Not too much Chain Reaction representation on this ride; just myself and Todd.  We also rode with Richard, a Chain Reaction alumnus, who brought along one of his racing friends, Brian Ziegler.  This didn't bode well for me; one ex/has-been 48-year-old vs three guys who currently race, but I don't think I held them back too much.  Missing in action from the shop was Dick, who'd intended to ride but something apparently came up (we waited 15 minutes and then decided we'd better get going if we were going to finish the ride before dark!).

The event started at the VA Hospital near Gunn High School in Palo Alto, headed south to Steven's Creek Reservoir, up Redwood Gulch to Highway 9, up 9 to Skyline, south on Skyline (which becomes Summit) across 17 (where it turns into Highland) and then down Eureka Canyon into Corralitos.  It then did some sadistic meandering around the local hills, culminating in an unusual couple of miles of paved dirt (or was it dirt that was paved?) through Henry Cowell park for lunch.  From there it was up East Zayante (quite a challenging climb) to Summit, which becomes Skyline as you head north, and then descend Page Mill back to the finish.

About the photos- Yeah, I'm the guy with the Olympus D40 in the jersey pocket, getting shots behind and from the front of riders that I come across.  I took about 175 photos in all, with the hope that a few will turn out OK.  The main problem with taking photos while riding is holding the camera steady enough, which is very difficult to do when on a steep climb (notice the fuzziness of the 8:39am shot on Redwood Gulch), and very scary on a fast descent. [You can also check out a few more photos from the '05 event, which rode the same course]
7:57am; about 8 minutes into the ride and Todd's demonstrating the fine art of doing a track-stand at a stoplight on Foothill.

Some people start early, but we like a later start, which gives us a lot of rabbits to chase (and decreases the chance of being passed by others!).
  8:15am and we're charging up Steven's Creek, past the reservoir.  Feeling good now, but it won't last...   ...because, at 8:39am, we're struggling up Redwood Gulch.  Actually, I'm struggling; the rest of my group is a ways ahead.
8:46am heading up Highway 9, which always seems a whole lot easier when it follows Redwood Gulch!  The first rest stop is at the corner of 9 & 35.   9:11am at the first rest stop and I'm eyeing the red stuff in the middle of the photo- Mother's Iced Animal Crackers.  Good but deadly!   9:59am finds us on Summit Road, heading south.  Summit's a real treasure; narrow, twisty & rolling, with little traffic.
10:07am south of Highway 17, where Summit has become Highland Way.  Nice pavement.   10:45am descending Eureka Canyon on very poor pavement. So poor that it knocked my computer off the bike.   11:18am at the Corralitos rest stop.  50.8 miles and 4430ft of climbing so far. 
11:30am on a very nice day; low 80s on the Santa Cruz side of the hill as Richard passes a woman reading on her porch in Corralitos.   11:33am and we're finding out how they squeezed 10,000ft of climbing into the route.  It's all buried in little nooks & crannies.   11:52am on North Rodeo Gulch, a nasty little climb with a real kicker at the very end.  The close-up of Brian Ziegler tells the story.

There were frequently times on this ride when the world seemed a bit tilted on its axis, most often on short, nasty little climbs in the middle of nowhere.
12:53pm Icky Isbel Drive, where it's obvious that Richard is way under-geared.  39/23 isn't for this ride.   1:07pm A short piece of Graham Hill and then these guys flag you down for a very unlikely appointment with...   ...something called "Pipeline Trail" that meanders through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.
1:09pm Pipeline Trail is really steep in parts, so steep that many are walking down the hill!  Several miles of this is a bit much (but different).   1:26pm At our lunch stop in the park.  This young woman has perhaps the perfect bike for the choppy roads- a TREK Y-Foil (no longer made).   2:22pm We're on East Zayante, next to Laura Stern's group of Super Women.  Laura was catching up to me very quickly at the top of the climb.

