Saturday, April 10, 2010
Michael and I decided that our cycling goal for 2010 would be to do the California Triple Crown Stage Race back in December of 2009. The Stage Race consists of three of the most difficult double centuries and it changes from year to year. This year’s schedule includes Mulholland DC, Devil Mountain Double
and Terrible Two, each one with over 16,000’ of climbing within 200 miles.
Why would anyone want to do this? It sounds really painful but then again, the rewards of being able to complete all three doubles would be very satisfying. The overall objective for us would be to meet all the cut off times and finish each ride within the required time limit.
This year, the organizers decided to release the route sheet ahead of time to all registered riders via email. I studied that course left and right and spent countless hours going through the route on Google Earth. We also received invaluable information from Mark A. and Mark H., both of whom had done the ride in previous years. Thanks guys! Michael and I got down to LA on Thursday and spent part of the day and Friday to pre-drive about three quarters of the course to check out the terrain, etc. It proved to be very beneficial for us both on Saturday. Just knowing what to expect is a great advantage. The only strategy in mind was for both of us to keep moving along the route and to get in and out of the check points (CP) as quickly as possible. I was to go ahead on the climbs and Michael would catch me on the descents and flats.
The Mulholland DC takes place in Southern California. The ride starts from Agoura Hills and takes you through Calabasas, Malibu, Topanga, Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village, Simi Valley, Moorpark, Bardsdale, Somis, Camarillo and back. The time limit for this ride is 19 hours.
Roll call was at 5AM Saturday at the Renaissance Hotel. The six GPC members in attendance were Michael Edwards, Mark Abrahams, Mark Homrighuasen, Toshi Takeuchi, Jules Freedman and I.
Temps are in the low 50’s as we headed out towards Las Virgenes/Malibu Canyon down to the Pacific Coast Hwy. You get about 20 miles of easy rolling terrain before reaching the first climb of the day up Topanga Cyn and Old Topanga Cyn to Mulholland Hwy. We bypass CP#1, Peter Strauss Ranch which was not a required stop. They actually didn’t have a CP for the first loop. Go figure.
We continue to climb Mulholland on and off for about 20 miles before reaching a flattish section onto Little Sycamore Cyn, which in itself is another little climb. I get to CP#2, mile 53, take a quick bite of a PBJ sandwich and refill my water bottles. One good thing about this ride was that there were no lines for the porta-potties.
Michael motions for me to go ahead and off I go. Sycamore Cyn turns into Yerba Buena. If you thought Grizzly Peak and Skyline Blvd was badly paved, think again. Yerba Buena was a REALLY bad. It was a bone shaking, bike rattling experience. Rolling 6 miles on that stretch was wicked. I looked down on my handlebar and noticed that all my lights were now pointed up towards the sky. I was so glad to make that turn onto Cotharin Rd. What caught my eye on this road was a house that was completely fenced off with a custom made steel fence. The main gate had barb wires above it. It seemed a bit out of place in such a remote area. It’s another bit of a climb before the screaming descent down Deer Creek Rd on great pavement with fantastic views of the ocean.
As I’m descending towards PCH, I see some folks waving their hands for me to stop on the left hand side of the road. I realize that it’s CP#3 at mile 66 and I was passing it. I made a quick stop and veered to the left and as I turned into the dirt area, my bike just slid right under me and I fell on the left side of my body with a foot in the air. I simply hate falling, but at least it was in slow motion. Not much harm done I thought. Got up, brushed off the dirt, gave my name and had my water bottles refilled. I glance up and see Michael coming down the road. Apparently, many riders blasted by this CP which was a mandatory stop. It didn’t make sense to me to that the CP was on the opposite side of the road.
We get a little reprieve from all that climbing and head for 7 flat miles on PCH towards Camarillo. The next climb was on Potrero Rd. I remembered this climb from doing the Grand Tour DC back in 2008. Average gradient here was 8.5% with a max hitting 21%. It seemed a bit easier this time around.
We reach CP#3 at mile 93, which was also the lunch stop. They had box lunches with ham or turkey sandwiches, fruit and a pasta salad.
