They say the Devil Mountain Double is one of the toughest rides in the US. The ride is about 205 miles with over 20,000 feet of climbing and by the end of the day, you can feel every hill.
The ride started in San Ramon and I left with the 6 AM group. Most riders left a little earlier, around 5 AM, but for me getting up at 4 AM to make the drive was hard enough. So about 40 of us left at 6 AM, riding in a group in a dark and foggy morning. I kept telling myself “time to buy some arm warmers!” as the fog turned into the beads on my arms. We rode pass the exclusive Blackhawk community but it was still too dark to see much of the neighborhood. But in a little bit we were making the climb up Mt. Diablo and the blood started pumping a little harder, warming up the rest of my body. The climb took less than an hour but it was a constant climb. On a clear morning, you could see the Sierras and Mt. St. Helena but not much could be seen through the thick fog. And to rub it in, all the early riders were coming down through the fog as we were making our climb. Eventually, we emerged through the fog about 10 minutes from the summit. There was a nice rest stop at the top and I grabbed an energy bar and topped of my water bottle. I then headed down the mountain and into the fog. We had been warned multiple times to watch our downhill speeds. The posted speed limit was 25 MPH and we heard the park rangers were on the lookout for speeding cyclists. So between poor visibility and the speed limit, much of the descent was spent riding the brakes. Less than 5 minutes later, I had a flat. My hands were so cold it took me about 10 minutes to change everything and when I started pumping up the new tire I could hear that I had a puncture leak! I started to pull everything off again and one of the SAG vehicles pulled up and gave me a new tube. Lifesaver! In another few minutes I was heading back down the mountain.
Having two flats left me well behind the 6 AM group and it would take me awhile before I rode with some other riders. The ride until the Morgan Territory climb was fairly uneventful. Along this section, the road was mainly a one-laner for pot-hole covered miles. At the same time, the road was going up, but it’s a subtle climb most of the time so it just feels like I wasn’t moving as fast as should have. There’s a nice rest stop at that top where I had a couple of strawberries. The wind and fog really picked up at the summit and going down the backside was cold and a little hair-raising. This portion of the ride was known as “The Plunge”. Hang on and watch out for cars coming the other way out of the fog.
From this point, I was back among some of the groups and moving along fairly comfortable. I had a slight tail wind, went into a tuck and just pedaled away. The next major site would be the windmills. I’d looked down and be zipping along at 26 MPH. Life was good. Then the route turned south, towards the Altamont Speedway. I was now riding in a tough crosswind. The wind blew so loud against my ears I couldn’t even hear the radio through my headphones. Things got worse when we started heading back West, up and over Patterson Pass. Not only was I climbing, and it was a pretty good climb, but the wind kept blowing me back.
Soon I arrived at the Mines Road rest stop (mile 91) where I downed a Coke then a Hansens. The sun was out in full force and with only one water bottle I tried to drink as much as possible at the rest stop. I took a few extra minutes and sat in a chair before the next climb of about 2000 feet. But once I left this rest stop I started having chain problems. My chain kept clicking and would occasionally slip. This was a major point of frustration until I reached the lunch stop at mile 116. On the positive side, the ride at this point provided great scenery and, unlike last year, not too many bugs flying in my face.
I arrived at lunch and met another rider from Grass Valley. I also used this time to lube my chain, thinking that would help with the noise and slippage. After a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, another Hansens and energy bar, I took off towards Mt. Hamilton. About 20 minutes after leaving the lunch stop, my chain was giving me serious problems. The clicking had turned louder and it would slip every couple minutes. About 125+ miles into the ride, I decided to turn around and not risk breaking down on the Mt. Hamilton climb. I had decided my day had ended and I would take a SAG vehicle back to the start. But as I rode back towards the lunch stop, I changed my mind and reasoned to keep riding until my bike would go no more. So I turned around and, once again, headed towards Mt. Hamilton. As luck would have it, my chain broke about 15 minutes later. I coasted over to the side and tried to fix it with a rock by hammering the link. A few minutes later, a group of riders passed and one of the riders, Kurt, stopped to offer his multi-tool. This was just what I needed. We used it to remove one of the links and put the chain back together. 10 minutes later, we were back on the road and I road with him until we caught his group on the Mt. Hamilton climb. I rode with them for a couple more miles then said “thanks again” and went on my own. This climb was one of the most difficult of the day, it’s during the hottest part of the day and you summit a few feet over 4200.
The best part of this climb, was going down the other side. But with nearly 150 miles done, my hands and feet took a beating hitting every pothole and bump on the downhill. There was a quick rest stop before hitting Sierra Road. I could feel myself losing energy and wasn’t looking forward to the Sierra Road climb. At this point, my eyes were searching for a Starbucks for a little caffeine jolt but I decided to keep moving. Sierra Road was tough. Once you turn onto it, the road immediately climbs over 1800′ in slightly over 3 miles. Most of the time, I was out of the saddle, pedaling just to keep from rolling backwards. I found my second wind near the top and enjoyed the Calaveras Reservoir scenery passing me on the right. The sun was starting to set and I wanted to make it through Crow Canyon before it got too dark.
Sunol was the last rest stop before the finish. The temperature was dropping and I grabbed a cup of hot chocolate and refilled my water bottle for the final stretch. Dusk had arrived and I turned on my lights as I left Sunol. Crow Canyon was just a pain because you are so close but you still have these hills you have to climb. There’s almost no traffic so it was a good time just to reflect on the day and be glad that I had some good luck with the chain and Kurt.
With about 10 miles to go, it was completely dark. I could see a bicycle taillight ahead of me and a headlight behind me. I eventually passed the rider ahead of me who had pulled over on the Norris Canyon Road climb. This last climb was just a slap in the face. Less than 10 miles to go, and you have one final 900 foot hill to climb before riding into San Ramon. But with the moon out, riding at 9 PM was peaceful. I pulled into the Marriott around 9:10 PM, not nearly as sore as last year.