Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tour of The Unknown Coast

Mary and I did the long drive to Humboldt County and rode the Tour of the Unknown Coast. Mary peddled the 100km and I tackled the 100 miler, billed as the "toughest century in California." A ride I last completed 27 years ago!

After driving from McKinleyville in heavy fog, we arrived in sunny, green Ferndale for the start.

I haven't ridden a century in almost a century, so I sort of forgot that they start out much like a road race, with a large, fast moving pack that you want to stay in for the draft. 

After a couple of sharp, short rises the pack split up and I rode along by myself enjoying the scenery.

Although that did not last long, as I was quickly joined by a small group and we worked a decent pace line to the point we almost caught the front group by the base of the first major climb.

Once we started climbing to Panther Gap each rider was pretty much on their own, going their own pace. It took a while before my legs adjusted from flat land hammering to climbing, but the scenery and perfect weather made for an enjoyable climb.

From the top of Panther Gap we plunged down a steep, rough, technical descent to the gorgeous Mattole River Valley.

Lest you think you just roll down the river valley to the ocean - beware! Very little of this section is truly flat and as you get closer to the ocean the undulations become more severe.

The riding along this completely undeveloped coast is nothing short of sublime - especially if you get a rare tailwind like we did.

Then, at mile 80, "The Wall" appears and the mind has a hard time grasping how you are going to ride up the thing.

I somehow managed to get this shot back along the coast while struggling to keep the pedals turning.

After almost 1000' of climbing the gradient backs off and the riding is pleasant for a short stretch.

Quickly, though, you find yourself descending on more crazy road to the base of "The Endless Hill", which starts out pretty steep in it's own right.

And seems to go forever!


I was really thanking myself for putting on some low gears. I mean really low gears (36x36)!

Finally another fairly insane descent (rough, steep, twisty and in/out of the shade) brought me back to Ferndale. Not shattered, but not far from shattered!

My goals for the ride were:
 1. Be safe. I crashed without injury 27 years ago and crashed heavily and had to quit 23 years ago.
 2. Enjoy the scenery. Take pictures. Look around!
 3. Ride strong.

I managed to accomplish all three.
Truly epic and truly fun.

If you get a chance, and are fit enough to finish, do it!

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