For years I have heard many of the Backboners speaking of the delightful Solvang Century. Mostly when we attend the Firestone Walker mountain bike race (now the Santa Ynez Valley Classic) as the Century course passes right beside the race course.
This year I was finally formally invited by my road training partner and all around great gal Betsy. She sang sweet lies about enjoying my company and my winning smile or some bs like that, but when I got to the venue, I realized that the mighty munchkin bunch just needed a large object to draft behind for 100 miles!
And since Tim was smart enough not to fall for her woman trickery I was the only alternate. ;) But seriously it was an awesome group o girls and a lot o fun. Here we are pre-ride, l to r; Betsy, Jeannie, Me, Donna & Steph.
After a lazy late wakeup and breakfast of eggs and oatmeal & strawberries from Donna's 'J-Lo' trailer we were on our way, but not before all four girls donned their secret weapons, a US Post Office mail pouch inserted inside the front of their jerseys a la the newspapers Tour de France riders use. The weather was supremely cool with heavy cloud cover for most of the day and the double-layered laminated paper pouches would provide the ladies with unparalleled frontal wind protection! Who knew?
The ride went smoothly, with only Donna throwing in attacks right from the get-go. At the first aid station though, the group reformed after PB&J sammies, bananas and a pee break. We endured horrible scenery the entire ride; lush green rolling hills spotted with trees, valley after valley of gorgeous wine fields, and wildflowers of all colors.
With the temperature just below what I thought was perfect and a pace just below what I thought was optimal I eventually began to get antsy, though. Luckily, just before I went completely mad, about that time we were about 2/3 through the course and we started the hilly sections. Metaphorically thumbing my nose at the rest of the people who were just happy to finish a Century (except the guy riding the 3-speed 'Fat Tire Ale' beach cruiser, complete with fenders, fake gas tank, and racks) I proceeded to climb the hills at mach speed, only to flip a U-ie at the top, charge back down and do them again. It really worked out perfectly, too, as I would get to the top the second time just after the girls got up the first time, and the group would be whole again. Yay!
With only one pavement section that was torn up so much that you wanted to chew your arms off, the rest of the ride went splendidly. The girls, realizing that the end was near and they still felt great, were able to quicken their pace. Even the last climb which was rumored to be a hellish nightmare, which ran mere feet away from the dreaded dirt climb on the Firestone Walker course, was breezed over with so little effort that everyone was left wondering "Was that it?"
Seasoned century pros that we were, we even skipped the actual finish line, opting instead to head straight back to our deluxe campsite, for beers, a hot tub soak, and a great campfire cookout. Awesome stuff.
It's definitely a great ride and a great vibe.