Archive for the 'Solvang Double' category

Solvang Double Century 2008

| April 2, 2008 7:48 am

by Franz Kelsch

There were twelve club members who took on the Solvang Double Century challenge this year, including Joe Farinha, Dave Zajac, Jon Kaplan, Gary Franck, Barry Schwartz, Marnel King, Barbara Murphy, Fred O’Leary, Louise McCracken, Steve Sundstrom, Ken Emerson and myself. In addition I knew a couple of others that I ride with that joined the event. This is the account of my experience.

Last week I took a look at my data from last year trying to figure out how I could improve on my time. I wrote about my strategy in a prior personal blog entry.

Just as we did last year, I started with the 7:30 am group, the ones that wanted to be timed. Joining that group was Gary Franck, Joe Farinha and Kley Cordona. This 7:30 start group is made up of mostly fast riders. We had a large gathering, maybe over 40 riders. The pace was brisk but I didn’t feel over taxed. After 20 miles we turned to head up Foxen Canyon. This has two moderate climbs and after the second one there is a longer descent. It was on this second descent that I lost the group last year and never was able to catch back on.

My strategy this year was to stay right near the front of the pack for the second climb so I had a better chance to stay connected. It may be the fact that this year there were no tandems to chase down the hill, or that I had been working on descending down faster, but in any event this time I was able to stay connected to the front pack, something only about half the group were able to do. We lost the other half on either the climb or the descent and I knew that they would never be able to catch back on.

We stretched out to a single pace line. Except for a few wheel suckers at the back, everyone was taking a turn pulling, some longer pulls than other, which was okay. One guy, who was particularly strong, would ramp up the pace every-time he pulled. I found myself right behind him on a couple of rotations which meant I had to drive hard to hang on his wheel, then do a pull and still keep enough left to rotate to the back.

I had already planned to skip the first rest stop and sure enough this group went right by it. We made one wrong turn which costs us an extra 2 miles and some lost time trying to get back on course. There were some rollers right before the 2nd rest stop (our first one) that proved a bit difficult due to the pace. I was glad when we finally stopped with a total of 84.8 miles averaging 22.0 mph.

Some of the group had a very quick stop, just enough to fill water bottles. I needed a bit more time but was was able to get back on the bike in less than 6 minutes. There was only one other fellow from the 7:30 group who started with me by the name of John who was from Nevada. He and I biked together for awhile. We were soon joined by others from the 7:30 group that had taken a little longer at the rest stop. But there was a couple of young guys who were driving the pace too high for me, so I eventually dropped off the back. I slowed down to wait for John who had fallen off earlier. We biked together, taking turns pulling until we hit the check point at Morro Bay. We had to wait 1 minute there to get the dot to prove we had gone to the turn around point.

While riding through Morro Bay I hit a bad bump and came down on the back of my saddle, which tipped up the nose. I couldn’t get it to move back level. Although it was quite awkward to ride like that I decided I could not afford to stop so I rode that way until the lunch stop, which was another 14 miles from Morro Bay.

It took me about a minute to fix my saddle and then another 6 to 7 minutes to get some food. We saw some of the 7:30 riders leaving, so John and I jumped on our bikes and caught them.

We started to form a pace line behind a tandem and rode with that group for awhile but eventually some of us moved out ahead and we never saw the tandem again. Soon it was just John and I again as we pulled into our third rest stop with an average speed of the last section of 19.5 mph. The pace was clearly slower while we kept behind the tandem for those miles.

After a 5 minute stop John and I took off, again just the two of us. I hit another bump and my seat got tipped once again with the nose pointing up. I didn’t want to take the time to fix it again so I decided to just keep riding that way. It made it hard to use the aero bars but I felt maybe I could just wait until the next stop.

We were taking turns pulling but on one uphill grade on Highway 1, where I was pulling, I notice that John had fallen way off the back. I had been doing some calculations in my head and figured at this point I had some slight chance to finish under 10 hours so I made the decision to ride on solo, which I did for the last 50 miles. I had a thought of skipping the last rest stop completely but was down to a half of water bottle so I made a 1 minute stop for water. Fatigue was setting in so I was having a hard time keeping my heart rate up. Fortunately we had a tail wind now. There were several club members at that stop who had started earlier. One told me that Gary was about 10 minutes ahead of me, so I jumped on the bike to chase after him. I noticed at that point I had averaged 20.6 mph rolling from the start.

On the way up Drum Canyon, I heard a popping noise so I stopped to check my bike, only to find I had broken a spoke. That was so unexpected for a light guy like me. I wrapped the broken spoke around another spoke, opened up the brake, then jumped back on the bike and started to climb. I had yet to fix my saddle and wondered if I had time. I decided to stop again and to level the seat. As I started to climb again I kept worrying about breaking another spoke and was not sure how hard I should be torquing the pedals as I climbed. I decided to climb carefully, but steady. I was getting very tired and found it hard to do the math in my head to see if I could still finish under 10 hours. My rolling average speed had now dropped to 20.1. When I made it to the summit, I was wondering how fast I should go down, considering it is a rough road. I decided to ride down fast, just hoping no more spokes broke.

Periodically I would calculate again how much further I had to go and how much time I had left. It seemed to be an impossible task and I was about ready to give up trying to make it under 10 hours. I felt lucky to make all the traffic lights in Beulton, thinking one single stop was more than I could afford. That final uphill as you are entering Solvang was just about enough to kill my chance. I then started to hit the traffic in the town of Solvang so I turned right one block early to take a back street.

