Monday, May 2, 2011

The 2011 Devil Mountain Double Century

"For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed"

On this day, my brother and I conquered Devil Mountain together.

We lost my younger brother on the day after Easter.
I felt Dave along side me as we ascended some the the highest peaks in the area East and South East of San Francisco. Mount Diablo, Mount Hamilton and the infamous Sierra Road to name a few.

Dad with Dave

For the first time since we were kids he was with me, on his bike, along side, ascending those almost 20,000 vertical feet of elevation. We will all miss you little brother.

Now for the ride report:

We went to the Bay area and stayed with friends who lived in the East Bay town of Pittsburgh, only about 20 minutes from the ride start in San Ramon.
The whole way up the San Joaquin Valley, the winds were howling and we started to worry about the event conditions. The winds were coming from a unusual northerly direction for this time of year.

Things were nice and calm for the ride start in San Ramon at 5am. The temps were in the 40's so we were figuring that it would make the first mountain assault more pleasant.

I put on my ride number and made my way to the start. The largest group of riders started at 5am due to the cut off time which we have to make by mile 90 on the course.
The cut-off was as such: We had to leave the Mines Road check point at mile 90 by one pm or we cannot continue on the course and we get a "DNF" (did not finish)
That's 8 hours to do 90 miles and about 9,000 feet of climbing. If you make that cut-off then you are in good shape. Sounds easily doable.

We all gathered at the start for the ride meeting with all the final instructions.

I saw my friend Ken there who I rode much of the Solvang Double with this year in the rain. He was riding his "fixed gear" bike on that one. Not on this grunt of a ride. He had one with gears and plenty of them.

We rolled out of San Ramon right on time and started climbing almost immediately toward Mount Diablo on the city streets on the outskirts. Some of the riders really took off fast because they were doing the "Triple Crown" stage race which is a race within a race on these events. They take the combined times from the riders on the three most difficult double centuries and the winner is the one with the fastest time.
Some of the guys who were racing just flew out of the gate and some of the real fast ones started in the 6am group because there is no way they would miss the cut-off because they are just too fast.

It was just starting to get light when we reached the lower slopes of Diablo. This mountain is the largest one in the East Bay area and if you take interstate 5 to San Francisco you cant miss it. It is the big, double peaked, mountain north of Livermore. It can be seen from a long way off in the distance on a clear day. Even from the San Joaquin Valley!
Starting the ascent up Diablo
It was then on the lower slopes that I had my first problem. I got a flat tire. I fixed the flat and was about to pump it up when the SAG driver came up with a high pressure pump. After pumping it up, we had some trouble with the brakes which I somehow knocked out of alignment so he adjusted them for me. (awesome support on this ride, I got to tell you!!!)
Having never done this ride before, everyone told me not to cook myself before Mines Road which is a difficult 25 mile, hot, gradual climb that can really burn you out if you don't pace yourself.
Now, with that 1pm cut-off time on my mind, I started to get stressed and started to push much harder than I wanted on the last 2/3 of the climb up Diablo. I still stayed within my Aerobic zone on my heart monitor though so I was fine.
It was such a beautiful climb. You could see the East Bay, San Jose, Livermore, The Golden Gate and the City, all during points of the climb. Just awesome and I really felt like Dave was with me up on that mountain.

The wind was howling on the mountain which also slowed us up some.

Heading to the East into the sunrise about 2/3 of the way up Mount Diablo

Me at the top with San Francisco in the background

The above video shows just how windy it was on the mountain. I saw my friend Ron Ng up there working the stop. I almost didn't recognize him without his cycling gear on.  The support crew had a real tough time mixing the drinks. When I filled my Camel-Bak with water I think the wind was blowing more of it away than I was getting in the reservoir. It was freezing up there too with that wind chill at just after 7 in the morning.

San Francisco and the Golden Gate in the distance

We had a real cold drop off of the first mountain and I could hardly feel my hands when I reached the bottom in Walnut Creek. It was warmer there though and I warmed up quickly and started to strip some of the layers.
We had some nice riding through Walnut Creek before we started to ascend again on the North side of Mount Diablo. We went up on the South-West side and came down on the Northwest side. Now we were riding along the foot of the big giant on the North side which had some small climbs on it.
We headed east at its foot and then made a turn on Morgan Territory Road. This road was really pretty and all tree lined in a canopy. Very cool temps and windy still. Some very steep sections on this long climb which ascends the East foot of Diablo I'll call it.

Morgan Territory Road
It was almost a 10 mile climb up to the second check point at Morgan Territory Park. Very steep in some parts but not too bad. Had to keep thinking about that cut-off though. I couldn't get it out of my head. I really wanted to finish this thing for Dave.

