I first heard about it last year from a riding buddy, and the racers all carry SPOT (Satellite POsition Tracker) units...so anybody can see where they are at on the route real-time (much like my wife can follow my rides, as I've been carrying a SPOT for years now).
Last year I rode up one of the two big climbs the week before the race to 'recon' the route....see how the climb was, and also it's a great climb and I like to do it a few times a year. That was the day I got hit by the bull when I rounded a corner and he and his lady friends were trotting along the road high up on the ridge (Sierra Madre Ridge). I had a 14 mile walk back to my car carrying/dragging my broken bike that day...it's one I won't soon forget. The next week the race was on and I rode up to the Ridge via a different route I had never taken...and I found out where the cows came from...the valley a ridge away (I saw the cows and MY bull as I was nearing the top of the 2nd ridge). About a month ago I rode that same ride heading up, down and back up for Miranda Pines (a noted SAG stop on the TdLP route) and as I was nearing the top of the switchbacks close to the Sierra Madre Ridge road I notice my bull again. He was with some cows (again) and very near the ridge road. Of course, I didn't complete my ride to Miranda Pines tht day...fool me once, shame on you...fool me twice, shame on me. I won't knowingly go near that bull again if I can help it.
So yesterday as I departed on the climb up the ridge I was a bit apprehensive...I hadn't been up that climb since my bull-smak day a year ago (recall I lost both my XTR tubeless wheels and and eventually the entire bike due to that bull...he bent/cracked my frame). The gate at the bottom of the road was close for some reason this year, meaning there would be no vehicles allowed on the dirt road, and likely no SAG spot at Miranda Pines like there was last year (there are very limited spots for getting water on the route, and having this spot as a SAG was very helpful). I got up to Miranda Pines after an hour and a half of climbing...not my fastest time but very close. I was quite surprised the wind wasn't HOWLING up there...the last week has been QUITE windy here in the Central Coast area.
I had printed the SPOT map of all the riders locations on the route before I left home, and I hoped I was out in front of all of them (which I was). My intended ride for the day was to go all the way out to the Bates Road intersection w/ the Sierra Madre Ridge, and then head back. Being ahead of all the riders I figured I'd meet the front-runners on my return and hopefully get pictures and maybe even a chance to briefly chat with them. I made it all the way out to Bates Road (almost 23 miles) uneventfully...however I always forget how HARD that ride is. I'd done over 4600' of climbing to get there, and the road was somewhat the worse for wear after all our recent rains. So I turned around, keeping my eyes on the road ahead for any sign of an approaching rider. I was almost back to Miranda Pines when I saw the first person of the day...a loaded bike stopped at the small detour road to the Miranda Pines campground (where last years SAG stop was). On my way up I'd detoured up to the campground just in case one of the family members somehow got up there and camped the night, to provide water for the impending racers...there was nobody there.
I came upon the first person I had seen that day...it was a girl. I knew from the leaderboard the top 3 riders (as of 7:45am that morning) were Greg Dunham in 1st place, closely followed by Art deGoede and Rita Jett just a few miles behind. Since I hadn't seen Greg or Art pass me, I figured this had to be Rita....and I was right. I said hello and we started chatting...turns out Greg was still ahead of her, and had gone down into the valley below (where I saw the bull a month ago) to get water, being as none was available at the campground. She said Art was still behind her but very close and should be along any minute. Then Greg arrives back at the ridge after pumping his necessary water for the next 50 miles (most likely Big Pine is the next available water, and that was his destination for this days riding).
When I had gone to bed Friday night the racers/riders were STILL moving (9pm)...I asked them when they stopped for the night....they said they stopped about 10pm after roughly 110 miles that day (which is HUGE beyond my imagination!) We chatted for a few more minuted and then Greg took off to continue his race. Rita was just about to head down to the valley for water when Art showed up. Everybody was surprised to see ANYBODY out on the route...especially when I told them that I was there hoping to see them come by and say hello and good luck. I took pictures of them (race paparazzi can be ANYWHERE!)
The brown sign just behind Art is at the top of the road descending into the valley below where Greg had already gone for water, and both Art and Rita would soon be heading down. Greg didn't report running into 'my cows' which is a good thing for them all to be sure! As I was chatting with Art and Rita, Art jokingly (or not?) asked me if I'd consider selling him my front brake lever...he had broken his sometime during the day (yesterday I presumed...he didn't elaborate). He said it in a joking matter, but I noticed we had different brands of brakes so it wasn't really an option...and neither of us pursued the matter further as we chatted. Finally I wished them luck and continued my descent back to my car (another 9 miles) as they both were headed down for water.
At this point they are just over half-way of the total 263 miles in the 'Tour'. I descended quickly to my car and it was only after I arrived that I realized what an idiot I was. For some reason it never even occurred to me that even though I couldn't give Art my brake lever, I COULD have simply swapped out my entire front brake unit with him (lever, cable and disc caliper unit). He has a TON of descending left to do and will be riding the entire rest of the race very tentatively with only a rear brake. I felt (and still do) feel SO stupid for not thinking of this when I had the chance. I could have just loaned him my brake and I'm sure he would have mailed it back to me next week. Gosh what an idiot I can be! I sure hope he fares well in the rest of the race...if he crashes and gets hurt on one of the descents I'll feel horribly guilty for sure! I found him on Strava and clicked to 'follow' him (so I'll see his rides)...he said to go ahead and do that...as he will be uploading his ride when he gets done and I will be anxious to see his entire ride profile for this race. I will then be able to comment on his ride and apologize for being such a dumb-ass not thinking to swap whole brake units.
So anyway, it's Sunday morning and as I sit sipping coffee and typing, the racers are out there moving again. They are all beginning their third day (the first two were 15 PLUS hours...if you can imagine that...I can't!) Here is the leader-board tracking page (showing the route and the racers locations):
2016 Tour de Los Padres track leaders link
In the following weeks I'll ride more of the route, albiet small sections at a time. One day I'd like to do something like this (bikepacking), however I'd never be able to do 15 hour days in the saddle. Just doing a 5 hour ride yesterday had me taking 800mg motrins for my neck (injury from LONG ago). But if I took my time and only did 8 hours or so, I could likely do the entire route in 4 or 5 days I suspect...where-as the 3 racers I met yesterday will likely finish today...a 3 day race! That blows my mind...and they were all so nice, chipper and happy to be racing...I think after 130 miles (just a few hours into their 2nd day) I'd be a WRECK! I was so impressed with them all, and was only sad I didn't get to meet the next 2 racers Armand and Sarah, who were about 15 miles behind the front 3 (I likely missed them at the bottom of the Sierra Madre Ridge climb by an hour or so). This years race only had 9 entries...and there is no trophy or anything...much like the Great Divide Race (2700 miles from Banff Alberta to Antelope Wells New Mexico)...which by the way is coming up in about another month or so! These people do this for FUN! Sure, I like to ride my bikes, but 15 hour days in the saddle? Not so much I'm afraid...they are certainly a different breed of bike rider than I am. But it sure was fun to meet them! I wish them well today as they ride some pretty technical bits (the Santa Cruz trail descending from Happy Hollow campground comes to mind as a very harrowing bit of singletrack for SURE!)
That's it for todays edition of the Asylum. I hope your spring has sprung and you are getting outside!
Be safe and CHEERS!