If I wanted breakfast at the hotel, and that is my favorite part of staying at a Hilton Garden Inn, I would be unable to make the earlier routes. And I already skipped breakfast once on this trip; that was before the World Hillclimb Championships. I wanted breakfast today.
After a great breakfast I headed back almost to Oxnard where I stayed Thursday. The Phil’s Cookie Fondo was departing from an air strip in Camarillo. The temperature dropped, it was 55o. Fog had moved in although 10 miles into the ride we would see the sun.
The Sugar Cookie is our shortest route, but don’t think it’ll be easy. It starts up Potrero Road: where you’ll pray around every turn that the climb will be over. Cruise along the top of Sycamore Canyon and the quiet horse farms of Hidden Valley, and then you’ll face the short climb up Decker Canyon from Westlake. Survive that, and you’ve earned a fun descent down Mulholland Highway to to the Pacific, and a flat run to a Michelin-star lunch at the finish.
Foggy and a little wet, we rolled together for seven and one half miles and then saw it – the Potero Road climb. Immediately I could see people walking their bikes. My legs were tired from the previous four days of climbing. I wasn’t sure about this – except I was. There would be no walking or stopping.
The only reason I would stop would be for a photo op but it’s hard to capture the grade of a climb in a photo. I would want to take one of the number of people walking or had stopped but I did not.
I never thought about quitting. Sometimes it was head down and looking only at the front wheel. Looking up for the end was too disheartening.
This is where I missed my heart rate monitor. I would have liked to see what it was pegging out as. And not so much at the time, I could feel that, but after the ride. I climbed the 2.5 miles in 20 minutes which felt like forever on some of the grades. Still I probably passed 100 riders stopped or walking, maybe 10 who were riding, and was passed by about 10.
After Rest Stop One, there was another climb. While it wasn’t so bad; the visual was awful. Ahead and off to the right I could see this awful fencing of a horse farm. It looked like gnarly switchbacks but thankfully the road did not go there.
After Rest Stop Two we had to face Westlake Blvd. It was a little shorter, two miles, also had a number of people walking but I saw far fewer than the first climb probably because those people hadn’t reached this climb yet.
The reward was reaching Mulholland Highway which was a mountainous, curvy, beautiful eight mile descent to the Pacific Ocean. Much of the time I was in the mountains and really didn’t have great views, or any, of the ocean until reaching the Pacific Coast Highway.
Turning on the PCH, there was a shoulder most of the way. And a wicked cross wind which at times was a head wind. I passed riders, especially those who were doing a family ride, out and back. I slowly caught, Brittany, from San Diego, a 20-something. I told her I was passing her, slowly, and she jumped on my wheel. For the next 18 miles.
I was head down in the wind and she held on until about five miles to go and I saw I dropped her. I then waited and backed off the pace. Brittany told me she signed up for the ride because of chocolate chip cookies. She never heard of Phil Gaimon so I filled her in.
Finishing the ride I told her I would introduce her to Phil. We parked our bikes in the coral and a few minutes later she got hers and told me she was taking her stuff to her car and she’d be back. I never saw her again.
Phil’s assistant laughed at me. Or laughed with me. I told her I have been stood up by better people. And she didn’t get to meet Phil.
With tired legs, yesterday convinced me to go short today. But the 50 mile route was hard, at least 17 miles of it. But that meant, surprisingly, I was back before Phil and some other pros who had ridden the 85 miles route.
Toms Skujins had come over to me and introduced himself last evening and when he came in I went for the photo op. I got one of the other guys to take it. Tom told me selfies were for 12 year-olds. Then another fan came up and took a selfie with him.
Tom told me he heard that I had been through a lot. Wow. Now I wonder what Phil told him. We talked head injuries. I had crashed out at 25 kph and was unconscious, he had crashed in the Amgen Tour of California going 70 kph and tried to remount. That, and we both ride a Trek (he rides for Trek-Segafredo) are the only things we have in common.
I had come to this Fondo as a bucket list item. A one-and-done. After today, I would like to come back.