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This was to be my third double century for 2002, and, if successful, completion of my second California Triple Crown. I was much more relaxed about the ride this year than last year, as I'd already completed the triple crown once before, plus I knew what to expect from this pretty demanding course.
Before the ride: I took a short day at work on Friday, and headed up to pick up my friend Kristin in Berkeley at around 2:30. Traffic wasn't too terribly bad getting there, but the drive from Berkeley to Vacaville was pretty darned slow. We passed the time talking about various bike rides, and I jabbered on endlessly about how much I enjoyed this ride last year (and how difficult I found it!). After a couple of hours, we finally passed through Fairfield, and went to the ride pre-registration at Pena Adobe Park, just west of Vacaville. We checked in without incident, got our goodies (including a really excellent T-shirt), and went to the Best Western in Vacaville. On the clerk's recommendation, we went to a little Italian cafe buried in the myriad strip malls that comprise Vacaville, and had a pretty tasty pasta dinner. Kristin's friend Pat arrived at the hotel at 8'ish, and after spending a little while getting our stuff in order, we set the alarm for 3:30, and retired.
The hotel alarm clock was about as un-relaxing of a wake-up call as we could have imagined, and after cursing at it for a few, we blearily got ourselves ready and hit the road. We got to Pena Adobe quickly enough, and after a little fussing about, were cycling by 4:30, 20min earlier than I'd started last year. It was 73° when I parked at Pena Adobe at 4:10am, which forecast an extremely warm day! I was wearing a windbreaker and carrying leg warmers "just in case" - both would prove quite unnecessary.
Pena Adobe Park to Napa Ecological Preserve (36.5mi, 2h 24m):
Kristin, Pat, & I rode out, and soon caught a group of other riders. We pacelined along at a very moderate pace towards and through Fairfield, not wanting to go too terribly fast in the dark. We soon started climbing Mt. George and Pat poured on the gas. That woman is fast! After about 20sec of hanging on her wheel, I gave up and let her go up the road. This would be the last I would see of her on this ride. It was a lovely climb up Mt. George, with a bright full moon, and no sounds to speak of other than Kristin and I. It was starting to get even warmer, so I pulled off and removed my windbreaker. Mt. George is an easy climb, and the sun rose as I summitted, then descended Mt. George behind Chuck Bramwell (the organizer of the California Triple Crown) and his friend. We zigged and zagged on a couple of Napa side streets, then caught the Silverado Trail. A pair of tandems passsed, I hopped on their tail, and we cooked along at around 25mph until we arrived at rest stop #1 at the Napa Valley Ecological Preserve (36.5mi).
Napa Ecological Preserve to Lake Berryessa (34.3mi, 2h 56m):
One of the SAG vehicles was blaring "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison - nice! They had a good selection of muffins and the like. This was a gear drop-off stop, so I ditched my windbreaker and leg warmers, sending them ahead to rest stop #5. I ate a bit, refilled my various liquid foodstuffs, and stretched for a while. Kristin arrived soon after I did, and we soon prepared to leave, when Berit arrived. We chatted briefly with her, then went on our merry way.
The course went along some gorgeous side roads for a little ways before rejoining the Silverado Trail. I pulled Kirstin and another woman along for a good ways here, as the road is exactly to my liking - relatively straight, relatively flat, and well-paved! The easy roads weren't long to last, however, and we soon turned off on Howell Mtn. Rd. The climb up Howell Mountain is long'ish, but not particularly steep, and the scenery is fantastic as one climbs above Napa Valley. Kristin and I eventually crested Howell Mountain, and enjoyed the fast, somewhat technical descent. Alas, a car soon got in my way, impeding my speed, although it wasn't going all that much slower than I'd have gone anyways. I hit around 45mph - wheee! The organizers' admonitions to take extra care on this descent are perhaps overstated, but should be heeded nonetheless - a crash on this road could be quite serious! Once we were off of the mountain, we continued on lovely Pope Valley and Pope Canyon roads, past many vineyards, and finally, alongside Lake Berryessa to rest stop #2 (70.8mi).
Lake Berryessa to Knoxville Rd. water stop (23mi, 2h 24m):
We spent a little bit of time at this stop, again refilling our bottles with Spiz, and I used my last bag of Accelerade, glad to be rid of the plastic baggies in at least one of my jersey pockets. Kristin was very happy that they provided Sustained Energy, E-Caps, and other non-food nourishment ;-) I contented myself with a bagel, and more muffin pieces. After a little longer than I'd have preferred, we hit the road.
