"World's Toughest Century"

Discussion in 'rec.bicycles.rides archive' started by Kendall, Mar 4, 2003.

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  1. Kendall

    Kendall Guest

    Anybody done one of these rides, World's Toughest Century in Auburn CA.


    It appears to include some brutal climbs, but can you vouch for the organization and support. This
    looks like a private for profit thing put on by Bradventures?

    I haven't been able to get in the Death Ride or RAMROD lotteries yet so we are looking for


    Ken Stover

  2. Terry Morse

    Terry Morse Guest

  3. I have not yet tried, but wanted to last year... I will try some training up there this year though.

    This was posted here back in September (ride review below)... A full ride review, thanks Gerald
    Steiner, a very nice ride review!

    Support seems sparse at best! I was going to try it though (probably not be able to handle the
    superstar though!). Am having the same problems with Death Ride Reg! Might try this one this year...
    http://www.shastahome.com/summit-century/default.htm Looks interesting, and new terain can be good!
    I think this is its 7th year?

    Ride review posted on rec.bicycles.rides on Sep. 17th 2002 It was billed as "The World's Toughest
    Century." Brought to my attention by a friend, this ride took place on September 14, 2002 out of
    Auburn, CA. From the course description on the web site (see
    http://www.worldstoughest.com/wtcenturyhome.html) and my experiences on other rides in the same
    general vicinity as this route, I knew this had all the makings of an epic day in the saddle. I left
    the Bay Area at 8 PM on Friday, headed up to stay with Steve, one of my riding buddies in
    Sacramento. I struggled out of bed at 4:15 AM and tiptoed upstairs hoping not to disturb Steve's
    family. He is the consummate host and so I was greeted by freshly brewed Peet's coffee, bagels and
    cereal. By 5 we had picked up Wayne, another riding friend. The three of us have been riding events
    together for years. This year, we did 4 passes at the Death Ride in July (we've done 5 in years
    past) and then the Tour of Napa Valley century out of Yountville just 3 weeks ago. We were so
    organized we found ourselves at the start in Auburn before 6 AM and hit the road at 6:30.

    The first 20 miles were mostly uphill to Foresthill on well-paved roads with generally good
    shoulders. The elevation gain over this stretch was about 2,000'. A highlight was screaming down out
    of Auburn to cross the Auburn-Foresthill Bridge, a magnificent span towering hundreds of feet above
    the American River canyon. Steve, Wayne and I took turns setting a moderate pace up the gradual
    climbs. All of us ride Litespeeds (different models), so that generated numerous wisecracks from
    fellow cyclists about "Team Litespeed," etc. We're used to it, so no big deal! Steve has had some
    knee trouble recently, so he eased up while Wayne and I motored along with some dude in a yellow
    jersey who sat on our wheels for miles. When he finally came around, he immediately upped the pace
    and Wayne and I let him go. Too early to be hammering on the climbs. This guy was classic -- happy
    to let us work and no interest in repaying the favor. Oh well, the testosterone level on this ride
    was pretty high, so it's not surprising that we encountered that kind of behavior.

    After consulting our little laminated course maps, we were aware of the first rest stop after a
    right turn onto Mosquito Ridge Road. Lots of energy stuff (Clif bars, Clif shots, Revenge drinks),
    but, in a scenario that was repeated all too often on the day, there was very little real food to
    munch on. Just some dried fruit, pretzels and candy. Steve rolled in and we topped off our tanks and
    then began an incredible plunge into the Middle Fork American River canyon on a completely deserted
    road. For me, this goes down as one of the all-time great descents. Something like 6 miles down a
    curling ribbon of asphalt hewn into the canyon wall. The gradient and camber were so perfect that I
    almost never had to touch my brakes. I slipped into a hypnotic rhythm of slaloming down the turns,
    one side to the next, letting my leading leg pull me into the arcs, leaning the bike over gently to
    swoop around the bends. The sun had crested the high canyon walls and dappled the greenery cloaking
    the sheer granite faces as the road swung in and out of the sun with the temperature changing 10-15
    degrees in just seconds. It was surreal!

    I had escaped from Wayne and Steve (those technical plunges down Mt. Diablo on training rides have
    improved my descending skills) and so I pulled over near the bottom after a big sweeping curve to
    check their progress. As I looked back, there was nothing but sun-drenched foliage across a little
    ravine and the road was invisible. Suddenly, Wayne appeared around a corner, his green and blue
    jersey shimmering brilliantly in the morning light as he blasted down the road. As he caught me, he
    had one of those toothy grins that wouldn't have been out of place on a little boy who had just
    solved the lid to the cookie jar. We finally hit the false bottom, crossed a bridge, and then began
    a 500' climb that curled up-canyon, turned a corner and then fell away to a junction with Ralston
    Ridge Road, where a right hander led down a very steep road headed for the true bottom of the
    canyon. Another 2 miles of almost constant braking brought us to Oxbow Reservoir and the rest stop
    just before the Corkscrew Wall, advertised in advance as the toughest climb on the century route.

