The Devil Mountain Double is a ride where it feels like the route goes out of its way to make sure it hits every possible hill in the Bay Area. I’m sure this was not intentional, I mean was, but either way the result is the ride climbs over 27,000 feet in just over 206 miles. It’s a classic.
I opted for the late start (6 AM) which meant I was leaving the house at 4 AM. It took about 1 hour and 40 minutes to drive over to San Ramon so I barely made the start. And by barely I mean being the last rider to make it to the start! So I guess not stopping for coffee was the right choice. The first 20 miles took us through Danville then right away we climbed Mt. Diablo, also known as the Devil for those who took the other foreign language in high school. I worked hard on the climb in a group of 5 riders and surprised myself by being the first rider from the 6 AM group to reach the 3849′ summit. I quickly lost the lead when I stopped for some pictures. The wind howled at the top but the skies were clear and the views fantastic. The descent was well worth the climb.
I rode alone to the Morgan Territory Climb passing some of the casual riders from the 5 AM start. The section is just a slow grind but the road is under the shade of oak trees and there were even a few cows on the side of the road cheering us on. I flipped on my MP3 player and started listening to Leo Laporte (www.twit.tv if you are into podcasts). Picked up a CLIF Z Bar at the top and then headed over to the Altamont and Patterson Pass climb. This section can be windy as evidence by all the windmills blowing on the hills as you ride past them. On the Patterson Pass climb, I rode with Lee McKinley and talked with him a bit. He was saving himself for the Mt. Hamilton climb so I rode on ahead. Great seeing you Lee!
The morning went by fast and even at mile 90 I felt pretty good. I drank 2 Hansens at the Mines aid station, rested in a chair for too long, then headed out for more climbing but some great views of the canyons and wildflowers. Unfortunately, still rode alone.
After lunch, a steak sandwich at the Junction, I pointed the bike towards Mt. Hamilton and pedaled onward. The section had open meadows of bright yellow flowers. Felt great to be riding through this part.
The climb up Mt. Hamilton is nothing but a real grind. Hot. Bugs flying around. One false summit after another. I stopped a few times to try and take some pictures. Each time I stopped, Kevin Sawchuk would ride past me, screaming obscenities at the mountain. But finally I reached the 4209′ summit and the views were amazing. On the summit there are a few observatories, but again those bugs are flying everywhere and I just wanted to put my feet on the pedals and fly down the mountain.
Letting go of the brakes and leaning into the turns on the way down are the best memories of the ride. But those times are short lived and Sierra Road (“The Beast”) lurks just around the corner. With over 150 miles under my belt, I slam right into Sierra Road. The thing climbs 1800′ in 3 miles. I don’t think there is a single foot of shade on this wall and as I climb the sun beats me over the head and the salt stings my eyes. And I paid to do this?
The rest of the ride is more ups and downs. Seems like a lot more ups than downs. I rode a bit with Graham Pollock, aka The Python, who has ridden The 508 a bunch of times. Ended up we raced against each other in 2006. We rode to Palomares Canyon and then I slithered on ahead as we climbed yet another 1000′. Does the climbing ever end? No, because just when you think you are done they throw Norris Canyon Road at you around mile 200 so you won’t think the ride was too easy.
This year I finished before dark. Twice before it has taken me over 15 hours to ride but this year I finished in under 14 hours. I wasn’t even able to try out my new light but that’s OK. I hope this is a good sign for RAAM.