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Again this would be the first "offical" ride of my cycling season, and again, a fine one! The Solvang Century and previously the half century have been the first organized rides of the past 3 years for me, and again for 2003. Since I'd been training pretty hard through the winter months in preparation for an attempt at the California Triple Crown stage race, I was hoping to set a new best time for a century on this ride, as well as finishing strong and without injury.
The original plan was for me to drive to San Luis Obispo, pick up my sister Emily, then continue to our hotel in Vandenburg Village and wait for my father Barry, mom Sharle, and brother Corey to arrive. Unfortunately Emily caught a nasty flu at the last moment, so I just wound up dropping by her place and picking up some medicine for her, and my mom stayed with her the whole weekend. After checking in to the hotel (the Days Inn in Vandenburg Village - the same place we stayed last year), I drove over to Solvang to check in and hook up with Sarah and a couple other VeloGirls. The registration line was horrendously long, but moved very quickly, and in a mere 20min or so, I'd both checked in and found Sarah and her friends. Barry later said he heard it was a glasses clip, but that didn't make much sense to me. We all went out to dinner at a Danish place that was pandering to cyclists by offering an all-you-can-eat spaghetti special (edible, but otherwise unremarkable). After dinner we went back to the ride start and briefly perused the expo (nothing too exciting), then I went back to the hotel and crashed out early. Barry and Corey called at 12:30am (uggh), needing a key to their room, so I blearily got up and let them in, then re-crashed out.
My alarms went off at 5:50, I brewed coffee, then set out for the 30min drive to the ride start (note to self: plan farther ahead and book a room in Solvang or Buellton!). It was chilly, 38°, according to my car's thermo, but at least that was a couple degrees warmer than last year. I bundled up, and hit the road rolling at around 7:15.
There were a ton of cyclists on the road, and I passed a great many of them en route from Solvang to Buellton (a 3mi, downhill stretch - I was trying to warm up!). SCOR (the ride organizers) had enlisted the help of the CHP, and all major (and many minor) intersections were staffed with officers, making for a very smooth traffic flow - cool! The next 16 miles were on the lovely Santa Rosa Rd., however it was cold and quite foggy, so the lovely scenery mostly kept to itself, save for intermittent fog breaks. Before long, I arrived in Lompoc, headed north on rolling Hwy. 1, and after a couple of turns, pulled into the Lompoc Elk's Lodge (24mi).
There were hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of riders here, possibly the most I've ever seen at a rest stop. I asked a staffer at the water station how many riders there were and he said he'd heard over 6,000, which sounded a little (but not a lot) high to me. As with last year, there was no sports drink offered, just water and Spiz (my favorite meal replacement for ultra-marathon events, but really overkill for a not-too-hilly century!). Unlike last year, happily, there was more to eat than just PB&J's and bananas. I removed my windbreaker, stretched, and hit the road again after about 15 minutes.
The ride north on Hwy. 1 (right past my hotel) was a departure from last year's route, as for some (unexplained) reason, we were not being allowed on Vandenburg Air Force Base this year - too bad, as I really enjoyed that stretch last year. The alternate route wasn't nearly as interesting, especially since I'd driven/ridden it a good number of times, but so it goes. I tried to paceline with a few folks who seemed about my speed, but they kept randomly speeding up, slowing down, and pulling off the lead - not conducive to a nice even effort, which sort of defeats the purpose! An upside of this year's reroute was that I finally got to descend the Vandenburg Grade, a hill that I slogged up in the 2001 AIDS ride. It wasn't as fast of a descent as I'd hoped, but I still hit 47mph and had a good time of it before turning right on San Antonio Road. A bit over a mile later, I rolled into the San Antonio SAG stop (40mi).
I spent little time at this stop, just stretching out, refilling my bottles with my baggies of Accelerade, eating another half PB&J, and then heading out. The route zigged and zagged around, skirting Santa Maria, as I again struggled (mostly in vain) to find a properly paced paceline. Oh well, its (slightly) more gratifying to ride fast under one's own voilition anyways. Before too long, I arrived at the rest stop at the Santa Maria Raddison Hotel (60mi). My average speed up to this point was nearly 20mph and I was feeling good - it was looking likely that I'd indeed make this my fastest century yet!
It was no longer cold at all, so I removed my arm and leg warmers, again chowed on a half PB&J, stretched, and headed back out, trying to avoid wasting too much time at rest stops. It was another very fast run from Santa Maria to Sisquoc along Orcut, Clark, and Dominion Roads. This isn't my favorite stretch of this ride, but its not by any means ugly either, and I was riding fast, so the miles passed quickly. Less than an hour after leaving Santa Maria, I arrived at the Sisquoc stop (74mi).
While getting some food, I ran into my friend Deb, finally seeing someone I knew out of the masses of cyclists! I grabbed a bite and headed out with her and her friends, although we soon separated. The rest of this ride is through some of the prettiest terrain I've ever ridden, which is good, because its a 15 mile slight uphill into (nearly always) a headwind, followed by a short, but fairly steep uphill :) It wasn't too windy this year, fortunately, and I enjoyed taking in all of the wonderful green hills. The steeper climb got my blood flowing for certain, then it was a 5mi very bumpy descent (the road was littered with water bottles that had jumped ship!) to the last rest stop at the Firestone Winery (93mi).
I stretched a while and ate a bunch, wanting to make sure I had the energy to continue a high output and finish quickly. After the rest stop, there is another pretty steep climb, but its short, and features fantastic views down into Foxen Canyon. There were large patches of lupine (or more probably vetch) dotting the hills in the distance - it very much looked like spring! I'd forgotten that nearly all of the climbing on this ride is in the tail-end, but I was still keeping up a decent pace. Another downhill lead to Hwy 154, which we crossed and turned on to Ballard Canyon Road. This road is just gorgeous, winding its way up the last real climb, then a beautiful rolling descent down into Solvang and the finish.
I pulled into the finish after 5 hours, 49 minutes on the bike, besting my previous best time (on the 2001 I Care Classic) of 5 hours, 55 minutes (on a much flatter route) - cool! This was a fun and lovely ride, very well supported. It was really nice having the CHP controlling every major intersection, and even the cars that had to pass miles and miles of cyclists on narrow back roads were perfectly behaved.
I met up with Barry, Corey, & Sarah, took a quick shower at Sarah's room in Buellton, and we all went out to a 5:00 dinner at a family Mexican joint, then Barry, Corey, & I had another dinner at 9 in Lompoc. On Sunday, we all had breakfast in Solvang, then Barry, Sarah, & I did a quick recovery ride back through Ballard Canyon, which was, if anything, even more lovely than it was on Saturday. After the ride, I drove Corey to my sister's, hung out there a few, then went to Morro Bay, walked around the rock, took some pictures, and had a shrimp coctail and chowder at the Great American Fish Company (a tradition for me when in Morro Bay) before driving back to Fremont. Again, a great way to start the organized cycling season!
|Total Time:||7h 8m|
|On-bike Time:||5h 49m|
|Total Climbing:||~3,500 ft|
|Support:||3+ - CHP intersection control was a nice touch|
|Food:||3 - sports drinks would have been really nice, but the food was better than last year|
|Route:||4 - mostly gorgeous, but I missed the loop through Vandenburg AFB.|
08 February, 2011 MST
Copyright © 2009 Adam R. Paul