|Paul Chuck takes in the sights in Buellton, CA. Is there a bike ride here this weekend?|
Paul Chuck and I attended the Solvang Double Century March 22, 2014, riding the tandem, returning from last year to have another go. 70 miles in, we were still with the leaders, however a mishap, in the form of a double flat, caused us to drop off and lose time. This wasn't the end of our troubles. We fought back, kept going, and still made it to the finish in under 10 hours time. Weather was perfect, conditions were fast, and it was overall a good day on the bike... but it would have been a lot better if the dark cloud of trouble had left us alone.
At last year's event, the goal was to get Paul C his first sub 10 hour Double. With just 25 hard miles to go, the clocks would not tell us if we were going to make it. It was too close to call. We made a desperate effort during the last hour of the 2013 edition, to make it in before 10 hours had passed, and we did squeak in with a time of 9:56.
In 2014 we have no specific goal as we drive South on Hwy 101 from the San Francisco Bay Area to Solvang, but it would seem unacceptable to do the ride in over 10 hours.
In the morning, because of the late start offered to "Sub 10 hour riders." Paul and I have enough time to go to Ellen's Pancake House and enjoy a lovely breakfast and coffee before having to kit up and get on the road. What a luxury on a Double! Usually, we have to start at the very uncivilized hour of 5:30 or 6:00 AM! We roll from the start with the fast group, a select group of riders who roll out together at 7:30 AM — in full daylight, and, although seemingly a late start for a Double, I love it! The group is riding fast from the gun, and Paul and I sit toward the back. Normally a tandem is expected to pull the group along, but there is enough talent here such that they could care less about a tandem with a couple of old f^%ks.
|Rolling out at 7:30 with the "Sub 10-hour" contingent|
|Craig and Jeanine, tandem, over Paul Chuck's shoulder|
Things are fast and efficient in those early miles, and we hit the first big climb in good shape. The field is shattered. Paul and I are mid pack on this climb, and over the descent, we gain much of our deficit back. Then another long climb up Foxen Canyon. The leaders are gone but we see glimpses of them. As we climb I look back and see we are losing Craig and Jeanine. I'd promised them to ride an easy tempo pace over the first climbs in the hope we'd work together on the long flat stretches that follow, but the plan isn't working out. Paul and I are riding sub-tempo but Craig and Jeanine wisely decide not to burn the matches to stay with us. They are falling off the pace.
As we near the crest of the climb it's decision time. Do we wait, or do we chase the leaders? The leaders are not far ahead and we have a long, gradual downhill. I call this, "Tandem Country." I like our odds. Craig waves us to forge ahead without him and Jeanine, and although I don't see this hand gesture as I look back at him, I come to the same conclusion myself — we're gonna chase!
Paul and I settle into a hard tempo+ pace. Or at least I do. Later Paul tells me he was going easy. I say fine, you'll have more matches for later! On a long ride, if one rider on a tandem is going harder than the other, in some ways it doesn't matter, as the rider who is going easier can pitch in more later.
Bottom line, we chase... and we chase... Each time we can see far ahead on the road, we hope to see the group. Nothing. Where are those guys? We are freakin' flyin', we should be catching! Well, finally, after many long miles of hard work, they come into sight, but it's one of those games where it takes an eternity to close down the final 500 meter gap. We finally do, and once we are on, it's easy going at a fast pace. We average 27 mph during the chase. It takes 21 miles to close down the two minute deficit to the leaders, who are working well together in a pace line. We were making up just six seconds per mile! Click on Strava segment below, look at 2014 dates, and the lead time of Joel Sothern (1st place), Pat Rehorn (2nd place) and others in that group:
Top of Foxen to Philbric
(tip: If it's still 2014, click on "This Year" in the drop down menu that says "All Time")
There are maybe a dozen to 15 elite guys working well together in this group. This selection represents about half of the original 7:30 starting group. Everyone else is dropped. We sit on the back and enjoy the ride. Perfect. It's going to be a great day, and a fast one. Last year we never saw the fast guys after the first climb. This year we are back with them. Each time a rider rotates back from the front of the pace line, there is a look of disbelief on the rider's face when they see the McKenzie/Chuck tandem. One could easily surmise they were thinking, "Where the F^#k did you guys come from?" In fact, one said exactly that! To see it happen over and over as each rider rotated back in the pace line, was absolutely precious.
|Back with the leaders after a 21 mile chase at 27 mph|
We get to the bottom of the descent and turn right on Thompson Ave. There is some really bad pavement here, with narrow longitudinal potholes, 3" deep, and sharp, broken bits of asphalt. Nobody in the pace line points these out and we dip into one of the potholes hard! Pssst. Pssst. Pssst with each revolution. Rear goes down instantly. We pull over safely and make as quick a tire change as we can, Paul and I working as a team. He's unpacking the seat bag while I pull off the tire. Once I've got the tire on, I pump the tire for about 80 pumps and let Paul C do the last 40. He's more of a gym guy than me, and has superior upper body strength, so is better suited for the much more difficult, final part of the inflation process.
|What did you do this past weekend? "Oh, we changed a bunch of flats!"|
As we are fixing flat #2, Craig and Jeanine roll by, and I can't help thinking, well, we could have just rolled easy with them, helped them, and been ahead of where we are now! Doh!!