If you happen to pass Laura on the road before a climb, and didn't introduce yourself, you'll get another chance shortly when she motors by on the steep part of the mountain.

But you'll be too out of breath.
2:22pm finds Laura Stern laughing at the climb... or the photographer, not sure which.   2:38pm But this climb is no laughing matter, as Richard Brockie pushes up a steep section.   3:13pm Richard cruises to the top of East Zayante, a climb that deserves gears at least as low as Tunitas.
3:18pm Approaching the "water stop" at Bear Creek & Skyline.  This was going to have the usual watered-down Lemonade & water, but Chain Reaction, with the help of Sal Contreras (who spent the day up there for us), added 562 Cokes, Pepsis, Mtn Dews, Sierra Mists, Diet Pepsis... plus 300 pounds of ice.  It was well-received.   4:08pm on the 10-mile haul to Saratoga Gap (Hwy 9 & 35).  It's not really steep, but by this time you're not capable of much speed so it becomes a 9-12mph grind.
4:19pm A short break at Saratoga Gap, where someone's holding up a sign protesting the "9-11 cover up."   4:37pm So close you can almost taste it, as Nicole Honda crests a small rise on Skyline.   4:47pm The end of the climbs, as you approach the Page Mill descent, having logged 10,510ft by this point.
4:52pm Riding with Terry Morse down Page Mill, on the upper section where the pavement is near-perfect. His goal is 1,000,000ft of climbing this year.   5:01pm I stopped to get a shot of Nicole as she descends one of the steepest sections, with a great view of Mt Diablo in the background.   5:18pm With about half a mile to go, everyone's all smiles at this point!
We started the ride at 7:45 and finished at 5:20, with my computer (the one that didn't get launched from my bike) showing 121.5 miles and an average speed of 15.6mph.  For a ride as hilly as this one, I wasn't at all disappointed with the speed.

Overall impressions?  The weather was absolutely wonderful, with the nasty winds that had been forecast delayed by several hours (it really kicked up around 6pm which, thankfully, was well after we were up on Skyline).  The route was... interesting.  There were some parts (such as Eureka Canyon) where the road was in such bad shape that it would have made more sense to route people up it instead of down.  Rest stops had just about everything one would want, and there were no shortages of either food or water.  Road markings?  Great on the San Jose side of the hill, but pretty poor in the more convoluted sections between Corralitos and Santa Cruz.

The food at lunch was good, with various cheeses & meats & pasta salads etc.  The usual century fare.  And the usual combination of grim determination and fatalism on the faces of the riders, as seen on all tougher centuries.  I should also mention that it was Laura (shown in the "2:22pm" photo) giving me a bad time at the lunch stop because I wouldn't remove my helmet; she harassed me last year about this as well.  There's a very good reason I don't remove my helmet; you have never seen as bad a case of "helmet hair" as I sport.

As for my own performance, I felt rather poor (OK, I sucked) on the earlier climbs, particularly Redwood Gulch.  But as the ride went on I felt stronger and stronger, and by the time we got to East Zayante (at 85 miles) I was climbing very well.  I probably overdid it a bit on that climb, as I developed some leg cramps a bit further on, but y'know, sometimes it's a lot of fun to push yourself and see what you can do.  And, since the cramps this week came at mile 100 or so, vs mile 60 last week, things would seem to be improving.

Another major help this week was the installation of a "compact" FSA crankset, with a 34/50 combo instead of the usual 39/53.  On this ride, there were several occasions to use the 34/27, and the lower gear actually helped speed things up on the climbs, not slow me down as you might think.

Many thanks to the Western Wheelers ( for yet another fine Sequoia Century!

And finally, once more I'd like to thank Sal Contreras for his help with our soda-stop at Bear Creek.  Sal picked up the ice in the morning, loaded it into our van (which was already full of drinks) and drove out to the rest stop, where he spent the day taking care of spent riders.

  --Mike--Hit Counter


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