Right after the check point we started a steep descent down to Livermore called, "the plunge".  It is a steep drop of about 5 miles on a single lane road and it was really windy with gusty cross winds. A rider went down not far after the start of "the plunge" and the fire department was stopping everyone and not letting them through until the ambulance could get there from down the hill. They didn't want anyone to hit the ambulance.  We had to wait about 25 minutes in that cold wind. Now I really started to worry about the cut-off time. I was hoping that they would cut us some slack due to the situation. (by the way, the rider was ok. He had to be taken to the hospital but was released with some broken ribs.)

Waiting for the Ambulance
We then had to all follow the ambulance down the hill and we were on the brakes the whole time because it was a slow decent for him too.

We then traversed over to the Livermore area and then headed East to Altamont Pass which takes us over into the San Joaquin Valley.
 Altamont Pass was a really nice climb on a real nice road. We had great views of the large windmills. Altamont Pass is one of the windiest places so it has the windmills everywhere to catch the wind funneling in from the Pacific. On this day the wind was coming out of the North so we had a nice cross wind instead of a tailwind from the ocean.

It was on now to our next climb....Patterson Pass. I did this climb about 15 years ago when my wife Ginny dropped me off in Tracy, Ca and I rode to the East Bay to our friends house on my bike. I didn't remember it being hard at all. 15 years can make a difference I guess.
Now it was quite warm as the wind was more behind us and had calmed some. We climbed for about 4 miles and I finally took off my leg warmers and arm warmers. Getting hot.

Patterson Pass with the windmills

We came up over a little bluff thinking that was the top and then I saw writing on the rode that said. "Look up at OH MY GAWD HILL". I looked up and instantly saw what they were talking about. I don't remember that when I did this before, I thought. It looked nasty. Someone said it kicked up to 20% at one small point. Dont know about that but it was steep for a short time.

Would you look at that!! WOW
I checked in at the water stop and headed up over the summit.  Somehow, it looked worse than it felt. I just paced myself and it wasn't all that bad. (if you call climbing out of the saddle at 3 mph not that bad...)


In the old days I would have done that without a granny gear. Being close to 60 does change you some I think. Haaa!

Over the top we went and headed back toward Livermore and the left turn onto Mines Road. 3 miles from there to the cut-off time destination.

I got there and left with a half hour to spare. Woooo hoooo. Flat problems....ambulance....taking my time and I still made it....Priceless!!

Now we had 25 miles of gradual to sometimes hard uphill to the lunch stop at the Junction Cafe. This was a hot grinding climb that seemed endless. Now I know why everyone said not to "cook yourself" before Mines Road. It seemed never ending.

Two local guys doing it for the first time. Thier goal was to finish before midnight
I felt great when I got to lunch and spent little time wolfing down a chicken sandwich and a drink. I stayed too long for my liking and then started what was the assault on Mount Hamilton. 18.34 miles of mostly uphill and getting steeper as you get closer to the summit. Sooooo beautiful though.

Follow the road as far as the eye can see and then some. We came from out there somewhere.
 Wow what a climb.
This section we are doing, the ascent of Hamilton, the decent down into San Jose and the Attack of Sierra road are all going to be on one stage of the Amgen Tour of California, this year with a mountain top finish on Sierra Road. Watch will be awesome and you can and Dave rode that!

Just before the assault on Hamilton I got another flat tire after going over a cattle guard. From this point on, I am not doing a long event like this with only C02 cartridges and no pump. I had one tube left and only two C02's left. After putting the tube in, I blew up the tire because it was pinched between the rim and the tire. Then a nice guy named Chris stopped and gave me a tube. I re-fixed it and he let me use his pump to pump it up. Then the SAG crew stopped and I used a floor pump for better pressure. Much better. Then I had problems with my derailleur. To make a long story turned a fast flat repair into a 25 minute time loss.

We continued up Hamilton and I felt good after the long rest. It was beautiful at the summit as we rode by the observatory. The view of the South Bay below was great.

Now we had a very technical 17 mile decent down the mountain into the San Jose area. I kept getting stuck behind cars who just cant make a decent like this as fast as a bike. After they let us pass we never saw them again even after we were in the more straight section of road toward the bottom.

The snaking road to San Jose

We flew to the next check point.
The sun was getting low and there was a chill in the air so I started to put some layers back on. I fueled up real good and maybe was somewhat too heavy on water but I was sure going to be ready for what was to come. 
Sierra Road!!

We were where the arrow is pointing. Look at the profile of the next climb...Sierra Road. Straight up!

A 4 mile climb from the flat lands of San Jose. 17% gradients almost from the start with a few forgiving sections of 9-10% in the middle. Ouch.

My sister told me that all the problems I had so far was Dave just teasing me and holding me back on purpose. He was really known as a teaser when he was young, as my 4 sisters can attest.