We finally get rolling and it becomes a process of managing the mental game of trying to stay focused, and enjoy the ride, despite the setbacks. We catch a group of riders that includes Kevin Walsh, a legendary Double Century rider. We exchange a few words and laughs as we roll down the road. Suddenly, Paul announces the rear is flat (later we find it's another pinch). I'm flabbergasted. I don't generally subscribe to superstition, but it is said that flat tires come in threes. At this point, I'm hoping it's true, as this is our third. We fix this one, enthusiasm waning even more. Turns out this spare tube had a slow leak due to "seat bag rash," so it went down slow, was soft, and then pinched on a modest bump. Flats have been so rare on my tandem, that the spare tubes haven't come into service for a very long time.
Back on the road, we feel now we are at the back of the ride! It's really terrible. All the fast folks are miles ahead now. We started late, and with the mishaps, we are OTB! Will the aid stations be closed by the time we get there?
Heading toward Morro Bay, we are flying and passing riders right and left. Nobody can get on. We are cruising on a downhill and the pump ejects from the frame. WTF? Can we have any more bad luck? Can we get a break here, people? We are on a busy road, so we stop the tandem and Paul runs back up the road for the pump. I take the opportunity to drain the 'ol super dragon. Turns out I had given Paul the wrong instructions on which way the pump goes into the frame when he was putting it back. Whatever. I'm just shaking my head in disbelief of our misfortune at this point.
Near Morro bay we take a road which is new to the course for this year, Turri Rd, due to road construction on the old course. It's gorgeous and a great addition to the course, and although the left turn back onto Los Osos Valley Rd from the stop sign is difficult, we manage. I hope this road stays as a permanent addition. It's really beautiful vs. going through town! A bit more climbing but totally worth the effort.
|The beautiful, Turri Rd. Climb, a great addition to this year's course.|
We skipped rest stop #2 in the hopes of catching Craig and Jeanine, so we decide to stop at #3, which is at mile 108, the "lunch stop." This will be our first Aid Station. We're dry on fluids and need food, so we take some time to sort that out, I have a Subway half sandwich and a Coke, drink a full bottle of water, refill both... and then we get back on the road.
Rolling South the winds are favorable. We expected a strong crosswind, but it's more of a cross/tail, which is great!
|We didn't have much competition from other tandems, but this pair gave us a run on a City Limit sprint!|
We keep pedaling hard, and skip rest stop #4, Guadalupe, as we feel we can make it to the final stop with food and fluids on board. As it turns out, Craig and Jeanine are at #4 and we miss them. Too bad.
We stop at #5 and try to get in and out quickly. We do our business and are ready to roll, but I decide it'll be prudent to top off the tires with a floor pump to be sure we are at full pressure. We have some rough roads ahead, and some fast downhills, so full pressure is needed for safe navigation. We top off the tires and get on the road.
|While it was windy all day, we felt pretty blessed by the wind gods.|
In the end, we are very pleased with how we rode. There isn't much one can do about bad luck, so the best thing to do is keep the chin up, keep fighting, and address the difficulties as they arise. It's the only thing to do, and we did it with as much positive attitude as we could muster. We can consider the "what ifs," and conclude that we'd have had a very competitive time, but it just wasn't in the cards this year. The ride was great, the weather was fabulous, the course was beautiful, the company was wonderful, and it was a great experience overall.
|Debbie (event promotor) offered a dinner after the event at the Marriot. Great addition! (l to r) Steve, Paul, John, Linda, Craig, Jeanine.|
|Next morning spin out ride with Carl Sanders (3rd place finisher) John, Craig, Jeanine, and Steve.|
|Me pretending this is my 60's 23 window VW van in Buellton, CA|
|Entry from my ride diary from March 29, 2003. 189.5 miles, 20.3 mph ave. speed, 9:44 overall time, 9:21 riding time|
2104 Solvang Double Century Results
Note: You must choose "All" under "Division" then click "Apply" in order to include tandems. People have told me they don't see us in the results, then I have to explain this back door. WTF?
Solvang next year? Maybe, just maybe, we'll have another go.
Related link — Joel Sothern's (1st Place Finisher) blog: