Adventure Series 600-K brevet
— Tony Lee
Here is my ride report for the Orr Springs 600-K which three of our club members (Sarah Schroer, Megan Arnold and I) did this past weekend.
The SF Randonneurs have created a unique set of brevets called the “Adventure Series” which intend to challenge even the strongest rider by adding increased climbing and dirt roads to the route. This year they offered for the first time a 600-K version. When I first read the ride description (see link below), I knew I had to do it. For one, I saw the large but invisible word “EPIC” written all over the description, and for two, the route clearly has some of the most beautiful and remote roads our area has to offer, and all in one ride!
As the ride approached, Rob Hawks of SFR sent out a final roster. There were only 20 riders listed (2 of whom were no shows). SRCC was well represented though, particularly with two of our powerhouse women, Sarah and Megan, on the ride. In fact, Sarah and Megan were the only women on the ride.
Max Poletto, who I believe is the creator of this ride (and possibly the entire Adventure Series), completed the ride as a pre-ride the weekend before in a little under 37 hours. Max, who is a strong and accomplished brevet rider, sent us a GPS track of his ride as a guide for us, but also as a warning that finishing this ride in the 40-hour time limit was not going to be easy. By the way, he slept only 2 1/2 hours during the ride: in the Ukiah Safeway store, in an aisle behind the expired foods section. Max sent us this following warning.
Warning: “This is a difficult course that will challenge even the strongest riders. A Garmin 500 recorded as much climbing (~6200m/20300ft) in the first 350Km as in the full Fort Bragg 600-K. Total climbing (~9500m/31000ft per Garmin) is on par with many 1200-Ks. The course also has three stretches of dirt, totaling 23 miles. This should not be your first 600-K (unless you have a strong track record on doubles, running ultra-marathons, etc.).”
Game day: We met on the Golden Gate Bridge at 4 am. Max was there to send us off with a slice of sourdough bread with Nutella hazelnut spread (a tradition of the Adventure Series) and to give some final warnings, such as don’t try and make up time on the descents and don’t ride alone, if possible. He also mentioned that it was on this day 100 years ago that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated, which started WW1…and with that we were off!
My riding partner: Sarah and I were ride partners on this ride. When I first asked Sarah a few months ago if she wanted to join me, she said no. I asked her again a month ago on the Eastern Sierra Tour, after she had completed a full brevet series and was about to do her 2nd 600-K the following weekend. This time she said yes, but that she would need to borrow a bike to do it. Having not done a lot of riding with Sarah, I was not sure how this would play out, but my gut told me she was the right person to partner with. In a nutshell, Sarah was a true champ. She amazed me with her strength, endurance and determination, and as for her organization and planning, I can see why she is the President of our club. She sent me an Excel spreadsheet before the ride, listing all the target ride times and rest times we needed to adhere to in order to finish in the 37 hours that we had set as our time goal. During the ride she was great company, and at each stop she politely reminded me when it was time to go, even if I was midway into a sandwich, slowly rubbing a fatigued muscle, or just staring blankly into the distance, glassy-eyed and exhausted.
Bike choice: I don’t have a cross bike and road bikes with skinny tires were strongly advised against for this ride. I therefore chose to use my 29er hard tail, a Salsa Ti mountain bike with 32 mm slicks. Max wrote a few days before the ride that a mtn bike was also not the right choice but my decision was made. I figured with me on the mtn bike and Sarah on a borrowed bike we would be a good match. I ended up being the only one with a mtn bike.
The ride: I will not go into detail here, but suffice it say those invisible words “EPIC” that I saw on the ride description were indeed visible on this ride. The rising of Venus early Saturday morning near Muir beach: Venus to our right and the Pacific Ocean to our left and our journey stretching ahead into the darkness.
King Ridge, the first tough climb: at the top of Rancheria we are over 100 miles into the ride. I am tired and recalling a similar feeling I had the week before on the TT. Only this time I have 268 miles still to go. The Pacific coast from Stewart’s Point to Gualala: the tailwinds that we had last week on the TT are instead headwinds, but the sapphire blue ocean, accented with its bright white caps and waves, is as spectacular as it was last week, along with the yellow wildflowers carpeting the roadside.
The first climb up Fish Rock Road: a brutal climb, that will not be easily forgotten, up a rough dirt road with a continuous grade of 9% for 2.9 miles. So steep and relentless that if you stop, your only option is to walk.
Orr Springs road: after biking nearly 200 miles with almost 20,000 feet of climbing, I am exhausted and slowly creep up the last climb before descending to Ukiah. The Milky Way shines brilliantly above, as if to say “stay here and enjoy this view,” but down below the lights of Ukiah beckon us to come down for a rest (brief that it will be). Overnight stay with friend and fellow SRCC club member Sky George: Sky had two sleeping cots in his garage and a plate of cold sliced watermelon waiting for us. Although we were the first riders to reach Ukiah, it was still after 10 pm. Sky waited up for us, and as excited as he was to see us and hear our stories, we had to cut the visit short, as we had to sleep and be ready to ride again in just a few hours.
Old Toll road: a 16-mile dirt road from Hopland to Kelseyville. Venus rises brightly again over an eastern ridge, and the early dawn light illuminates the grass and oak-covered hills of Lake County. Cobb Mountain and Mt. Saint Helena stand tall in the distance…the last two large climbs of the ride.
Chileno Valley: Bob Redmond rides out to greet us on his bike and joins us for a short distance. He had been out looking for us and Megan and had dropped water off on Chalk Hill for thirsty riders.
The Golden Gate Bridge – a bridge that I’ll never grow tired of looking at, but in this contet it was even more beautiful and majestic, as it marked the end point of a long and intense two-day journey. Sarah and I finished in a little over 37 hours, successfully making our time goal and arriving 9 minutes behind the first place finisher (not that anyone was counting).