    There was a clothing drop, so we stripped off arm warmers and vests and had some more energy food.
    Again, there were no bagels or muffins or more natural foods with which to refuel, just processed
    gels and bars. Well, after all the tales of the Corkscrew Wall, I must say our trepidation meters
    were bordering on overload. My heart was hammering with anticipation and we had not even begun the
    climb. Just as we straddled our bikes and prepared to depart, another of my Sacramento buddies
    rolled up in his red Isuzu truck. A victim of a broken collarbone in an accident on the American
    River bike trail in Sacramento several weeks ago, Paul could not ride but was there to offer moral
    support and take pictures. He sped up the road to search out a good vantage point from which to
    capture the suffering for posterity. We clipped in, shifted down, and began the ascent of the
    Corkscrew Wall. Our lowest gears were 39-27 and we were in the big sprocket immediately. As
    advertised, the grade was unrelenting, but not ridiculously steep. I would say it was a pretty
    steady 12-15% with a few short ramps that were steeper. Steve soon dropped back as his knee began to
    feel the brunt of the grade. Wayne and I always pace each other well and so we settled into a kind
    of rhythm, alternating in and out of the saddle to ease our backs and gain extra power on the
    steeper stuff. My breathing was hard, but controlled and I was in a very good place mentally after
    thinking about doing this climb for 3 weeks. Just then, we turned a corner and up ahead was Paul
    with a camera on a tripod and Grateful Dead tunes spilling from his truck. Duly inspired, Wayne and
    I rose out of the saddle and grimaced for the photos. The Wall finally turned a corner of the
    ridgeline and eased off momentarily, and then the Corkscrew began. I thought it was harder than the
    Wall because it seemed to go on and on in serpentine twists up the ridge. Near the top there was a
    bend to the left and then it got very steep. My legs were absolutely screaming by this point and so
    I got out of the saddle again and finally managed to crawl up the last ramp to the rest stop. That
    was 2,000' in 3.7 miles per the route map. Wayne joined me about a minute later and Steve was at
    least 5 minutes behind. He had discovered the source of his knee problems: a portion of his Look
    cleat had broken and so his foot was slopping around in the pedal and unclipping at the most
    inopportune times. How he managed to surmount that S.O.B. of a climb with such a major equipment
    failure is beyond me.

    We took a long break and realized that we were only 38 miles into this adventure and it was time to
    get going again. Next followed a long gradual climb up the ridge, but the grade was very manageable
    and we could enjoy the absolute solitude and lack of cars in this remote area. After a fork to the
    right onto Blacksmith Flat Road, there was a lengthy downhill. This involved more dodging in and out
    of shady alcoves on weaving roads. It would have been fun except that the pavement surface here was
    in poor condition with many potholes. The ride organizer chalked a lot of these - a monumental
    effort, I am sure, but he did not mark all of them so it took real vigilance to not smash a rim. The
    road finally bottomed out at another bridge over the river. Paul was there with his vehicle, so we
    dismounted and posed for a photo before assaulting what was billed as a "sneaky" 500'
    climb. Well, after feeling great on the Corkscrew Wall, I was surprised to find myself having to
    dig deep again on another nasty ascent. Once again, there were some steep ramps and the
    lactic burn in my legs was tremendous. I got out of the saddle time and again and rolled
    past one guy who was cursing audibly as we finally rose over the crest and dropped down
    another ravine on 11 Pines Road. I wish I could tell you more about the scenery. It was
    beautiful, green and cool even this late in the year. The shade was an absolute life-saver.
    I cannot imagine having to do some of these climbs in full sun exposure on a hot afternoon.
    At the bottom, the road crossed another creek and passed a water stop at mile 51. There was
    no one working at the stop. Instead, there were boxes of Clif bars and large jugs of water
    just sitting on the side of the road. Riders began to appear from behind us and soon there
    was a group of about 15 people - all guys - standing at the roadside and beginning to grouse
    about lack of support. Again, no real food here and my stomach was beginning to rebel
    against the endless onslaught of Clif shots. One guy pleaded for an Advil. Another guy
    started asking how much more climbing there was. There was a lot of negativity in the air.
    Paul was there again and asked Steve if he wanted to bag it, given his aching knee and
    broken cleat. No way.

