2019 Davis Double Century Ride Report -
Co-written by Jim Gloystein and David Levinger on May 19, 2019
Cold and wet. This was perhaps the worst weather day Jim Gloystein has ever experienced on the 47 times he's done this ride. During the ride, David quipped that his wife Angela called it Jim's "finest hour". Hmmmm...
Picking up packets
A really neat thing happened on Friday night when picking up ride packets at the Veterans Memorial facility in Davis. Jim showed up first and grabbed his "standard" assigned number (which was rider #226). In the last 20 years, Jim had always gotten his rider number to match the number of DDCs he started. But the recent change of Race Directors never returned emails when this tradition was requested. However, David L. ended up registering the night before the start (as did several other folks) and we all quipped that they might wonder why he was registering with the impending doom of the weather. But during his registration David L. noticed a stack of numbers starting with #1 and asked Jennifer, who was running the "day of" registration, if she could help swap a number. She was happy to do so, and all of sudden Jim G. had rider #47 in his hand which matched the number of DDCs he's ridden. David is amazing how he never hesitates to ask for things and make a difference for his riding buddies.
An Early Start
Several weeks before the May 18th start of the DDC, the weather reports started to predict rain late in the week before the ride. But the closer it got to the start, the percentage chance of rain kept climbing and soon occupied almost the entire Saturday. In the early days of the Davis Double, the weather was a lot more guesswork. But these days with all the advanced weather models and satellite data, there was no question it was going to be both wet and cold all day long. In fact, the temperature was between 48 and 50 degrees almost the entire day both before the sun came up and after the sun set.
So a decision was made amongst the 4 riders (Jim Gloystein, David Levinger, Steve Piazzo and a "new" member that has started riding with the Sonoma County Mountain Goats named Andy Tautges) to start earlier than usual to try to get as far down the course as possible before the rain started. We agreed to start at 3AM (yikes - that's really early!).
Sure enough, all four of us were in the Vet's parking lot by 2:50 AM, although we didn't leave on the dot (some people were still playing with electronics and lights). We finally got out on the course at 3:15. It was very calm at the time of the early morning, but still somewhat cold with the temps in the high 40s. We rode out of town and only passed one solo rider all the way to the first rest stop. We held a very good pace and traded pulls.
Of course, when we got to the Forbes Ranch, the first rest stop, it was completely dark since it didn't open until 6AM. We pressed on, and just after "first light" as we approached the town of Winters, Steve P. had a flat. So we pulled over in front of some kind of equipment yard and while Steve changed his rear tire, a friendly cat begged for our attention. Just as Steve packed up his tool bag and was ready to flip his bike over, he discovered his front tire was also flat. He had hit a pothole and must have gotten pinch flats on both wheels. So we went through the whole tube change rubric again while the friendly cat rubbed our tires and legs begging for attention.
We finally got back on the road, and headed up the canyon to Lake Berryessa and the first big climb of the day (Cardiac Hill). Steve and Andy zoomed ahead, while David held back with Jim who was slowly climbing up the long hill. We regrouped at the 2nd Rest Stop at Capay Valley Fire Station, which was now open. Taking in the usual food and peanut butter sandwiches, there was a contingent of Philippine workers who greeted a team of Philippine riders. They had some kind of authentic food which we couldn't pronounce (along with rice), but it was way too early in the morning to experiment with unknown food and all the miles we had yet to conquer.
Back on the road, we ran across two other riders who had "low" numbers pinned to their jerseys. As David rode by them, he asked them why they had a low number, and both riders said it was the number of DDCs they had ridden. One had #39 and the other had #42, so it was clear they had changed their policy on allocating requested numbers to some riders. And, of course, David pointed out to both of them that rider #47 was right behind them, so there was a lot of respect for these riders who also had done many years of riding this venerable course.
We pretty much rode together all the way to Pope Valley and Rest Stop #3 (mile 76). At that point Jim noted that he felt pretty good, and after munching on more peanut butter sandwiches and potato chips, we ventured off passing "Hubcap Ranch" and going up the hills just after Aetna Springs.
