2013 Solo Shadow Tour

Jim's 2013 Solo Shadow Tour IV (click here for background)


Stage Mi
Total Mi

Stage El
Total El


Jun 29






168 4 Kings (King KOM) Palomar Mt 2X:  Carmel Valley (CV) / RSF 15 mi warm-up (RSF-15) / Del Dios Hwy (DD) / Via Rancho Pkwy (VRP) / Bear Vly Pkwy (BVP) / Valley Center Rd (VCR) / Rincon / South Grade Palomar Mt (SGPM) / Palomar Observatory (PO) / East Grade Palomar Mt (EGPM) / Lake Henshaw (LH) / Sunshine Summit (SS) / S2 (2 + 2) / LH / EGPM / Cole Grade (CG) / VCP / DD / CV

SGPM:  1:22:27
EGPM:  1:21:54
1st Century:  6:59, at 11:26 A.M. w/8,421 ft of climbing
2nd Century: 6:47, at 6:55 P.M. w/7,384 ft of climbing

4 Kings                SGPM      EGPM      Total     Total
Stages  Distance   Climb      Climb       Time      Elevation
    1       200.10    1:22:27  1:21:54   13:43:51 15,806
Strava: Stage 1 S/F 3:48 A.M. / 6:55 P.M.

Stage 1 Daily Blog & Photos:  Click here (under constr.)
Jun 30

 Rest 30.58

RSF / Santa Luz
Jul 1


4 Kings (King Crab) Palomar Mt 2X:  CV / RSF-21 / VRP / BVP / VCR / Rincon / SGPM / LH / S2 / Montezuma Gde (5 + 5) / WS / S2 (2.5 + 2.5) / LH / EGPM / CG / VCR / DD / CV

SGPM:  1:21:24
EGPM:  1:09:11
1st Century:  6:57, at 11:11 A.M. w/8,683 ft of climbing
2nd Century:  6:37, at 6:42 P.M. w/7,197 ft of climbing

4 Kings                SGPM      EGPM      Total       Total
Stages  Distance   Climb      Climb       Time      Elevation
    1       200.10   1:22:27   1:21:54   13:43:51   15,806
    2       200.11   1:21:24   1:09:11   13:32:57   15,880

Strava:  Stage 2 S/F: 3:44 A.M./6:42 P.M.

Stage 2 Daily Blog & Photos:  Click here

Jul 2

 Rest 30.21
RSF / Santa Luz
Jul 3


13:31:15 15,585
4 Kings (King 4 a Day) Palomar Mt 2X:  CV / RSF-5 / BVP / VCR / Rincon / SGPM / SGPM / Hwy 76 / LH (4+4) / EGPM / EGPM / LH / near WS / LH / Hwy 76 / Santa Ysabel (SY) / Hwy 78 / Old Julian Hwy (OJH) / Ramona / Highland Valley Road (HVR) / Via Rancho Parkway (VRP) / DD / CV

SGPM:  1:18:48
EGPM:  1:07:56

4 Kings                  SGPM     EGPM        Total     Total
Stages   Distance    Climb      Climb        Time    Elevation

    1       200.10   1:22:27   1:21:54   13:43:51   15,806
    2       200.11   1:21:24   1:09:11   13:32:57   15,880
    3       200.13   1:18:48   1:07:56   13:31:15   15,585

1st Century:  6:54, at 11:08 A.M. w/8,780 ft of climbing

2nd Century:  6:37 at 6:36 P.M. w/6,805 ft of climbing

Strava:  Stage 3 S/F: 3:45 A.M./6:36 P.M.

Stage 3 Daily Blog & Photos:  Click here

Jul 4
 Rest 30.54
15.7 170 RSF / Santa Luz
Jul 5






4 Kings (King Tut) Palomar Mt 2X:  RSF-21 / VRP / BVP / VCR / Rincon / SGPM / EGPM / Hwy 76 / LH / S2 (4 + 4) / LH / EGPM / SGPM / CG / VCR / DD / CV

SGPM:  1:18:03 (Shadow Tour PR)
EGPM:  1:23:46 (Tire puncture)

4 Kings                  SGPM     EGPM        Total       Total
Stages   Distance    Climb      Climb        Time        Elev

    1       200.10   1:22:27   1:21:54   13:43:51   15,806
    2       200.11   1:21:24   1:09:11   13:32:57   15,880
    3       200.13   1:18:48   1:07:56   13:31:15   15,585
    4       200.15   1:18:03   1:23:46   13:59:30   15,963

1st Century:  6:59, at 10:57 A.M. w/8,670 ft of climbing
2nd Century:  6:59, at 6:48 P.M. w/7,293 ft of climbing

Strava:  Stage 4  S/F: 3:16 A.M./6:48 P.M.

