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Tierra Bella Bicycle Tour - CycleTour

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Gilroy, California
United States
Almaden Cycle Touring Club
60F / 16C
Total Time = 8h 00m
Overall Rank = /
Age Group =
Age Group Rank = 0/
Pre-race routine:

DW and I did this ride last year as our first century of the year and second century ever. It rained for most of the ride which made for a miserable ride. Still, we knew that wasn't the norm so we signed up this year for the 200K, which would be our first. This was also going to be the kickoff to my final rampup for IM Lanzarote in 5 weeks.

Unfortunately, DW had to fly back to Wisconsin to help out with her parents so she wouldn't be able to do the ride. I found out that I could transfer the registration so I asked poweredbyfear (PBF) if he wanted to do the century ride, which would be his first. He has done most of the weekend rides with us so we he was in reasonable shape to tackle his first century, so he agreed.

Because this was my first 200K and PBFs first century, we wanted to start the ride as soon as the route opened so we decided to stay the night in Gilroy. I made reservations at the Hilton Garden Inn, which was just a few miles away from the start.

PBF came by my house after to work. By the time we finished packing up and everything, it was already 6:45PM. Fortunately, we made good time (took the 280 of course in lieu of the 101) and arrived in Gilroy at about 8:00pm.

PBF scoped out a restaurant for us on his favorite internet resource, Yelp. We wanted something a little different so he found a Hawaiian/Japanese restaurat. It only had one review, but it was for 5 stars so we hoped the lone reviewer had a decent palette.

The restaurant was located in the old town part of Gilroy, so we knew it wouldn't be some trendy chain. in fact, the restaurant has been in business for over 30 years and amusingly enough was connected to the Gilroy Bowl (as in bowling alley). The restaurant looked a bit like a diner with your typical tables and booths, but with a bit of Hawaiian decor.

We received our menus and we saw that not only was there Hawaiian and Japanese food, but also Mexican and American food. That's always a bit of a warning sign when a place tries to be a jack of all cuisines, but master at none. We were hoping that they would excel in at least one of the cuisines. So, we ordered 3 dinners between the two of us - a Hawaiian dinner (with fish, lau lau, fried rice, panko breaded fried veggies, rice noodle), japanese triple dinner (chicken teriyaki, tonkatsu, and tempura), and a prime rib plate (16 ozs. medium rare).

We received our soups first - miso for me and clam chowder for PBF. okay, decent enough. Then we receive our salads. PBF gets the sesame/soy sweet dressing and I get some kind of miso based dressing. PBFs is much better (salad is blah iceberg) since mine is like mayo.

Our entrees begin to arrive. The hawaiian plate is very disappointing. Most everything sucks, but at least the fish sucked the least, but it needed some seasoning. The prime rib looked good and was cooked appropriately, but was pretty bland. The japanese dish was worse than any japanese bento box I've had at lunch in San Francisco.

On the plus side, service was very friendly and attentive. A woman who looked Japanese came by to check on how we were doing. PBF asked her if she was from hawaii. she said no, but said her husband was. While we were being served complimentary dessert (fried ice cream...bland vanilla ice cream (not very creamy) with some fried dough thing (dough was too thick and heavy)), the owner, the guy from hawaii, pulled a chair over and sat and talked with us for awhile. He and PBF talked about hawaii a bit and he talked more about his restaurant and cooking. We learned that he liked to tinker with food and he came up with the fried ice cream thing himself. he told us he makes it by making ice cream balls and freezing them very hard and then wrapping mini-pre-made pancakes from costco around them and freezing that around them. Then they just pull those out and fry them up.

It was nice to talk to him, even if the food wasn't very good. We were a little ancy to go though since we still had to check into our hotel and get to bed so we could wake up early. We paid our bill and left.

Outside of the restaurant, there were police lights flashing just a little bit down the street. There were several police out with shotguns and handguns drawn pointing at a white SUV. They gave instructions to the driver, who turned out to be a young female to step out carefully and get on the ground so they could cuff her. The same instructions were given to the passenger (another young female). Many of the patrons of the restaurants and bars on the street were out watching. Quite a bit of excitement in what would otherwise be a pretty sleepy town.

