Tierra Bella 100 km 2016

We’ve considered doing Tierra Bella, an organized ride that tours the hills around Gilroy, for a couple of years, but it never worked out. This year, we decided to make it the (almost) end of our training series.

We signed up for the metric century, which at 63 miles was a bit longer than most of our rides have been. The climbing all looked pretty moderate, and we knew we’d be riding light – just us, the kids in trailers, a bit of food, and whatever minimal gear the weather called for. Going with our full touring load would be a little too crazy when riding with 2,000 of our closest friends. It probably cut about 55 pounds from my load, and 30 from Anne’s. I took all the food and such for the day, so we could each operate at our peak (or as close as we could get, considering all for of us had been sick in the last week).

While we had full confidence that we could compete the ride, we were a bit worried about timing. My model estimated it would take us 9 hours, plus the lunch stop. The route opened at 7am, although nominally only for people on the longer rides. They would supposedly sag you off the road (and stop serving the post-ride meal) at 5pm. That gave us 10 hours to get it done. We knew we’d need to be timely, and keep focused to minimize stops.

Our first hope towards staying timely was thwarted before we even left the house. They were supposed to mail out registration packets ahead of time, so you could just ride without even checking in at registration. Well, for whatever reason we didn’t, so we’d need to deal with that before we could ride. That, plus the drive, meant we had a 4:30am wake up call to stay on schedule.

All told, the morning went fairly smooth. We got unloaded, registered, and fully pottied for a 7:30 rollout. It wasn’t quite fully light, and cool enough for jackets and arm warmers. We cheated a bit from our usual routine. All year we’ve only been using gear that were planning to bring in the tour, to be sure that we’ll be happy with the pack list in a variety of conditions. Today, in an effort to pack as light as possible, we took our light jackets instead of the heavier rain ones.

We crossed the valley and started the main climb of the day. This was about where we started getting regular complements and comments from other riders about pulling the kids, which continued throughout the ride. We even got recognized. “Hey, you live in Newark, a couple of streets down from us!” Anne recognized back, “Are you Mike?” Of course, everybody blazed past us.

It was still cool, but you always get hot climbing. We stopped briefly to stow the jackets and arm warmers and a bit of food. Ruth wanted up change into her skirt and short sleeved shirt, but we told her to wait. She also refused to take off her mittens, so I knew she wasn’t suffering from heat.

We continued on the climb, and before long we made it to the first summit. There were a few harder bits, but it really wasn’t bad. Anne made some growls to demonstrate her vitality, so I dubbed her the Lioness (although she briefly misheard as Hyena somehow). Without the front panniers I had a moment or two when I started to lift my front wheel, but managed to shift forward in my saddle to compensate. We saw a dude pulling his kid in a third wheel, but with an ebike, powering past people. Anne declared that his battery should die before the top, so she became the Compassionate Lioness.

A partial descent, followed by some generally uphill rollers took us to the first rest stop. Ruth told me she didn’t want to change her clothes yet.  We managed to keep it pretty brief, just stuff everybody’s face and get moving.

After some more gentle rollers, the terrain shifted from forested to hilly meadows, with ranches scattered about. Car traffic was light, but lots of cows and horses lazing about.

Eventually we reached the second summit, and we descended back to the valley floor. There was a dude dressed in a skeleton outfit to remind us to be careful and take it slow.

By the time we reached the floor, the winds had started to pick up, giving us a mix of cross and headwinds as we cut across the valley again towards the second climb. At least it would make a tailwind for the final return. Just before the turnoff where the metric people skip the climb the full century and double metric people do, we saw our first parenting peers of the day – a triple tandem with two kids in the stoker seats, ages maybe 8 and 13.  Mom rode in a single alongside. They managed to pass us. Twice. Then we didn’t see them again.

The climb up to Uvas Reservoir is both shorter and shallower, but comes in spurts. By this point, it was pretty warm, but the climb had pretty good shelter both from the sun and wind. We’ve done this climb before, but that time it was cold and threatening to rain. This time was better. We were passed by our second parenting peers of the day – a couple pulling a single and double Weehoo. Just about when I was getting annoyed with it, we got to the rest stop along the reservoir.

Surprisingly enough, we were making really good time. We had completed 2/3 of the miles, and nearly all the climbing. Most of the rest would be downhill, with a tailwind, or both. And it was only 1pm, so we still had four hours left before needing to hide from the sag wagons.

We enjoyed the stop, including some happily provided sandwiches and wraps, refilled water bottles, and got the kids adjusted for the warmer weather.

The remainder of the bursty climb still kind of annoyed me. We got our weirdest comment of the day. “You shouldn’t have eaten so many M&Ms this morning.” I don’t know if it was a joke about the weight we were pulling up the hill, or maybe a it was aimed at his riding companion (wife?). Anne only heard part of it, which she heard as “eminence”. I declared it part of her title: Her Eminence the Compassionate Lioness.

Before long we found the top, and turned to put the wind at our back. It was glorious. We zoomed the ten miles to the final rest stop, but decided to skip it. We came back into the valley, and kept zooming down the road. The last ten miles were still kind of a beast, as always, but every ride should end with a gentle downhill/tailwind section. Maybe with fewer traffic lights.

We got back at about 3:30, a full hour faster than the model predicted. I was quite pleased, especially since that meant we weren’t the last ones done. We enjoyed a hot meal of chicken and pasta, followed by cobbler with ice cream. Then back to the car for home.

I quite enjoy organized rides, and it’s always fun to get nice comments on pulling the kids. It can be frustrating, though, especially when people don’t always have good etiquette. I think the worst today was when we were at a stop sign, turning right onto a busy road with an inadequate shoulder and no stop. As Anne waited for an opening, a group came around and stopped right in front of her, then one by one found an opening and took it. They hadn’t even been waiting behind us.

Even so, the ride was a ton of fun, and made a nice capstone for our training. Next week, we’re going to pick a route where Ruth can ride her own bike with us. Then the week after we head off to Vancouver!