Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Heartbreak Double Century

This ride is one of the toughest of the Triple Crown Doubles. It has around 16,000 vertical feet of elevation gain and that, in itself makes it pretty challenging.
It is one of my favorite rides so I thought it would be fitting for my 97th Triple Crown Double.

I did this ride for the first time back in the early 90's when it was done as a re-route of the Tour of Two Forests Double. Due to heavy rains, the mountain came down on the road above Wheeler grade going out of Ojai, Ca. so they devised this new route until the road was repaired. It became an epic route to say the least.

I was somewhat worried about the ride this year. The forecast was for winds steady out of the north-northwest 20-30mph gusting to 60 mph.
Although it didn't quite turn out that bad it was still very challenging for the first 70 miles or so.
(I'm talking about challenging winds. This ride is always a real challenge due to the climbing)

The ride start was at the Holiday Inn in Palmdale, Ca.

Julie and Frank checking us in

As usual I ran into a few friends at the start. Some doing the ride and others supporting it.

I saw Tony, one of the fixie riders I rode with at the very rainy Solvang Double this year. Never saw him again after that as he hammered this one.

We rolled out of Palmdale at 5:15am, about 57 of us, plus or minus a few. The winds were calm when we left and headed West on Palmdale Blvd. As soon as we started up Elizabeth Lake Road and the sun started rising, "the winds came with a vengeance". They were not as bad as Death Valley this year but still a challenge. I think that maybe I was not quite recovered from Devil Mountain and the tough 3 weeks prior to this ride. I really had a hard time getting into my zone and I started real slow. The wind made this even tougher.

The wind was about 20mph and gusting to 35 I figured. It was also very chilly. In the mid 40's when we started climbing toward Sandburg.

Heading up Pine Canyon Road toward 3 points
We rode past Elizabeth Lake and Lake Hughes before starting the climbing up Pine Canyon Road to Checkpoint one at 3 points. Mile marker 30.

Thanks Jon and Jennifer for the great support at check point one and on the return route.

We continued climbing into the headwinds up Pine Canyon for 8 miles to "The Old Ridge Route". I believe this is the old road that went South to North before Interstate 5 was built.

Looking down one of the climbs on Pine Canyon, almost to the Ridge Route

Sign on The Ridge Route
I made a right turn on the ridge route and then had a nice 2.3 mile descent down into more headwinds to Hwy 138 for a left turn to Gorman.

I couldn't help but remember that it was on a day such as this with nasty winds that my wife Ginny and my youngest daughter Nicole got blown off Hwy 138 and flipped the car. They were on their way to staff one of the rest stops on the event. It was a nasty accident and they both walked away from it! The car flipped end over end. Angels were definitely watching!
I was doing the ride and when I reached Lebec, Hugh Murphy, the organizer of the ride that year, told me what happened and that they were ok. Someone who passed by gave them a ride to the Flying J where the checkpoint was so they could call the CHP. I stopped riding at that point, had breakfast with them and went home. The wind was about the same that day.

Back to the current ride.

When I turned left on to hwy 138 the winds subsided some and it was not too bad for the 2.5 miles until the turn on Gorman Post Road. I just got into my aero bars and smoked that section. I was feeling good now and into a rhythm. Could the winds be starting to subside, I thought.

 No such luck. As soon as I started the climb toward Tejon Pass and Gorman the winds really kicked up again and with a vengeance. I caught a couple of guys on the start of the climb. They were much lighter than I and the wind was pushing them bad.
Caught up to these guys as I started climbing Gorman Post Road. The wind was almost blowing us backward on this not too tough of a climb.
 After going over that first little climb in the wind, I got down into my aero bars and just powered into the wind as it wasn't too steep from that point to Gorman. The winds were really howling and funneling through that pass as anyone who has driven the Grape Vine would know.

I wonder if someone got hit by the O in Gorman as the wind blew it away....ha ha.
 I left Gorman and trudged over Peace Valley Road to Tejon Pass. Now it was down and pedaling into a headwind again to the town of Lebec for checkpoint #2 at another Holiday Inn. Mile marker 50.5

I got water and food, then started what was, for me, the toughest section of the ride. The climb to Apache Saddle, the highest point on the event.