Stage 4 Daily Blog & Photos:  Click here

Jul 6
 Rest 68.44
CV / RSF / Santa Luz / DD / Elfin Forest / DD / CV
Jul 7




14.3 171 Elfin Forest:  RSF-15 / DD / Elfin Forest (EF) / VRP / EF / CV

1st Century:  6:59 at 10:55 A.M. w/6,828 ft of climbing

Strava:  Stage 5 S/F:  3:47 A.M./11:09 P.M.

Stage 5 Daily Blog & Photos:  Click here

Jul 8
Rest 75.02
171 RSF / Coast
Jul 9
169 Mount Laguna:  CV / Ramona / OJH / Julian / Sunrise Hwy / Lake Cayamaca / Julian / Hwy 78 / OJH / HVR / VRP / DD / CC

1st Century:  7:71 at 12:26 P.M. w/8,184 ft of climbing

Strava:  Stage 6 S/F: 4:00 A.M./5:41 P.M.

Stage 6 Daily Blog & Photos:
  Click here

Jul 10

 Rest 64.51
RSF / Solana Beach / Coast
Jul 11



Modified Route:  RSF 10 / DD / Bandy Cyn / EF / CV

1st Century:  6:10 at 7:55 P.M. w/6,256 ft of climbing

Strava:  Stage 7 S/F: 4:01 A.M./8:55 P.M.

Stage 7 Daily Blog & Photos:  Click here

Jul 12

 Rest 54.58
3:32:33 3,246
15.4 166 RSF / Coast / Solana Bch
Jul 13
14.3 165

Big Bear Lake:  Big Bear Lake / Onyx Summit / Yaciapa / Beaumont / Banning / Idyllwild / Lake Hemet / Idyllwild / Banning / Beaumont / Yaciapa / Angelus Oaks / Big Bear Lake

1st Century:  6:24 at 10:46 A.M, w/8,470 ft of climbing
2nd Century:  7:56 at 7:34 P.M, w/11,528 ft of climbing

Strava:  Stage 8, S/F:  3:46 A.M. / 7:34 P.M.

Stage 8 Daily Blog & Photos:  Click here

Jul 14
 Rest 20.21
2:11:25 2,143

Big Bear Lake spin

Jul 15





166 Coast:  RSF-20 / Coast / Crown Valley Pkwy / Trobuca Cyn / Mojesta Cyn (3.5 + 3.5) / Trobuca Cyn / Coast / CV

1st Century:  6:12 at 10:46 A.M, w/3,746 ft of climbing
2nd Century:  6:03 at 5:12 P.M, w/6,136 ft of climbing

Strava:  Stage 9  S/F:  3:58 A.M. / 5:12 P.M.

Stage 9 Daily Blog & Photos: Click here

Jul 16
 Rest 45.49
14.2 169 RSF / Santa Luz / RSF / Solana Bch / Torrey Pines / CV
Jul 17


15.1 166 Temecula Wine Tour:  RSF 26 / DD / VRP / Valley View Casino Loop / VRP / Lilac Rd / Couser Cyn / Rice Cyn / Rainbow / Pachenga Casino ( 3.5 + 3.5) / Rancho California (plus 4.5 + 4.5) / Temecula loop (5 + 5) / Pachenga Casino (3.5 + 3.5) / Rainbow / Fallbrook / Mission Rd / Bonsall (2.5 + 2.5) / West Lilacs / Circle R / Bonsall (1.5 + 1.5) / Lawrence Welk / Valley Ctr Rd  / DD / CV

1st Century:  6:52 at 11:48 A.M, w/6,220 ft of climbing
2nd Century:  6:25 at 7:06 P.M. w/6,110 ft of climbing

Strava:  Stage 10, S/F:  3:57 A.M. / 7:06 P.M.

Stage 10 Daily Blog & Photos:
  Click here

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Jim's 2013 Solo Shadow Tour Daily Blog

Stage 1:

Welcome to my 2013 Solo Shadow Tour blog.  This year, I'll try blogging more meaningful insight, rather than just reporting the play-by-play. The challenge for me is to remembering interesting tid-bits from a 15 hour bike ride, and/or explaining their significance.  Will give it my best shot.

The 2013 Shadow Tour opens with four 200 mile monster "Stages".  Cyclists call 'em "Double Centuries".  Most public "Doubles" have fairly easy routes, since Event Organizers know that making them too difficult drives away prospective riders.  Knowing this, a few years back, I decided to include 200 mile Stages in my Shadow Tour.  But not just any route would do. I designed each stage to include the most difficult ride I know--Palomar Mt.

