I have always wanted to do a century ride, and when I got an injury that kept me from running for a few months I figured it was a good time to get on my bike and complete this goal. I chose the Wine Country Century, put on by the Santa Rosa Cycling Club, which as rumor had it was quite a popular event.
The ride started at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa. Check in was smooth, and just as the sun was rising, my friend Michelle and I were off. I was initially worried about bike congestion with 1,500 riders, but everyone started at different times and there were a variety of distances offered so congestion was never an issue.
The first portion of the course headed west and wound in and out of the wine country backroads, passing family owned wineries and farms. There were no cars in sight, but the roads were a bit torn up and we had to navigate around a number of pot-holes. Also, it was cold, really cold. With weather predicted to be in the 80′s we did not expect such a cold morning, and clearly we should have worn more layers. My fingers and toes were numb and my teeth were literally chattering!
There was a long gradual climb up towards Occidental and then a long descent through the redwoods down to Monte Rio, which was just gorgeous. Before we knew it, we were at the first rest stop at mile 25. The rest stop was literally just that, people were r-e-s-t-i-n-g. There was a massive array of food and a warm potato breakfast burrito just made my morning (along with some cookies, fruit, and chips). We lingered for a bit, as that seemed the thing to do, and then headed out again.
The second section continued through the redwoods to Guerneville, and then east to Forestville. It was still cold!
Eventually we made it out of the shade and back into vineyard territory and the temperature began to rise. The second rest stop was at mile 48, just next to the Russian River. Once again we munched and munched and munched. I felt sick getting back on the bike, but how could I resist so many goodies. These were the best rest stops ever!
There was another 22 miles until the lunch stop near Lake Sonoma, which I though of as 22 miles to burn of all the food I had just eaten and work up an appetite for lunch. We passed by Healdsburg and what seemed like at least a thousand wineries on the way. I was questioning why I was biking in 80+ degree heat instead of drinking at any one of the wineries we passed, hmmm. We arrived at the lunch stop and raced to get some very tasty sandwiches among other things. The event organizers had layed out dozens of picnic blankets and people were napping all over the place which I found quite amusing. If I had layed down for a nap I don’t think I would have gotten back up.
We didn’t dally too long at lunch and carried on to towards Geyserville, then Jimtown and finally the 4th and final rest stop. On this portion of the course I started to feel some quad fatigue and then some pain from the seat that was a pain unlike any I have ever experienced before, wow, wow! I was so glad to get off my bike at the rest stop. To my welcome surprise, there was Coke at the rest stop, which I knew would numb all of the seat pain and pull me through the last 15 miles. As usual I got my “finish line is within grasp” adrenaline rush, which helped power me through. How could I not power through with a barbeque and Lagunitas beer at the finish! Before we knew it, we were at the finish line and yes, eating once again.
Overall I though the Wine Country Century was a fantastic event that was extremely well organized. The course had 3,300 ft of climb which is not a huge amount, but enough for my first century. The scenery was gorgeous and the course was well planned. I would definitely do this event again, but for now I’ve got to get my feet back on the trails.