Day 2 of any multi-day cycling event like a tour or stage race is always a bit of a gut-check, or more typically an exercise in self-denial, because one is faced with the prospect of a long, difficult day on the bike when what the body expects is a leisurely day of rest or perhaps an easy spin. No rest for the weary, though, we had to reach San Simeon.
The route for the day included two key Strava KOMs: Quadbuster and Interlake. I wanted to make good efforts on each. Quadbuster came first, only 9 miles into the day.
Leaving the hotel a small group slipped through the tail end of a green light and was away. Unlike the previous day, Mike and Janine's tandem wasn't in that group, so I felt confident we'd catch them. Not long after we turned onto a short bike path and I found myself with a gap off the front of the main bunch. I gave this up when I unclipped at some moderately deep sand part-way through ("keep pedaling!" I heard Janine shout to those following her behind) and the gap essentially closed, but I opened it again right after the sand.
Onto Jolon Road, wide with a large shoulder, we turned south. I saw the leaders ahead in two clumps. I bridged up to the second, paused for a bit, then up to the first. The lead group consisted of Eddie, Katherine, and Greg, three riders I knew well from previous tours. I said hello and then kept going.
I watched my power meter and it was in the 210-220 watt range, and I knew I could sustain this pace without issue. If I was caught, fine, but I also didn't mind the idea of reaching Quadbuster alone.
And that I did. I slotted into the 300-320 watt range as a target. My power slipped below 300 occasionally but not by much. I felt like I'd paced it fairly well and hit the top with this pace hard to hold. I ended up tying Paul Macintyre's KOM pace from the 2011 MDR, which was a big success. Paul was on the tour this year as well, however, and won't upload his ride until later.
From here I started to cruise along, expecting to be caught, but then a support van passed me and shouted "two minutes!" This was cool: a good chance to see if I could hold the gap to the rest stop. They say in pro racing a break can lose as little as 0.1 minutes / km. I had 10 km left so should be okay if I was a pro, but I'm not.
It was getting close to the 40 km mark where the first rest stop was located and I glanced back and saw the unmistakable shimmering metal of cyclists. Damn. I went a bit harder and looked back again. Closer. But the car was by now visible up ahead and I managed to roll in before I was caught.
We regrouped and now the real challenge of the day: could I stick with the lead group on the difficult rollers of the second segment? I'm okay on steady-state climbing but the intensity was my downfall at Berkeley Hills Road Race 11 days earlier. Out we went, hitting one climb after another, and I felt fairly good. I was rotating through our slow paceline and took a decent-size pull when I saw the road rising up ahead. This was it, I recalled: interlake. I downshifted at the valley before the climb. "Settling in!" someone said on my wheel. Indeed: I like settling into a sustainable pace quickly, even if that pace seems easy initially.
After a short bit of this Paul came around. I was able to get on his wheel. This was fine with me because I know Paul is an excellent steady climber. He was spinning a low gear, so I downshifted as well to more closely match him.
The climb crested out at a relative flat, then got steeper again, then flattened again. Approaching this second flat I looked at my power meter and saw 285. I'd done more than this at Quadbuster so concluded I could up the pace a bit, even if my current pace wasn't very comfortable. We then hit that second flattish portion and Paul kept the pace fairly similar, dropping my power to 130. I thought if he'd been feeling super-strong he'd have upshifted here. So once the grade picked up again I came around and accelerated to 350 watts.
I heard him get on my wheel and thought if he can stay there I'd be in trouble. But he couldn't: I stopped hearing him and knew I'd gotten a gap.
I couldn't hold 350, but I kept it mostly over 300 and was able to cross the top alone. Paul wouldn't be chasing solo: he'd wait for his wife Kerry. She's a former mountain biker and extremely strong, though, so it would be a challenge to hold them off.
This section of road, by Nacamiento Lake and beyond. is gorgeous. Good road, rolling hills, fast twisting descents, and stunning views of the lake make it a joy. However, the joy is shattered by the vehicle traffic. At one point I was passed by a large truck, it's exhaust clogging my throat. Nice. But that was immediately followed by a second, larger truck, this one pulling a wide boat trailer. The truck spewed a cloud of black smoke from its tailpipe, causing me to slow to control my respiration to minimize getting this crap in my lungs. But what followed was worse: a cement truck rumbled by, with at most a 2-foot clearance, not touching the yellow line. Thank you Jerry Brown I thought for the second time of the tour. After a close brush on Uvas Road the day before, I was wondering if I was losing my tolerance for this sort of thing. Maybe I should go back to using a mirror, I thought. (I gave up using it because peripheral vision is more important in the city).
