Sunday, June 10, 2012

Killer Klimbs of the Auburn Century

For most people who frequent the I-80 stretch between the California Bay Area and Lake Tahoe, the words "Dutch Flat", "Foresthill", and "Colfax" are merely a row of refueling stops in the Auburn foothills. Even those of us who know the Western States 100 Mile course by heart don't always swing through these delightful old west towns. The best way to see them? The fun and low-key Auburn Century ride (aka, "The Wildest Ride in the West"), with 40/70/110/140-mile options on super-smooth roads.

~300 cyclists met up in Auburn on a gorgeous sunny morning, casually getting breakfast from the organizers (they run the fabulous deli/restaurant Tsuda's in Auburn - a go-to spot for good healthy eats) before heading into the hills. Tim Twietmeyer was there, fitting in some volunteer hours between his morning ride and afternoon run. What an animal! My bro-in-law and 40+ time century rider, Brian Drue, came up with his friend Doug Feliciano, who was trying his second century. We opted for the 110-mile route, which presented 11,000' of climbing that included a time trial up the wicked steep Iowa Hill. The weather was ideal - slightly overcast, but promising 90+ degrees by mid-day.
(Doug sucks in the smooth roads)
(Brian stays fueled from the beginning)
We quickly tore through the first climbs to Colfax, where cyclists had taken over the charming little town square. Volunteers dished out ample food and filled our bottles with ice, and we quickly got back on the road to take advantage of the cool morning.

(A quick break in Colfax)
 The roads were ridiculously smooth, making our descents to the river and canyon climbs easy and care free. We dropped full speed into Dutch Flat, easily missed if they didn't have their signs out!

(Cyclists stopped at the historic Dutch Flat hotel, est. 1853)
 After another quick stop in Colfax (now in the 80's), we found ourselves at the optional 1.7 mile Time Trial up Iowa Hill. I had never ridden this section, but the view on the descent sure made it look steep. I went for it, getting my countdown before launching into the 15-22 degree inclines. Insane! Honestly, I don't think the time trial had me going much faster than I could just to stay upright. A few switchbacks faced the grueling sun, and I was thrilled to finally reach the top and pass out in the shade. There was a lot of climbing left too - whoops! Might have blown my wad. My 18:06 was good enough for 6th place, but a far cry from the winning time of 16:53!

(Iowa Hill...damn!)
We hooked up with Nathan Drainville, who was training for Ironman Coeur d'Alene in a few weeks, and worked together to the Sugar Pine Reservoir. The forest was still and peaceful, and you could hear the laughter of kids as we approached the recreation areas. A great day in Auburn!

(More great climbs)
After a brief stop at China Wall where we were treated to apple pie and ice cream (nice!), we plunged down 10 miles to Foresthill with Tour de France speed, with one quick loop down into the hill country. One killer climb caught us off guard, and if you didn't switch gears fast enough, down you went! Gotta stay on your toes.

(A great shot, courtesy of Adrien Shneider)
It got hot near the end, but since there were four of us, it was easy to work together and fend off the hoards of RV's heading back for the weekend. Before we knew it, we were sipping local brews at the finish and enjoying homemade pasta and snacks while sharing stories of the epic day. The shwag was top notch too - a cool water bottle, and what is easily the most stylish Western jersey around. Brian said, "this is easily one of the best centuries of all time", and we had to agree, noting our many friends who we will bring back next year. Gorgeous country, great people, a perfect ride!
(Tasty microbrew from Loomis Brewing caps a perfect day)
(Skipping rocks at Tahoe with the kiddies afterwards)


  1. Nice pictures! Congrats on the very hilly century. I didn't know you were such a talented cyclist as well as a runner. That ride sounds way too hot for me though, especially an uphill time trial!

  2. Hi Scott,
    It certainly was a challenging day. I was enjoying pie and ice cream (and complaining about my feet and leg cramps) while sitting next to you at the China Wall stop. This was my first century in more than 10 years. I was happy to get through it. And you were so right about that last little unexpected climb after the Foresthill rest stop. I did go over, banging my knee on the road. Luckily my bike was not injured. :-)

    Kathy Martin


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