It should come as no surprise that when David Wilcox plans a Rapha group ride, it’s going to be tough. When he showed me the route we’d take for Stage 03 of the Amgen Tour of California, I knew we were in for a big, bad day…
First, we started at Morgan Territory’s staging area. A parking lot in the middle of nowhere, in between a shaded, fast descent and an exposed, hot climb. Our route would start off with a ripping descent to get the blood pumping and then reach around Diablo to the dirty backside of the devil, before kicking us in the crotch on Mitchell Canyon.
We were about 10 deep and our bikes ranged from a vintage MTB with a basket, to a Get Rad Machine and a bunch of carbon fiber road bikes with 23c-25c tires. My ride for the day was my Bishop with 28c tires. Not ideal, but it handled it all with a shit-eating grin.
For the most part, we were all in good spirits. Until we hit the Widow Maker, a climb that averaged 20% on dirt. Then, people cracked and my road shoes screamed in pain – which is why I hate wearing road shoes, especially in California where road rides often turn into dirt hikes.
We had ridden 20 miles and climbed 3,000′ in elevation by the time we got to the Juniper camp ground for the Tour of California party. After eating nothing but bike food and cold Tecates (beer is technically a food), we headed back down the mountain and around to the Morgan Territory Climb.
Now, locals know, this is not an easy climb, especially when the only thing in your bottles is water vapor and the only food you have are stale Fig Newtons.
Let’s just say three people didn’t make it. We had to send cars back to pick them up. They lay there, dead, like the baby Western Rattlesnake we found on the road…
But was it worth it? You bet your ass it was. The ride back was 30 miles and over 2,000′ – I highly suggest doing this as a loop. There’s water at the top at Juniper, just be sure you bring something to eat other than Tecates.