TL/DR: 126 miles; 6k ft. climbing; 7hrs 27 min.
This past Saturday I rode my first 200k of the year with the PCH Randos. This was my third time riding this course so by now I should know the way without putting in any “bonus miles” or having to scrutinize the route sheet too much.
After not posting for all of last year, in part because I didn’t have a camera to illustrate some of what I blather on about here, I picked up a Nikon V1 for my wife (yep, got married around 6 months ago) and I to use. Despite my excitement and anticipation (and all this preamble), I did not bring this wonderful new tool to the ride…so instead I focused on “crushing it” as my friends might say.
It was a particularly chilly start (don’t laugh, 26F is COLD for SoCal) so even though I donned leg warmers, a long sleeve jersey, and gloves…for the first couple of miles I envied those around me with their toe covers, their balaclavas, their base-layers, and their wool liners. Winding our way up Grimes Cyn, the wire fences enclosing the citrus groves were weighed down by a crystalline burden – each link baring a frightening array of icy fangs, gleaming in the sunrise. I chattered along, pursuing then passing Willie in his velomobile once the road began to pitch upward.
Alpacas looked up from their breakfasts, their breath rising gently in the shadows of the valley. The frenzied whir of windmills (to keep the frost off the oranges) droned on behind the steady hum of my drive-train as I concentrated on my cadence. Two old coyotes ambled across my path – one hesitating then trotting back to the other side of the road – flanking me as I passed, their gaze like two wizened sentries guarding some ancient citadel.
About 20 miles in, a small group including my friend Mark, riding his first brevet caught up with me at the info control in West Saticoy on the outskirts of Ventura. We stopped briefly as a volunteer (Foster?) initialed our brevet cards before continuing west over a few more rises towards the city. In a few minutes I was out in front of the pack again, pausing only to duck into the bushes briefly on the bike path up towards Casitas.
Indeed my pace-making was working well and the last I saw of any riders for the day was Jeff Dewey pulling into the first control as I was mounting up to leave.
Fueled primarily by chocolate milk I climbed Casitas pass without fanfare and enjoyed the sun on my face as I continued on into Carpinteria. In and out of that control in 5 minutes, I made my way to the 101, enjoying the gleaming Pacific to my right and the occasional draft of air sucking me into the wake of passing 18-wheelers and RVs.
I was riding my Salsa Podio, an aluminum machine with high pressure 23mm tires and a standard double crank – better suited for a crit than a brevet – though I was making good time, I felt every imperfection on the rough stretch of road on the way to Emma Wood state beach. My hands and knees were crying out for me to slow down, but the clock continued to dominate my actions.
A couple blocks of back-tracking at my usual wrong turn in Ventura, then lots of broken glass and an increasing headwind through Oxnard brought me unscathed to the control in Port Hueneme. More chocolate milk and apple juice and I was racing forward again on my sluggish time trial. The wind had really picked up, but this made me happy because I knew that it meant a strong tail-wind back towards Moorpark, and it was indeed a relief to be flying down Las Posas, nearing 30mph on the flats with ease despite my growing fatigue and smarting knees.
The final long grade up Santa Rosa Rd is a psychological barrier for many riders on this route, and it’s easy to find yourself cursing every stop light that isn’t the street you were hoping to turn on. Each time I caught myself getting impatient with the road I took a deep breath and looked at the ridge-line above me watching the miles unfurl slowly beneath my tires as I edged nearer to the crest.
Once on to Tierra Rejada, free of flats, I rode hard again in to the finish, surprising Greg and Lisa who hadn’t expected any riders to come through so early. Shai (pictured with me above) came in about 15 minutes later, the first fixed rider, followed by Jeff Dewey and my friend Mark to round out the R-60 speed group.
After that we enjoyed a couple hours of good food (fresh wood-fired pizzas to order) and good conversation, which all solo adventures aside, is one of the more lasting appeals of cycling.