Our hotel room was just a couple miles down the road. Not suprisingly, many of the cars in the lot had bike racks on them. We checked in. I asked the clerk if the hotel was full. She said there were a few rooms left and that a lot of people had bikes that they brought up to their rooms. I told them we were doing the same.

Room was decent enough and PBF understood why I called The Guesthouse Inn in Oceanside (for IM Cal) and the Travelodge in Santa Cruz (for Big Kahuna) dives since this was at least a Hilton.

We set our alarms and wake up calls for 5:30am and 5:40 am. Soon enough, morning comes around and we're slowly getting up. I make "coffee" or what was labeled such provided in the room. normally when DW and I travel, she brings along some ground coffee and cream from home, but I wasn't as well prepared as she was so I slugged down the hotel room coffee. Eh, it gets the job done.

It's always a process for me to decide what to wear. i know the forecast calls for a high only in the low 60s (there was a heat wave last weekend, which i would have enjoyed and worked more on my base for my tan) which likely meant it would be in the high 40s/low 50s when we started (based on the over night low in the low/mid 40s). I opted for Desoto 400 mile bib shorts (always my choice for my long rides), a Descente jersey, arm warmers, a lightweight packable shell, earband, no toe warmers or booties, and normal (i.e. not full fingered) gloves. This was basically exactly what I wore at Solvang last month under fairly similar weather conditions.

Our plan was to leave by 6:15am, but invariably, we're running a little late and we leave by 6:30am. Fortunately, we're only a few miles from Gavilan College where the century starts. We can see that there are already some people who are already starting on the course. We're waved in to the upper parking lot. We check in. PBF has to go to the Help Desk since he's subbing in for DW (they basically just need him to sign the liability release). We go back to the truck and get ready to ride. PBF gives me the keys to his truck since he expects me to finish before him. I'm a bit skeptical (I'm doing 122 and he's doing 100), but I take them.
  • 8h 00m
  • 122 miles
  • 15.25 mile/hr

It's just a couple minutes before 7:00am, the official start time of the century, when we get started. my plan was to start out slow (it is 120+ miles after all) to ride with PBF and see how our paces were and then take off on my own. It's definitely still cool out and there's a fair amount of wind so I drop into the aerobars. There's a slight incline and I'm already pulling away from PBF. At the top of the small hill, I wait for PBF. We continue on and come to our first turn. i point out the painted arrows marking the course. We turn and continue on. I'm pulling away again and I decide to just continue at my pace leaving PBF behind.

It's great cycling at this hour on these back roads. The route is nice and there aren't any cars. i pass several people who were obviously some of those getting an early start. I pass a guy on a P3C. At about mile 12, I come to a water stop and pause for just a bit. The guy on the P3C pulls up and we chit chat a bit. i tell him "nice bike." He says it's brand new. I say it's a great day to be riding and continue on.

Soon, I'm on a beautiful stretch along Uvas resevoir. I'm riding along trying to see if I can take my camera out to take a cycle by photo, but I'm too slow to get it out fast enough. I happened to glance behind me and saw a group of cyclists gaining on me. I'm not in a race, so I just continue at my endurance pace. They catch up to me quickly and all buzz right by me (a little close given the road is wide open at this early hour...). I figure they are the hardcore roadies, which is just as well they pass me up and stay ahead and out of my way.

I get the first real aid station at about mile 21 at Calero. There are maybe 15-20 people already here. I fill my water bottle, although I've only had about 1/4 of it. I get some banana bread and some hot chocolate. i go pee, come back and drink more hot chocolate and have some more banana bread. I head out again.

As I'm heading out, I see PBF coming in and I yell out to him. Back on the course, there's a little bit of an uphill where I pass a couple and then get to banzai on a short downhill. I catch up to some of those in the group who were ahead of me. I just hang behind them, but when we get to another downhill stretch, I begin passing some and when we hit the flats and I'm still in full aero, I pass some more. Eventually, they pass me up so they can stay together as a group. I just continue on my way.

There's another guy who seems pretty quick who's pacing behind me. We go for a few miles. I sit up and pull out my route sheet so I can figure out what turns are ahead. This slows me down and the guy behind me pulls ahead of me. he's pretty strong so I hang a bit behind him, but he's slowly pulling away.

We come to a stretch where we're cutting over the 101 freeway and winding a bit through town. i hang with the guy who passed me for awhile. We pass some folks and continue onward. We do a bit of climbing and I hang with him and eventually come to our the next aid station at mile 35 at Coyote River Park. The guy I was hanging with skips the aid station and continues on.

