had yelled at her for going to slow, so I slowed to explain the misunderstanding.    Soon we came across someone wearing a Cisco jersey, which was great as Cisco Dave slowed down so that Cisco Dave could try to sell him on a new product.  Dave also started giving me some breathing techniques that he uses as I don't have the same aerobic capacity as in past years.

I'm on the rollers towards Sutter Creek (DD)
We are soon on the outskirts of Sutter Creek and the new rest stop an local high school.  (seems familiar--used at Party Pardee?  no sure--when I did Party Pardee I had no idea where Sutter Creek was but damn--it looked familiar.)    Now a few blocks through the classic western town of Sutter Creek and onto the great Volcano Road. 

I'm with "the other Brian" who still owes me an ice cream from Alta Alpina (DD)

Cisco Dave with a happy Cisco customer (PC)

Early morning riding through another great old west town, Sutter Creek (PC)
Yesterday for the preride I kept the bike in the small chainring and took an easy spin to Volcano.  Today I was riding well--damn the calf vein problems and other assorted ailments, I was passing most people on the road.  On the ez preride yesterday I was able to dodge around the rough pavement patches on the road, but today holding a line there was hitting lots of bumps in the pavement. (That's why Volcano Road is OK for going up but not the best at a higher speed when coming down)   Just when I got all pleased with myself, at about mile 4 of the 12 mile long road, a paceline of a dozen guys shoots by and Dave and I hook on--and I'm holding on for dear life.  At mile 8 on a short downhill I get unhooked, and ride in with two other people who got sawed off.  Cisco Dave stays with the group and then takes out the sprint that was actively contested..

Next is Rams Horn Climb--a serious climb of 2-3 miles that is well shaded by the tall pine trees blocking the rising sun.    The hard part of the climb is that when you summit there are still a series of 4-5 long uphill rollers but today the new Daffodil Hill rest stop is close by and breaks up the slow route.   As at all rest stops The Sacto Wheelmen have all drinks on ice, plenty of food to choose from, and tums and good sunscreen.

Dave on Ram's Horn Grade climb.  Tall pines keep the road nice and shaded (PC)
We start up the series of long uphill rollers on Shake Ridge Road and for some reason we are surrounded by loads of cyclists who all have white with black trim jerseys.  As we sometimes think that Dave owns one white/ black trim Capo jersey, a funny coincidence--especially when the guy in front of him has a new style white/ black trim Capo jersey on.

Oh no--Dave and someone else wearing white and black Capo jerseys on rollers from Rams Horn Grade to Fiddletown Expressway (PC)
Soon get to the "E ticket" 6 mile Fiddletown downhill--my favorite downhill anywhere.  Its starts off fast but transforms into a series of short downhill rollers.  I usually get sawed off on the downhill but can make an effort to pick up ground on the uphill, and today is the same.  Dave and a white jersey guy start to race, two big guys pass me on the downhill, I claw my way back to the fastest one when the rollers start, and then we wind up about 500' behind Dave and his "friend."

Fiddletown rest stop is nice--we'll be here later but with 80% of the folks and food gone.  Was getting warmer and I had my favorite hot weather food--a bread sandwich with a diet coke.  The next part of the route would be new to Cisco Dave as we never did it on my self supported Sierra Century--we'd now be going through the woods between Fiddletown and Mt Aukum on Bridgehead School Road (I have still not seen the school.)

Riders at Fiddletown checking the map to see where the serious hills are (PC).

