Sunday, April 29 in Chico, California:
On Saturday after finishing the Top Hat Classic, I drove from Pleasanton to Auburn to meet my father Barry & sister Emily, then we drove to Chico, got registered, and set up camp at the fairgrounds. There was an interesting juxtaposition of country folk & cyclists with expensive steeds. At the arena, there was some sort of monster car jumping thing going on, and we kept hearing the announcer trying to get the audience to chant “WE WANT AIR!” followed by the roaring of what sounded like a very large engine. Thankfully this had ended by the time we returned from dinner at the Olive Garden (it was prom night, and there was a ridiculous stretch Suburban limo – guess the normal Suburbans aren’t big enough for some folks!).
We awoke on Sunday morning at 5:15 and wandered around in search of food – none was to be found! I was surprised that at a ride as well-known as the Wildflower there was no breakfast bagels/yogurt/coffee/juice. I ate a Clif Bar and we headed out. The ride started off with a long, gentle climb to get warmed up (it was pretty chilly at 6am!) then proceeded along some lovely rolling terrain, past a covered bridge, and to the first major climb, Honey Run Rd. The map (printed on a bandana – clever!) said it was 1500′ in 5.5 miles, which didn’t sound very bad at all. After about 3 miles of rolling hills, I was going “uh-oh…” and was soon rewarded with the real climb. It wasn’t a real killer, but it wasn’t all that easy either, especially with 57 miles fresh in my legs from the Top Hat the previous day! There was a lot of chalk writing on the road, which provided for some entertainment. Annoyingly however, there also was a lot of white supremacy/nazi crap – yuk Honey Run wound its way up from a valley with great views of a red’ish butte on the other side.
After the climb up Honey Run it was a short jaunt to the first rest stop in Paradise. There they had yummy muffins & breads galore and one of the worst sports drinks I have ever had (the name escapes me at the moment but it was truly awful). I drank a large bottle of it anyways, because I hadn’t had any breakfast other than a Clif bar and needed the nutrients.
The ride turned downward for the next 10 miles or so before hitting some rolling hills on the way to Table Mountain. I was feeling pretty good at this point, so I went ahead of Barry and Emily and waited for them periodically and took a lot of pictures. I got to the second rest stop at a nice park near Oroville, got some sports drink (same brand as the awful stuff from the first stop, but this flavor wasn’t bad at all – peach I think it was) and muffins and waited for Barry and Emily to arrive. And waited … and waited … and waited. I was starting to worry, since I hadn’t left Barry and Emily very far behind, so I called Barry on his cellphone. Turns out they had assumed that I was going to skip the second rest stop, so they did too! At this point they were a number of miles ahead of me, so I decided to hammer out and catch them. Either I was hammering too hard to notice or it was poorly-marked, but I completely blew past a turn (it should have had someone at it, as it wasn’t at all obvious), taking 4 people with me (silly them thinking I knew where I was going!). After a mile or so, a truck drove by and shouted “wrong way!”, so we stopped and looked at our bandana maps and asked at a gas station and turned around and found the turn we’d missed. I was even further behind Barry and Emily now, so I kept up the pace on some nice rollers along Lake Oroville. The climb up Cherokee Rd, while not too terribly steep (1000′ in 5ish miles, most of the climbing at the end), was rather painful from having been going all out for the past 15 miles or so, so I gave up on catching them quickly and slowed considerably.
At the top of Cherokee (on top of Table Mountain), Barry and Emily were waiting for me and I ran into fellow SunSpots Denise & Catherine. We all rode together for the remainder of the ride. It was then a fun, twisty (and bumpy!) downhill pretty much all of the way to the lunch stop.
At the lunch stop (60’ish miles in), Catherine and Emily were feeling rather fatigued (this was Emily’s second organized ride, and by far her longest – way to go Emmy!), and didn’t want to do the full century. Conveniently, the mechanic at the lunch stop was one of the people Denise and Catherine were staying with in Chico, so Catherine got directions for a shortcut. I’d have been happy to do the full century route, but nobody else wanted to do it, and Denise & Catherine’s hosts in Chico said the last 20 miles or so was rather boring flat roads through orchards with icky headwinds, so I decided to stay with everybody. Oddly, the only non-water drink they had at lunch was hibiscus iced tea – I would have liked to have had cytomax, gatorgag, gookinade, or some other more sportsy drink…
After lunch, we rode on some more rolling hills back towards Chico. It was fairly windy, so Denise and I tried to form a double-paceline to help out, but it didn’t hold together very well, probably because most of us weren’t used to riding in pacelines (myself included). We were behind two other riders for a while and noticed their pace was steadily dropping. Apparently it was a father & son and the father was getting very tired, so we towed them along until our shortcut diverged from the full century route. Our shortcut was remarkably straightforward, and shaved about 22 miles off of the length of the ride for a total of 82 miles (including my 2 “bonus” miles).
Denise and Catherine returned to their friends’ home, while Emily, Barry, and I returned to the fairgrounds, broke camp, and had some food at the ride end.
The ride pointed out to me that I need to work on hills more – the 2 major climbs (and one minor’ish one) really put the hurt on me (though having ridden 57 mi the day before surely didn’t help that!). The Wildflower is aptly-named – they were _everywhere_ along the roadside. I’d never been to Chico before – what a beautiful area it is. Table Mountain is gorgeous. The jerseys are among the nicest I’ve seen, as I’d hoped (couldn’t decide which design I liked best, so I got both :). I’ll definitely be doing this ride again! My only gripes (minor) are the lack of food at the start (I’d at least have like to have known about that so I could have prepared!) and the poorly-labeled turnoff onto Cherokee Rd.
|Total Time:||9h 14m|
|On-bike Time:||6h 29m|
|Total Climbing:||~3500 ft|