Strada Rossa Ride Report-18 March 2017
by Mike Hodges
Strada Rossa – meaning red road – is a play on the name “Strada Bianche” the famed Italian Spring neo-classic race that traverses the while dirt lanes of Tuscany. Our very own red roads can be found nestling among the foothills of the San Bernardino mountain range around Redlands. The ride – not really a race, certainly not chipped or timed – starts at a the Ritual Brewery in Redlands and does a loop. The first 50 miles gives 60K elevation with about 2/3rds off road. Yep – have a think about that … its very hard, akin to Julian death March. Indeed I tried to bail out at this time but good thing I didn’t as the last 30 miles are a lot easier. See my Strava. I recall there was 8K of climbing at mile 80 so 30 miles with 2K climbing was relatively speaking easy peasy to what had come before. And its 2/3rds off road. The folks who organize the ride are the antithesis of BWR – they deliberately keep the prices down as rallying cry against the borzois highly priced races/rides that are now among us. Not sue they would like it by I group them all together as my Spring Classics i.e. Knowbly Kobly (ride was few weeks ago), Strada Rossa, Dirty Devil and BWR. This year I am doing the last three and next year will do all four.
So to the ride – or my experience thereof. There are three ride distances 90 64 and 30 – I was doing the 90. About 50 started on the 90 and were loosely off at a bit after seven and gently perambulated out the car park and immediately on the first dirt section. I had no idea of the ratio of dirt to road but had chosen to ride my X bike (35 knobblies at back and 27 slick on front – don’t ask … I should have put knowbies on the front also) having seen all the other racers do likewise. No one I could see was on 25 cc road bike and there were a few MTBs as well. This would actually be a great day out for a MTB – but who said cycling should be easy! We stayed on a flat dirt section for a few miles and went through orange orchards. The smell of citrus was amazing and this stimulant would accompany the riders on and off throughout the day for the many times we came upon an orchard. Guess our avocadoes don’t smell as nice as Redlands oranges. The first ten miles of flat dirt where neutral – a pace that had me breathing hard but not lung busting stupid like BWR. I followed a Kangaroo on a bike – actually that was the front marker who had a blow up kanga on his seat. The rider was bouncing along nicely (sorry).
The first climb (the first climb of many and they all became blurred) was steep and about ten minutes in length then everyone (except me) screamed down the back side – I walked and was dropped, though not sure if this counts as an official drop but I never saw the lead group again. I was now lost as the signs were painted red arrows on the ground and I was looking for signs in the trees (which were absent) – I missed the talk at the beginning as I was confident I would keep up which had quickly been shown to be a fallacy. After some backtracking I got back on the route and hooked up with three of the local club riders who were putting on the event and had downloaded GPS map route. Despite this our three locals got lost again – presumably the Kangaroo was leading the fast boys and girls without problem. After some alternate route jerry mongering we were back on the official route and climbing a slidey slipey gravely 11% grade which I think went to 16% (I was walking at that time). Climb went on for about 20 minutes. Then we made a lovely sweeping decent and back on to terra firma/tar mac …. For about ten minutes then back on the dirt. This repeated itself several times. In the BWR I love when we hit the dirt and miss it when we go back on the road. The opposite was taking place here – every road reconnection was a respite. Maybe the SR is truer to the Roubaix/Flanders paradigm?
Soon I was on my own as the three (2 guys and a lady) riders in the orange club kit left me. I was truly on my own now in the middle of nowhere, with no route map and dodgy signs – I was having a blast. The challenge of survival against the odds. Every so often I see my orange compadres in the distance. At one point I descended in to a dry river bed and walked the bike for five minutes – it was really nice to stretch and use different muscles. At the end of the river was my reward a 25% hike a bike climb to the top – latter I found out this was called “the Wall” – presumably the river bed is called” the great sandy dry river creek”. At the top was a multiple acre green Alpine meadow– the contrast between the light grey/red colors of the shale at the bottom of the dry river and the verdant nature of the Pampas was stark. Smooth red undulations were at the bikes disposal – I chuckled thinking of the name Strada Rossa. Had about 30 minutes riding to cross the green top and emerged to a road that had the 3-4 % gradient exposed heat grind – way in the distance I saw some oranges or was it my riders. The heat shimmered off the tarmac – glancing down at my Garmin doing the math …half way though… 4.5 hrs … do I have enough left in the tank to do this again? I got to some trees with shade and sat down to eat rice cakes – I had now eaten six of my allotted seven. It would be too risky to carry on for the full 90 so I decided that I would bail and do the 64. A few miles latter at the crest of the road climb I reached a sag stop (there were seven sags in total and they were all excellently staffed and supplied). My Garmin said 60 miles and nearly 7K of climbing. The Broom Wagon riders were there and informed me that they were doing the 64 which started later than the 90 and that if I came with them then I would de facto be on the 64 mile. Took me a while to work out that by “bailing” to the 64 I would end up doing the 90. At the time I thought it was an excellent idea so off we trouped. Next up we went into a managed park – again green with some trees and lots of lops and cuts backs. Can only be a few miles across but we were diving down and climbing short rizers for at least 30 mins. A nice river crossing as well but the piece de resistance was the view by the tree – take a look at the picture with the tree and my bike. It is an Alpine view with the snowcapped mountains in the background. When we popped out the park we had a ten mile slightly too fast for me descent with some ski sections thrown in – that’s how I braved it when we hit the sand traps I said this is just like skiing light hands hold the bike straight and don’t break.
The final 30 miles from the sag where I met the boom wagon were relatively easy compared to the fist 50-60. For one the pace slowed a bit as we picked up people from the 64 mile group. It was nice to be with riders as well and chatting about the land and what they do in the area – Oranges are a big thing to Redlands, suppose that’s why the club colors are just so. At the final sag stop – now 3 pm and quite hot there was a bit of a delay as one rider had a injury and needed some attention, I gallantly offered to go ahead and get the beers in (yes I was a bit impatient). After being chased by some bees – the ride goes straight through a bee colony – and crossing a river that was kneed deep – I promptly got lost. Only ten miles away and had to rely on Google maps to get me home via a monster climb to get my 8.5K climbing that had been posted as the 90 mile route metrics.
So, what was the ride about? Not sure – but I really want to do it again. It was beautifully different in many ways – the scene the vibe. Next year I will not knobblies on both tires and down load the map, plus will twist the arm of a descender to do the ride with me (Eileen, Rob, Bernie need not apply).
Should have been there.