Dave Cohen // Mini Epic
For me, the Bay Area Epic is synonymous with massive rides that push you to your limits; ones that you’re not even sure you’ll be able to complete when you put those first few pedal strokes down in the dark, pre-dawn hours. There’s something about the grueling day in the saddle, navigating a long course with plenty of opportunities for the unexpected, trying to fuel well, stay hydrated, watching your miles tick well above 100 and the elevation far beyond 10k, the soreness that echoes through your muscles over the next couple days - it turns a ride into an adventure that’s not soon forgotten. Type 2 fun to be sure, but fun nonetheless.
As much as I yearned for the challenge of the Big or Grand Epic, it wasn’t in the cards this year. The Mini was, however, and would bring me back to some roads I hadn’t ridden in a long time. I was looking forward to the gorgeous ride along the coast, the broken asphalt on Planet of the Apes, the fast, swooping descent down Kings Mountain… this was going to be Type 1 fun.
I had a leisurely start, arriving in Woodside around 8:30am. Coffee in hand, I watched packs of cyclists in matching kits navigate the intersection at the corner of Cañada and Woodside Road. Woodside is one of those places where it always seems like there are more cyclists than cars, and today was no exception.
A cop sat in the lot at Robert’s Market. Was he waiting for a cyclist to run the stop sign? I didn’t see him ticket anyone, but I also didn’t wait around too long to find out. I traded my coffee cup for a couple bidons, made a full stop at the stop sign, and proceeded to kick off my Mini Epic.
While downtown Woodside was fairly crowded, I was more or less alone on Cañada Road. Other than a couple well-marked slides on the road, it was an uneventful start to the ride as I warmed up over the first few miles.
Storm damage over the winter had closed Sawyer Camp Trail which meant spending a lot of time on Skyline. I forgot how nice that earlier section is, with trees lining the street, the scent of eucalyptus in the air, and views out the Bay at every East/West intersection. There was a quick stint on the San Andreas Trail until that was also closed, dropping me out on the not-so-nice section of Skyline - the one full of cars rushing to get into the City and a shoulder full of gravel and debris.
I was happy to turn off onto Sneath and begin to weave through the neighborhoods leading to Sweeney Ridge Trail. Sweeney Ridge was new to me and the paved climb to the ridge and unobstructed views of the Bay were pretty special. At the top I took a quick detour out to the old Nike Missile site before heading back to Baquiano Trail.
Cresting Baquiano, I ran into a group of downhillers coming the opposite direction - me, in full spandex on a gravel bike; them on long travel bikes with pads and full face helmets. We were both going the same way, so I wished them a good ride and headed out first. Just a few minutes later I saw the whole crew again when I missed the turn and had to hike back up the DH trail. Baiquiano ended up being pretty sketchy on my over-inflated gravel tires, but it was short and sweet and before I knew it I was bombing down tarmac towards the coast.
The coastal trail was packed with hikers, but I picked my way up the zizags for the selfie and headed onwards towards Pacifica State Beach where dozens of surfers sat in the waves looking for the next good break.
I was excited to finally get to Planet of the Apes. It was quiet and cool, and just a little humid amidst the lush green spring growth. I was surprised that even after the rains that had closed so many trails this season, Planet of the Apes was in great shape (relatively speaking). The climb went by faster than I remembered, and I was soon descending Old San Pedro Mountain Road with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean around every turn.
It was nice to get back on pavement and spin through the beautiful coastal Moss Beach neighborhoods. I wondered how many of the people in these homes lived here full time and how many were vacation homes. There were a handful of people out doing yard work, and I waved as I went by.
Along the airport I caught a beautiful tail wind that pushed me all the way through Half Moon Bay. I had been considering stopping for lunch at one of the small seafood shacks along the coast, but it was just about lunchtime on a Saturday and there were huge lines of people piled along the sidewalks. Sadly, I rode on by and dug into my dwindling stash of Shot Bloks instead.
Ocean views and vast fields of mustard flowers, ice plants, and wildflowers in full bloom welcomed me on the coastal trail past Half Moon Bay. The brief interruption at the Ritz Carlton was a bit of a cluster, with golf carts whizzing up and down the trail, and unattended golf bags rolling themselves along the path.
I managed to make it through unscathed, but was disappointed to find Cowell-Purisima Trail closed when I arrived. I lost my last few miles of coastal gravel, having to detour onto Route 1.
Soon I hit the turn off for Tunitas Creek Rd. The Bike Hut was well stocked when I arrived, and there were a few other cyclists hanging out out front. We exchanged pleasantries, I took my selfie, and then headed out to the last climb of the day.
Where Planet of the Apes felt shorter than I remembered it, Tunitas Creek felt longer. It had probably been 6 or 7 years since I last did this climb - it’s one one of those really special roads; a long uninterrupted climb sheltered under ancient redwoods with virtually no traffic except for the occasional cyclists descending. Today, however, road closures in the area had turned it into a highway with a never ending stream of vehicles making their way to the coast. The acrid smell of burning brakes hung in the air and drivers took blind turns way too wide for the narrow road perched on a mountain side. I used to be able to zone out and focus on the climb or just enjoy the scenery, but today my focus was on anticipating traffic and avoiding cars.
I was happy to reach Skyline. Kings Mountain is one of my favorite descents in the entire Bay Area - it’s long, fast, and has some technical corners requiring skillful bike handling. About 200 feet into the descent I got passed by a truck which I almost immediately caught and was stuck behind for the entire descent. He was going reasonably fast, but it was disappointing not to be able to completely open on the descent I had looked forward to for the entire ride.
Spinning back into Woodside I was definitely feeling the miles. Not in the same way as the Big or Grand Epics (“can I get off my bike without my entire body cramping up?”) but it was the feeling of a solid, hard ride. I cracked open a Weekend Vibes IPA and got a killer deli sandwich from Robert’s Market.
The cop was gone now - maybe he had issued his ticket, gotten bored, or maybe just picked up a coffee and left. There were still a good number of cyclists riding up and down Woodside Road, but the majority of them had gotten their rides done early and had returned to their normal Saturday routines. I, too, had to get back; so I finished my sandwich, packed up the car, and headed out.
Another Epic in the books.