But that's when things got interesting. Just before we crested the last hill to Butts Canyon, it started to rain. Jim pulled over to put on his rain jacket and David stopped with him. Jim and David caught up to Steve and Andy at Middletown (mile 95), but not after having ridden a good 15 miles in the rain. Fortunately there were lots of places to get out of the rain at the Middletown Rest Stop and we loaded up with food and courage to go back out in the rain and greet the nasty little hill by Harbin Springs that precedes a 5-mile stretch of dirt road and the Big Canyon climb.
There, things got really, really interesting! The entrance to the gravel section is a downhill, and although the gravel was a pretty solid surface allowing one to keep a stable riding line, the mud in the roadway started covering all parts of one's bike. And, of course, if you put on the brakes, you heard the grinding sound of brake pads on mud covered rims. Worst of all, Jim's bike was making strange noises coming from the rear chain, mostly because the mud and grit was working it's way into the drive train. What a mess! At the top of one rise Steve pulled over and we all stopped. A SAG wagon pulled up behind us and asked us if everything was okay (and he took pity on our poor bikes which were now filthy with mud and goop). But the funniest thing was David asking the SAG driver if he was a bike fender salesman, because he could make a fortune! (we all had a good laugh, including the driver).
At some point, Andy and Steve (once again) took off and Jim was taking up the rear. But something seriously wrong was going on with Jim and he approached the Big Canyon climb. Not only was it cold (46 degrees) and wet (the rain was nonstop at this point), but Jim's lower back started to seize up on him. As a result, he couldn't put any power into the pedals. The lower back pain only got worse as the ascent got steeper, and Jim finally met up with David at the water stop (ha ha--everyone there was only trying to take a break from the rain) on the Big Canyon climb. It was all Jim could do to get up and over this climb, which is a good climb but not overly steep. David was a most gracious riding partner sticking with Jim even though Jim was almost literally crawling in his lowest gear. And Jim noted that going at this slow a pace without being able to put any power in the pedals had a debilitating side effect - he wasn't generating heat and was getting cold from the wind that was in our face while climbing.
But we reached the "Top of the DC" and rode to the start of Siegler Canyon Road where there is a long steady downhill to lunch at Lower Lake High School (mile 112). Jim started out the descent already very cold, and by the time we got to the lunch stop at Lower Lake, Jim was a "popsicle". So much so that when he walked into the lunch room he couldn't undo the buckle on his helmet. But thank goodness they had cranked up the heat in that High School room and after taking off wet outer layers, all four of us started to warm up. And what really hit the spot were several servings of "Cup O'Noodles" that put hot liquid back in our bodies as we slowly started to warm up and regain control of our bodies.
Steve and Andy had arrived ahead of David and Jim, but they were still quite cold. The conditions weren't merely unpleasant, but they were downright dangerous. People descending Siegler Canyon--one of the best downhills anywhere, incidentally--were getting so cold that they were losing control. Steve and Andy were first on the scene at the flat beneath the descent where a rider went off the road into a ditch, destroying his helmet and breaking his nose (though this guy was moderately cheerful inside the lunch stop).
Steve is a man without much spare insulation, and along with about half the riders present seemed to be risking hypothermia. He needed a full hour to warm up sufficiently to accept Andy's spare clothes and brace himself to resume. We looked a lot better than many others who were either mud-covered or outfitting themselves with Hefty trash bags as a defense against the weather. It was truly amazing how many people attempted this ride with a standard kit and nothing warmer than a vest!
Unfortunately, Jim's lower back was completely seized up and not getting any better, despite taking some Tylenol supplied by Steve. So Jim decided to "throw in the wet towel" and SAG the rest of the ride. A very hard decision, but his body was telling him there was no way he would be able to climb Resurrection Hill (on Rte 20) and keep up with the group. Unselfishly, Jim's chief reason for taking a SAG was that had he tried to continue, he would really slow the group down.
