LA Wheelman Grand Tour-Double Time!

I did it! My first Double Century! This is very long winded, but there are a few pics to break it up. So get comfy, here’s how it went down.

The LA Wheelman Grand Tour. Just the name makes it sound like a long ride. This ride has been happening for 52 years, and there is no sign of it slowing. I saw club jerseys from all over. People from Arizona, Mt. Shasta, Davis and even Covina (Born and raised)! They have 5 different ride options depending on your preference. They breakdown like this. 100, 2-200s, 200k, 300 and 400 mile options. I signed up for the harder of the 2-200mile options.

As I’ve said before, riding the distances that I’ve been riding lately is tough. Physically sure, but I’m married, and the time away from Serbrina adds up fast. So I try to include her as much as I can, or more importantly, as much as she wants to be included. So far it seems to be working well for us. She’s on board with my goals for this year and next, and has been supportive all the way. Our plan was for her to drive me out to Malibu for the start, in the early morning. Then I’d call her when I was heading down the coast, so she could meet me at the finish. Easy enough, but I wanted to leave at the earliest roll out, which was 4:30am. That meant getting up by 3am and out the door quick for the hour long drive to Malibu. Well, it sounded easy, but it wasn’t. She wasn’t feeling well in the morning, so I wasn’t sure that I should even go myself. I hate to leave her when she’s not feeling well, but she was adamant. Go ride your damn ride! I have to admit it though, I was looking for any reason to climb back in bed.

I checked in and got my cue sheet ready. There was a sticker with a number/barcode that you attached to your helmet. Then you got in line and were scanned in. The good part was that it allowed to leave whenever you were ready. The thing I didn’t think about was that now the clock was ticking, but I still had to make a pitstop, and there was a line. Oh well, about 10 mins later I was on the road.

The first leg was 26 miles up Highway 1 to Port Hueneme. I’d ridden part of this stretch back in February on the Santa Barbara 300k. There are some rollers right out of the gate, and then on the return they are there to welcome you back too. I grabbed the wheels of a group passing and we were able to make great time all the way to Port Hueneme. We averaged 18mph for that first leg. That was a pretty good pace for me.

About 8 miles before Port Hueneme I started to have a problem. The valve on the front tire started leaking air. I noticed it while I was in the paceline, so I hung at the back. I just wanted to make it to Port Hueneme, as there was more shoulder room there. I was able to get more air in the tire, but it would leak out as I unscrewed my Lezyne pump. The valve assembly was unscrewing from the valve stem. I would get it pumped up, but then it would be worse once I got the pump off. Damn. I had a spare tire, but I didn’t want to give in on this one yet. I still had many more miles to go. I was able to get enough air in, and get rolling again. The other issue was that my tire was deformed. I had never noticed it before, maybe because I had more weight on previous rides, but it was slightly out of round. With every turn of the wheel I could feel it. I knew that at only mile 27 or so, it was going to get old really fast, and it did. Nothing to do about it now, just push on. So I did.

I checked in at the first rest stop, topped off my fluids, adjusted the cue sheet and I was rolling again. The climb up Potrero Rd was the first challenge. I was able to grab onto some more wheels and a pretty large group made it to the base of the climb. I’d ridden the reverse of the this leg on the New Moon Century, except this direction went up the hill. It started out steep, then moderate, then really steep. Grades of 17% that seemed to go on and on. If you looked up you could see the road snaking above you. I’m not the fastest climber, but if I use the triple I can usually make it without stopping. Not this time. I stopped twice, although once was to take a picture, so does that one count?

After the summit there was some rest, another checkpoint and then some more climbing. For a good section of this leg I rode with a fellow randonneur. He’s already finished the SR series this year and I believe the triple crown series too! I can’t remember his name though. I hope he reads this, as it was great passing the time with him. Chatting with someone always makes the miles pass more quickly. After 20 miles or so we made it to Moorpark. The rest stops were evenly spaced and well stocked. The Moorpark stop was also the turn around point for some riders. I took advantage of a floor pump and topped off the front tire. I had to use some pliers to tighten the stem again, but it held the rest of the day.

Most of the rest stops were shared by the riders on the different ride options. After the rest stop in Moorpark I caught up with Chris, who I met at the SLO 300k. He was riding the 200k option ride, and I believe he was already halfway done. He had ridden the Highland route before so he gave me an idea of what to expect from each climb. We parted ways just before the start of the climb up Grimes Canyon. The climb up was a slow grind, but the descent was a lot of fun. Tight switchbacks and you can see the road below you. You can see in this pic the elevation change. Only 1 turn to get from here to there.

At the bottom of Grimes Canyon is the Fillmore/Santa Paula area. Riding through the groves was nice, although the headwind was tough at times. I was able to grab onto another group, which included Isabel I think, and we rolled into Santa Paula. I was getting tired as the climb started towards Ojai. A local rider I chatted with told me what to expect up the road and pointed me towards a park and water before it really kicked up. There was a large family reunion happening, and they have at the same place every year. So every year they offer food/water/snacks to the riders on the Grand Tour. They were all so welcoming and I felt bad turning down all the offers of food. The food smelled great and if I would’ve taken them up on some food I would’ve had to bum a ride home I think. I didn’t want to leave. Our lunch stop was on the other side of this mountain though, so I had a good motivator to ride.

I made it to lunch and enjoyed a half a sandwich, some pasta salad and a Sunkist. That soda tasted so good, but I had to keep going. One thing that I noticed about this ride, was that I never felt like I was rushed. I don’t know why that is really. I think part of it must be my pace increasing, so I have more of a time cushion. Although, the cushion doesn’t mean anything, as I’m only racing my own times. Times that don’t even compare because they aren’t from the same courses. It does feel good though, to know that I’m getting faster, and I still feel that I have much more room for improvement.

