This should of been simple double, if there is such a thing :-) Two hundred miles with 8,600 feet of climbing. On my way down the night before, driving through a storm, it was clear that the weather was going to be an issue. Forecast called for rain all day. My expectations were low, but I wanted the miles. The mass start was at 6:15am and to my surprise there was no rain. We started off through the urban jungle of Irvine, there were a lot turns through the first part but the traffic flowed well. It was about 20 miles before the pack started to break apart. Once we reached the Pacific Coast Highway, there were just five of us together, we flew by the first rest stop at mile 40 without stopping. The wind was in our favor and the rain was staying away, so all was good. The group I was in broke up at the 54 mile rest stop and I left the stop on my own.
The route paralleled Interstate 5 (I5), until the road ended. Where next? Well it turns out the route called for 4 mies of riding on I5, apparently on this stretch of the road it is legal. After all when you have a 4 lanes in each direction freeway (motorway) with cars and trucks going 70mph, why not add bicycles to the mix. There was a big shoulder so I continued on as fast as I could not quite managing to keep up with the rest of the traffic. It wasn't long before I reached Oceanside. As I looked a the cue sheet, I saw in bold “Caution sunken grate”, unfortunately it was at that same moment, I hit said sunken grate. No damage, just a little shock from the half foot dip in the road.
As a reached the next intersection a couple other riders caught up with me, they complemented me on my grate handling skills, which they just witnessed and we continued on together. The next section was on a bike path with pedestrians, but we were able to keep good pace with safety in mind. The front rider was wearing a California Triple Crown jersey, which are award to those who complete three or more double centuries. Mr Triple Crown (as I'll call him) was riding like a man on a mission, we dropped a couple other riders and then it was just me and him. I kept him in my sights all the way to the lunch stop.
By lunch we had our first great down pour of the day. The race volunteers serving lunch were at least covered themselves under a tent. I was already drenched at this point, eating my sandwich in the rain. So not to get cold I didn't hang around and was the first to leave the stop. This actually meant I was now in first place! However this victory was short lived indeed, as I promptly missed the next turn after the lunch stop. After a mile I realized my mistake and got back on track. I caught up with the people who were pulling into the lunch stop as I was leaving. They told me how Mr Triple Crown had left the lunch stop hot on my trail :-)
The weather dried up nicely after lunch and we were now finishing up the southernly part of the course back on the bike path again heading towards I5. We (currently a group of 3) stopped the 120 mile rest stop and found out Mr Triple Crown was now waiting for us to catch him. Back on the road, I heard the sound of metal braking... and sure enough I had just lost a spoke from my back wheel. Well I hadn't come all this way to just have a 120 mile ride, so I cautiously continued on.
A few hours later we were immersed in the urban jungle again. The rider just in front of me ran over a piece of wire, which complete wrapped around his front wheel. We all stopped and he managed to untangled, luckily no damage had been done. It was at this point the other rider, uttered the words "Well what else can go wrong?". It didn't take more than an hour to answer that question.
160 miles into the race and my back wheel now was far from true, I had to completely release the back brakes to prevent them rubbing. After a small downhill to the last rest stop I was contemplating whether to continue on, but now with end within reach, I had to go on.
It had now been raining for an hour and I was drenched again, we were on the final climb and it was starting to get dark, add thunder a little lightening then hail. There was some weird humor to be found in this, never ask the question "What else can go wrong". The hail only lasted a few minutes but was painful and obviously very cold.
Now dark, wet, and very cold and desperate to be done the finish was just ahead. We finished in a combined second place, just 15 minutes behind Mr. Triple Crown. What started as simple double felt like a struggle for survival by end (as all good races should).