Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men go often askew, as the renowned Scottish poet said. With COVID-19 today’s BFF all those cycling events this spring are thrown into doubt. You’ve probably heard the astonishing news today that the Giro D’Italia has been postponed because of the pandemic. Is nothing sacred anymore? If the Giro can be tossed aside you can bet your sweet patootie that little ol’ cycling festivals are not guaranteed either. A couple of the high profile events, the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey and the Eroica California down in Cambria, which were supposed to take place in April, have been cancelled and postponed to fall respectively.
What of local centuries? Perhaps you’re wondering whether to register or you’ve registered and paid the fee already. Events before May are a mix of cancelations and postponements. Events afterwards are generally still scheduled to take place. But that may change depending on what happens with the epidemic. I suspect that people are going to hold off on registering for events and that’s going to force each organizer’s hand to cancel/postpone if not directly because of COVID-19 then because they’ll have so few people sign up that the event will be underfunded. All events prior to May have been cancelled or postponed; early May events are in question. All early May events have been cancelled and even some in early June. Here’s the rundown of upcoming century rides.
March 14 Solvang Century. That’s tomorrow! This is a very big event—never less than several thousand riders. The Santa Barbara County Health Dept cancelled it ‘over the organizer’s objections’. Are you serious? You wanted to run a gigantic event during a pandemic? Even the Giro organizers were wise enough to call off an international race. March 28. Cinderella Classic. Valley Spokesmen, after some consideration, decided to cancel this year’s event. There isn’t a convenient date to reschedule this year, so you’ll have to wait until 2021. No word on the fate of registration fees but likely those who’ve paid will get their registration moved to next year. April 4-5. Eroica. Cancelled by organizers possibly to be rescheduled later this year. Rescheduled for September 25-27. April 18. Sea Otter Classic. Postponed to October 1-4. April 18. Bike Around the Buttes. Postponed to September 26. No word on refunds. April 19. Primavera Century. Cancelled. Reg fee can either be used for 2021 or a refund minus $5 processing charge can be requested. April 25. Tierra Bella. Cancelled. Your registration will be used for 2021 or you can request a refund before 4/23 for a $3 fee. April 25. Mt. Hamilton Challenge. The organizers never confirmed that the 2020 edition would take place and I would doubt it can happen how. April 25. SLO Wildflower. Cancelled and registrants will be notified of their “options”. April 26. Chico Wildflower. Wisely postponed until later this year. May 2. Wine Country Century. Cancelled. Partial refunds for entry fees will be offered (minus unrecoverable expenses) or you can donate your fee to the club. If you ordered kit, it will be sent to you except for t-shirts since that order was cancelled in time and you’ll get a refund for it. May 2. Siskiyou Scenic Bicycle Tour. Now postponed to Oct. 3. May 3. Grizzly Peak Century. Cancelled. Refunds will be made for the entry fee. May 16. Davis Double. 2020 event cancelled. Refunds will be provided. May 16. Tour delle Vigne. Cancelled. Contact organizer for refund or to donate your fee. May 17. Strawberry Fields Forever. Postponed to Sunday Oct. 11. May 30. Devil’s Slide Ride. Still on, astonishingly. Postponed to October 17. June 7. Sequoia Century. Cancelled. June 13. Gold Country Challenge. Postponed to September. June 20. Mile High 100. Still on. If cancelled your reg fee minus processing will be refunded. June 20. RBC Silicon Valley Gran Fondo. Still on. Finally it’s cancelled.
2020 is nigh and so the beginning of a new year of centuries and gran fondos. They start up quickly, folks, with the Tour de Palm Springs and Velo Love Ride in early February. Here’s the early bird information list. All fees listed are for registration now and most go up as the events get closer.
This list goes through June 2020. Many rides in the second half of the year don’t have information posted yet; Part 2 will follow later in 2020. Below includes a lot of ‘old standards’ that Spokers have enjoyed over the years. I’ve also included some that are farther afield and look interesting, as far north as nearly the Oregon border. The Greater SF Bay Area is blessed with a multitude of century and gran fondo rides of which these are just a subset. Starting in April things really heat up and you’ll be able to find a big ride almost every weekend.
