Mulholland Century…

Easter is April 12.

The Mulholland Century (and Double for you mileage maniacs) is April 11.

Family is heading to Idyllwild and Palm Springs for an Italian throw-down of epic proportions. New York-style. A can’t miss.

So the question haunting me this morning: Should I blaze a trail to L.A. early under the cover of darkness, log 100 hilly ones for sport, then rest my legs inland? I didn’t have this ride on the calendar, but I’m wholly intrigued with something new, a la Solvang. There’s something great about change that invigorates training.

If you have an opinion on the Mullholland Century and can share, please post a comment here or send email to marketing.bean(at)gmail.com.

The kind people at Planet Ultra say the ride is quite scenic. I’m so very tempted to include it in the build-up to Climb to Kaiser.

There’s a first time for everything.

Doing your first double century…

The Double.

200 miles on the bike.

Usually more than 10 hours in the saddle.

At least once you’ve got to experience it. The distance, hands-down, beats Race Across America (RAAM). If you’ve done 100, why not double it? I’ll never do RAAM. Consider a double the ride for the less insane. 

I did my first double in Solvang, California this past Saturday.

If you’re considering your first, Solvang is perfect. It’s got beauty, variety and a chance to wind up on the flats with the help of a tailwind on parts of the inward 100. It’s got green rolling countryside. It’s got the ocean. It’s even got charming farm towns. Only 7,000 feet of vertical gain. No blazing temps. Minimal traffic. Heaven for cyclists.

But the nicest thing? They call it a double, yet the ride for 2009 penciled out to 193 miles. That’s a 3.5% discount! And it’s acceptable in double century parlance.

Solvang Countryside

Solvang Countryside

I joined about 500 others at the chilly start. I ended up logging a 10:44 for total rolling time on my Garmin. Stopped at each rest stop to replenish fluids and use the facilities. Before the ride, I lucked out and receieved a few pointers fellow cyclist Greg Durbin in Santa Rosa, aka @GregKnottLeMond on Twitter. Although I’ve finished Climb to Kaiser three times (a memorable and potentially harrowing affair), Greg kept me on the straight and narrow with the following for a successful double:

  • Go out easier than you think you should (ride with a group; enjoy the conversation)
  • Post the route sheet on your bike (I bought a handlebar clip for $6; it was worth $100)
  • Eat, drink, repeat. Eat, drink, repeat. Eat, drink, repeat. (Sustained Energy by Hammer, my preference)
  • Sunscreen (a must)
  • Carry more than one spare tube (you never know)
  • Use a heart rate monitor (another way to dose your effort, athough mine fizzled)

I took all the steps, and finished with a smile on my face. I went in pretty scared, mind you. I plan to return next spring, and possibly in this fall. Solvang is one-of-a-kind. The people are as friendly as you’ll find anywhere (right up there with Bend, Oregon, Boulder, Colorado, and Austin, Texas).  Solvangers are also very familiar with cyclists, and welcome them. The Bulldog Cafe is great for just hanging out. The Holiday Inn Express is dandy for $135 a night.

Here are my double century ride splits by chunks of mileage:

Total miles between start, rest stops, and end / Average speeed

41 – 17.8 mph

45 – 18.6 mph

32 – 18.0 mph

29 – 16.5 mph

30 – 20.5 mph

16 – 15.0 mph (steep and rough roadway on Drum Canyon)

My training plan? I averaged 150-240 miles per week since mid-December, and put in 130 hard tempo effort the Sunday before the event. Pre-ride meal night before: Angel hair pasta, glass of Merlot, and a pitcher of water at Trattoria Grapolo in Santa Ynez. Breakfast: Two pouches of Trader Joe’s oatmeal and two strong cups of hotel coffee.

I rode 60 more miles on Sunday in Solvang after the double to keep the legs loose. Also donned a pair of granny support compression socks during my drive back to San Diego. They helped greatly with post ride swelling, circulation and soreness. Yesterday and today, zero. Just resting the legs.

Back on the bike in the a.m., however. Targeting Mullholland Century on April 11, then Breathless Agony May 2. Might have to mix in Heartbreak Hundred May 23. 

Climb to Kaiser is my primary goal on June 27. Perfect timing before July 4 — and Tour de France.

Hope your training is going well, and you reach your marks and season targets, be they Cat. 1/2 racing, or just rolling 200 with good friends.

