LA Grand Tour Highland Double
[Email sent to friends on 24 June 2003]

Got back yesterday from LA, where last Saturday I completed the LA Grand Tour Highland Double and in doing so qualified as a California Triple Crown finisher for the first time. Still can't believe I managed to pull this off less than a year after my MTB accident and feel very lucky and blessed indeed to be in good health.

The ride was amazingly wonderful with widely varied scenery. Ocean, beaches, canyons, orange groves, lakes, ranch estates and farms. Many canyon roads and lake vistas equated to quite a few climbs, ranging from 1 to 8 mile sections. None too long that were steep (one was particularly hateful -- think Metcalf on Tierra Bella), and none too steep that were long. Still, EVERY descent was remarkably rewarding. All but one were twisty and fast on silky smooth tarmac.

We started in Malibu close to Pepperdine U. Went up PCH to Port Hueneme, then inland to Thousand Oaks, Moorpark, Fillmore, Santa Paula and Ojai. Then a ride around Lake Casitas before returning to the coast at Carpinteria and back on PCH and its rolling hills to Malibu. Many familiar sights from ALC day 6 and 7. Though strangely void of the animated community that populated those spots just one week earlier, the sights really boosted my spirits when I was alone.

As expected, I was quite a pup amongst many experienced riders out there. LOTS of Paris-Brest-Paris qualifiers riding this one to simply stay in shape before the big trip this August, especially since this ride had 300 mile and 400 mile options.

Strangely, I rode about 120 miles of the entire route by myself with no benefit of a paceline. And I never encountered a tandem whose wake I would have loved to tuck into on a few long flat sections. Despite that, I was quite surprised to have finished pretty strong without any incident of bonking all day. I must have finally done many things right this time with my pre-ride and on-board nutrition.

"Clicked" with and spent a good amount of time with a foursome from Utah's Color Country Cycling Club who were trying to convince me to do the 300-mile option with them when we got back to Carpinteria. This would have been an additional out-and-back to Gaviota, not far from Solvang. I was tempted as these guys were really wonderful ride company, friendly, encouraging and in their words "compatible" in ride pace and style. I think I had the legs for the extra century, but thought better of it as the lights I brought probably wouldn't have lasted the extra dark hours and were waiting for me at a rest stop 35 miles from the finish. Definitely a consideration for next year though... so astonishing to think I even find this appealing.

Ride support was absolutely fantastic. LA Wheelmen had their stuff together. Only two notable moments to break up the day-long glee: the return to PCH from Port Hueneme saw some construction on a busy rural road with no shoulder, and a single lane that had double-trailer trucks zooming past about a foot away to my left. Then there's the final left turn from PCH onto Malibu Canyon Rd, crossing two lanes of afternoon highway traffic on an incline to get to the turn pocket - unmarshalled. Not for the faint of heart.

Completed the ride in 13h10m (actual ride time 11h40m). Highly recommend this ride to all who aspire to the distance. It's a keeper!

Distance: 197 miles | Elevation gain: 7,340' | Ride time: 11h40m
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