Ridership in local centuries generally seems to be on the wane. For example, the Cinderella Classic has been around since 1976 and until recent years had a limit of 2,000 riders, I believe. This year’s limit is down to 800. Having worked registration for over 15 years I can tell you that the numbers have tumbled. Is it because centuries are no longer a ‘thing’, women-only rides are passé (are we post-feminist too?), Valley Spokesmen is tired of fighting the local authorities around permits for such a large event on public roads, or it just can’t muster enough volunteers to hold such a large event anymore? The latter is clearly taking place at the Sierra Century. The Sacramento Wheelmen do not have enough members, particularly new members, to step up and run the event. Cycling clubs are mostly aging up with thin ranks of younger members. The reason for this is unclear. Although cycling is enjoying a boom (yet again), newer cyclists may not be joining clubs.
Fortunately into the breach have stepped a number of local charity organizations to invent and put on new centuries. Local Lions Clubs and Rotary International sections seem to be common sponsors for smaller rides. One could say they’re riding the charity ride wave and that’s good news for those of us who appreciate riding in different areas on new-to-us roads. How many of these will last is questionable because it takes a significant effort to put on a fundraising ride, mainly lots of volunteers and yearlong planning. Different Spokes put on the AIDS Bike-A-Thon for ten years before the leadership and the membership just burned out. So if you see a ride that looks interesting you may want to sign up because there is no guarantee it will be there in 2021.
1 Wednesday. Resolution Ride/New Year Day Up Diablo. Technically it’s not a century or a gran fondo but the NYDUD coming during the winter doldrums will feel like one! And what better way to rid a hangover than to get up early and head to the top of Mt. Diablo? If you do nothing else in 2020, you’ll still be able to say you made it up the second highest peak in the Bay Area. If we’re lucky, the park rangers will again have coffee and donuts at the Junction and Roger H and I won’t have to schlep them all up for you.
8 Saturday. Tour de Palm Springs. $80. Registration is open. Here’s your chance to check out your retirement options by cycling in the Palm Springs area! It’s a schlep to get to Palm Springs but Spokers who’ve been say it’s worth it. Options for 9, 26, 51, or 102 miles.
8 Saturday. Velo Love Ride. [UPDATE 1/6/20: CANCELLED. It seems Chico Velo needed an event organizer and they couldn’t get one this year, alas. I know they also lost their longtime caterer. This event has been held for ages, so this does not bode well for the future.] A low-key event with a flat ride around the Sutter Buttes outside of Chico. Starts in Gridley just north of Yuba City—a much easier schlep than Palm Springs. The meal at the end is worth it. Has a real “locals” feel rather than the usual mass-event mosh pit vibe. Sponsored by Chico Velo, the same fine folks who put on the Chico Wildflower. 40-, 60- and 100-mile options. I’ve been assured by Chico Velo that the Velo Love ride is going to be held even though the Chico Velo site is mum about it now. They also accept late registrations so if rain is threatening, you can make your decision later.
22 Saturday. Pedaling Paths to Independence. $45-40. Registration is open. 65-, 45- or 20-mile routes. This is a pretty easy metric in the Valley that is a benefit for the Community Center for the Blind. It’s cheap too. Mostly flat and not too demanding unless the wind is blowing. A good early season ride. Starts in Linden, east of Stockton.
7 Saturday. Blossom Bike Ride. $50. Registration is open. Put on by the Lions Club, the Blossom Bike Ride is in Reedley southeast of Fresno, about 3.5 hours from SF. Another flattish Central Valley ride and good for starting the riding season and Saddle Challenge. 60-, 45-, and 20-mile options.
14 Saturday. Solvang Century. $99. Registration is open. It’s a long after-work Friday drive down to Solvang but you get to amble back home on Sunday. (But DST does begin that morning.) And be sure to reserve a motel room well in advance. Solvang is a big event with thousands of cyclists. If you like crowds, this is your ride. The rest stop food is perfunctory yet ample but no lunch or after-ride meal is included. 25-, 49-, 66-, and 100-mile options.
