Friday, April 7, 2017

Redlands Strada Rossa IV

This is beyond late in being written and posted but to be honest work got busy and it wasn’t the best of days so I really wasn’t that inclined to sit down and put finger tips to keyboard. But here I am and it will serve as a good reminder when registration comes round again for Redlands Stada Rossa V next year, skip this event.


As a reminder, I rode this race last year but crashed and ended up limping home with a DNF and with my rear derailleur shot and not being able to change gears. So this year I had unfinished business. It was only to be a B race or possibly even a C race but it would be a good opportunity to put my newly installed 11 speed groupset on the Lynskey through its paces and give me a pretty good sense of how I was coming along fitness-wise in the grand scheme of things.


Nice and Shiny! It lasted about 30 minutes!

The event is a fundraiser for the Inland Empire Cycling Alliance. Inland Empire is with San Bernadino and is roughly 120 miles or a solid two-hour drive from my house.

The morning and drive out was uneventful, albeit an early one. About halfway into the drive I realized I had left my wallet behind and that I didn’t have enough gas to get home…so no stress there!

I considered my options; turnaround, call Becca and say could she come out and help, call the AAA or beg someone for some cash! As luck would have it I had been contacted by one of the organizers asking if I could donate some raffle prizes and had a name of someone who could (hopefully) lend me $20 to get home! I had quickly reached out the companies that I am an Ambassador for and to a few others that I know. Unfortunately, I couldn’t drum up anything in the few days’ notice I was given so I raided my closet and found some unworn Truckers from Headsweats. Some socks and a cap from 3T. A few bags of Skratch were pulled from my kitchen cabinet. 3TrainerRoad generously chipped in a 3 month subscription and Thread & Spoke created a special coupon code. I was armed with a box full of swag, a name and a need to borrow some cash!

An enforced stop to find a bathroom put me a little behind schedule and by the time I arrived, met my contact, begged some money, handed off the swag and got my bike the horn blew for the start and we rolled out. 200 yards in I then realized I had forgotten sunscreen, with the possibility of an 8 hour or longer day it seemed stupid to not stop, I quickly shot back to the car and slathered myself. Of course, the small-ish group of 90 mile riders were out of sight! Bugger!

Fortunately I had the route in my Garmin and I was able, after a couple of wrong turns, to get onto the route without too much drama. The first 5-6 miles or so was on and off road but nothing too problematic. There were a few more wrong turns but I quickly corrected my errors and was happily making my way along thinking that I would catch sight to the main group riders at some point. Yeah about that!


Getting out of town…and following tire marks in the dirt!

At Mile 8 the route went off road and here I made a fatal error and missed a turn completely. With hindsight, I should have turned around but at the time it seemed I was on the right trail. I spent an hour riding, hiking up slopes, hiking down slopes, carrying my bike and covered between 5-6 miles. I finally found the missed turning and was back on track. However, I was obviously a long way behind the 90 mile riders. I referenced the route card and altered the distances so I knew what to add on to the miles on my Garmin.


Rideable, Carryable…it’s all the same!

I did some math on the timing and thought that I would probably miss the first Aid Station as it was only serving the 90 mile ride. Even though there were no posted times for AS closing I was so far behind that it only made sense. I though therefore that I would hit the second AS for me which was the first AS for the metric century riders who had set off 30 minutes after me. I would be at Mile 27 including my extra 6 miles and they would be at Mile 13. Don’t worry about the math, just know that I would find an AS at some point!


As I closed in there were no signs of any AS, no popup tent, no empty water jugs, not a soul. Ok I thought then hopefully I would catch something at AS 3 (#2 for the Metric riders) at M44/M29 respectively. I was riding back on the road at this point but had no cash on me to resupply so I went into a gas station, ducked down, used their ice machine to fill my bottles and left. I rode onto the next AS location and as before nothing. Fortunately, this was in a park and I found a water fountain and filled up both my bottles which had some ice left in each!

