I finished my first supported century yesterday, The Tour of the Unknown Coast in the remote mountains of the northern CA coast area. 9400 feet of climbing with the most challenging coming in the last 20 mi
A storm system that was supposed to have cleared stalled out so it was still threatening to go till mid morning and it did rain on the 30m drive down to the start. I had preregistered, had my number and it should have been a quick set up to be at the 7am starting time but realized I had left my number at home.Had to stand in a short line to get a new # but we were starting to get pushed for time. Get back to the car and realized, no water bottles which were back home as well. My riding partner Pete found me a bottle but by the time we got set to go we missed the mass start which I had really been looking forward to. There was no doubt we would be in the rear guard anyway but oh well.
We no sooner get out of Ferndale into the lovely farmlands when we hit a steady downpour and I regret deciding on my windbreaker instead of my Showers Pass rain jacket thinking it would be too cumbersome when we stripped down when the rain stopped and it was supposed to warm up. I'm soaked by the first pit stop and shivering and have gotten separated from Pete so have to wait for a while. Turns out he thought he had passed me and had been riding back to look for me. He hadn't brought his phone so there was only cold waiting. By the next checkpoint I was really cold and pull out my one saving grace, a dry pair of socks and can barely get them on my hands are so cold. I try to eat a sandwich but can't get it down.
We carry on past the turnaround for the metric and wind along a beautiful wooded country road along the Eel river and the sun starts to peak through in spots and am warming up, got most of the feeling back in my hands. The fist long climb is Panther Gap, close to 7 mi m maybe 6-8%, a nice climb and starting to get warmer. Feeling good about the decision to go with the windbreaker as my core clothing has dried mostly. There's still some short showers happening but very brief. The descent into the small crossroads town of Honeydew is challenging as I'm kind of a lily livered chicken on descents that have lots of pot holes so ride my brakes which makes my hands go to sleep again. Pete loves to bomb downhill and has 35 years of riding experience on me. Coming into Honeydew you cross an old bridge with wooden planks and I see there are big gaps here and there enough to catch a tire so I decide to get off that track and in turning I catch one any way and down I go with lots of folks watching as the next stop is right at the end of the bridge. I'm fine but the bikes rear brake is now stuck on the wheel so as I carry my bike across the bridge the mechanic at the stop comes running over to grab my bike and in 5 minutes has me up and running, what a great experience!
It's warmer and we dawdle in the sun with our shoes off for 20 minutes or so and its off through the gorgeous valley between Honeydew and Petrolia with a few moderate climbs to our lunch stop another 11mi down the road at the 60m mark in a wonderful grassy county park. They have in addition to the standard issue sandwiches,Hammer products, bananas and oranges some delicious hot homemade veggie soup.
Wouldn't mind staying and camping but after a good 45min to hour break were off heading out of the Petrolia/Mattole river valley to the coast where we are greeted with howling winds that somewhat thankfully aren't hitting us straight on but at a 45deg angle as we work our way 8mi north to the famed "wall" which lives up to it's dreaded reputation as it comes into sight on a wind swept hillside at the end of the beach portion. The last pit stop is at the base and we refuel for the beginning of the final 20m which includes the Wall which is 18-22% for a mile and on to the fabled "Endless hills". I watch other riders head up the Wall, mostly zig-zagging and think, no pride I'll walk it if I need to. I start up and find something extra and am able to push right up little zigging and find myself at the crest looking back down the valley with a great feeling of accomplishment and exhilaration. My longest previous ride was the metric version last year and I'm feeling good about hitting the endless hills and getting home.
A long descent into the next river valley gets us to the endless hills and I see what they're talking about, endless switchbacks some up to 13% as far as I can see. I think oh well, I made it up the wall, I can do this but about halfway up the first hill at about 4 mi I'm tanking and theres suddenly more traffic, lots of ranchers towing cattle trailers and zig zagging isn't as easy to do. I get off and walk the next bit, maybe a 1/4m up around the next steep bend, graciously joined by Pete who always seems to have endless reserves and have never seen him walk before.There's still another 4m or so on this climb but it's much easier at this point. I had a 12-27 cassette put on last week and in combo with my triple with my 26t granny front sprocket I've been singing praises to good old granny quite a lot this day.
After cresting the first and worst of the endless hills I feel the final stretch but the wind has been howling and it's clouded up and I'm really tired and my fingers and toes are starting to numb up again. The final 6m descent into Ferndale is really tough with bone jarring potholes and such and my left hand thumb and braking fingers are very numb and I'm just holding on, more suffering than any of the climbs today.As we pull into the fairgrounds it's so anti climatic as we're in the last group with maybe 25 more riders behind us and it's very deserted. There's supposed to be a barbeque dinner waiting but it's long since finished and all that's left is a few of the dry race sandwiches. Oh and remember my angst at the beginning forgetting my race number. It was so wet that most riders lost theirs being strewn along the route, including my replacement. I don't know how it worked for the front racer pack many of whom are very concerned about their times.We get in the car and blast the heater for the ride home as my fingers and toes finally thaw after 20m.
A few last notes. This was the first big test of my 4th saddle try, a Prologo scratch pro and it was excellent. I do have a little chaffing on my left sitbone, a first so may look into but creme for future long rides. My very loose fitting J&G windbreaker worked great, with three pockets and large pit zips. Not racer approved but very practical.
I'm very happy with my choice to go to a 27t granny cog from my old 25t, I think it was just enough of a deal breaker for me. At 64 and just taken up road cycling a couple years ago I'm overall very stoked and may even take a little spin today as I pack for my next adventure, flying to Maui tomorrow with the thought of warm riding on the Hana Hiway for the next 18 days. I do have a music and sound gig that gets me there so it won't be all play although I do love the work.Pete took pics along the ride so maybe I'll post the proof when I get back.
Oh, we finished in 11:45min. As point of reference my partner Pete in his younger days did it in 5 and half hours so I give great thanks to him for shepherding me along although he hasn't been training for that level for years.