I knew the next leg, 37 miles of more-or-less climbing, would take us a long while, and so took it easy for the first 10+ miles while the going was easy. This early part of Knoxville Rd. is lovely, going alongside Lake Berryessa. It was starting to get genuinely hot, but the views made for a fine distraction. Knoxville Rd. is one of the most remote roads I've ever travelled. One goes for miles and miles and miles without seeing a single sign of human existence other than the road itself and the occassional passing car. As the road went upward, the temperature rose. Near the (geological) top of Knoxville Rd., the temperature was later estimated to be around 105°, and it sure felt like it! I found the climbing a good deal easier than last year, but the heat was definitely making me work for it. After the true "summit," we tackled one final push to a very welcome water stop. This was a rather exposed climb, but mercifully short. We arrived, tired and really quite overheated, at the rest stop, glad to be off of our steeds, if only for a few minutes.
Knoxville Rd. water stop to Lower Lake (14mi, 1h 19m):
This was a water stop only, but we stayed a few anyways, enjoying the shade, and filling our bottles with nice, cool water. What was left in our bottles when we rolled in (which wasn't much) was quite warm - yuk! As we cooled off, my friend Felix pulled in (see here for his account of this ride), and, true to form, was soon on his way. Kristin's friend Wendy also arrived, then left, as we prepared to leave ourselves.
The heat must've been getting to Kristin, as she rode off without her helmet and didn't realize it until a quarter mile later! There was a bit more extremely hot climbing on Knoxville Rd., and then a sweet, but short-feeling descent. I hit 49.3mph, 0.7mph slower than last year. This is a super fun downhill, with good visibility and sweeping turns. I'd forgotten from last year that the posted speeds on the curves are very conservative - maybe I'll remember next year and do it no-brakes :) There was a bit more climbing in the baking sun followed by a short descent into the town of Lower Lake, and a quick jog on a side road to the lunch stop at Lower Lake County Park (107.8mi).
Lower Lake to Genuoc Winery (25.4mi, 2h 21m):
Felix was pulling out right as Kristin and I arrived. Wendy and her friend had arrived well before us. Unfortunately they were out of their famous tuna salad, which I'd enjoyed last year, as well as V8, so I settled for a turkey sandwich, some chips, and cans of iced tea and soda. There was plenty of shady seating, which was most appreciated! Kristin was cramping a little, and went to take advantage of the free massages being offered. After about 20min, I was ready to leave, but Kristin wanted to stay a bit longer. She said I should just go on ahead, so I did after refilling my bottles with ice water.
It was cooler than it had been on Knoxville Rd., but not by much, still in the high 90s, as I headed out along Morgan Valley Rd. The next 30-some-odd miles of the ride is the same as the Davis Double, but in reverse (I prefer it this way to the way Davis does it). I soon turned off on Siegler Canyon Rd., a lovely, but sun-baked road. I saw very few riders on the road, nor much of anything else alive. My iced water was already warm by this point, just a few miles past lunch! I rode alone for a while before turning onto Big Canyon Rd. There was much more shade here, and I saw a number of other cyclists sitting in the shade under trees, and one lying down on the side of the road, spread-eagled! I rode past the place where my seatpost broke on this year's Davis Double, and soon was at the top of Big Canyon. I'd forgotten how short this climb is, and I was happy to start down the long, gradual descent towards Middletown. The road surfacing is pretty awful on Big Canyon Rd., but in this weather, it sure beat climbing! After some small rolling hills, I arrived in Middletown. I thought about stopping at a store to get some water, as I didn't have a great deal left, but there weren't any other cyclists around, and I didn't want to leave my bike unattended, plus it was only 6 miles to the next rest stop, so I continued onwards on Butts Canyon Rd. This, too, is a lovely road, going by some vineyards, and Detert Lake. Soon enough I climbed a half mile gravel driveway and was at rest stop #4 at the Guenoc Winery (133.2mi). As I pulled in, Felix was again leaving, never to be seen again.
Guenoc Winery to Old Lakeside Market (32.4mi, 2h 56m):
The rest area at the winery was wonderfully shaded, and I stayed a little while, enjoying a cold soda and a peanut butter sandwich. I stretched and waited a bit to see if Kristin was going to pull in. With an hour left until the rest stop closed, I scribbled her a note on the side of the check-in sheet and hit the road.