I fill up my water bottle with gatorade, get some food. I chat briefly with one of the volunteers who I assume is part of the bike club sponsoring the ride since he mentions how he rode the course last weekend. he said the only hairy part was coming back down from Henry Coe since, with cyclist going up and cars passing, it made for a bit of a mess.

I go pee before continuing on. I pass some folks. We wind around a bit and begin our climbing. i catch up to an older cyclist and ask him what the route ahead is like since I haven't studied it. he said we have maybe 2500' of climbing over the next 10 miles. I pass another guy on the climb, but in a few minutes, he pulls back up along side of me and we chat for awhile. We continue climbing upward. Up, up, up. We pass a few people and eventually he pulls away from me. i keep passing folks, some of which I'm guessing were part of the big group that passed me early on.

The views as we climb are beautiful looking back down. There are a few stretches where we lose some of the elevation (that which goes down, must go up...) and then climb back up again. We come to a downhill stretch along a resevoir or lake with a bridge. Fortunately, there are signs telling us to slow down as we make the turn at the bottom of the short downhill to turn onto the bridge because there are bumps in the road that at full speed would surely cause a cyclist to crash (downhills turns and big bumps do not go together well).

I continue climbing upward and passing folks. Then there's another downhill stretch and a turn and then more climbing. At points, it's just a single lane. We keep climbing and there's a cyclist in full Bancorp kit coming downhill. I assumed he's just riding this for fun and didn't know the big event was going on, but I'd later learn he was the lead in the ride. i continue up and just a couple more folks already headed downhill including one guy on a cervelo road bike dressed in full kit. There's one fun little stretch near the top where the climb gets pretty steep (signs place there to warn us, which was nice), so i get out of the saddle for the first time. I'm glad I'm at the top and it's a little bit of downhill to get to the aid station.

There are maybe 20 people up here already. it's cold and windy up here. I eat some food, drink, refill. I go pee. i eat some more and then decide to take off again. I spent a bit of time at this stop, but I'm surprised how many people seemed to hang out at the rest stop (i.e. they were here before I got up here and were still here when I left).

There is another guy in a blue long sleeved jersey taking off at the same time, so I follow him. It's cold and I know the descent is going to be cold. Near the beginning of the descent, there's a sharp turn. I'm using the brake pads for my carbon fiber rims, but these don't work so well on the aluminum rims of my training wheels. I squeeze the brake lever harder and my rear wheel slips a bit. I release enough to catch it. We continue our descent which is tricky because it's a narrow road, half of which is occupied by riders coming uphill and occasionally we turn a corner to also find a car in the middle of the road (trying to pass the uphill cyclists), which makes for a tricky descent.

On our way down, we see a couple cyclists with flats. Down, down, down. I continue to follow blue jersey who goes into a full tuck on the descents. We chat a little bit on the slower downhill sections and brief uphills interspersed. We know the descent will be even messier for those that follow us since the road will get more and more crowded so we're relieved to be out in front of the pack. Towards the bottom half of the climb, I spot PBF and yell out to him.

At the last downhill stretch, blue jersey knows of a long cut (i.e. opposite of a short cut) way. He's very very familiar with the roads around here. I opt to stick with the published route as does he.

We're back down and we wind south. We have stretches of straight flat bits into the wind. I offer to pull a bit since it's easy enough for me to be aero and he can draft. We pass/skip a water stop at mile 67. We're now on parts of the course where riders from other distance routes are coming in the opposite direction. There's a guy on a big unicycle riding. Blue jersey and I finally exchange names. his name is Tom.

We pass another guy who hops onto our tail and we begin climbing. Tom pulls ahead of me and I follow him along as does our third person behind me. We continue the climb up to the Gilroy Hot Springs (last year, this was the first aid station). It's a very pleasant ride up back country roads with only 1 or 2 cars passing us the entire time. We arrive at the hot springs reststop.

