The Dead of Winter Double Century
December 1, 2013
Report by – Edgar Burcksen
This Double Century had its debut this year on December 1st. It was announced as a minimally supported ride with only water and Hammer Heed at the rest stops; you had to provide your own bagged lunch that would be transported to the lunch stop. For weeks I had scrutinized the weather forecast because it can be very wet or cold around that time of the year in Southern California. I would not ride in the rain but I was prepared to weather the cold if needed. But when I arrived at 4.30 AM in Malibu at the start, the Dead of Winter Double welcomed us with a balmy but windy 65 degrees; you just got to love living in this area! I decided to keep my arm and knee warmers on and also my thermal vest, not because of the temperature, but more because of the extra pockets to carry stuff. I was in great spirits because this was going to be an easy one: great weather and a course that had only 6600 feet of climbing. The LA Wheelmen who had designed this ride called it a combination of their famed Grand Tour Low Land and High Land routes. The first 100 miles was going to be the Low Land flat ride and the last 100 miles the High Land route with some significant climbs. The elevation difference between the Low Land (5200 feet) and High Land (8500 feet) is significant so a published 6600 feet seemed pretty easy.
I was on my bike and en route at 4.45 AM when right out the parking lot, the first “challenge” was Pepperdine Hill! And then along the familiar stretch of PCH from Malibu to Las Posas. I regretted my clothing choices because I was getting sweaty in the warm cross winds but after reaching the flat Oxnard valley the temperature dropped into the low forties and now I was shivering. I reached the first rest stop when daylight was just peering over the hills. I turned off my lights and hooked up with my Sacramento buddies who were on a tandem: a great way to burn miles while sucking their wheel against the head winds. On the flats we were going a respectable 18 mph but when we reached the first hills around Moorpark it became clear that going uphill I was much faster. At the top of each hill I waited for them and then had a hard time keeping up with them as they thundered down like a ton of bricks in the descent. Even though according to the organizers the first half was the Low Land route, by the time we reached the lunch stop at Ojai my Garmin already told me that I had climbed more than 7000 feet and we had not even started the big climb of the day: the Lake Casitas Pass.
As we rode the first part of the double century we had picked up some more riders who liked our speed and with a tandem as our locomotive we became a train of riders. We all left the lunch stop around 2 PM and weaved through Ojai on our way to Highway 150, the road to the ocean with two significant climbs. My buddies on the tandem told me to wait for them at the next rest stop under an overpass at the 101 in Carpenteria because they figured that I was going to climb well ahead of them. I had told all the passengers on our train who had only done the Grand Tour Low Land that the Lake Casitas Pass was a hard one but nobody heeded my advice and they all ran away from me including the tandem when they encountered the first mild rollers of 4% before the real climb. I lost sight of all of them and as I went on my steady climbing pace I thought that maybe I was tiring and they were all stronger riders than me. But as the real climb started and the pitch went to 10% and sometimes 12%, the tandem came into sight and as I slowly gained on everybody, I reached the top all by myself and not waiting for anybody, I raced down to the next climb with similar pitches. Even though I’m originally from the very flat country of the Netherlands, I just love to go up hills and even though I might not be the fasted one, I always seem to outlast everyone on long climbs. I reached rest stop #5 a half hour before the tandem arrived and I took time to prepare for the dark. I put on my arm and knee warmers which I had taken off when the sun started to warm the day and checked my lights. When the tandem arrived they just took a short break and we took off without the train who were still struggling to reach the ocean. Behind the tandem and with the wind at our back, we raced along the freeway to Ventura and the last rest stop in Oxnard. At this speed I thought we could reach Malibu at 8 PM but things turned out a little different.
As we rode along PCH past Las Posas and Big Rock the tandem slowed down significantly and started wobbling. When we reached the top of the hill after Leo Carrillo the front man of the tandem got off the bike with severe cramps. He started to throw up and it was clear that we had to wait and let him recover a bit. After a half hour he felt good enough to carry on but it was a struggle. I decided to lead them through our shortcuts of Broad Beach and Malibu Colony to cut out at least two climbs. After stopping a second time for a half hour after the climb from Zuma Beach we finally reached Malibu at 9.30 PM. My Garmin told me I had climbed more than 8500 feet – the equivalent of the Grand Tour High Land! And, had I not taken the short cuts of Broad Beach and Malibu Colony going over Pepperdine Hill, it would have exceeded the High Land route by around 9000 feet. But I finished and that’s the goal in these crazy events.
Another Triple Crown in the bag!
Thanks for reading, Edgar