Leaving Fiddletown an immediate serious roller with 'the other Brian' and Cisco Dave.  I'll be like Photocrazy and blame "the other Brian" for not riding closer to Dave so as to not get into the photo (PC)
We left with "the other Brian" who was having a good ride.  There is a climb up Tyler Road and this is where Brian told us about his bike gearing--ironically some turkey laughed at my 11x34 on exactly the same climb ("you have a pieplate" in 2003 whereas I proceeded to leave his butt in the dust.)   Dave and I told Brian about what we like about compact gearing and then we took off to tackle the rollers in the woods.  This section has the worst pavement on the ride (still better than Santa Rosa), probably just as bad as Volcano Rd but here you come off and down rollers which exacerbates the rough road.   Funny, almost no cyclists on this stretch--I think we passed 2--and the only other person we saw was a ride worker out in the wilderness warning us about an uneven bridge we had to cross.  Here Dave and I were talking about photography and camping--real mellow atmosphere.

Cisco Dave thinks that the sign needs to be 55 miles up the road instead of in the Bridgeport School Rd forest (PC)
When we came out on Mt. Aukum Road Dave instantly knew where we were.  His two "races" earlier and the rough road had tweaked his back, but the Mt Aukum Road surface is very nice.  Some traffic but a nice shoulder.  Past the Mt Aukum General Store--past the alpaca ranch.   Two guys came along and passed without saying anything which got my dander up--luckily a series of rollers were coming up so I got back to them and put on the gas over the next few to shoot ahead.  For once I had to slow for Dave to regroup with me.

Dave and I liquoring up before the warm Slug Gulch climb--Pioneer water stop (PC)

"the other Brian" (his orange bike looks much nicer than his recumbent) ready to attack Slug Gulch (PC)
We were at Pioneer Water stop for awhile so Dave could stretch and we could get well hydrated for the next part of the ride--The infamous Slug Gulch climb.  We saw some of the same riders we had seen all day--some were hard not to notice.    Memo from HR--do NOT add to this paragraph.   

From the water stop we first hit Perry Creek Road--a nicely shaded road with lots of short/ steep rollers.  Here we pass a coed climbing tandem whose riders are wearing Victory Velo Jerseys in Auburn.  The Auburn area is like where we are riding now but on steroids--all the rollers are steeper.  I congratulate the tandem for doing this ride.  They never did Slug Gulch before so I try to describe it to them.  It four miles with the first half wickedly steep--but it has four tiers with the first tier the worst and a a 5% recovery section between the double digit tiers.  Then the road twists to the right for the last climb and the second half is a gradual uphill to the end.  I think Sierra Road is harder--later I saw the tandem couple and they said Slug Gulch was a "Piece of Cake"--they considered their local Iowa Hill  harder.

Dave on Perry Creek roller--Auburn climbing tandem up ahead (PC)
We hit the sudden left hand turn and see the wall that is Slug Gulch.  Two three guys in front of us are zig zagging up and someone yells from behind us to stop zig zagging and to ride straight up.  Dave stops after the first tier for a good Samaritan doling out water and to stretch, I continue on until the tiers are finished.  I ride with a guy who did DMD two years ago, and after the last tier I pull over in some shade  to wait for Dave.  Soon a woman comes by and yells that I should get on my bike and keep going--DO NOT STOP.   She wasn't being mean--just "coaching" excited.   A few people nearby, some also waiting for someone, some gassed and needing a rest.   Dave comes by and we start up the last steep section which soon transitions into a fun section among the pines.   We catch up to one rider ahead who doesn't want us to pass us so he starts a few digs; when he realizes he isn't dropping us we begin to talk.  Spanish guy from Brooklyn who remembers all the 1969 New York Mets--he was miffed that his significant other was ahead of him on the climb.

I'm at the start of Slug Gulch--the steepest section comes first and its in full sun this time of day (DD)

Dave at the beginning of Slug Gulch (PC)

Dave half way up Slug Gulch, but now it will start leveling off (PC)

I'm on the much easier final section of Slug Gulch (PC)

Senor Brooklyn comes by and we go through the 1969 Mets lineup as he tries to chase down his significant other up ahead (PC)
We ride in to the BEST rest stop in the world--the OMO RANCH (grass) SCHOOLYARD in the dense shade cast by the tall pines.  There we see Doug and Joanie, great doubles riders who frequently captain rest stops.  Unfortunately Joanie just had a serious bike accident and can barely get out of a chair, but her compatriot Cathy fills our bottles with ice drinks and give us the sacred "We Made It Up Slug Gulch" pins."  Doug is busy chopping up ice for drinks or making ice sculptures.  If there was a lounge chair here I think I'd call it a day and just nap for the rest of the day.

