Tour de Contra Costa Century

Friday, August 23, 2013

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This century route goes around Contra Costa County in a clock wise loop and begins with my favorite ascent up Mt Diablo via North Gate Rd to the summit. The SE climbs include Acalanes Rd, Rheem Blvd to Donald Dr and Mulholland Ridge. The NW climbs include Castro Ranch Rd, San Pablo Ave-Hercules, Cummings Skywy to McEwen Rd and Muir Station Rd. More than half of the elevation gain from this ride is from the climb up Diablo; the remaining miles has plenty of flat terrain in between climbs. This being an urban ride, there’s plenty of places to stop for food, water and restrooms.

I enjoy the early low morning sun and the long shadows it creates as we head west on Center Ave to Morello Ave into Pleasant Hill. The ride along the Contra Costa Canal Trail is always pretty quiet; it takes us to the Iron Horse Trail into Walnut Creek.

From Heather Farm, it’s a flat 2.8 miles to North Gate Rd along San Carlos Dr to Los Lomas and Walnut Ave. The gentle section on N Gate Rd takes us through a residential neighborhood with nicely landscaped yards. The road continues through a Pet Hotel, an equestrian center, horse ranches and a kennel and cattery before reaching the Mt Diablo North Gate Entrance.

The climb from the North Gate Entrance up to the Junction Ranger Station is 6.5 miles with an average grade of 6%. The steepest section with 9-11% grades is the quarter mile stretch on the approach to the 1000 feet sign near the Burma Trailhead.

The climb up Summit Rd from the Junction Ranger Station is 4.5 miles with an average grade of 7%. The road levels out for about half a mile after the switchback along Devils Elbow. The climb up “the wall” to the summit has steep grades of 13-18%!

We descend from the summit down South Gate Rd to Mt Diablo Scenic Blvd and Blackhawk Rd. Blackhawk Rd goes through the gated community of Blackhawk. The flat to rolling terrain takes us down to Camino Tassajara near the Tassajara Crossing Shopping center.

The flat terrain on Camino Tasssaja and Sycamore Valley Rd has a wide shoulder with great pavement and many stop lights. This road runs through the residential subdivions and parks around San Ramon.

We wiggle our way through the neighborhoods into Danville and take the flats on the Danville Blvd across the busy city streets to Alamo and Walnut Creek. We meander our way through Walnut Creek on Castle Hill to Lancaster, Lilac and Newell to Olympic Blvd. The Lafayette-Moraga Trail leads us out to Moraga Blvd to our lunch stop at Noah’s Bagel in the Lafayette Shopping Center off Mt Diablo Blvd.

From Lafayette, we stay on Mt Diablo Blvd to the steep 8-11% climb up Acalanes Rd to Glorietta. Rheem Blvd is another climb with grades of 7-9%; this road drops us into the town of Moraga.

We continue on Moraga Rd to Donald Dr; this road leads us to the stair-step climb on Mulholland Ridge. It begins with gentle grades of 3-5% up to the gate. Once you cross over, the road immediately tilts up with steep grades of 13-18%. The road levels out in the middle with gorgeous views of Mt Diablo and the East Bay hills! The climb up to the water tower has steep grades of 14-15%, you’re near the top when you cross the gate over to the other side. The views from the top of the ridge are spectacular!

The descent on Hall Dr drops us down onto Moraga Way in Orinda. The flat to gentle rolling terrain on this main thoroughfare takes us through the residential neighborhoods to the Hwy 24 interchange near Orinda Square. This is a very high traffic area-be careful merging left from the far right lane to Camino Pablo.

Camino Pablo leads us out of Orinda pass the Orinda Country Club to San Pablo Dam Rd. The flat to rolling terrain on San Pablo Dam Rd takes us along the San Pablo Reservoir towards the Kennedy Grove Regional Recreation Area in El Sobrante.

The short climb up Castro Ranch Rd takes us through the Carriage Hills neighborhood around El Sobrante Hills. The road drops us down into the beautiful Alhambra Valley to Pinole Valley Rd.

Pinole Valley Rd takes us from the outskirts of Pinole to an older residential neighborhood around Pinole Park to the High School and the busy shopping center off I-80. This is another very high traffic area!

We stay on Pinole Valley Rd to San Pablo Ave in Hercules. The section of San Pablo Ave around the freeway interchange to I-80 and Hwy 4 is very busy with lots of traffic! The climb up San Pablo Ave drops us down onto Parker Ave into the small town of Rodeo.

Parker Ave changes back to San Pablo Ave as you exit town towards the sewage treatment plant and refinery. The climb up the refinery takes you to the top with gorgeous views of San Pablo Bay and Carquinez Strait. There is another short climb on San Pablo Ave up to Cummings Skyway.

The climb on Cummings Skyway runs along Franklin Ridge with grades of 5-7% and one section with steeper pitches of 9-11%. The fairly straight descent takes us to the  turn onto Franklin Canyon Rd.

We drop down Franklin Canyon Rd to McEwen Rd for a short out and back to the top of the hill. 

The return on Franklin Canyon quickly takes us back to Martinez on Alhambra Ave. The last climb up Muir Station Rd takes us to Center Ave and other side streets back to Holiday Highlands Park.

This hilly urban tour of Contra Costa County highlights the majestic Mt Diablo and the beautiful Mulholland Ridge; both with phenomenal views of the Diablo Range and the East Bay Hills and beyond!

Garmin Stats:
100.74 Miles with 8068′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 3800′
Max grade: 18%
Terrain: Hilly

Weather: Fantastic! Sunny and warm with some low lying fog near Diablo. Temps ranged from the low 50’s to the high 80’s. WSW winds with 77% humidity

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Discipline is the bridge between your cycling goals and cycling success.
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