Heading into Frazier Park

Up we went on Frazier Mountain Road/Cuddy Valley Road for 11.5 miles of gradual to steep uphill. This part has always seemed tough to me as it just seems endless.

After going through the Cuddy Valley we started the last ascent to our turn on Mil Portrero Hwy. Now it was onward to Apache Saddle.
 We made a right turn through the pine forest for a very welcome and windless descent toward the community of Pine Mount Club.
 After the turn we had 8.3 miles to the Saddle and the descent wasn't long enough as we started climbing real steep again toward Pine Mountain Club. We had 10-12% grade getting to Pine Mountain Club. This area was really nice and I would love to come and take a vacation here with the bike.

Now we had another steep section to get to Apache Saddle and we finally made it. Check Point 3. Mile 71.1. I fueled up and headed onward.

Now we finally had some relief!! 71 miles complete as we dropped and dropped down Mil Portrero Hwy toward Hwy 166. 21.2 mile with a few little bumps in between and mostly down hill off the mountain.
You could see California's central valley on the way down. Spectacular!!

We cruised on Hwy 166 for 4.5 miles into San Luis Obispo County before we made a left turn on Hwy 33 South and the lunch stop at "The Place" in Ventucopa. Mile 104. It was really a tough first century. It took me around 9 hours with all the climbing coupled with the wind. I sure hoped we had some tailwinds for the return. We had Sub sandwiches and sodas. It was good!!

Napping? No just kidding. I felt like it though.

Now I headed for the infamous Lockwood Valley Road.
I had 12.2 miles of rolling roads with tailwinds.....woooohooo!!! I didn't push hard and just recovered after lunch for what was to come.
Looking to the South I could see the big mountain range that separates where I currently was at from Ojai, Ca and the Pacific Ocean.
I made my way up Hwy 33 until my turn toward Heartbreak Hill on Lockwood Valley road.

Heading up Lockwood Valley Road
Heartbreak Hill itself is not all that steep. It is the approach that makes it tough. From the turn onto Lockwood Valley Road, you have about 10 miles of gradual climb which gets progressively steeper as you get closer to Heartbreak. The section just before is the hardest and then the crest of the summit doesn't seem quite as bad. Only about 6% or so.

On the steep part

My Rubaix looking back down Lockwood Valley Road

Today the temps were mild and it was not too hot on Lockwood Valley as it usually is. It wasn't too bad.
I made it to Check Point #4 feeling pretty good, (no cramps for a change). I filled my Camelbak with water and headed out. 17 miles now through the pine forest with two higher passes before a descent to Frazier Park and Lebec. The next two passes were not too bad. Over Owls Barn Summit I went. Tailwinds now as I descended at speeds from 20-45 mph into Lebec and CP5.
I was now at mile 150.7 and started the return climb over  Peace Valley Road with a tailwind. Over the top and on to Gorman Post Road for a spin fest as the tailwinds blew me faster than I could pedal. I turned left on Hwy 138 again this time Eastbound with more great tailwinds.
Now the climbing started again as we climbed up the "Old Ridge Route" road again to Pine Canyon.

Old Ridge Route ahead

Heading up the lower slope. Old Ridge Route
2.2 miles up to our turn on Pine Canyon.

Sunset on Pine Canyon

 We dropped down for awhile, then some more climbing before our final check point at Three Points. I said hi to Jon and Jennifer, filled up with fluid and headed out. It was getting dark now as the sun had just set. 30 or so miles left....home stretch, but not before a couple of tough climbs left. One of them was pretty nasty at this point in an event. I trudged over with many large grunts and then enjoyed the nice drop into Lake Hughes. Now I had a slight tailwind all the way back through Lake Elizabeth for the return to Palmdale.

Very tired.....another one in the books. Three to go on my quest.

202 miles
16,000 ft. elevation gain
Ride time on bike: 14:40
Overall time: 16:30

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