The greatest organized ride was the Sierra Century out of Plymouth, CA (RIP 2005.) Never mind that the Sacramento Wheelmen provided great support and the start/ finish/ end-ride meal at the Amador County fairgrounds faux western town was ideal. THE ROUTE WAS FANTASTIC. Nicely paved roads, little traffic, no traffic controls, riding surrounded by Oaks in the low country and Pines in the hills. The long rolling downhill—The “E” ticket Fiddletown Expressway—may be the “funnest” ride ever. Oh yeah, there was “a little climbing” (10,000’ worth on the double metric route,) while most was roller after roller the signature climb was Slug Gulch—not long but steep (4 miles with many double digit sections.)
I actually never did the Century (100 mile) route. I did the metric (60 mile) route numerous times as I heard what a killer Slug Gulch was, Rams Horn Grade was tough enough. After my 2001 accident I was po’d to have never done the Sierra Century, and I skipped wanting to do the 100 mile route, and jumped right in to train for the 2003 DOUBLE METRIC (120 mile) route, which besides being tough had a timed deadline. It was great doing the ride, but it was just as much of a wonderful adventure riding in the Gold Country to get familiar with the course, and to hit Slug Gulch before the event. On metric training rides we’d do the course backwards so that Slug Gulch would be hit in the morning at mile 25 instead of in the heat of the afternoon at mile 75, and then tack on pieces of the 120 mile course. The Sacramento Wheelmen kept the bonus portion of the course a secret as they didn’t want folks arriving after a cutoff doing it—so we guessed riding through the El Dorado National Forest (correct) and going up Hwy 88 for a 1/4 mile to Cook Station, elevation 5,000’ (incorrect, but wound up being a great rest stop.)
The metric ride turned out to be so great I’d do it numerous times afterwards.
In 2007 we did the metric as a Diablo Cyclist ride and folks were upset when the great ride ended. So in 2008 we added a run down to Sutter Creek and back to get the ride to 100 miles. This worked out great—even with Joe and I leaving the group to do the pernicious Charleston Grade (think of 1 mile of 3 sections as steep or steeper than the Mt. Diablo ramp.)
So on Memorial Day Weekend 2009 we again did the Plymouth Sierra Century. We had a nice group, and it fell in as a great training ride for climbing doubles or the Death Ride.
From Plymouth we again started out “backwards” (we’d leave out the flatter parts of the old Sierra Century) and headed through the Shenandoah Valley. Luckily our best climber, Joe, and our most aggressive rider, Rusty, had their girlfriends Jen & Sarah on the ride so they had to be on good behavior and stay close to the group. Tall Tom and Mountain Bike Racer Jason would leap out often but slow when the road forked and they weren’t sure which way we were going. Death Ride vet Johnna (riding a 11×23) and Death Ride rookie Christina using this as a training ride, and Sacto Doug who was a fellow doubles triple crown rookie in 2005 and had since moved away came down to join us. Rounding out the group was Ward and Jack, who helped keep everyone pointed in the right direction, and Brother Vic riding tempo all day.
“Fun” was over climbing Slug Gulch, I still get a rush rolling down Perry Creek Road and spotting the sharp left turn and yelling out “gear down, gear down,” same advise I originally got but you can’t gear down enough when you turn and hit the 18%+ wall. Our group did great and loved the Omo Ranch School rest stop (one of the nicest settings on any ride,) the tranquil ride through the El Dorado National Forest, and then nice lunch stop at Cooks Station. It did take us half a day to get to mile 37 but, so far, this whole ride had been climbing.
Now the fun began—a fast few miles down Highway 88, turn onto downhill rollers on Shake Ridge Road. Passing Fiddletown Rusty/ Sarah took the metric option and we all continued on to Sutter Creek, one of the most picturesque Gold Rush towns, at mile 62. Then one of the nicest climbs, 12 miles to the quiet town of Volcano, where we tried attacking young Jason to no avail, later he complained that he was trying to get back into shape.
I did offer to ride up Charleston (harder than Slug Gulch) with Jason but he declined, and I really wasn’t that thrilled to do it either—so no Charleston this year. So then the group went up Rams Horn Grade and finally go to the Fiddletown Speedway, with fast downhill rollers. Ward and I went hard here—knowing that we benefited by the absence of perennial Fiddletown Speedway champ Big Mike, and Rusty who took out this section last year.
Last year we took the relatively flat road back from Fiddletown but this year we kept true to the old Sierra Century and did one more climb up Ostrum Road, where you could see some fatigue starting to set in for some of the riders. On the other hand it was great riding though the vineyards, and everyone looked real happy except for our old friend in Sacramento who is working too much in lieu of cycling. 104 miles, 9,300 climbing, with stops at Pioneer Park, Fairplay; Omo Ranch School; Cooks Station; Sutter Creek; Volcano and Fiddletown. MY FAVORITE CENTURY OF THE YEAR.
Jay (Full ride report with more photos on GRUPPO PUMPKINCYCLE site, click links below)