After climbing Sierra Road I know she was right.

If I hadn't had the hold ups on this ride, I would never have had the chance to see the most spectacular sunset I have seen in years. I got to see the sun setting over the Bay from all different angles as I ascended Sierra Road. I must have stopped 7 times to take pictures and videos. I feel blessed that I was able to see such a sight. Wow.

Between pacing myself properly and stopping to look at the sunset, this climb didn't seem half bad after almost 160 miles and over 15,000 feet already climbed.

And........I got to "Pet the Goat" at the Pet the Goat check point at the summit. Does that mean we are considered to be "Mountain Goats", now?

Sunset over San Francisco Bay...WOW


From the very top with the sun set

I am the mountain goat

I was drenched in sweat at the top and it was almost completely dark. I pet the goat, fed the goat, fed myself, layered up, watered up and started the cold descent to our next climb, Calaveras Road. I was shivering so much on the way down I had a hard time holding the bars. I had to apply brakes and pedal so I could heat my engine back up. The human body is an engine after all. Rapid cool down is not good for any engine. The temp dropped about 20 degrees on that descent.

To top that off, Dave decided to tease me again.
I missed the turn in the dark on Calaveras road and descended all the way down to the town of Milpitas before I realized the mistake. Then I noticed that my route slip had blown away. (I had two and this was my second)

I think I dropped about another 1,000 feet. I turned around and I figured if I had not missed the turn, I would see other riders coming down. I saw none and then after another long climb, I saw the turn. I was going so fast on the decent, I just blew right by. Stupid, brain dead kind of thing to do I know with all my experience. It happens to the best of what a day this has been so far.

About 16 more miles of up and some down and I was at the final check point. Sunol Train Station.
I saw my friends Jason and Alfie there who were working the stop. Thanks guys for the awesome Miso soup and boiled garlic potatoes.

Off we went in a group of 4 for the final 25 miles and the finish. Still some climbing to do though. Boy....are there not any flat sections on this course?
I started to get real sleepy now as it was late in the night. I was thinking that I should have had something with caffeine in it at the final stop.
Sleepy on the climb but boy I woke up quick on the next decent with that cold in my face.
Then we had a semi uphill, nice section with about 8 miles to go on Crow Canyon Road when it happened again. A front tire blow out. Don't know what I hit but it was something sharp.

One tube left and one C02 left... middle of the night....freezing....shivering....just tell yourself can do it. the tire fixed....but....only got about 40 or 50 pounds in the tire because the cartridge was bad or something.

Knowing I only had Norris Canyon to climb and descend before the finish, I decided to risk it and I just nursed the bike over the hill and down the other side. In one respect I was lucky it was the front tire because I could put most my weight to the rear but on the other hand if the decent was curvy, I risked the front tire rolling off the rim.
Well.....Dave and I made it.
Not a pretty one in the time category but at least I got through this most epic of events. I already want to do it again.

Start time: 5am
Finish time: Somewhere around 12:30am
Overall course time: 19.5 hours?
On bike ride time: 15:57 hrs
Elevation Gain: 19,960 feet

For all the pictures:
Here is the ride map someone made of the event...awesome:


  1. Hi it's Ron Ng ... wow, that was some report. It was unfortunate about the rider on "the plunge". My friend Dan told me about that, and that must have been really eerie for you guys.

    You took some amazing shots on Sierra, that I have never gotten (and I live up here!). I loved your comment about "any flat stretches on the ride" ...

    Sorry to hear you missed the right on Calaveras. It's a really easy one to miss if you are not familiar with it, but at least you got back on track, and you completed it. More than I can say for myself. I did this whole route in 3 separate parts (training ride with other DMD'ers, and I didn't even end up doing the ride). I think that's enough for me.

    Congratulations once again. That was an epic performance, and a great ride report too.


  2. Thanks Ron, You were the first to see it because I have not really put it out there yet. Going out now.

  3. Hi Steve,

    This is Song--one of the two "local" riders well met on Mines. Quite enjoyed our chat. Certainly made the miles to the Junction disappear quickly. Just wanted to say nice write-up. And condolences.

    As I summarized to a friend of mine, like you I delighted in the sunrise on Diablo and the sunset on Sierra. The stuff in between? Well, that sucked :)

    I'll leave you with a photo I took many years ago looking out toward the bay during Sierra Rd. sunset. Take care, and may you have fewer flats.


  4. Thanks Song, It was great riding with you guys. Wish we had more time to talk afterwords. Quite an epic day to say the least!!


  5. Thank you Steve,
    Hope to see you rolling again at another DMD or CTC event. All the best for your 2012 blog-cycling!
    Brian Chun (friend of Ken E., too)
    Almaden Cycle Touring Club