Cisco Dave getting ready for the soccer game (PC)

Joanie injured--so Cathy fills in supervising Doug's ice sculpture of Lance Armstrong at Omo Ranch rest stop (PC)
The cutoff to do the secret bonus 20 miles is 2:00 and after a long stay at this rest stop Dave and I push off 40 minutes early--at 1:20.  The next 12 miles is incredible--a ride though the tall pines in the El Dorado National Forest.  Some climbing involved but all gentle, which would be a piece of cake if we weren't already at mile 82.

The start of the beautiful El Dorado National Forest--this is great (PC)

"Get back on your bike Mr. Cisco Dave before your leg seizes up"--Phil Liggett (PC)

Dave in El Dorado National Forest (PC)
This may be the best part of the ride--it would be if we weren't so damn tired.   We passed one cyclist along the way--otherwise we didn't see anyone else.  No cars in either direction.  Just surrounded by pine trees and lots of quiet with the sound of the gentle wind rustling the trees.  In pockets of shade it must have still been high 70's but compared to the high 80's in the valley below it almost felt cold.  We got to the water stop right before we merge onto Highway 88 for the continual downhill for the rest of the ride.  More ice--and a few things to eat, the fresh air had made me surprisingly hungry.   

We don't know if Clint Eastwood is scolding the empty chair reserved for Diablo Cyclists who didn't do this ride, or Cisco Dave for not using a crystal glass for water (PC)
Now down Highway 88--a few cars pass by but never a problem, quick right turn onto beautiful Shake Ridge Road where houses suddenly appear in the tall pines.  Real smooth road but minimal traffic.  A few long uphill rollers and then a continual downhill to the Fiddletown cutoff again--and once again the great Fiddletown Expressway.  On this whole stretch no other cyclists seen on the road except for 1)  tandem from Auburn flashing by and 2) big accident at the bottom of the road with fire trucks and paramedics catering to injured cyclist.  When we stopped to slowly get around we were joined by other riders for the final mile which suddenly was a downer.  

Portrait of Cisco Dave and I on Shake Ridge Road (DD)
Fiddletown rest stop--brimming with energy 5 hours ago, now almost desolate, as only open for 124 mile riders.    I had worried about 'the other Brian" as I didn't see him at Omo Ranch but he came in shortly after us now and was having a great ride.  Brooklyn homeboy was there as was Auburn tandem.  I was kinda sad as ride almost over   Great century rides are over way to fast.

One more real climb coming up, Ostrum Road,  and I felt good.  I was pleased how I was riding, then just when the Ostrum Climb started a half dozen riders shot by and I had NO CHANCE IN HELL to get on there wheel.  Any speed I once had is now gone.   Its a two tier climb with a sudden descent in the middle and Cisco Dave is ready to take one more dig and he charges up to the group that passed and I soon lose sight of them. 

I summit and start the downhill, get to the bottom and there is Dave off his bike--waiting for me like he did a half dozen times today.  I yell "good to go" and he yells "OK" and I start the 2nd climb, get to the top and surprisingly not passed by Dave so I wait for him before the next descent.  Dave straggles up and he told me that he lost the bike on the downhill turn, the wheel slid out and he was headed for barbed wire.  Luckily he crash landed into a bush before the barbed wire.  Oh crap.