We go to the port-a-potties first since those are located just below the aid station and then go up. There are two or three other people here. I take a couple ibuprofen since my right knee is starting to feel it a little bit from all the climbing. I have some food and a little coffee to get some caffeine. I drink and refill my water bottle. The guy who runs the hot springs and who volunteers every year is there to take pictures of every rider, which is nice of him. He says there are only a few riders are ahead of us. Wow. I've never been FOP like this on a ride. It's been great though because it's like having the roads to ourselves. The hot springs guy tells us we have it made since all the major climbing is behind us already. Tom and I hit the road.

About half a mile down the road, I realize we forgot to pick up a route sheet for the 200K route; they don't give out route sheets until this rest stop so that they can control who goes out to ride it since they don't want riders who start it to late (after 2:30pm) to go since they won't finish before sunset. Tom says he knows the route, but asks if I want to pick up a route sheet. I tell him I'll just stick with him if it's okay. he also says last year the 200K route was marked on the street with blue arrows. He explains tha the additional mileage is similar to the route we did at the beginning, but in reverse.

We continue on and it's just great riding. At about mile 81 we pass a guy on the side of the road who is having some major chain difficulties. Tom calls out to him to ask if he needs a chain tool which he says he does. We circle back to help the guy out. he has a carbon bianchi with a triple and the chain slipped off of the small chain ring and is really wedged between the chainring and the bottom bracket. The three of us are futzing with it and after a few minutes and some oily hands, we get his chain loose and back on. Tom and I continue onward.

It's just a short bit further to reach the top of this climb and then it's a downhill stretch. At about mile 82, there are a couple volunteers there, one dressed in a skeleton outfit to warn us to keep our speeds slow on the descent. The roads are wide open for us and Tom takes a speed descent and I follow. It's not that bad, but with traffic or other riders, it would be quite dangerous. We wind back down and then start winding our way back northward again. At around mile 90, we pass and turn at the water stop that we passed back at mile 67 from the other direction.

We're passing quite a few folks from one of the other routes (100K I believe since they have dark green route sheets). We also pass a couple of other century riders. one of them is the guy on the cervelo I saw way back before henry coe rest stop (I was just getting to the top and he was on his way down). he's not going very fast, but hops onto my tail. Tom rides right on the white line and I rider about a foot to the left of it in the road and a few feet behind him since I'm in aero position (I'm also trying to avoid drafting him somewhat). The cervelo guy drafts somewhat off of me but to my right, but he keeps edging up so that his front wheel overlaps me. This makes me nervous and annoys me. We continue for awhile and hit a couple stop lights where we and other riders bunch up, but when the light changes, Tom and I are out front.

We eventually turn back onto Santa Teresa. Century riders turn left here to go back to Gavilan College to finish, but we turn right and follow the pink arrows marked in the road. Cervelo guy and another guy follow behind us. The shoulder is very wide here and cervelo guy keeps nudging up on me on my inside. At a certain point, I just ask him to please not overlap my wheels in case I swerve. he doesn't seem to quite understand what I'm asking, but eventually backs off.

On the other side of the road, there are numerous cyclists headed back to Gavilan College. These must be 100K or 60K riders. We wave to some of them. We see a few recumbents. We continue on this way and at one point, the two guys behind us turn (or turn around. not sure since I didn't see them, but Tom did). We get to a light and make a left from where all the other riders coming the other directions are coming. We go for a bit until we come to the Machado school aid station at about mile 100.

I chow down here on turkey wraps, banana bread, mothers cookies, etc. i refill my water bottle. I finally take off my arm warmers and my earband. Tom's ready to go. i hit the port-a-potties. Tom points out the truck for bike repair at the stop here. he mentions that he noticed my chain was squeaky and I should get some lube. i say I'll just lube it at home. once we start riding though, I notice how squeaky my chain is. Funny how I didn't notice it (was just used to it as "normal") until he pointed it out. Now it was bugging the heck out of me. I kept imagining how much I was wearing my chain and my gears.

We continued riding and kept getting funny looks from people on the other side of the road who still likely thought we were going the wrong way, probably because no one else was riding this direction. We continued on until we hit Uvas road again, that goes along the resevoir that we rode along at the start. It's beautiful in the daytime.

We ride and ride and see the very first water station we passed at the start, which would put us 10+ miles out. At some point I realize that I've now biked farther than I've ever biked before, which is pretty cool. We hit some headwinds. We make a few turns and eventually we're back at Santa Theresa, but headed back to Gavilan College, along with a bunch of cyclists doing the other route. There's a good headwind, but Tom and I are flying past the other cyclists. There are a few stoplights along the way and we stop, but get stuck at them, but Tom and I lead off the front of them. One older guy on a Klein asks us which route we were doing and we tell him the 200K and he tells us great job and that we look strong.