28 Saturday. Cinderella Classic & Challenge. Registration opens January 8. $40/$65. Limited to 800 women and girls. 30, 65 or 85 miles. Sponsored by Valley Spokesmen, the very first women/girls only century ride is now in its 44th year. Boys will have to settle for Different Spokes’s very own Evil Stepsisters ride!
4-5 Saturday/Sunday. L’Eroica California. $130/$220. Registration is open. 33-, 74-, 81-, and 108-mile routes for classic bikes; 81-mile route for all bikes. The rides are part of the two-day festival of vintage bicycles held in Paso Robles. You have to have a vintage bike to participate in the Sunday classic ride, e.g. no STI-like shifters, no clipless pedals, basically no bikes made before 1987 and the older the better for the classic routes. But you can ride your modern bike on the 82-mile route on Saturday. Retro-poseurs need apply. And wear wool!
18 Saturday. Sea Otter Classic. $90-110. Registration is open. Did you know the Sea Otter Classic is more than a glitter show of new bike products and race watching? Two gran fondos at 49 or 91 miles. Also a gravel grinder of 29 miles and a mountain bike ride of 19 miles.
18 Saturday. Bike Around The Buttes. $55-40. Registration opens Jan. 1. 100-, 65-, 40-, and 20-mile routes. If you can’t make it to Chico Velo’s Velo Love Ride, this ride covers similar roads in the Sutter Buttes area.
CANCELLED. Sierra Century. This long-time spring century by Sacramento Wheelmen is on hiatus because, “Sadly, this event has been cancelled due to an inability to recruit new club members to take over critical leadership positions for the event. Whether this event is ever offered again depends, at least in part, on the future well-being of the club, which now needs to focus on attracting and integrating new members so that a next generation of Wheelmen will be prepared to do so.” Sad yet understandable.
19 Sunday. Primavera Century. $65 Registration is open. 100-, 85-, 63- and 25-mile routes. Starts conveniently in Fremont but too early to get there by BART (except for the 25-mile fun ride).
25 Saturday. Tierra Bella. $55/$70. Registration is open. Limit of 1,500. A club fav and it’s close by in Gilroy. Great roads, which are not suburbanized (yet). Post-ride meal is pretty good too. For unknown karmic reasons this ride gets horrendously rained out periodically. But in dry years it’s a fantastic ride. 33-mile, 100-mile, or three 100K options varying in hilliness.
25 Saturday? Mt. Hamilton Challenge. For the past three years the Mt. Hamilton Challenge has been cancelled due to weather or road closure. But Pedalera promises it will be back for 2020.
25 Saturday. SLO Wildflower Century. $75. Registration opens Jan. 5. Limit of 1,200. Starts in Creston southeast of Paso Robles.
26 Sunday. Chico Wildflower. $45/$75. Registration is open. 12-, 30-, 60-, 65-, 100-, and 125-mile routes. This century is a club favorite. Spokers usually arrange to have dinner together the night before in Chico. Booking lodging requires advance planning, as the Wildflower will fill up all the motel rooms in the area. If you can take Monday off from work, so much the better because you will almost certainly be whipped after the ride and the excellent post-ride dinner–driving back right after is just a chore.
2 Saturday. Wine Country Century. $70-110. Registration is open. 100-mile, metric, and ‘super’ century. Cap of 2,500. Another club fave. Good lunch, great after-ride meal, awesome tandem friendly rural roads.
2 Saturday. Siskiyou Scenic Bicycle Tour. $65-15. Registration is open. 103-, 68-, 21-, and 8-mile road routes; also a 90-mile mixed surface route! End-of-ride meal. This ride is run by the Yreka Rotary Club and takes you on rural roads north of Mt. Shasta.
3 Sunday. Grizzly Peak Century. $75. Registration opens mid-January. 52-, 76-, 102-mile road routes. Capped at 1,000 riders. Starts in Moraga so very easy to get to except not by BART because BART doesn’t open up early enough. The GPC is most definitely not a flat route–it’s a climber’s ride. This one always sells out, so don’t wait too long after registration opens, which I am guessing will be around the New Year. The end-of-ride meal is most definitely homemade and delicious.
16 Saturday. Davis Double. $120? Registration usually opens in March. Limit of 1,000. No information yet but the DD always takes place. This is one of the easier double centuries as long as it’s not hot.
16 Saturday. Tour de la Vigne Formerly the Lodi Sunrise Century. $65. 100-, 62-, 38-, and 17-mile routes. Starts in the Valley in Lodi and heads up to Camanche Reservoir and back through Linden. If you’re not up for 200 miles at Davis.
17 Sunday. Strawberry Fields Forever. $45 No information yet. 30-, 61-, and 101-mile routes. A pleasant ride in the Santa Cruz and Watsonville area.
30 Saturday. Devil’s Slide Ride. $90/$45. Registration is open. 101-, 64-, and 42-mile routes down the San Mateo coast and up the Coast Range and back. A benefit for PARCA.
7 Sunday. Sequoia Century. $95-45. Registration opens Jan. 2. 100-, 72-, 59-, and 44-mile routes through the Coast Range to the coast and back. Another longtime, epic ride.
13 Saturday. Gold Country Cycling Challenge. $70-45. Registration is open. The Rotary Club of Grass Valley sponsors this one for the seventh time. 100-, 75-, 55, and 33-mile routes from Grass Valley north to the South Yuba River and back. There are actually three paved rides and three “gravel” rides!
20 Saturday. Mile High 100. $85-55. Formerly the Lake Almanor Century. 108-, 56-, and 33-mile routes. Near Lassen Volcanic Park. Mid-ride lunch and after-ride meal included.
20 Saturday. RBC Gran Fondo Silicon Valley. $725/245. Registration is open. Yes, your read that right: $725 for a friggin’ 71-mile ride from Palo Alto to the San Mateo coast and back along the roads we ride all the time—Kings Mtn., Tunitas Creek, Stage Road, Pescadero Creek, La Honda Road. For the venture capitalist in your family. Well, you don’t have to drive far to do this one. Or you could just do the Sequoia, which is not only way less expensive but supports a great local club, Western Wheelers, instead of profiteering carpetbaggers.
If you pledge or collect money for Saddle Challenge, your funds go to Project Inform. Project Inform has been our sole beneficiary because in 2003, the second year of Saddle Challenge’s existence, the club decided to support the Ron Wilmot Ride For Project Inform. Although the RWRFPI was a separate event held later in the year, the board apparently felt strongly enough to raise money for it separately rather than just encourage members to participate in the RWRFPI. I’m guessing that since the RWRFPI involved doing laps in GG Park—not unlike AIDS Walk—it was going to be a lot more fun and interesting to ride elsewhere for a month!
Ron Wilmot was a member of Different Spokes in the early ‘80s and ‘90s and eventually died in 1997 but not before raising an insane amount of money for AIDS services through the AIDS Bike-A-Thon and then starting his own ride in 1995 after BAT vanished. Ron’s ride raised over $750,000 for Project Inform from 1995 to 2007. Although Ron was well-connected, he simply announced his event and convinced a lot of his friends and acquaintances to do it. His event—like Saddle Challenge, Bike-A-Thon, and Double Bay Double—was done with very little overhead. Thus the maximum or near-maximum amount of contributions could go directly to Project Inform. It was truly grassroots fundraising done by an one individual who was able to inspire many others.
Project Inform was one of the first AIDS service agencies that popped up in the San Francisco at the early stages of the epidemic, in 1985. Every year the club selected about a dozen beneficiaries out of the many AIDS services to whom riders could forward pledges. PI was at times one of the organizations that we selected. PI differed from other agencies such as the AIDS Foundation, AIDS Emergency Fund, the Stop AIDS Project, and Pets Are Wonderful Support. Instead of focusing primarily on direct care services and support, PI developed as essentially a research and information clearinghouse. Information about AIDS and HIV, medication and treatment, and clinical trials was difficult to access and ignorance and misconceptions were rife. PI formed not only to organize and disburse information to the community but also to medical professionals. Today PI also focuses on Hepatitis C information and treatment.
Note that PI was and is not simply a “neutral” information center providing education. PI has long had a history of advocacy by fighting for streamlined drug approval, representing the HIV/HepC community to the government, and making sure health care is available to all who need it. PI’s role is thus not only educational but in policy advocacy and improving public health. What made PI interesting is that it was truly community based rather than set up on high by a medical or scientific organization and thus under the control of those whom the epidemic hit the hardest.
Today I finally received a response to my 10/15/18 email to Carter Choi at San Mateo Dept. of Public Works regarding whether the opening of Crystal Springs Dam Road would be postponed yet again beyond 10/31/18. I’ve put in bold the hedging:
“The County is currently putting in a recreational trail south of the bridge to provide a safe area for pedestrians to walk. In addition, there is security fencing that needs to be installed in multiple locations within the project site and this security fencing has to be coordinated and approved with the SFPUC. The current tentative schedule to complete the remaining work for the Parks trail work and the security fencing is the next 2 to 3 weeks pending sub-contractor availability and lead time to procure fencing materials given the current construction climate in the Bay Area. Once this work is completed the ribbon cutting event for the bridge reopening can be properly scheduled. Thank you for your patience.”
My bet is not before mid-January. Nothing gets done during the holidays and if the rains will begin, they will delay any real work. And it sounds like there isn’t even a sub lined up for the work let alone the fencing materials being ordered to spec and delivered. Basically he doesn’t have a clue when it will be reopened.
My question is WTF didn’t his office say that on their website in the first place. It’s like they have no idea what is going to happen next and then get surprised by yet another unknown step to getting this road opened. For all we know the security fencing may also need to pass some Homeland Security requirement and California state requirements as well. And it will have to redone because it wasn’t done correctly the first time.
UPDATE: [11/14] Gosh darn, that two to three week postponement turned out not to be true! Now the website lists “December 2018” for the completion. I’ve lost track of the number of times SM DPW has had to backtrack on their finally finalest-of-all-final deadlines. I still think it can’t happen anytime before February 2019.
Calaveras Road, which has been closed since July 2016, was supposed to reopen on Saturday, November 3. Now the SF Water website says it won’t open before January 1, 2019. The reason? Whatever, it doesn’t matter because they’ve been lining up excuses like bowling pins. They should just say it’s closed indefinitely. But they won’t because people would scream. So they lie and put up a date to placate the public. I would like to say they are unlike other public agencies in their relentless failure to keep to any reasonable timelines. But they’re not: witness Crystal Springs Dam Road (San Mateo County Department of Public Works) and BART.
So, who among you remembers cycling across Crystal Springs Dam Road? If you don’t, it’s no surprise because we are approaching the 8th anniversary of its closing. Yes, Crystal Springs Dam Road has been closed for eight years: it closed on October 21, 2010—can you believe it? Admittedly the reason for the ridiculously prolonged closure is not entirely bogus. The construction of the replacement dam, which sits on the San Andreas Fault, had to be done conservatively. But as with Calaveras Road there is something about major public works projects that almost always causes them to spiral out of control and blow their timelines. The number of times San Mateo County Public Works has had to revise the opening date is embarrassing. I just glanced online and saw one estimate as “2017”. Seriously? We are almost two years later!
The last estimate of reopening was September 2018 but at the last minute it was pushed back to “mid-October”. Their webpage hasn’t been revised since and we are now just past mid-October and there isn’t even an announcement of a date for the “grand reopening ceremony”. In other words, they’ve blown their deadline again and we haven’t a clue as to when they will reopen it. I emailed the Senior Civil Engineer, Carter Choi, a few days ago about a revised estimate and surprise, surprise I haven’t heard a thing (I didn’t hear from him when I asked the same question in August—I guess he’s too busy “working” to answer his email). I just called SM Public Works and their receptionist says “mid-November”. Of course the engineers weren’t available to talk.
So how believable is that “mid-November”? Does shit even get done at public agencies near the holidays??
San Mateo’s repeated bad estimates mirror that of another public agency, BART. The Warm Spring extension was initally projected to open in 2014, five years after groundbreaking. It didn’t open until 2017, three years late. We are now awaiting the opening of the two stations just to the south, Milpitas and Berryessa. Both were scheduled to open in December 2017. Then there were problems integrating the new electrical control system to the old existing system, and that pushed the opening to June of this year, which didn’t happen, and the new opening was set for maybe the end of 2018 but probably more like early 2019. (Didn’t they run into those same system issues with the Warm Springs station? If so, why didn’t they revise their timeline before?) So now they’re three years behind schedule for Berryessa.
Now comes word that equipment was installed in the two stations that was not “compliant” (they were used and not new) and has to be removed, replaced, and then tested again. Now the rough estimate is Milpitas and Berryessa won’t open any earlier than “late 2019”. The Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority has requested a FTA extension with a deadline to begin service of December 31, 2019. Of course they could easily refile for another extension. Earlier this year we were thinking we could use Milpitas BART to get to the start of the Mt. Hamilton in the Fall ride. That is off the table for next year as well.
We have no inkling as to the actual sequence of events that leads to these delays. Why do agencies continue to mouth overly optimistic opening dates? They should know from previous miscalculations that the error is, say, roughly three years and then add that to their public announcements. One wonders if the delays are due to truly unforeseeable circumstances or whether it is really due to mediocre oversight of contractors and/or inept planning.
Will I even be alive when BART opens these stations??
Every March Different Spokes hosts the Saddle Challenge. Originally a not-so-serious intraclub competition to see who could rack up the most miles in March, it evolved into a fundraiser for Project Inform. I believe Saddle Challenge started in 2002 but I’m not sure who the originator was. It very well may have been Chris Laroussell, who was President at the time. The Ron Wilmot Ride for Project Inform started in the ’90s after Bike-A-Thon folded and it was still held when Saddle Challenge started even though Ron had passed on years beforehand. But like many fundraisers that lose their moving force, the RWRFPI disappeared around 2007, and at that time Saddle Challenge adopted it and added the fundraising component that it has to date.
In any case the goal of Saddle Challenge remains the same: ride as many miles as possible in March in order to kickstart your riding season. We also raise money from self-pledging or by persuading friends, family, or acquaintances to chip in, in order to donate much needed funds to Project Inform. How you pledge is up to you. You can do it per mile, lump sum, or any formula you choose. To participate in Saddle Challenge you do not have to donate to Project Inform, but you do need to register so that we can see all those miles you’re riding! And you’ll be able to see how many miles everyone else is riding too at the DSSF website. Yeah, it seems really dated how this is done—it was designed for the world before Strava became a thing. Wouldn’t it be nice if Strava or some other platform could host little mini-competititions like this!
To spur you on we have a robust calendar of club rides during March. Originally the plan was to have a club ride for every Saturday and Sunday in March so that you all could ride with other Spokers. But it hasn’t quite worked out (yet) since Sunday March 18 still doesn’t have a ride even though the day before has two. And it may work out yet! To be continued…
This year we are making our friendly competition a bit more interesting by offering prizes for members who do the most miles on our club rides and for those who donate the most money. Keep in mind you must be a member to be eligible to win a prize. We’ll be giving away a Spurcycle bell, a Bontrager Flare R taillight, a Bontrager Ion 100 R headlight, and the book Road To Valor: A True Story of WWII italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation. And maybe some other mysterious goodies will appear before the end of March—you never know!
The number of miles you ride is counted on the honor system. But for the most miles ridden on club rides in March you will need to make sure you sign the ride waiver at each ride in order to get credit. The miles you earn on those rides is based on the ride listing mileage or its RWGPS route. If you ride extra miles before or after the club ride, they don’t count, alas. However if the club ride goes rogue and officially does extra miles (like the ride leader getting everybody hopelessly lost), they do count as long as the ride leader can confirm what happened.
To register go to the DSSF webpage and hit the link ‘Saddle Challenge’ on the sidebar and fill in the details.
At the end of March when Saddle Challenge closes, send a check for your donation and/or collected pledges to the Ride Coordinator who will forward them all to Project Inform. Checks should be made out to Project Inform.
Finally, if you have other ideas to make Saddle Challenge even more interesting, share them with me.