Robert Carlsen // Mini Epic
I'd heard about the Bay Area Epic last year but missed the event, so I was excited to give it a try this time around on my recently upgraded gravel bike. I used it as a test of my durability and on the effectiveness of greater focus around on-bike nutrition as I'm preparing for the Silver State 508 (2-rider team) later this fall. The plan was to go non-stop and aim for 5 hours.
Fighting a head cold and congestion pushed my attempt back from Saturday to Sunday, 2 April. There was misty rain on the drive up 280 into Woodside and I wondered if I'd underdressed. I made my way to Robert's Market for the first selfie and headed out for a pleasantly cool ride up Cañada Road, focusing on settling into a sustainable rhythm and discovering some new creaks on the bike I'd have to check out later.
Skyline was alright (though I would have preferred the original route on the trail section which was unfortunately closed after recent weather) until the "Freeway Entrance" sign at Trousdale. I wasn't familiar enough with the area to feel safe following the route onto what seemed like the freeway so I diverted into the neighborhood (and some unplanned, bonus elevation). Another "Freeway Entrance" a bit further led me to explore the parallel San Andreas trail beyond an interchange and back on to Skyline into some heavier traffic.
Sneath Lane was a steep, but short climb into the neighborhood leading to Sweeney Ridge, which provided amazing views of San Andreas Lake from the climb on Sneath Lane Trail. My bike finally got to feel some gravel after just over an hour of riding time. This connected to the Baquaino Trail which became steep, deeply rutted, and very twisty (and tested my handling on 35mm tires) but rewarded with even more amazing views of the ocean on the descent into Pacifica.
After making a wrong turn onto Rt 1, I got sorted and took the first selfie at the top of the "zig zags" overlooking Rockaway Beach before heading along the coast. It was wet and muddy at the start of Old San Pedro Mountain Road but the "Planet of the Apes" didn't disappoint and it turned into an interesting experience through the overgrowth as the sun finally broke out of the clouds and warmed things up, which was the only time on the ride I became uncomfortably hot. Paused for a sweaty selfie and snack then got rolling again. The descent was a bit tricky at speed with potholes and gravel over the old, broken-up asphalt.
The route indicated an unexpected spur onto an unmarked side trail which was hike-a-bike to seemingly nowhere at the U-turn location, but it did provide a nice backdrop for an extra selfie.
I welcomed the arrival of the Costal Trail for the second gravel section at almost 3 hours of riding. This had great views of the cliffs over the beaches and out to the ocean. There were lots of washouts right up to (and sometimes through) the edge of the trail. Muddy spots and sheer drops kept it invigorating.
Made it through the golf cart slalom at the Ritz-Carlton and enjoyed some views of expansive farmlands south of Half Moon Bay with beautiful fields of yellow flowers. Rode the short stretch of Rt 1 before turning onto Tunitas Creek Road for the last push.
The Bike Hut was an oasis as always and I paused a few moments while taking the selfie to steel myself for the imminent, final effort, which I had last done during the Low-Key Hill Climb series and was still seared into my memory. However, this time I had 4 hours of riding in my legs before attempting it. The climb up Tunitas Creek Road was cool under a canopy of towering Redwood trees and I moderated my effort. The last section of the hill, although flatter, just kept going with each bend seeming to be the last before Skyline but instead it would turn back go further up.
Finally at the top I was just about ready to be done, but first got to enjoy a wicked fast and fun descent on Kings Mountain Road. I pushed my pace on the flats back into Woodside to take the last selfie back at the start. I finished a bit over my target moving time, but was satisfied that my nutrition plan and limited stoppage time was largely successful.
It was a great ride and I'd love to do this route again at a casual pace.