So Steve, Andy and David put all their rain gear back on and ventured off from lunch just after 2PM or so. Meanwhile, Jim signed up for a SAG ride home, only to find out there were around 50 people also wanting to get a SAG home. So they encouraged us to try to find our own personal SAG ride home if we could. Jim called an old friend in Davis and he agreed to drop everything and drive an hour and a half to Lower Lake to give Jim a ride home. His name is Lars and he has been a great friend of Jim's Davis-based family for years. Jim is now deeply indebted to Lars for his assistance in time of need. In fact, Jim had a rich contribution of help by Steve, Andy and David all day long. Especially David, who waited for Jim at various points when the hills considerably slowed him down. Oh, and one more coincidence - while waiting for his SAG ride to show up, Jim discovered that riders #39 and #42 had also decided to SAG the rest of the ride. The conclusion one could reach is that this day was a lot tougher than expected and it even devastated some of the riders who have experienced many hours on the course in the past.
On Jim's SAG ride home, it was decided to drive down Highway 16 which follows Cache Creek along the official DDC course. Just about the middle of that canyon is where Jim, riding in the SAG vehicle, passed the now-3 riders on a slight uphill. No fanfare needed - we silently went by and saw that several groups were riding together to battle the headwind and everyone looked pretty strong so Jim returned to Davis, got in his car, and drove back to his Mom's house for a hot shower and some delicious warm chicken soup.
And this is where Jim's DDC narrative ends, so he will hand the keyboard over to David to chronicle the 87 miles he rode without Jim after the lunch stop. David...take it away!
Upon leaving the lunch stop, Andy proclaimed that the rain was going to stop. Lo and behold it did stop as they departed Lower Lake, and the sun even seemed to threaten the overcast. Unfortunately, after zooming north on 53 past the "trash bag boys" with SAG repairing a flat, Steve fell victim to another flat. Andy earned the nickname "Mary Poppins" as he pulled out another tube from his enormous seat post bag and helped repair it while David stared down approaching traffic.
The dry weather followed up the Hwy 20 Resurrection climb. The legs really are an incredible heat generator, and we were all in good spirits at the top (mile 132). More hot cocoa for Andy and Steve and then on to the descents leading to the remote and lovely Hwy 16 ride down Cache Creek. Give David a flat or 0.5% down slope and he loves to push the pace. But the rain reprieve didn't mean a layoff of the wind, and that meant a headwind. The rain resumed about mile 150. We made pretty good time to Guinda (mile 157), just 5 minutes slower than last year when we had beautiful weather. More hot soup and beverages. This time, Andy "Mary Poppins" pulled out his super-size hothands body warmers and gave them to Steve.
A few miles down the road from there David got his first flat a shard that teeth of steel Steve extracted. The first repair immediately failed. The second lasted until just in front of Cache Creek Casino. Fortunately, SAG had a spare tube and that did the trick. But a mile later, Andy's front tire flatted (the only front flat of the day). Andy was amazing and efficient with his positive attitude and quick good work repairing the flats. Thank you Andy for keeping us buoyant at these times!
OK, it's now starting to get dark. DANG, we started at 3:15 AM in order to finish before dark!! Ah, well, we have lights and we're all using them now. We get through the nasty 7 miles of traffic south of the casino and turn onto the back roads again. Oops, the rain is pouring now. Oh, David's light indicates red, meaning it's on reserve. We stop at the mile 176 rest stop and David charges his light for ten minutes while we stand in the rain and resolve ourselves.
Back on these truly vacant rural farm roads in the wind and rain. Andy turns off his light to conserve battery. David's light is back in the green. Now Steve's light goes dead, and we're all riding with one light. David's light indicator goes red, but it switches to full bright beam. Not sure what this means--never have run it all the way down before. What does David have? 15 minutes? 30? We're still 15 miles out David thinks. Andy still has his light off.
