There it is. Double century #3 this year, and California Triple Crown completion #3 in three years (Lisa's 2nd in 2 years). This also happens to be the earliest in a season that I've ever cinched my Triple Crown.
Lisa and I had actually planned to ride the Central Coast Double (much hillier, with nearly twice the amount of climbing as Davis), but held off on signing up until we knew how well we were recovering from the Devil Mountain Double. Many days after after DMD, we decided Central Coast might have been too big an undertaking just 2 weeks after, so we opted to sign up for Davis instead, which gave us one extra week of recovery time.
Despite that, finishing Davis Double didn't come easy, that's for sure. While the difficulties I personally faced had a lot to do with sloppy fueling mistakes, they were also an affirmation to the simple truth that there is NO such thing as an "easy" double century, "flat" as it may be.
For starters, the Davis Double isn't exactly flat. There are three notable ascents on the course. The first is dubbed by the Davis Bike Club "Cardiac", at mile 45, on Route 128, from the foot of the Monticello Dam to just past the south shore center of Lake Berryessa: about 800 feet in 6 miles. The second is Big Canyon Road, the ride's gateway between Napa and Lake Counties, at mile 95: about 1,200 feet risen in roughly 10 miles. The third is "Resurrection", at mile 121 on Highway 40 over the Cache Creek Ridge, easily the warmest spot of the ride every time: 6 sun baked miles rising over 1,100 feet.
The timeless Davis Double course is essentially a big, clockwise loop around Lake Berryessa and the Blue Ridge that forms the Western wall of the Sacramento Valley. Scenery is diverse: agricultural plains, rocky canyons, Manzanita, evergreens, fields of wildflowers, vineyards, boulder streams and rivers, rural farm roads, highways, bumpy canyon climbs, wicked fast descents. As always, my favorite part of the ride are the first 160 miles. Everything after that, I could do without, especially the section of Highway 16 that sees much higher vehicular traffic volume, thanks to the enormous expansion of the Cache Creek Casino (now a resort).
Strangely, my experience in this year's DDC seemed like a case of deja vu, mirroring the physical experiences I had almost exactly two years earlier: a great opening century, followed by a less than stellar second half. The last 40 miles of the ride, more specifically, in both years, were just less than pleasant. Moderately agonizing, in fact.
In '03, my biggest mistake was blazing through the first half of the day with too much excitement and at too high a pace for the long haul. In fact, the first 100 miles of my '03 DDC ride remains the fastest century I've ever ridden. This year, I kept myself in check, but still couldn't resist the urge of hooking up to a few brisk pacelines towed by tandems in the flat morning stretches. After 75 miles of brisk riding, I decided to wait up for Lisa and carry on at a more reasonable pace from Pope Valley and on.
The main motivation was being able to climb Big Canyon Road together and get our picture taken together by the Photocrazy dude since it was at that very spot where Lisa and I actually met two years ago. Enjoyment took a different turn from then on. It was no longer about keeping up with the 26mph pacelines. From here on, it was the pleasure of seeing -- and riding with -- so many people we've known and met through the years on these bike rides. Folks we know in the Bay Area, Southern CA, Utah, Nevada and even Idaho. Three of Lisa's riding buddies were out in pursuit of their first double.
Other casual encounters with fellow riders throughout the day continued. Incidental companionship is just one of those things that you could always expect of the DDC, in fact, even if you make an effort to break free on your own from time to time. The only time I ever rode by myself was the stretch between the plunge from Ressurection to the town of Rumsey, a total of about 20 miles.
Coincidentally, this is also the point at which I began to feel the effects of poor fueling habits I practiced in the late morning hours, my big mistake this year. By lunchtime, I was already behind on my caloric intake, and definitely dismal on protein intake. And while I was pounding down fluids and electrolytes all day, they never seemed enough because of the nutritional imbalance. By mile 160, I felt well on the way to a slow bonk. The best I could do was slow it down as it was simply way too late to actually catch up with proper food intake.
I managed the last 30 miles OK, but definitely felt as if every little discomfort was amplified. My posture on the bike was horrific and I'd catch myself and try to correct it. Half a minute later, I'd be doing it again. Then there's my feet, which were throbbing and just begging me to look into a new pair of shoes to replace the tired old Sidi's I've put nearly 20,000 miles on by now. Ya, I think it's time for a new pair.
Of course, this ride's predictably warm climate complicated matters. I hate riding in heat. I'm positive that the warmth on the ride were also a significant force that evaporated my energy in the last quarter of the day. It probably has a lot to do with simple timing and geography. In both years I've done the DDC, it just happened to be the first ride of the season where I felt genuinely Summerlike weather.
So by our cycling calendar, Summer has actually arrived. In the next few months, we've got many long, miles with oven baked hill climbs to face if we keep up what we're doing. Tell me again why we do this so willingly? Failing long-term memory? Dementia?
I witnessed no irregularities or incidents on the ride, other than a traffic jam in the area of the Cache Creek Casino. The traffic jam was a blessing and curse at the same time, I believe. On a sad note, as reported by one Grizzly Peak Cyclists rider, the jam was caused by an accident between a cyclist and a car, resulting in the need to med-evac the cyclist by helicopter. All I personally saw upon reaching the emergency scene, however, was a banged up Subaru wagon being loaded onto a flatbed. On the plus side, I'm almost certain that cars forced to a standstill, or slow travel probably helped prevent other incidents. Much of the traffic on the road consisted of drivers leaving the Casino, some whom we might assume have been on casino booze.
[As of Monday following the ride, a DBC member reported that the accident on Hwy 16 occurred when a motorist was being cautious and courteous to a DDC rider, then a truck struck the car from behind. The impact caused her to lose control and subsequently strike the rider, who sustained broken ribs, a punctured lung and possible spine damage. I feel awful about this incident, and wish the victim a sure and speedy path to full recovery.]
Seeing how much more traffic the newly expanded casino has brought onto Highway 16 in just 2 years leaves me wondering what lies ahead for the Davis Double route and for the region's cycling in general. Traffic will surely get worse and more dangerous for any cyclist, alone or in a group, in the coming years. I sense roadway expansion on the horizon, but just how accomodating they might be to safe, let alone any passage by bikes in the future is something to keep an eye on. No matter what, I believe extra caution needs to be exercised by any cyclist who travels through here today.