At a certain point, we hit the last downhill stretch. I'm behind Tom, but I'm chomping at the bit because when I'm aero I can still go quite a bit faster. i decide to pass him and just take off, which was fun. We turn off of Santa Teresa through some residential neighborhoods and then I'm back at Gavilan College.
Post race
Warm down:

I ride up to the truck and check to see if PBF is there (he isn't). I head back down to see if i can catch Tom. Either he's further behind than I though (not likely) or he's parked in the lower lot. I go back to the truck to pack up my bike and hope I can find Tom at the post-ride meal so I can thank him for letting me ride with him for 75 miles.

I load my bike into the cab and chit chat with the guy in the adjacent car. I change my shirt and put on some running shoes. I grab my sweatpants and head down to where they are serving food. I first head to the bathrooms so I can change. i get in the short line for food - enchiladas, beans, rice, and salad. My plate is full without the salad. I look around for Tom and another guy I know who was supposed to be riding. I also look for PBF, but I'm pretty sure he hasn't yet finished. i go outside and sit on the grass and eat. I stretch for awhile. i keep looking for Tom and PBF. I go in and get some more food and then go outside again to sit in the grass and eat. I call PBFs cell and leave him a message.

I just hang out for awhile. Eventually, PBF calls me back. He's in the lower parking lot, but doesn't know where we parked. i tell him we're in the upper lot and I'll head over that way. i start running over there. i don't see him, so I call him back. We stay on the phone until we see each other.

We head back up to the truck. PBF is beat. I sherpa his bike, get him some recovery drink, give him his flip flops and let him relax and recover. We head down to the food and get him some grub. He's beat, but not broken. he finished his first century and I'm proud of him. He now has an inkling of what it might take to do an ironman and he definitely knows he's not ready, but at least now he understands a little more of what it'll take.

postscript: a few thoughts for myself. I was quite happy of doing a 120+ mile ride. I went at a relaxed pace and finished in 8 hours. This made me both hopeful and caused me to despair a little all at the same time. The hopeful part was that doing 120+ wasn't that bad at all and I felt quite strong afterward. The part that makes me mildly despair is that IM Lanzarote's bike course is hillier. Granted, it's shorter and I wouldn't spend the 25+ minutes combined at all aid stations, but it's also notoriously windy at Lanzarote. I'm not looking forward to an 8 hour bike split at Lanzarote. maybe it'll only be 7 hours which is still long (I'd be happy with anything under 7 hours). Won't really know until race day.

Last updated: 2008-01-20 12:00 AM
08:00:00 | 122 miles | 15.25 mile/hr
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/
Course: From their website: "Hilly 200K (121.9 mi, 6940 ft) The 200K follows the 100 Mile route from the beginning, with climbs up to Henry Coe and Gilroy Hot Springs. Finally, at the 92-mile mark, the 200K heads back north and west for a scenic loop around Chesbro and Uvas reservoirs before returning to Gavilan College."
Road:   Cadence:
Turns: Cornering:
Gear changes: Hills:
Race pace: Drinks:
Post race
Weight change: %
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Good race?
Course challenge
Events on-time?
Lots of volunteers?
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5]

2008-04-23 1:52 PM

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San Francisco
Subject: Tierra Bella Bicycle Tour

2008-04-23 9:11 PM
in reply to: #1357434

Subject: ...
This user's post has been ignored.
2008-04-24 7:28 AM
in reply to: #1357434


Subject: RE: Tierra Bella Bicycle Tour

I agree about the food reports, though it sin't the only reason I read the write-ups.


Nice 200K! I'm getting more and more psyched to try a century someday. Maybe after I get my Long Haul trucker...

2008-04-24 3:00 PM
in reply to: #1357434

San Francisco
Subject: RE: Tierra Bella Bicycle Tour

Verna and Susan, glad you both enjoyed the food reports.  I love eating and writing about food, obviously!

I'd highly recommend doing a century or other supported ride.  It's great to have a course all mapped out for you, aid stations for food, drink, and bathrooms all lined up, and all you have to do is ride, ride ride.

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