I continued along Butts Canyon Rd. for another dozen or so miles, and rode for a while with two nice fellows, Steve and Russ (I think), from the Tri-City Triathlon Club, with whom Felix rides. We rode through Pope Valley, past Hubcap Heaven, retracing for one mile the morning's route, enjoying the nice scenery and many, many vineyards. There was a water stop at the intersection of Pope Valley and Lower Chiles Valley, and I stopped for a minute to get some cool water, as it was still quite warm. While stopped, my bike computer somehow reset itself - hmmph. There was a bit of a climb up to Hwy 128, nothing difficult, but Steve and Russ went up it faster than I cared to, so I hung back, not feeling any need for a large (or even medium-sized) effort for the time being. The ride along Hwy 128 to the 5th rest stop is pleasant enough, on a well-surfaced road, which was a nice change from the previous 60 miles! There was more auto traffic, but only relative to the very small amount that we had previously. It seemed to take a really long time, but eventually I arrived at the Old Lakeside Market (165.6mi).
Old Lakeside Market to Pardesha Store (16.2mi, 1h 44m):
This was a gear pick-up stop, and I reluctantly took my windbreaker and leg warmers, knowing they wouldn't get used. At 9pm the previous night it was still around 80° in Vacaville! I had a hot dog, V8, and some other munchies here, stretched, and stayed here a little while, hoping Kristin would arrive, but decided to ride on as it was getting dark. I left a final note on the checkin sheet saying I'd meet her at the end. I was pretty sure she'd finish unless she was dragged off of the course, as she's a tenacious rider.
The ride requires riders to ride in groups after dark, a sensible enough policy, and I rode with a nice fellow from Salem, Oregon. We continued on Hwy. 128, over the easy side of Cardiac Hill (which felt really easy this year - training really helps!). Its a good thing the road is nicely paved here, as neither of our lights were super-bright. Knowing that the road is in good condition, I went pretty fast on the downhills. When I later looked at my bike computer, I found I'd hit 43mph somewhere on Hwy 128 in the dark! My riding partner was having a tougher go of it than was I, and I tried to be encouraging, but probably wound up just annoying him by being chipper ;) It seemed to take longer than it should have, but we eventually arrived at the Pardesha Store (181.8mi).
Pardesha Store to Pena Adobe Park (13.4mi, 1h 38m):
There were a handful of other riders at this stop. The staff were very friendly, and we talked a bunch, while I ate a cup-o-potato-soup, drank some V8, and generally consumed whatever else they had handy. I was still feeling pretty good other than a sore bum, but my Orgeonian riding partner wanted to stay a while, so I relaxed and did some longer stretches. When he was ready, we hit the road for the last leg of a rather long day.
Its basically a straight shot from the Pardesha Store to the finish along Pleasant's Valley Rd. The moon was bright and full, illuminating the way nicely. We caught up to a rider who had apparently taken a spill when his lights went out and he hit a pothole. He was uninjured, but wanted to ride with us, as our lights were holding out, which was, of course, fine by us. After a few miles, only my headlight remained useful, and when it started to fade, I pulled over to change the batteries. The fellow who'd crashed didn't want to wait the whole whopping 90 seconds it takes to change the batteries, and continued onwards in the darkness - very foolish if you ask me, especially since he'd already crashed once due to lack of lights! We soon caught him anyways soon after, and proceeded to drop him. Before long, I heard the freeway and knew were were just minutes from the finish! I pulled in at around 10:10pm, thus completing my second California Triple Crown - woohoo!
They had great food at the end -- chicken breasts, pasta with marinara sauce, pasta with alfredo sauce, caesar salad, and bread, with sparkling cider - excellent! Kristin pulled in at around 11:00, completing her 1000-mile club - way to go! We looked at the sign-in sheet, and Pat had finished shortly after 4pm, the first woman, and the 3rd or 4th finisher overall - wow!
Again, this was a wonderful, lovely ride! The heat was very oppressive, but the scenery, support, and company were first-rate. This remains my favorite of the 4 double centuries I've completed so far.
|Total Time:||17h 42m|
|On-bike Time:||~13h 40m|
|Total Climbing:||~12,000 ft|
|Difficulty:||4 - challenging, but not too much so|
|Food:||4 - they were out of a few things here and there, but what was available was tasty!|
|Weather:||2 - too damned hot!|
08 February, 2011 MST
Copyright © 2009 Adam R. Paul