A new ride for both Lisa and me, and one I enjoyed a lot, despite the region's signature afternoon and evening winds that gotta really old after a while. We enjoyed the company of Senior Quackcyclst, Scott Halversen, pretty much from start to finish, and were happy to witness him finally break his unlucky spell with this ride. Quack compatriot, Jesse Smith was on hand to lend a generous hand to the ride support, which seemed to go off without a hitch. This was one of the most well-marked event double centuries I've ever been on. Upon finishing this ride, I collected my fifth straight California Triple Crown award in five years, Lisa her fourth in four years.
With a total elevation gain of around 13,500', it's comparable in challenge to the Mt. Tam Double Century, but I think the difficulty scale tips a tad heavier on the Central Coast side due to prevalent winds and slightly steeper slopes on the big climbs.
Starting and finishing in Paso Robles, the ride headed West to the Pacific Coast on winery access roads and other tucked-in streets that basically paralleled Highway 46, plopping us in the coastal hamlet of Cambria, but not without some pretty steep grades (York Mountain, Santa Rosa Creek Roads) and some ridiculously, treacherously pot-holey descents -- worse than I've ever seen in any century or double century, in fact. Still, with diligence and caution, they were actually fun, and all riders on the event managed to escape incident there.
Then the ride headed North, through San Simeon, and along a long stretch of Highway 1 along Pacific Coastline -- a part of the ride typically besieged with headwinds. Those winds were present, but probably calmer than usual in most spots. It certainly helped to work in steady rotation with Lisa and Scott here.
The biggest climb of the day came at around mile 112, on Nacimiento-Ferguson Road (frequently referred to ride alums as "Nasty-mento"). The first 3 miles up this 8-mile slog, like many coastline ridge climbs in Northern California, were the steepest and most challenging, but the switchbacks offered up some spectacular views of the rocky coastline that made the effort really rewarding. Past the summit of the climb, and upon entering Fort Hunter-Liggett, the scenery changes completely to that of arid mid-state hillsides characterized by golden brown dry grass. And it's not unlikely you'll witness some military tank exercises going on here (as I did, with a tank rotating its turret in my direction -- coincidentally, I hope).
A loop around the Lockwood Valley, South of King City were probably the warmest and windiest stretches of road we had all day. At around 4PM, the wind really picked up -- most of it a fierce cross wind, but sometimes a sweet tailwind in our favor as we turned onto San Lucas Road.
The last of the day's notable challenges was the loop around San Antonio and Nacimiento Lakes, on Interlakes Road, punctuated by a route feature some local riders call the "Question Mark" because of the way it winds around and upwards. Night fell upon us when we crested this climb, and we joined another grupetto of riders, so seven of us shared most of the finishing miles together.
Even as night fell completely, the winds continued to howl and the temperatures dropped significantly. We sought shelter inside the school at Bradley for a few minutes at the final rest stop. From here to the finish, Lisa felt the worst case of fatigue and exhaustion on any ride she's had in recent memory. She claims to have been so sleepy during this stretch that she struggled with staying awake far more than each pedal stroke in the last 15 miles.
Eventually, we got back to town, past midnight, the last riders to sign in. This goes down as the first time I've ever been DFL on a ride, but I enjoyed the day thoroughly and finished really fresh, I probably could have gone another round. The ride was really well supported, and my only gripe was that the rest stops were stocked with solo packets of Hammergel, instead of bottles (by now, most riders should know about carrying a gel flask nowadays on events like these, and already do). No doubt, I'll give this ride another go again some other time.