Tina and I made our annual trek up to Plymouth this weekend for the Sierra Century. We stayed at our favorite place, the Plymouth House Inn, which was unavailable last year due to a family function the owner was having there. All the rooms are nice and the owner treats us very well, and it’s just down the street from the start of the ride.
After a tasty dinner at the new local fine dining establishment, Taste, we got to bed early and got up equally early the next morning. Tina was going to start at 6am and I decided to start at 7am this year. I didn’t get anymore sleep though, since my mind is typically occupied with thoughts of what I needed to do to get ready for the day ahead.
I wished Tina well on her ride, and then she was off. I got ready and headed off around 7. The start of the ride is mostly downhill to Ione, and it’s typically pretty fast. This year was no exception and I got to Ione in about an hour. I didn’t dawdle at all there and was soon on my way. The rollers into Sutter Creek are the first test and are part of a course that can be defined by one word: “rollers” and lots of them. After Sutter Creek is the long pleasant ride up to Volcano. It was on this road that I met Allan Armstrong, who came up behind me with a rather large group being pulled by a tandem. I had rode with Allan a couple of years back at the Mt. Hamilton Challenge, and enjoyed that ride as he’s a pretty strong rider and a good one to help pull a pace line along. I hopped on the tandem train and rode it the rest of the way into Volcano for my first real rest stop of the ride at mile 43.
I met Tina at this rest stop. I said hi and continued on my way with Allan up Rams Horn Grade and then down into Fiddletown. At this point, I decided to wait for Tina and ride with her for at least the climb up Hale Road. Hale Road is the replacement for Slug Gulch in this year’s edition of the Sierra, due to a wine festival near there. We don’t get to ride together very often so it was fun to ride the second half of the ride with her. I bid adieu to Allan and helped Tina get some water and food and soon we were both on our way.
The journey up Hale Road was fine. We had drove up it in the car the evening before to see what it looked like and it had some sketchy downhill stretches of rough road strewn with gravel. The main climb was not too tough, with a few parts over 15% but mostly it was good 10-12% step climbing and we were soon at the top to get our “Hale Yes, I Did It!” pins. At least they didn’t recycle the Slug Gulch pins.
The rest of the ride had some more climbing as we descended back into Volcano, then back up and around and then back to Volcano for a third time. They should have called this ride the Volcano Century since we were there so often. After climbing Rams Horn Grade again, we took the rolling road into Sutter Creek, and then back almost on the same road to Plymouth. I could tell this was a tough course this year because of all the people stopped at the side of the road near the end, leaning up against their bikes and trying to get some energy built back up for the push to the finish. Tina did great and despite the final cruel climb back into Plymouth, she didn’t stop and we got back to the Inn just before 5pm.
After getting cleaned up, we felt a lot better and enjoyed some good “junk” food of a burger for me and a hot dog for Tina at the diner in Jackson. It was a well earned celebration for finishing such a challenging double metric century.
Pictures of the ride are up here.