We’re now in Thousand Oaks. Total suburbia, it’s like riding in Danville and San Ramon. The roads are nicely paved with wide bike lanes and shoulders. By this time, the sun is up and the temps are in the high 70’s. We pass through golf courses and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. We continue on to Moorpark and stay on Hwy 23/Grimes Cyn. It’s more climbing with the average gradient being around 4-5%. Certain sections of the road are lined with orange orchards. The landscape is so different than what we have here. Over there, everything looks and feels dry. There are plenty of different rock formations with bits of greenery here and there. It certainly makes me appreciate the Bay Area that much more.
The descent down Grimes Cyn takes us to Bardsdale. The left turn onto Bardsdale Rd is listed as a dangerous turn on the cue sheet. I see plenty of gravel on the road and made a wide turn to of course avoid the gravel but the next thing I know, I slid under the bike again. I fall on my left side and this time I have some abrasions on my elbow and knee. I get up as quickly as I’ve fallen, brushed myself off and continued on.
At CP#4, mile 126, I ask for some band aids and they didn’t have any, so I just wiped my abrasions with a baby wipe. This was also one of those mandatory stops, but they didn’t take names and just counted heads. A lot of folks blew by this CP, according to the route sheet, this stop was supposed to be on the right side of the road but instead it was set up on a side street on the left. The whole course was sporadically marked.
We roll through many orange orchards on Sespe St and South Mountain Rd. You can smell the sweet fragrance of the orange blossoms on the way to the next big climb on Balcom Cyn Rd. At this point my left knee was bothering me.
Balcom Cyn Rd averages 13.2% with a max gradient of 24%. There was no way I was going to be able to grind it up that steep pitch with my knee hurting me. I opted to get off the bike and walked that section of road. I wasn’t going to risk injuring myself for the long run. I got back on the bike when the gradient eased back down to 10%.
It was another blasting descent down Balcom to Bradley Rd. Along this road, I noticed there were many nurseries with lots of palm trees and a llama ranch. We’re now at mile 136 heading through the small town of Somis. From Somis Rd on, it’s a totally flat ride all the way back to Camarillo via Lewis and Hueneme Rd. With my knee still bothering me, I thought to stop and raise my saddle thinking that maybe that would help. No such luck. With 70 some odd miles to go, I just had to suck it up. With headwinds and crosswinds blowing, I tucked behind Michael as he pulled me through town.
When we got back on PCH, there was no such thing as a tailwind. It was crosswinds all the way. We rolled for 13 miles along PCH to the sounds of crashing waves and salty air of the ocean. My knee was still aching and Michael stopped to give me his knee brace. It didn’t help at all. I told Michael that I would still do my best to finish the ride. The odometer showed a total elevation gain of over 11,000’ already. I know he was concerned for me. I asked that he not wait for me and to go ahead. I wasn’t able to turn the crank on the big chain ring and had to stay on the 34 for the rest of the ride. He picked up his pace and I can see him riding ahead in the distance.
At mile 163, we turn on to Decker Cyn Rd. I had told Michael beforehand that if it got too steep, I would have to get off the bike and walk. I wasn’t going to be stupid about this.
Immediately after the turn, you hit a wall, the road steepens to 12%-14% for quite a while it seemed. I look down on my odometer and I’m going at a snail pace of 4mph. The road eventually eases up a bit to about a 9%-10% grade. I just slowly grind it out. Well, I figured it was still faster than if I walked it. The climb is about 3.6 miles long. I actually pass a guy walking his bike. That in itself just gave me a little bit of a mental edge to finish the climb. We reach CP#5 mile 166, at the top of Decker. Again, this was a mandatory stop but they didn’t bother to take names down either.
It was getting cold and it was time to put the arm warmers and jacket back on. It would be another 30+ miles to the last CP. We needed to make it there by 10:30PM and it was already 7PM. Michael expressed concern about the possibility of not making it within 3 hours. My reply was that we can still try it. I was not going to give up. I was pretty determined to finish the ride, be it official or unofficial.
