Terrible Two : Santa Rosa : Lemond

I left the hotel at 4:20 and pulled into the parking lot around 4:35. When I got there is was quite cool and lots of people were wearing wind vests but I decided to risk riding without a vest and went for the traditional European paper down the front of my jersey instead.

There were only ten no-shows at the start, so 241 riders (238 entrants) hit the road at 5:30 AM, rolling off in one big peloton, heading out of Sebastopol along High School Road.

The first 13 miles were spent behind a pace (pilot) car and it was brisk and dangerous. I saw numerous near misses and close crashes and I was glad when the pilot pulled off and the pace picked up.  It was pretty challenging picking your way through all the riders going backwards  but I managed to work my way up to the top 20 or so by the first climb of day “Trinity Grade”. I felt ok on this climb but found myself in the second group over the top. The descent was a bit scary but I took it easy mindful of some kamikaze antics so early in the day.

The next  section was a fast paceline of about 20 riders on a mission to catch the lead group which we nearly did by the first rest stop at mile 55. I was surprised to see people sprinting about the rest stop  in order to not lose any time and it was around here that it really hit home how many people treat this as a full on race. I wasn’t bothered about time but found myself in the silly position of having to chase hard for 3 miles to get back on my group.

We caught the leaders at some roadworks and the bunch must have been close to 40 riders by the time we hit the Geysers Climb at about 75 miles.  I felt pretty good at the bottom of the climb but got a shock how long the climb was and by how the gradient simply didn’t let up . It was on this climb that I began to curse not having a lower gear. This climb also had some gravel road sections which I wasn’t expecting and it was also one of those nasty double humpers that plagued us all day. I was really glad of the excellent ice cold drinks  at the mile 84 rest stop and very friendly volunteers.

The descent off the backside of Geysers begins with an extremely steep drop of about one mile. Following a hard left turn, it settles into seven miles of gradual downhill into Sulfur Creek Canyon, then several miles of small climbs and longer descents along the canyon. This is an active geothermal area, with steep, unstable terrain. The road is often washed out or in some state of disrepair. There are several sheer drop-offs into the canyon, with no guard rails. Caution is advised. After passing through Cloverdale, a short climb on Dutcher Creek and a descent into Dry Creek Valley lead into the midway lunch stop at the Warm Springs Dam Visitor Center (mile 110).

With the exception of the last 4 miles I rode the entire next section on my own on frankly awful roads with many gravel sections, potholes and cracks. The scenery was pretty spectacular but the road made it mentally draining and I began to long for the lunch stop. Another great rest stop at the Warm Springs Dam visitor center allowed me to get a bit of my mojo back and I set off blissfully unaware of the hell to come.

“After lunch is when the Terrible Two gets truly terrible. The first half of the TT climbs 7500′ in 110 miles. The second half climbs nearly 9000′ in 90 miles, 5000′ of it in the first 30 miles after lunch. It often takes riders up to three hours longer to complete the second century…if they finish it at all. Skaggs Springs–the road the Army Corps of Engineers built to bypass Lake Sonoma in 1981–is an endless series of steep, sun-baked climbs and false summits. “

The climbing after lunch was absolutely relentless and despite it only being 85degrees it felt much hotter. The gradient of the climbs was such that I had to really grind the gears over and I was really happy to get cold drinks at the water stops.  I suffered badly on this section and was pretty fed up by the time I hit the really bumpy road along Gualala River. It was somewhere along that road that I got a flat that turned out to be a bad valve that couldn’t be repaired. I also found that my spare tube had perished and that also couldn’t be repaired. I had one of those sinking feelings that this might be my first Double DNF. I couldn’t believe my luck when the sag Honda Element pulled up 5 minutes later and got me on my way again. Wahoo.

I joined up with 3 other riders for the next section (one fellow IC3 rider) until we hit the toughest climb of the day

There is a rest stop at Kashia School (Rancheria) at mile 143. There is a notorious climb leading up to this rest stop: a wicked, 1.7 mile, 900′ wall.

This climb really was tough to even turn the pedals over and I started to experience some twinges of cramp by the top. My arms and shoulders were also really aching from the constant climbing out of the saddle. I didn’t feel too good by the Kashia School rest stop and also was suffering from a bit of stomach discomfort. The descent to the Coast was cold and technical with numerous holes and bumps to catch you out. I didn’t enjoy it at all. Neither did I enjoy the spectacular views along highway 1 where the constant ups and downs and nagging head/cross wind made progress slow. I found this section to be cold and couldn’t wait to turn inland. Although I briefly rode with someone on this section I got  a bit of cramp on one descent and ended up on my own.

Although this Hwy 1 section is considered easy, it actually adds nearly 1000′ of climb to the total before reaching the next rest stop at Fort Ross (mile 162). It also features the heaviest traffic of the day.

After the rest stop at Fort Ross I was completely unprepared for how hard the next climb would be and it ended up a real grind for me. I dont think it was as hard as the Kashia School climb but it certainly felt steeper than 11% and my Garmin was showing 18%+  for some sections.

“The climb on Ft. Ross Road is 2.6 miles, averages 11%, and feels even steeper. Some riders find it to be the hardest climb of the whole ride.”

Even after getting over the top the descents were very technical and rough and were always followed by another steep climb. This section was relentless and I was really glad to pull into the last res stop at mile 184 . I ate and drank quite a lot at this rest stop as I was feeling pretty hollow and set off on my own on the final push to the finish at a steady pace. I got passed by 4 riders on the next section but after about 4 miles I suddenly got my second wind and felt great. I caught two of the riders back up again and even caught up my team mate who I last saw at the Kashia School climb. I even felt great on the remaining climbs and we worked well all the way to a strong finish.

My time was 13h46m which I was pleased with considering I hadn’t done any endurance training and I wasnt trying to race it.  A link to the results,

I thought this was an incredibly tough double with the best rest stops out of any event I have ridden. There was gorgeous ice cold water, full range of hammer products and gorgeous fresh fruit at every stop. I am sure it was the mixture of ecaps and fresh strawberries that gave me the big boost at the end.  the post race food was also first rate. Santa Rosa put on an excellent event.

Strava Ride Report (I started my Garmin two miles into the ride !)

177 entrants crossed the finish line, 158 of them before the traditional 10:00 PM cut-off.

“Bickett’s and Atkinson’s time of 11:27 is the slowest fastest time in the event since 1999 (excluding the long-course year of 2005). This suggests that there was something about the day that made the ride a little harder than the weather and other conditions would have indicated. But this time is just a few minutes slower than some other recent times, so maybe it doesn’t mean a thing. And there were other riders back through the field who had their best times ever. All in all, it was a fairly typical “Two.”

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  1. Pingback: The Year In Summary: 2011 « Britcpower's Blog

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