    Remounting our bikes, we began a gradual 2.5 mile climb up yet another ridge. Wayne and I rode
    together and made small talk about anything but climbing hills on bikes. This area was so remote it
    was almost scary. There were no people, no facilities, and no signs of human presence at all except
    for the road meandering through the flora. The road forked to the right and we reached the crest of
    the ridge at an elevation of about 5,000'. Next came another raging descent of about 5 miles down
    into the canyon of the Rubicon River. There were 2 riders in front of Wayne and me and so we simply
    followed their path down the plunging tarmac. The descent was not too technical but did require some
    care as the road dipped in and out of the shade and turned down some rather abrupt little declines.
    At the bottom we crossed the Rubicon River Bridge and began climbing immediately. The route map
    described this as a "brutal 5 mile 1,500 climb to Uncle Tom's Cabin," some obscure landmark out in
    the middle of this vast emptiness. By now, it was around noon and the sun was high in the sky. This
    climb was more exposed than others we had done and the combination of heat, lack of food and the
    accumulated pounding our legs had taken on the climbs began to extract a heavy toll.

    Wayne and I climbed together again, saying nothing as we tried to conserve as much energy as
    possible. I sat on Wayne's wheel and just mindlessly spun my 39-27. A couple of people passed us,
    looking way too fresh for this deep into the ride. They barely said "hi" as they blew by. The climb
    seemed to go on forever. Wayne began to pull away. I watched him go, then rose out of the saddle and
    clicked into my 24 to try and regain contact. Bad idea. Back into the 27 and focus on a consistent
    pedal stroke. Wayne disappeared into the trees and I was alone. After 10 minutes of this, the grade
    lessened considerably and it was clear we were reaching the top of the climb. An aid station was
    ahead and I looked forward to replenishing my water bottles and getting some fuel for the engine.
    The people at the aid station were running out into the road and gesturing. Turns out the next
    stretch of the ride was on Wentworth Springs Road where there was a major repaving project underway.
    Cars (and bike riders) could only proceed behind a pilot car, which left every 30 minutes. The car
    was just leaving, so the choices were follow it now, or wait a half hour. I saw Wayne make the turn
    and head down the road. I grabbed one Clif Shot, and, in a fateful decision, skipped the water as I
    blew past and tagged on to the end of the group being led down the road. This was the highest
    elevation point of the ride. I looked vainly for Uncle Tom's Cabin as I swung into the line. Guess
    it'll have to wait until the next time I go through here . . .

    The route descended down fresh pavement along the ridgeline and boy was it suddenly different.
    Instead of silence and greenery, there were now many cyclists grouped together, cars everywhere and
    worst of all, double-trailer paving trucks that were roaring up and down the road with many of the
    drivers apparently believing it was good sport to see how close they could come to clipping cyclists
    and knocking them into the canyon. We crossed the dam road at Wentworth Springs Reservoir on a
    stretch that was essentially gravel and potholes - repaving hadn't gotten this far yet. The guy in
    front of me flatted, stopped immediately and I swerved to avoid him. We gingerly crossed the
    remainder of the dam road and got back onto good road. Looking back at the course map, it says there
    was a water stop here, but I did not pause to look, nor did I see any other cyclists pulling over.
    My bad if I just missed it, but it wasn't very obvious. The basically straight road that followed
    made descending a breeze and I soon caught Wayne in the middle of the cluster of riders. The road
    then hit a steep quarter mile rise that shattered the group. Wayne got away from me again and I let
    him go, preferring my own pace. As I crested the climb I took stock of my personal situation. I was
    at about mile 72, had no food and half a bottle of water. The temps had soared into the mid-80's in
    full sunshine. My right foot was aching terribly and not stopping at the previous aid station was
    now clearly a regrettable lapse in judgment. I managed to suck it up and re-focus on descending and
    caught a rider I had chatted with on one of the early climbs. As I could feel the beginnings of a
    major bonk coming on, I asked this guy if he could spare any energy food. He had a Clif Bar he
    generously gave me and I inhaled that sucker in no time. The road began to roll up and down a
    little, but was mostly descending as I rolled into the outskirts of Georgetown, but I did not
    realize I was almost in this little town. I pulled over at a closed PUC office because I spied a
    water spigot in front. I filled my bottles, massaged my foot and climbed back on. Three minutes
    later I was in Georgetown and saw Wayne and Paul at a small market. I had no money, but Paul
    generously gave me some cash and I slammed a Gatorade and a bag of Fritos. The thought of a Power
    Bar made my stomach turn! All I wanted was salt - my jersey was caked with white stains from all the
    perspiration generated on the climbs. As we lounged in front of the store, every cyclist who came
    down the road stopped and went inside. It was clear that we were not the only ones to rue the lack
    of food and water over the previous miles.