I finally reached the second stop ahead of the group. My gap this time was larger: the constant up and down eliminated most of the advantage to a group.
After a long break we set off for segment 3. It was announced this was traditionally a recovery segment and that was what I could certainly use. I felt okay, at least initially, but could tell I'd done a lot of work so far.
There was some discussion about which way we should go, and the consensus, except for Wes, was for the standard route. I'd already done Kau Mine + Cypress Mountain twice before so decided on the standard Vineyard Road - CA46 - Santa Rosa Creek this time. The standard route was longer with more climbing (161 km, 2072 meters of climbing per Strava, versus 142 km, 1849 meters). Sure, the detour was mostly dirt, which adds difficulty, but it would be good to sample the alternative. Wes added an extra loop of Adelaide and up Kau Mine to the route, adding distance and climbing. I opted out of this since it was quite enough for me already.
Spinning up a short rise I went to shift into my little ring when my SRAM derailleur threw my chain off to the inside. Kerry had been following and she almost hit me as I came to a rapid stop. The others went on as I got off my bike and tried to put the chain back on with my gloved hand. I ended up getting my hand jammed between the chain and the large chainring, which was moderately painful, but the glove protected my skin at least. After a few attempts to dislodge it I was able to laterally move the chain to create a gap. Then I removed my hand and replaced the chain on the chainring. SRAM is frustrating in its tendency to throw chains.
I set off, wondering if I could reach the leaders again, and found them waiting for me around the next corner. That was nice. Paul, who owns a bike shop, recommended a chain keeper, and I think that's an excellent idea. Indeed as I write this in San Simeon I realize I should have stopped at Cambria Bike Outfitter yesterday and purchased one.
Anyway, this break seemed to have energized the others, because the pace immediately picked up. The next short climb the leaders hit Z5+ and I was dropped. All I had left was endurance mode. I wondered if I'd not eaten enough but really my lack of intensity to this point in my general riding made what I'd done so far all I could expect. It had been a good day.
Riding solo, the support van passed by. This was good: I was almost out of water.
As I rode I passed multiple groups of riders in the opposite direction. They were part of the Great Western Bicycle Rally, based out of nearby Passo Robles. The rally attracts touring-style cyclists, for example ACTC and Western Wheelers. It's a cool idea which I now realize from reading Jan Heine's blog probably has it's routes in French randonneuring and Velocio.
I reached the location of the stop at the end of pretty Vineyard Road (the name reportedly pre-dating the popularity of vineyards there, which became blossomed after the movie Sideways), the intersection with Highway 46. But, after looking around, I saw nothing. This is remarkable because they were there somewhere. I don't know how I missed them.
I thought perhaps the stop had been moved either to a shoulder up the road or perhaps to the intersection with Santa Rosa Creek Road, so I kept going, plugging along. I needed water but still had two bars in my pocket. I finally reached Santa Rosa Creek Road but of course they weren't there.
The road is quite rough: reminiscent of Tunitas Creek Road before it was repaved for the ATOC, but rougher. I stopped at a farmhouse on the bottom, wondering if I should cross the gate to what appeared to be a water pump, but decided this was a bad idea. So after a short break I set off up the road.
I came to two locals standing by a fence by another farm, and asked if they knew where I could find water. One pointed to a nearby spigot at his front gate. Excellent! But the spigot turned out to be dry. He then recalled he'd shut if off at the house at the end of a long driveway, so directed me to a farm 2 miles up the road, where there was another.
I found that without difficulty and stopped to fill my bottles, adding a Hammer electrolyte tablet to one. As I did so, three riders passed from the lead group.
I continued on up the climb. I had expected more, but the main climb portion was just a short, steep wall. Much of the net altitude gain had been on CA46 before.
As I descended, I was passed to my surprise by Paul and Kerry, Kerry doing most of the leading. Paul, I was later told, had bonked. I wasn't the only one. Kerry pulled us along for most of the rough descent into Cambria, navigating between the considerable density of potholes. She was extremely strong, showing no hint of fatigue.
In Cambria, we met with the others. I continued on, stopped at a wonderful farmer's market where I had a delicious avacado and dried persimmons along with various samples.
The rest of the way was battling a raging cross-wind for three miles up Hwy 1. That was better than the block headwind I had in 2011.
Tomorrow: the recovery day, a "short" spin to San Luis Obispo.