We leave the CP and head out to Encinal Cyn Rd which in turn will get us back on Mulholland. I totally forget that Encinal was a climb, but then again, what else would it be? By this time, the sun has set and we’re riding in darkness. We both have 3 lights on our bike. We recently purchased the Magicshine light and it is really bright. It gave us greater clarity of the road ahead of us. Along with the IXON IQ and flashing cheapie light, we were set. Much thanks to Wyatt Wood for lending us extra battery packs for the Magicshine light.
As we’re rolling along Mulholland, we get flagged down by a volunteer at CP#6, Peter Strauss Ranch at mile 175. We’re told that it would be closing soon and would be the last stop for some decent food. It was a gravelly road into the ranch. I got off the bike and walked to the rest area. I certainly didn’t want a three-peat of what happened twice earlier in the day. They had chili, hot potatoes, cup o’noodles and hot water. I choked down the cup o’noodles and welcomed that very salty soup. Michael had some potatoes. While we were there, the peacocks at the ranch were screaming their heads off. I walked back out to the main road.
It was 8:15PM; we still had a chance to make it to the last CP with only 20 miles to go. We continue on Mulholland and cross Las Virgenes, it was the last bailout for the ride. It was tempting, but we rolled ahead. As we’re heading towards Cold Cyn Rd for the final climb, we see plenty of riders already heading back on Mulholland from Stunt Rd. One guy evens asks if we’re doubles riders and yells out that we were going the wrong way. Little did he know that we were just about to start the final climb of the day on Piuma to Schueren Rd.
It was 8:45PM already as we made the right turn on Cold Cyn to complete the 9 miles loop from Piuma to Schuernen. Believe me, it was the longest 9 miles ever! My knees were hurting and I couldn’t even get out of the saddle. I kept on telling myself to keep moving. The gradient on Piuma went from 5%-9% for close to 5 miles. I was in pain, but at the same time knew that I couldn’t stop. The odometer showed that I was crawling at 3 mph. I could see Michael’s blinking lights ahead of me. It looked like he stopped for a bit and I certainly didn’t want him to wait for me and lose time. I finally descend Piuma and make the left turn onto Schuernen Rd. Once again, I forget that it’s a climb up to Stunt Rd. With another hard grind up, I catch up with Michael and he tells me it’s already 10:02. No matter, I say, we still need to keep moving. We reach the mini CP at 10:10, mile 194 and the volunteers checked us in and we still had a very good chance of getting in before midnight.
I have to say that all the volunteers at the CP’s were all very supportive and very friendly. They didn’t hesitate to help fill our water bottles and offered lots of encouragement. I’m really psyched, we’re close to finishing. It was a cold and fast descent on Stunt back to Mulholland. Did I say Mulholland again? We’ve crossed this same segment of road three times on the ride.
There are a few rollers as we head back towards Las Virgenes. Once I saw all the street lights, I suddenly had a surge of renewed energy. It was only 7 more miles back to the finish. For sure, we can do this! We get back on Lost Hills Rd and make the left turn on Agoura Rd. We hit a few more humps along the final stretch and made that left turn into the driveway of the Renaissance Hotel. We’ve made it! The time was 11:15PM.
We did a junk food run at Jack in the Box and made it back to our hotel, both of us hungry and tired. I had a hard time getting to sleep, my whole body was aching. I woke up Sunday morning and felt stiff all over. It suddenly dawned on me that my left side was hurting because I had fallen twice in the same position off the bike.
As we’re getting ready to leave the hotel, we run into Mark and Janet Homrighausen on their way out for breakfast. We exchanged stories of the ride and parted ways.
We get back home at 6:30PM. My knee was still hurting and it was then that I noticed that I had a big bruise on the right side of my left knee. The pain was caused by my falling and having the bike fall on top of my knee at exactly the same position both times. Now I can claim to have the practice of falling and rolling on my side for any future incidents. Many thanks to everyone that wished Michael and I success on this ride! Now it’s one down and two more to go.
Avg Speed: 12.8 mph
Ride Time: 16:53:34
Total Time: 18:15
Nutrition: homemade maltodextrin mix, lots of water, Hammer Perpetuem, a Coke, cup o’ noodles, one PBJ sandwich, bits of olive bread, a couple bites of a ham sandwich, 2 bananas and some pretzels.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>DON”T GIVE UP-PRESS ON!>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
This is the Mulholland Double route: