to add to Rob’s detailed report:
I rode over from my house to Sorrento Valley to avoid the hectic starting miles, but I was a bit early – a good 10-15 min ahead of main group. I met with and rode for a while with Eric and Rob (as well as Jeff aka Narrow Path), then turned around and rode back to meet the main group. There was a huge peloton, seemed like 80-100 riders large. I turned around when I saw the “swarm of cyclists” approaching – they were moving too, I really had to sprint almost all-out to get up to speed to avoid being passed and spit out from the back (as per strava, the group was traveling at 30.6 mph on flat section under 56 just as I joined!). Lucky for me, Bernie was sitting in 4th wheel and yelled for me to get in front of him. Despite huge size (growing only larger every time we stopped at stoplight), it was surprisingly safe, for the most part.
There were a lot of strong riders representing Team Veloz, Moment Cycling, a few SDBC and UC Cyclery jerseys, and Descenders were well represented as well: Ernst was sitting near the front, looking sharp as he always does, and soon I saw Cresap as well as Larry Murray and John Bittinger.
We picked up Eric at San Dieguito right turn. When we got to Rancho Santa Fe, the group began to stretch out a bit. Eric went straight to the front as we hit first mini-climb on Via de la Valle (approach to Stud Loop), and stayed at the front all the way till Del Dios, setting a mean, fast tempo. It really got the group strung out in a long line.
As we started climbing Del Dios the group went single file with gaps opening up all over the pace. I was sitting around 5th wheel and I could see Larry not far behind me, but he did get gapped out towards the top as a few riders ahead of him couldn’t hold the pace. About 15 of us made it to the top of Del Dios together with several smaller group chasing. Nobody wanted to go to the front at the Lake Drive so I went to the front for a while. I even opened a bit of a gap as we hit the climb to Via Rancho, but I soon got caught – still, we had a group of 5 or 6 at the top of Via Rancho, but there seemed to be little interest in pushing the pace to keep the group away, and we quickly became the group of 10 and then 15 on the downhill section towards I-15 as riders were catching us – including Larry, who I was very happy to see rejoin. As we crossed Lake Hodges and started on Pomerado, a few more riders including John Bittinger joined. We now had 3 Descenders jersey in a group of 20 or so. Larry and I did a few quick turns for a while, but we stopped at a few lights and the group was swelling up in size.
We passed Bob Raibert and his son on a tag-along tandem, and we also saw his wife, Andrea and daughter cheering on the course.
Soon we hit the final big climb, up Pomerado, and the group (by now probably 30-40 riders large) quickly thinned out, again – I went to the front and pushed the pace for the final third or so of the climb, and we crested the top with a group of 5 riders – on the descent we sort of soft-pedaled again, allowing a few riders, including Larry and John to rejoin once again, as they weren’t far behind. Larry, John and I finished together, bypassing the silly all-out sprint for the bragging rights in the finale, but safely in the front group of 15 or so riders.
Very soon, just a few minutes later (4 minutes to be precise, according to strava, which almost never lies), Ernst and Bernie arrived in the second group, as well as Rob and Bob Raibert a few minutes later. Bob now had his daughter on his tag-along bike. I don’t think I saw Bob since Stagecoach!
Apparently Eric turned home before the final section, and Geoff was still somewhere on the course with his son. After some socializing at the finish, Larry and I rode home together, making it 60+ miles with plenty of high quality riding segments (at least according to our power meters).
This was a rather fast-paced ride, with a lot of very good quality riders – I think the pace was quite a bit faster than in previous years, and a lot harder to keep pace in the front group, as compared to when I did it last 2 or 3 years ago.
Photos are below. You should have come!