Last year I did this ride when I was sick, which made for a long day, but the course was one of the easiest double centuries I'd done. This year the route had a few modifications but still had a similar amount of climbing. Continuing the theme of the last few weeks, the issue was going to be the weather. No matter how many times I checked the weather or which point of the course, the answer was the same "rain" and plenty of it. After last weekend's experience in riding in the rain, I knew needed to be less wet and much warmer. A quick bit of web shopping had given me water proof gloves and Goretex shoe covers, I was battle ready.
The mass start was at 7:30am but by the time I arrive at just past 7am, most people were already on the road. So instead of waiting till 7:30, I decided to join a small group and start at 7:15am. The beginning of the route was the same as last year, so it was very familiar, nice rolling hills with Vineyards everywhere. Before I knew it I was at the top of the first "big climb", which tops out at 1,500ft. I was still within sight of the small group I started with occasionally trading places. Then decent lead me to catch up with some of the riders that had started earlier and I was starting to pass people. I was keeping a great pace and opted to skip the first rest stop.
Now 70 miles and just under 4hrs in I was feeling good and little overdressed as the rain had not yet materialized. However just then rain decided it was time and with a high volume of "light" rain. At first the only issue was making sure you stayed away from the wheel spray you past others. My new gear was keeping me dry and warm. I opted to skip the second rest stop and keep my pace going.
Five hours and eight minutes in, I'd just hit 100 miles, this was a great pace! I was now on Highway One having just passed through San Luis Obispo, going towards the coast. I started to see the SAG vehicles helping other riders on the side of the road with flat tires. This began a sight all to familiar over the next 12 miles, to the point I was looking down at my own tires. Sure enough I pulled in to the lunch stop to find both my front and back tires were both slowly leaking air. Apparently there were metal shards on Highway 1, which sink well into a bicycle tire. I go the use of the pump at the rest stop used both my spares and picked a patched tube as new spare. Of course by the time I was done with everything I was cold, damp and spent nearly 50 minutes off the road, doing things in the rain just seems to take longer.
As I pulled out of the rest stop I saw two people walking back with there bicycles who had obviously immediately had flats and not for the first time by the looks on there faces. I really wasn't sure whether I face the same fate shortly and continued on with some trepidation. The rain was still come down hard but I knew I was over halfway there. It was not the ride I did a year ago, which by most accounts was a pleasant ride on a sunny day with the temperature hitting the high 70s, we nearly hit the 60s, almost a 20degree difference.
I skipped the next rest stop to try and recover the time I'd lost but, my pace had fallen. I was still putting out the power but was rewarded with a headwind for my efforts. Cold and wet I arrived at the last rest stop at around mile 160. They had Pot Noodles! Generally not a favorite of mine but this was exactly what I needed to push through to the end, hot and plenty of salt.
The next part was one a barely paved road parallel to the Freeway, it only lasted a few miles until I hit a proper road again. Then was the slow climb up what was seemed a small climb first in the morning. This was one of the major differences on this years course, previous year had gone over Drum Canyon Rd, which was riddled with pot holes and know doubt lead to a few accidents. So the new climb was a welcome replacement. The route ended on a nice quiet and well pave road through a different Canyon. The light was now fading and as it was now 7:30pm, I had now gone past my original 12hr estimate for the course.
As if no course would be complete without a missed turn, I indeed with just a few miles to go missed a key turn and ended up adding another couple miles to the course. Not much time wasted and I was glad to be finished. My bike was badly abused, subjected to awful conditions and I was wet and damp. The new rain gear had helped a lot, though I'd still be interested if anyone knew of any research on waterproof forcefields? :-)
Thanks to folks at Planet Ultra for putting on a another great ride!