At this point I been covered 60 miles and been on the go for nearly 7 hours. I had started with two full bottles of Skratch, refilled them with ice around mile 40. I had also grabbed a couple of Clif and RX Bars from home. Usually I would rely on real food but I hadn’t had any time to whip up any portables.


Any port in a storm!

Fortunately I am not a heavy drinker and it was not an overly hot day. There was some cloud cover and wasn’t over heating or even close to it. There were a couple of tough climbs where I got a good sweat on and some pretty rough sections but I was managing on my minimal supply and had started to actually ration myself. My food was gone and with 30 miles or so go I had two full bottles of Skratch and the slim possibility of actually finding an AS location manned. I thought it would be around another 2 – 3 hours of riding as I was averaging 12 miles in the hour. I should probably mention that for the entire day after the start I didn’t see one other rider, not one!

I chipped away at the mileage and actually recognized some of the route from the prior year albeit it we were riding in reverse. I was rolling along and minding my own business when I overcooked it on a descent and went over the bars, the bike landed in a heap next to me and my shiny new shifters were all nicely scratched. This added insuIt to injury. I nice cut on my knee rounded things out. I remounted and got on with the day. No point sitting there pouting!

Despite the lack of fuel and fluid I was feeling pretty confident of finishing but it was becoming a race against time to beat the battery on my Garmin. I had, somewhere along the route, lost my route card and without the Garmin I would be lost too. I did have my phone and I was skirting civilization as I went from road section to off road section so there was no real issue of being lost in the woods so to speak. Also unlike last year there were pretty good course markings with chalk arrows and plastic cones so I was able to follow those quite easily.

Long days like this are often more mental than physical, a fact born out by the technical data; Ave HR 128, NP144. Pushing on when you really just want to say ‘eff this is something that is hard to explain but every pedalstroke is getting you closer to the finish. It becomes an internal narration of continuous forward motion and one where you know that stopping just isn’t an option. Anyway, no one is coming to get you!

With all that said it all came a head quickly; my Garmin gave out a final chirp and died. I was in the back of residential area and couldn’t find any arrows or cones. I rode up, down, left and right and really gave it a good go to find the route but I just couldn’t see anything to follow.

I pulled out my phone, hit Google Maps and pulled up the directions back to the car and the start/finish. I was 9 miles away, I would miss the last 2 or 3 off road sections but it was basically the same net mileage. I turned up the volume and listened to the directions as I rolled back to the start. I was expecting to see the promised food and drink and folks telling war stories and the like. I found a deserted parking lot!

I cleaned up, headed to a gas station, grabbed some food from Trader Joes where I could pay with my iPhone and drove the 2 hours home!

If you want to know about the course my best advice is to download the oute and go and ride it. If you are interested here is my Strava file. I am sure it will change next year anyway. It’s not easy or for the fair weather rider. This year was easier than last I am told and I would agree. It’s a long technical day that challenges your fitness and bike handling skills. Compared to the few other Gravel events I have ridden it was much more technical on the off road sections.


I had thought to berate and complain about the event. The mysterious missing Aid Stations were apparently there and I have seen photos online from other riders on the course and at the finish line! By my best guestimate I finished somewhere around 2-3 hours after the second to last person. I would certainly not expect anyone to wait for me for that long and I had signed away my life with the standard waiver at the start. It’s an adventure after all!

There are things that could be improved, this year was better than last and I am sure next year will improve again but my love affair with Strada Rosso is over. I had gone to the race to close unfinished business from last year and even though I didn’t quite ride the entire course and I added a section of my own design, I more or less covered the distance and I was certainly out there for the duration.



My Fenix3, which has a better battery life then my Edge810, recorded for just over 11 hours in total, of which 9 hours was moving. I covered 93 miles and 7800’ of gain.

Strava categorized the day as Epic, I wouldn’t disagree!

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