With last year's very hot Canyon Classic Century still fresh on the mind, I watched the weather reports like never before leading up to this year's ride. Thankfully, the forecast called for a high of only 90°, pretty chilly compared to last year's high of 107°! It had been a couple of years since I have completed a 100 mile ride so I woke up with more than just a few butterflies rumbling around in my belly. I arrived at the school in Patterson at 5:45 in the morning and hit the road a little after 6:00.
One of the things I love about this ride is the climbing, early in the day. I headed out completely ignoring the well marked roads and just rode my own way out of town (barely adding any distance, and a mistake fully credited to nerves). After just a couple of miles I met up with some other riders and started the ascent up Del Puerto Canyon Road.
After the first stop at Frank Raines Park I met Don Blount, the managing editor for The Record. I have read about his cycling and heard that he was pretty strong. I rode with him for about 5 or 6 miles. Don is an incredibly strong rider so there was no way I was going to stay with him long. He graciously bid me farewell and disappeared into the distance.
A few miles after Frank Raines Park came the dreaded wall. I know every climb has it's own "wall", but this one is truly my least favorite. It just seems to go on and on. I have biked these roads a lot and still, every time, they trick me. Just when I think I'm feeling great, BAM! Out comes the wall. It's a hard right turn and then you see it... a climb more menacing that the last hundred feet of Mt. Diablo... and it just goes on and on! I eventually survived the climb, knowing it would be the hardest of the day and refilled my bottles at the junction before heading down Mines Road into Livermore.
After the junction I met up with Jeff, a triathlete from the Sonoma/Napa area. He was about 10 years older than I was and in better shape than I had been even 10 years ago.
We stopped and had a quick lunch at the Livermore rest stop before making the trek back to Patterson. It started to get warm on the last 30 miles but the constant reminding of myself the misery of last year made today's heat manageable.
Jeff proved to be a great match for me and we rode the last 70 miles of the day together. We had the benefit of some favorable tail winds on the return trip from Livermore and occasionally took turns pulling one another through the rough spots.
Once again, the Modesto North Rotary put on an awesome ride. The volunteers were awesome at every stop and out on the road. The course is challenging and the organizers get extra points for arranging some great weather. All that and some of the best post-ride food at any of the local centuries!
5,289 feet of climbing