I finally made it to the end and clicked the split button on my Polar Heart Rate Monitor just as I came to a stop. I was almost afraid to look down but when I did it read 9 hours, 59 minutes and 51 seconds. Ann was there, a bit surprised I finished so fast. She watched my bike as I ran to check in. I had averaged 20.3 mph for the entire ride and had a total stopping time of less than 23 minutes. Funny thing was that I felt better than I did last year after finishing 43 minutes slower.

The Long and Windy Road (Solvang Double Century)

| April 1, 2007 8:15 pm


It had been five years since I rode the Solvang Double. I had signed up two years ago but had to cancel when I had a running injury while trying to train for the Salt Lake City Marathon at the same time and decided to just focus on the marathon. This year I had the same dual training, with the Boston Marathon just two weeks after the Solvang Double but I was better able to manage the training.

It was cold in the morning, I mean in the 30’s type cold. The day turned quite nice, although it was windy and cool, especially on the coast. I sometimes thought the wind was always a headwind but overall nice biking weather and a lot more enjoyable than last year according to reports from those that rode in the rain in 2006.

Joe F., Gary F. and myself (I called us the three “F”s) were under pressure to break 11 hours since I had earlier sent out an email to the long distance riders in the bike club asking them to join us to break 11 hours, so everyone there I knew would be asking us how we did.

We knew some people were going to start as early as 5:00 am, which meant nearly two hours in the dark and cold but we decided to start the day off with a nice breakfast at Paula’s Pancake House, which opened at 6:00. During breakfast we decided to change our start time from the planned 7:00 am to 7:30 to reduce the time riding in the cold. However we realized that the 7:30 group would have their times recorded and posted so that put more pressure us, leaving no wiggle room when asked if we finished under 11 hours.

When we showed up at 7:20 am for a role call, I was surprised by the large group, which turns out to have been 42 riders. Just after 7:30 we all took off, in one of the largest pace lines I had ever ridden it, probably like riding with a big Pro tour. The speed was about 22-23 mph. Starting at 7:30 proved challenging because if you don’t hang on the fast train all the way there is not another real fast one coming from behind. All three of us stayed with the group until about mile 22 when I could not keep connected during a fast decent. Gary whizzed by and caught on but I found myself riding alone and the train slowly pulling away. Joe soon joined me from the rear, as did one other rider, and we tried to catch them but finally gave up. There were a few other smaller groups we rode with for awhile. I remember one group of 5 riders who didn’t allow Joe or I to take a pull, as if they didn need our help. Another group, with two tandems, were mostly from Cedar City Utah. I showed them I was wearing my Utah Velo jersey so they were kind enough to let us join (I am sure they would have anyway). After some recovery time, we knew had to go ahead or would risk missing our goal.

I think Joe and I rode just two of us for about half of the miles, until we were able to catch Paul D. from the bike club who had left a little earlier. Joe was glad because he had done more than his fair share of pulling by then. But then the pace picked up and I was off the back a lot on the flat part.

At the second from the last rest stop Joe and I were trying to calculate if we could still break 11 hours. We didn’t want to suffer the embarrassment if we failed after all we had done. I said I thought we could not make it because we would have to ride 20 mph for the last 50 miles and skip the last rest stop. Joe didn’t give up so neither could I. I think the lack of oxygen to the brain caused me to make some error in my calculation and was about to give up and slow down, but I kept chasing Joe and Paul.

I just was hoping for some hill to climb, which did not happen until after the last rest stop. At that point I was able to move a bit ahead of Joe and found one young buck to ride with. He was from that group that didn’t want us to take a pull earlier and I remember passing him on the hill. He said he as AHEAD of the rest of the guys in his riding group so I had now passed them all. The two of us took turns pulling the last 10 miles. He complained about the pace but I told him I was a man on a mission. We went past Ken E. with about 5 miles to go who … was riding his single speed. Gee how could someone do that, even starting when he did.

It was fun for me because I was able to do my fastest double so far. I came in at 10:42 total time, beat my goal, with an average speed of 19.6 mph.

This photo was taken out on the course.

Franz riding Solvang Double Century

Here is a photo taken after the ride, Ken on the left, Joe in the middle and me on the right (the only one not wearing a triple crown jersey). Gary had already gone back to the room, finishing a hour before the rest of us, and Paul had left before Ann brought the camera.

Ken, Joe and Franz after Solvang Double

The route started from the Royal Scandinavian where we were staying. We did a short warm-up in the eastern Santa Ynez Valley, then heads up world famous Foxen Canyon. We essentially bypass Santa Maria by jogging around that town on dead quiet Bull Canyon to Hwy 166. Next we more or less parallel Hyw 101 as we headed north. After some really neat back roads, the route skirted the edge of San Luis Obispo, then went all the way into scenic Morro Bay, right to the waterfront and a dramatic view of “the rock.” Next we rolled through some of the prettiest state park miles anywhere, then head south on PCH along the coast through Pismo Beach, and such. After Guadalupe, we stayed southbound on this desolate and beautiful stretch of Hwy 1, bypassing the whole Lompoc area, and then continuing onto Hwy 135 to the neat little western antique haven of Los Alamos, site of the final checkpoint. From Los Alamos, we encounter what is essentially the only real climb of the entire day, up and over Drum Canyon, a quiet, twisty, 800 foot, 3.4 mile ascent. It’s had a gnarly downhill. On the other side, we hop onto Hwy 246 back to Solvang, with a big shoulder all the way to town!

Here is the elevation profile of the ride. It was relatively flat for a double century.

Solvang Double Elevation Profile