Cisco Dave ready to catch riders who are ahead of us (PC)

Cisco Dave at top of last climb--he caught something on the chase but it wasn't the other rides--luckily he came out unscathed (PC)
We ride the downhill ready to merge back into the main road which is what the 100 mile riders come back on.  Sure enough as we are ready to make the turn a trio flash by us on the main road which is slightly downhill.  After we make the turn the trio is far up the road--which is OK, no more chasing, until Dave says "you want to ride behind those guys," and then Dave pulls us up to them.  OK, now I'm tired, lets just sit behind them, so Dave gets anise and goes to the front, ups the speed, and two of the three guys drop off.  He signals me through and I keep the pace high but steady and we lose the third guy even though we weren't trying to drop him.  We're going mid 20's after 120 miles--and then suddenly back in Plymouth.

Parking still has about 20% of the cars.  Plenty of food options, pulled pork with fruit salad is what I picked  and plenty of cold drinks.  IF SACRAMENTO WHEELMEN CAN FIGURE OUT HOW TO HAVE ENOUGH FOOD FOR PEOPLE DOING THE LONG COURSE AND FINISHING AFTER THE METRIC AND CENTURY RIDES, COME OTHER CENTURY RIDES HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THIS???.    Joined by "the other Brian" for a nice end o ride meal.

Hope to see the 76th year poster next year (PC)
Great ride--glad Cisco Dave joined me and he saw how the ride I rant about on our self supported of the Sierra Century course is actually run.  Maybe some turn arrows should have been doubled up on some fast or sudden turns, with one set placed well before the turn.  Otherwise everything was perfect for this great edition of the Sacramento Wheelmen Sierra Century. Just wish we were 10 years younger, whereas could be joined by more of our riding buddies, ride faster, and medical aliments were unknown unless caused by injury, not old age overuse stress injuries.

Postscript-I knew I'm getting slower but got real depressed on how much the dropoff has been.  In 2005 I had a great ride with a face paced group, and I figured after 15.4 mph this year that I probably rode 2005 at 16.  I looked back and found out I almost hit 17!  F, lost 1 1/2 mphs in 9 years.


Anonymous said...

I liked every part of the ride except Shenandoah
Road at the end; headwind, coarse chip seal, no shoulder, tourist traffic from the wineries that were not there some years ago.

Anonymous said...

Serious Hills huh? I see what you did there.

Pumpkincycle said...

I didn't notice that Shenandoah was rough or a headwind. At the end I'd go down Shenandoah SCHOOL road as usually much less traffic and nice views of the wineries/ plant nurseries. Maybe Sacto Wheelmen figure they want to avoid interacting with any winery traffic--no matter how minimal. On our self surrported century we leave and come back on Shenandoah SCHOOL road.

Anonymous said...

Have you ridden Ostrom and then Fiddletown roads back into Plymouth?

Somewhat Recumbent Brian said...

It was fun running into you guys along the route. Definitely glad I did the extra miles for the double metric and made it into the forest ... I'd be all for starting the ride there and getting the altitude that way, but I guess that'll wait for Alta Alpina.

After looking at the map of where we rode afterwards, I now see why Dave asked me which way I came back from Fiddletown. Even if it was hilly, Fiddletown Rd looks a lot shorter than Fiddletown-Shenandoah/Ostrom/whatever long way the double course went. I didn't need any extra miles on the road bike to remind me how soft I was at that point.

Still unsure if I'm ready for 200mi on a road bike and am leaning towards riding the recumbent for the first half of AA8, then switching to the road bike for Ebbetts and Monitor ... from a guy who rides a recumbent, even that sounds a little too weird tho.

Pumpkincycle said...

Great seeing you en route. You still owe me an ice cream :-)

What ever works on the Alta Alpina go and do it. I told Dr Dave for years that he should do the first half of the Davis Double on a regular bike, and then have a 'bent squirreled away at Resurrection and zoom by everyone on it from there.

(On long rides I always want to get out of the "kit." As passed the car before the last climb(s) on the Death Ride/Alta Alpina I always had a fresh kit in the car and did a complete wardrobe change for the end of the ride.) As James Brown would say -"I feel good!"