Common roadside scene for Solvang Double Century

Common roadside scene for Solvang Double Century

Double century…

There’s something about the thought of your first 200-miler that gives you pause. Can you do it?  

It’s like running a marathon for the first time. I never did a 26.2-mile training run before racing 26.2 miles four different times. Very few people do. I’d mix in 18. or 20.

But not the full enchilada — until race day.

In many ways, the same is true with cycling double centuries (for first-timers, anyway). I’ve done 155 miles over tall mountains and searing Central California heat. I’ve ridden to the top of the highest paved road in the U.S. in Colorado (Mt. Evans) at 14,000+ feet. I’ve done plenty of 100-milers alone for fun on the coast and on beyond-category climbs.

But pedaling a double in Solvang and the surrounding beautiful areas still has me nervous tonight.

I guess that’s why we push boundaries. To test ourselves. And go beyond comfort levels. To address fear head-on, and defeat it. 

Breaking barriers is something athletic pursuit does well. You learn more about the journey each time you go outside your zone of protection.

The next chapter starts early Saturday with nearly 500 other riders. The base miles are in my legs. The fitness is sufficient. The mind is calm, the heart ready.

Can’t wait to start pedaling, and feel what it’s like to do a double.

Who will be Astana’s Team Leader for TdF 2009?

Today’s stage in Paris-Nice illustrates two things, depending how you want to view it:

  1. Alberto Contador made a youthful mistake with his “bonk”
  2. Alberto Contador doesn’t have a strong team around him to win the GC in this one-week stage race.

Some observers are already raising the specter Contador doesn’t have sufficient quality riders around him to win the overall GC, and had no option but be left alone to cover a flurry of attacks on a key climb late in the stage.

Is Contador Astana’s No. 1 rider? Did he ride too hard in the previous stage win?

Is Paris-Nice, one of Astana’s goals for a win, or will it be called a good place to learn from mistakes?

Contador has already proven he knows how to win the Grand Tours. Did he and the team under-estimate Paris-Nice?

The sound of passion…

I’ve always hated taping voice mail greetings. Just plain don’t like it. Despise it. 

Why?

Hearing the sound of my voice. I’m never comfortable when faced with it. I suppose that’s why I went into print journalism out of college and not into television or radio. The keyboard has never once recorded my voice, its inflection, or any cracking. It just takes down what my fingertips say. Tap. Tap. Tap.

Recent videos I shot for the Tour of California were exhilirating for me. If I came off a bit crazed, well, to that I plead guilty. Being atop a mountain to which pro bike racers compared to July in France is a reason for any cycling fan to ignite a fire within — and be passionate.

Isn’t that what life is all about? Find something you truly love and cherish it? You know, your spouse? Your children? Friends? Your camera? Your keyboard? Books? Surfboard? Car? Garden?

What’s your passion?

For one week in February, mine surely was a race called Amgen Tour of California.

I hope you are finding and celebrating yours.

Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup all rolled up…

Tomorrow’s the day. It was so damn obvious.

Typical Saturday in February? About 10 serious riders ascend South Grade up the face of Palomar.

Today?

Had to be 200.

I’ve never seen so many bikes on the mountain — ever. They came from everywhere. And more are amassing for Sunday. I met a father-and-son combo from St. Louis. Highest “mountain” in Missouri, according to the Dad? Something like 480 feet. Ouch.

The son was forced to walk up to the summit after blowing up around 4,000 foot elevation, due to gearing more suitable for the flats. The mountain shows no mercy. 

Sunday should be fun at the summit’s 5,120 feet. By 3 p.m. today, campers and tents were positioning on the inside shoulder of the KOM. Front-row seats to witness the strong men.

Cole Grade Road, the final KOM, isn’t getting quite the same hype as Palomar. But most pundits are predicting it will decide the stage winner.

Here’s the tricky part: The initial incline is a false 6%. By that I mean it looks like 6%, but it checks in at more than 10% on the Garmin. The eyes tell you one thing. The legs scream another.

Whoever is in the breakaway group for Stage 8 can take the win if they pound Cole Grade Road and time trial through Valley Center before BOMBING down Lake Wohlford Road. And they will BOMB. I caught a headwind on El Norte Parkway in Escondido after the descent of Lake Wohlford.

Just another wild card in what should be a day of great racing.

My viewing spot? At the highest point, hands down.