After lunch there was only one climb left. The climb up to and around Lake Casitas. I had filled up my water at the lunch stop, but about 7 miles down the road I realized that I had not added any Heed to the water. That’s where a checklist would’ve saved me. (Thanks for the idea Dodger). Having never done a supported ride with the LA Wheelman, I didn’t know what to expect at the rest stops. So I carried my own supply of Heed and Perpetuem. I guess that’s the brevet training right? It was not needed however, because the rest stops had everything you would want/need. The only problem is when you don’t use them, as was the case now. So I was glad that I had my own stash with me, but slightly frustrated with myself for rushing out of the lunch stop earlier. I’m still learning how to do everything I need to do at the stops and get back rolling as soon as possible. Things still get overlooked from time to time.

The climb up Casitas was steeper than I remember it. It probably had a little to do with the fact that it was 120 miles in. I had a nice ride up with a group of 3 riders from Davis though. One of them was on a ‘bent and he knew of the Team Bent Up and their success at RAAM this year. Getting over that last climb felt great, and it wasn’t long before I was at the coast and the rest stop. They had a box of Krispy Kreme donuts there and I couldn’t resist eating one before I left. It was at this stop that I realized I was doing pretty good time wise, even with all the climbing. With only 60 miles to go I was on my way home now.

Something happened once I was on the coast. My HR was down, but my legs felt stronger than ever. I was bookin’ down the coast, even catching and passing some people. I made it to Port Hueneme for the final rest stop and check in. I had to take some time to apply some more cream to the rear. I’m not having much luck with my Brooks. I think, like Steve, that it’s time to try out the Selle An-atomica saddle. The next goal for me is the 400k, and while I think my legs can make it, I don’t think my rear can. Ouch!

Leaving Port Hueneme I ran into Jim from the SLO 300k. We chatted for a few miles about the day, he had ridden the Lowland Double, and how we were feeling. He wasn’t feeling too well, so he took some time to rest, but I pressed on. I was trying to beat my 300k time to mile 189.

I was time-trialing down the coast, trying to keep my head down as much as I could. I ended up making it to mile 189 in 14hrs 25mins. 20 mins faster than the 300k! Then I kept pushing on to the end. My final time was 14hrs 57mins. I managed to get in just under 15 hours. I thought it was going to take me 16-17 hours, so I was very happy with my results.

So I’ve officially got one Double Century in the books. Two more and I’ll get the Triple Crown. I’m already signed up for the Death Valley Double in October and I’m looking forward to it more than ever now. Schedule wise, it’ll be tough to get the 3rd one in, as I’m focused on the Super Randonneur series first. Completing this ride was a huge confidence boost for me. I’ve now completed 3 rides of this length this year, each one faster than the one before. My next challenge is the 400k in September, but I’m confident that I can get through that with time to spare. What’s an extra 50 miles right?

  • Serbrina

    So proud of you! I knew you could do it!

  • Great work! and Great report! I am looking forward to this ride next year, especially after reading about it here.
    Congratulations on another cycling accomplishment. This is a big milestone for the long distance cyclist. Can’t wait till I get my turn 🙂

  • Steve aka @stevecycles200

    Great job Errin, really wish I had done the highland and hooked up with you for some of it. I’m jealous that you had good legs for the final rollers. I did the last three at about 6.5 MPH, my legs were gone. Good pics too!

    • Steve, I don’t know that I could’ve kept up with your overall pace. Looks like you were moving! Those last rollers were tough for me too, especially the one climbing up from Zuma Beach. I just shifted to the triple and sat back to enjoy the climb. Too tired for anything more at that point.

  • I think it’s amazing, not only that you can ride these long distances, but with so much climbing as well. You didn’t mention the weather much, was it hot? It’s been oppressively hot around here for weeks …

    As far as I’m concerned, stopping for a photo never counts as stopping, even if it happens to be in the middle of a climb.

    • The weather was great. No jacket or leg warmers needed. The temps never got that hot either. I overheard one of the workers saying how lucky we were to have such great weather. I guess past years have been much hotter.

  • Great ride Errin – at this rate the 400K is going to be easy for you once you get your saddle dialed in! Looking forward to riding with you in San Diego.

  • p.s. As a randonneur aren’t you required to ride your bike to the start of something like this? 😉

    • I think I saw someone riding to the event up PCH at like 4am. I thought to myself “that guy’s crazy!”

  • Darren

    Nice Errin! Sooo, are you planning to do the Furnace Creek 508 next year?

    • It’s becoming a real possibility.

  • Ron

    Found your blog doing a google search. It was interesting to read another rider’s perspective on the ride. I happen to also do the Highland Double. Congradulations on your first double. (it was my 5th, but 1st one this year). You made it in 1 hour faster than me.

    For me, the climb on Ojai was toughest, but Casitas was easier than I thought. I guess I got my second wind there.

    Good luck on DV.

    • Hi Ron,

      Thanks for the comment. I read your blog and it looks like you had a tougher start than I did. I think you’re right, with the Ojai being the toughest part. Especially coming right after the headwind through the groves. It was a great event though, and I’m planning to do it again next year.

  • Kathy T

    Hey Errin,

    Great job on the ride! Sounds like you’re doing all the right things to improve yourself each time… It’s a great 1st double century to do… Jack and I will also be doing the Death Valley Double, so it will be fun to see you out there… We plan to ride the rest of PCH’s series as well…
    Just got back from the Cascade 1200–will be doing a ride report with pictures soon…
    Take care!

    • Thanks Kathy!

      I was following your progress on the Cascade 1200. Looks like you two had a great ride. Looking forward to the report.

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