by Deborah Hoag
This is how the Stage Race works: Riders have to complete three of the most difficult doubles in the California Triple Crown. This year it was Mulholland, Devil Mountain, and the Terrible Two. The Total Elapsed Time from each of these grueling Doubles is then added together and the rider with the fastest overall time for all Three Doubles wins the Stage Race.
I have no idea why we decided to do the Stage Race on the tandem. We would joke that when we completed the Stage Race on our singles, we would do it on the tandem. Well, I finished the Stage Race in 2009 and David finished in 2007. After I finished, David reminded me about the Stage Race on the tandem. So, we bought a new tandem in Sept of 2009 and started training. We did not know which of 200 milers would be in the Stage Race for 2010; however, we had agreed we would do the race. In Feb, we found out it be the 3 hardest out of 5 -200 milers, Mulholland, Devil Mountain, and Terrible Two. During the training, we realized this was going to be the hardest thing we had ever done on a bike. We thought about not doing it, because the training was so hard. We worked on interval training, core exercises, eating right, preventing lows, riding together effectively, mechanical issues with the new tandem, and communicating. A week before the first 200 miler, Mulholland, we took the tandem to Bicycle Outfitters for a quick over look, and found out the rear rim was destroyed. It had less than 2000 miles on it.
The night before Mulholland, I felt we were going to have a great ride. There was one other tandem at the start, Karen and Mike, who had taken the Stage Race in 2004 and 2008. They started off fast and pulling the mast start of riders; however, when we hit the first climb, we past them and never saw them again.
There were two tough climbing areas, one had 24% grade and another 25% grade. We finished 2 hours before the time we thought we would, and earned a T-Shirt for under 16 hours. We had beaten the other tandem by 58 minutes. We now had two weeks before Devil Mountain Double. My favorite ride and David’s most hated ride.
The second leg of the Stage Race was Devil Mountain Double. The route starts in San Ramon and heads up Mt Diablo North, up Mt Diablo Summit and then descends down Mt Diablo South to Morgan Territory. From there the route heads up Patterson Pass, up Mines Rd, up the Back of Mt Hamilton, down Mt Hamilton, up Sierra Rd, up Calaveras, up Palomares and finally up Norris Canyon for 18,500 of climbing and 206 miles. We rolled at 5A with about 225 riders and no other tandems. We had done all the climbs during our training, so we knew what to expect. However, with the first climb being Mt Diablo the last 100 feet seemed easy compared to the training rides we had done. Then came Morgan Territory and Patterson Pass, we had no problems. After that it was Mines Road, where we realized this is hard and it hurts, and we had two more hard nasty climbs, the backside of Mt Hamilton and Sierra Road. We struggled up the backside, however, on the Mt Hamilton descend we had recovered and we felt ready for Sierra. Sierra Rd comes at mile 160, we started the climb and it was tough. I had told David, we may need to stop part way up. We reached the trees and David asked me if I needed to stop and I said no, that the climb is most completed. I guess it is a good thing I cannot remember, because we were only half way up to top of Sierra! Somehow we managed to make it up, and it was off to Sunol via Calaveras. It was great to see Sheila Stevens there (freshly back from a long business trip)! She told me we were head of her and Russ’s time by 40 minutes – another great modivator. We then headed down Niles Canyon, the hard climbs were over, but we two more climbs to finish Palomares and Norris Canyon. By the time we hit the Palomares descend, what Sheila had said about our time hit me. I had thought we were shooting for under 18 hours for a completion time, but we were looking for under 17 hours. We came in screaming to the finish with a 16:21 time. We were saying yes, one more: The Terrible Two.
Terrible Two is known for its nasty hot weather (over 100 degrees), but this year the average temperature was 78 degrees. The seven week break between Devil Mountain and Terrible Two created difficultly in our training. We both had a hard time peaking again. At the start of the ride, we could feel the intensity in the air with the other 227 riders. This is a race. Riders were warned about very bad roads and the technical descends on the course. We installed torn resisted tubes in the back and front (thanks to Russ and Sheila). On part of course there is gravel, and we wanted to avoid flats. Also a few years back Jennie Phipps and Craig Robinson had had a front blow out descending and crashed. They were in first place in the Stage Race, so, we backed off on the descents and took to heart Bill’s warnings. As it turned out one of the big stories of the day were crashes and we were not one of them. To finish first, first you must finish. The Organizer, Bill Octinger was there to shake our hands when we rolled in. I could hardly stand at the finish. And most important thing, I earned a “I Did It” T-Shirt (I wore it continuously for 4 days after the ride). We were done with the Stage Race and we had no food problems, no lows, no mechanicals, no drama, no events, and no problems on all three rides. We were prepared. Then we loaded the tandem into the back of the truck and saw the brand new rear tire that we had installed before ride with white treads showing and the side bead popping out.
Going into the Terrible Two, there were 47 riders that completed the first two legs of the Stage Race, after Terrible Two there were only 32 (4 women 27 men) that completed all three legs of the Stage Race. We were the only tandem.
Our finished times:
- Mulholland 15:21 60 minutes off the bike
- Devil Mountain 16:17 with 75 minutes off the bike
- Terrible Two 15:08 with less than 45 minutes off the bike
- Total of time of 46:45, 614 miles, 55,915′ of climbing.
Each of 3-200 milers was different as far as the ride; however, the weather was great for all three rides. Reflecting back on it, would we do it again? Perhaps!!!!