Our rural road goes over a highway and there's a cyclist stopped. Then we see the SAG beyond that. Steve says "that's it". A rational assessment of the issues of riding in the dark windy rain with risky lights. He's made it 182 or more. Andy and David are shooting for the Triple Crown and so we're forging on.
David's light never dies completely. At some point less than ten miles out, his light is dim enough that Andy turns his on and we're in business. David notices that with less than 20 miles to go, his power output surges. Even though the conditions aren't any better, it's flatter and there's no traffic.
Soon we're in civilization again with street lamps and were almost there. A couple turns in the city and we're back at the start. A quarter mile shy of the 200 mark, Andy and David ride laps around the lot and we meet Steve at the car. He's changed and dry. We're elated and relieved. We peel of the wet and change into the most wonderful feeling dry clothes ever.
At dinner, two guys next to us who we rode part of the way with tell us how much they like the Terrible Two--best support of any ride they've done. They completed it in 2017 (with 100+ degree heat) and even in 2012 when it was hotter still. They say that the weather today made this ride harder than those were.
A drive home after midnight, and the day is a wrap.
Stats on the ride from the DDC web site:
360 Total Registered for the double (includes several tandems)
68 Did Not Start
143 Did Not Finish
41 no data or faulty data (includes David)
David used Angela's Wahoo for the ride:
15 hours time moving
13.3 Average speed (Steve and Andy were a bit faster)
200 miles (David looped back in a few places)
Some fun facts from Jim Gloystein
- If you've never experienced watching the sunrise while riding in the pitch dark, you have to try this. It's "experiential" as David and Jim called it. With all the clouds overhead, it took a while to actually see "first light", but when it took place just as we were heading to the town of Winters, it was simply amazing.
- The 5-mile stretch of gravel; Although traction was not a problem, the unbelievable mess the mud created on one's bike was a huge problem. The first time one applied rim brakes, there was that awful grinding noise that sounded like you were sanding off paint. But my Cervelo was making even worse noises in the drivetrain itself - the grit and muck had gotten into the chain and rear derailleur and was making grinding sounds that make bike mechanics cringe. And looking down at one's front tire where you normally see a clear stream of water coming off the tire, this stream was dark brown and full of mud and grit! Thankfully one could wash some of this off with a water bottle after we got back to the pavement, but it was really quite harrowing to have your bike get so fouled up (of course, David L. being the exception because he was running fenders).
- Speaking of bike choices, as I was loading up my non-fendered Cervelo carbon fiber road bike in the car on the way to Davis, it occurred to me that I have two other bikes with full fenders, one of which is my venerable Surly Long Haul Trucker which I do full touring. I stopped for a minute and considered taking off the front and rear racks and using this bike (which also doubles as my winter "rain bike"), but I thought better that I should just go with every advantage I could in terms of light weight and good handling. If I had it to do over again, I would have taken the Surly "rain bike" and been much better off with fenders for the rainy day and gravel section.
- Electronic shifting; Jim has used SRAM wireless eTap electronic shifting for over three years. And not once did it malfunction despite all the rain and muck. Compared to lights and GPS devices that are touchy and highly prone to malfunction, this stuff is "battle tested" and worked no matter what. Upon having to clean my bike after I returned home, I noticed that the mud and muck had gotten into almost every crevice of the front and rear electronic derailleurs. The only way I could clean them was with "Q-tips" and alcohol. But as noted, they never once failed to work in a very harsh riding environment and that was worth a lot.
- Rain gear; you either love it or hate it. There's no perfect solution, so you try to find gear that minimizes the agony of riding in the rain. There were people with no rain gear (and just shorts and a jersey top - what were they thinking?) and then there were a plethora of Shower's pass jackets and knock offs. No matter what, everyone gets wet, whether from the rain or the sweat buildup inside rain gear. The trick is to have good insulation underneath (yes, wool is unbeatable) and not to get too overheated from non-breathable rain gear.