    There were 20 miles left. After waiting for Steve for 15 minutes and not seeing him, we saddled up
    and hopped on to Highway 193 headed toward Cool. The paving trucks were still omnipresent and
    dangerous. A steep descent was followed by a series of rollers. On even the smallest climbs now I
    was in my 27 just to keep the pedals turning over. On one tiny rise that was not notable for any
    reason whatsoever, my left quadriceps began to cramp. I shifted positions and then my left calf
    went. Just when I thought I was going to have to climb off to stretch, we topped the rise and,
    without the stress of the grade, the cramps disappeared. Wayne and I took turns working into the
    slight headwind and rolled in to the final rest stop at mile
    97. By my accounting, it had been 35 miles since a visibly staffed and well-marked aid station and I
    have to say that was an inexcusable lapse in support for such a tough ride. The fare was pretty
    pathetic: peanut butter, jam, bread and - yes - more Clif Shots. We ate a little, noted with
    some disgust the absence of restroom facilities, and then took off.

    We reached the junction with busy Highway 49 at the town of Cool and dropped down the final steep
    descent to the American River. The traffic was very heavy and so Wayne and I took the lane to
    prevent cars from passing. We had to brake the entire way down to stay off the bumpers of the
    vehicles in front of us. At the bottom of the ravine, we faced one last climb of 2 miles and 700'
    back up to Auburn. I hated every inch of this stretch, not just because I already had over 100 miles
    in my legs, but because the traffic was constant, the shoulder non-existent and the air was hot and
    heavy, smoldering under the brunt of the sun that had now sunk lower in the sky. I pulled slowly
    away from Wayne and finally rolled to a stop at the signal at the top of the climb. Wayne joined me
    in seconds and we turned into the streets of Auburn, finally pulling ecstatically into the parking
    lot at ride's end with feelings of satisfaction being completely overwhelmed by a sense of relief.

    There was a keg of Foster's beer and we had some of that while changing out of our absolutely rank
    cycling gear and waiting for Steve to show up. Broken cleat and all, we had no doubt that his
    tenacity would drive him to finish the ride. We were not mistaken as he rolled up a few minutes
    later. We handed him a Foster's and then returned to the registration area to collect our T-shirts
    and munch on pizza. The general consensus amongst us was that this was tougher than 4 passes at the
    Death Ride (88 miles and about 12,000' of climbing on that event in the high Sierras). It was also
    the hardest century we'd ever done, so no false advertising there. People rolled in looking pretty
    shell-shocked, but I must say I've never seen a stronger group of riders. The ride support was
    spotty. I know the logistics surrounding this course made support really tough and the organizer did
    absolutely the best he could. Part of the problem was my own mistake in blowing past the rest stop
    before the paving project, but having nothing for the next 35 or so miles was ugly to say the least.

    What an odyssey. The numbers:

    Ride start 6:30 AM Ride time 7:47:17 Distance 106.50 miles Avg. speed 13.68 mph Max. Speed 50.0 mph
    Climbing 12,300' Ride end 4:30 PM

    Another review here: http://felixwong.com/openroad/worlds_toughest_century02.html

    Kendall wrote:
    > Anybody done one of these rides, World's Toughest Century in Auburn CA.
    > http://www.worldstoughest.com/wtcenturyhome.shtml#bm1
    > It appears to include some brutal climbs, but can you vouch for the organization and support. This
    > looks like a private for profit thing put on by Bradventures?
    > I haven't been able to get in the Death Ride or RAMROD lotteries yet so we are looking for
    > alternatives.
    > TIA,
    > Ken Stover
  4. "Kendall" <ckensto(nospam)@comcast.net> wrote in message
    news:<[email protected]>...
    > Anybody done one of these rides, World's Toughest Century in Auburn CA.
    > http://www.worldstoughest.com/wtcenturyhome.shtml#bm1
    > It appears to include some brutal climbs, but can you vouch for the organization and support. This
    > looks like a private for profit thing put on by Bradventures?
    > I haven't been able to get in the Death Ride or RAMROD lotteries yet so we are looking for
    > alternatives.
    > TIA,
    > Ken Stover

    Another poster mentioned the Climb to Kaiser, which is a very good event. I can also add the Mt.
    Shasta Super Century, http://www.shastahome.com/summit-century/. It is every bit as hard as the
    Death Ride and very well supported.

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