After a couple of years of hiatus because you know … COVID, the event was back on! It is a nice season opener. By most accounts there are nearly 5,000 cyclists riding various distances. I typically ride the 100 mile version. The climbing is minimal, front-loaded but only 3,000 feet all in. It’s a fast century with lots of pacelines to join or bring your own. Ride time was 5 hours 7 minutes Total Time was 5 hours 30 minutes.
The weather forecast promised to be a warm one, mid 80’s the high. We know it’s the desert and it’s supposed to be warm oh and windy. But living on the coast it is still in the 40’s in the morning and the highs are not more than 60’s for the day. This weekend in all of Southern California, and more importantly this event, was at least 20F warmer than we have been riding in all “winter”.
Typically a ride like this we can do without support and even do it as a NO NO Ride … no stops for any reason. No stops for refueling, No stops for potty breaks and No stops for regrouping. Based on the forecast I went into this event thinking a stop mid-ride and maybe one near the end if it got too hot. I joke to my friends that I am a delicate flower. After many years of racing in the coldest, wettest, windiest or hottest weather I no longer feel the need to suffer like that anymore. Now I like a pleasant 70-75F temperature range to ride and race my bike.
As it turned out, we maintained a good pace throughout the ride and finished before the heat of the day. We made the one stop mid-way about mile 53. We did not have to stop again until the finish. Many riders around me were suffering the last 10-15 miles. I had to share my electrolyte capsules, my fuel and my water with Lori. Lack of fluids was the most common complaint with some experiencing cramping and one rider vomiting sevral times in the home stretch.
You can skip ahead if you are not into data 🙂
I have taken my 5 hour file and split it in two sections. The first section combines Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the ride. The second section is for Phase 3
Phase 1 – is getting though the hundreds upon hundreds of cyclists of varying skill levels. Fitness and speed levels aside, there are sketchy riders who are not experienced at riding in such a large groups. Heck, this is a great first century for riders. You have to be on your toes and your head must be on a swivel. You are passing lots of riders but you have to be aware that you will also be overtaken by much faster riders than yourself. It is wise to yield to the right. Keeping our crew together became too difficult on the first few rollers. Those that could stay-on were lucky enough to do so because it was nearly impossible for me to turn around and look for them. It’s just not safe.
Phase 2 – this is the time we ended up in no man’s land. We have ridden hard enough to be in front of riders. We have been dropped by the really fast groups. Now we are just sitting exposed to the wind with no riders in sight. I mean there were a few here and there but no pacelines. I told the other two riders, Lori and Ray, to ease up and just keep the pedals turning but without putting in too much effort. This would be the Glass Cranks phase. You know if you pedal too hard with cranks made of glass they will shatter lol! The key now is to wait for a good paceline compatible with your abilities coming up behind you. A paceline faster than you are going alone but not too fast. You want to be able to contribute and not be a wheel sucker lol! You want to be able to share in the work and the pacing but not get blown out the back. Eventually we were passed by a good solid paceline and we jumped in.
Phase 3 – just prior to entering the SAG stop we were passed by an even faster paceline and we jumped in. We pulled in to the SAG stop with them. We got to chit chat with our mutual friends that were in this group. We were at the SAG for a little over 10 minutes. We rolled out with them and finished the event with them.
Let’s take a look at the numbers shall we
First 2 hours 43 minutes – 53 miles 189 watts Normalized power (2.8 w/kg)
Heart Rate Avg 149 Max 174
Speed Avg 19.8 mph
Elevation Gain – ~ 2000 feet
Second 50 miles
2 hours 24 minutes 49 miles 161 Watts Normalized Power (2.4 w/kg)
Heart Rate Avg 141 Max 160
Speed Avg 20.5 mph
Elevation Gain – ~ 700 feet
The Key Takeaways
In the first 50 miles there is A LOT of fighting for position, accelerating to pass large groups, accelerating to stay within your group or join other trains that are coming by faster than your group and yes there is some climbing not much but enough to raise your Normalized Power.
On the second half the pace was more sustained without the need for power surges. The riding was steady, smooth and safe. I finished the last 50 breathing through my nose. There were a few pickups here and there and the stopping and starting from traffic lights was a little taxing but we always went back to a steady pace.
All my numbers were lower on the second 50 and yet average speed was higher 20.5 mph vs 19.8 mph. I only look at power while riding. I have no idea what my current speed is at any one time. I also don’t know my average speed until I download. It is not a metric I follow since all my rides have so much climbing that the speed is so slow it’s nothing to write home about 🙂 But since I know a lot of people still don’t ride with power meters I thought I would use a metric well known to all riders.
If you are ever in Southern California in February give this century a go. Escape the cold, rain or even snowbound climates for our deserts. The event is well supported. There are police officers stationed at all the major intersections and you get the right of way. It’s as flat as any Southern California century can ever be.
The secret to riding this event is to go easy at the beginning when everyone is fighting for position. They are fresh and they may be inexperienced with pacing so let those riders go and don’t chase them. Stay within yourself and if you think you are going too hard… YOU ARE slow down. As the first few climbs transition to downhill sections grab a wheel of heavier, wider riders and hang-on for the descent. Then you will have a few sections with tailwinds enjoy those too! Once everything settles down and you are far enough in front of the yahoos find a good compatible paceline to work with and finish the event strong.
My pacing for the event was spot on. I had plenty of power at will on the last 40km. My nutrition was also spot on. I had 1400 calories in my bottles and a few treats in my pockets.
PRO TIP: put the nutrition in your bottles it is very hard to pull food out of your pockets and tear open packages while riding in a 30 person paceline over 25 mph.
You might recall at the beginning of the post I mentioned I was sharing my fuel, water and electrolytes with another rider to ensure they would finish in our selected pack. By the end it was only 5 of us left. We had dropped off passengers especially in the last 20 miles. I did not fade throughout the event and it was my choice to ride at a lower power setting, ride more efficiently and yet ultimately maintain a higher average speed on the back half vs the front half. The rider setting tempo upfront was very strong. He took short breaks and then would resume pulling at the front. I felt safe and kept Lori in this group rather than chase anything faster. My PR for the course is a 4:43 so this pace was much easier than usual.
More graphs just for fun
I am including my peak 20, 30 and 60 minute numbers. Lastly, I thought it would be interesting to section out Phase 2 for those that want a deeper dive into the No Man’s Land data – the Glass Cranks phase lol!
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