Back story:  My Palomar Mountain Respect & Fear relationship started a month after I arrived in CA, in 1993. A friend, Dan Rock, showed me the South Grade Rd, an 11.6 mile fearsome climb, starting at 1,100 ft el, and finishing at about 5,300 ft el. It's a no-nonsense, continuous climb. No relief anywhere. The first 5 miles are on SR 76, with wide, lazy S-turns, and long straights, about 6-7% grade.  At "The Turn", mile 5, begins the brutal 6.6 mile ascent on South Grade Rd. It has slightly steeper inclines, 7-8%, with seemingly endless switchback turns. Again, no down sections at all.  It's so hard, there are San Diego riders--even good ones--who've never attempted it.  In ideal conditions (cool/no wind) it will make one question their faith. In July heat, it's Demonic.

All of the above is what appeals to me. There's nowhere to hide. Either you've got the juice, or you don't. South Grade Palomar Mountain (SGPM) is the equintessential "Earn it" of aggressive cycling on a righteous mountain grade. I love it, because I fear it. Respect it, because it's incorruptible. And ride it often, because its a gut-check for my self confidence. I typically ride from my home on the coast (Carmel Valley) to the Harrah's Rincon Casino, about a mile from the base of the climb. That's a 41 mile ride due east (inland).  Then up the South Grade to the Summit, usually adding the extra 9 miles to the Palomar Mt Observatory, then back to the coast, with a 7 mile detour to bring in another gnarly climb named Cole Grade. All of that's about 116 miles.

I knew including the Palomar Mt beast in my Shadow Tour would raise the difficulty bar. But just to make sure I wasn't holding back, I also added an additional climb to the top of Palomar Mt, via the slightly more gentle, East Grade.  Palomar Mt is actually a gigantic North-South wall, separating the mild Coastal environment from the much drier, and hotter, inland desert highlands.  The far East side of Palomar Mt, around 2,500 ft el, the is dry, brown, and harsh.  It's sparsely populated, with few services, such as gas stations, or restaurants.  In the July heat, it's so hot even the locusts leave town.  Naturally, this area was my choice for adding the extra 80 miles to stretch out the distance to an honorable 200 mile Stage.

Back to the 2013 Shadow Tour:  Dire Accuweather forecasts called for extreme high temperatures throughout the desert southwest.  They used the image of a melting thermometer to reinforce their Severe Weather Warnings, which specifically urged limiting outdoor activity, especially in Inland San Diego high desert areas--my destination for the ride.  Friends & Family advised me against riding, because that's what Friends & Family are supposed to do.  But this is nothing new.  High heat always hits in July.  It's either at the start, the middle, or end.  This year, it's at the start.  I Rolled out at 3:51 A.M. Felt good.  Strong, Ready & Confident. Nerves calmed the instant I crossed the Start Line (community Speed Bump).  Air felt warm and heavy. 

First 8 miles were quiet and easy--only 2 cars passed me in darkness.  At about 300 ft elevation, I saw fog ahead.  The wild temperature differential between the Pacific Ocean and inland high heat creates a variety of challenges, like fog & wind.  So I entered the fog bank, which reduced visibility to about 20 ft, but more significantly, caused me to reduce my speed at a time when I wanted and needed to hold a good pace.  For this stage, I do a 15 mile warm-up to Santa Luz and Black Mt.  Losing even a few minutes of time, makes a big difference later.  However, I'm way past the days of bombing downhill blindly in a fog bank.  Just takes one road turtle (rock, or pine cone) to ruin your day. Had to ride cautiously, up and down through the fog bank for about 1.5 hours.  As the sun rose, I made it to Valley Center, nearing the Harrah's Rincon Casino, with a brand new 24-hr 7-Eleven and Chevron Station at the entrance.  That was my first stop, about mile 57.

Refilled water bottles & Camelbak with ice, Gatorade, and water.  Took an E-cap (salt tablet) and ate half a Clif Bar, downed a 16-oz Diet Coke, plugged into the Ipod, and braced myself to the South Grade Climb.

Time was 7:42 A.M.  Could see a thin cloud haze as the sun rose higher.  Temps felt warm, but not yet hot.  Got up on a good pace.  It's very hard to carry extra weight on this climb, but I had to carry 2 x 24 oz bottles and 70 oz in my Camelbak b/c stores were not open (or non-existent) on the east side of Palomar Mt.  To get an accurate idea of this weight, reach into your refrigerator and pick up a full gallon of milk...ouch!  On a Solo Double, one must be self-sufficient, that means extra weight.  I carry a front/rear lightset (plus spares), 3 tubes, 3 CO2 inflators, extra spokes, tools, and ride on my strong (but heavy) training wheelset.

Nonetheless, I hit the traditional Taco Shop Start Line with a good head of steam. Time check 1 near mile 3 showed a solid 20:24. Passed 3 riders, which is stokes the motivation (even though they were riding slowly), then made "The Turn" at 30:54, which is very strong on this kind of ride.  As I passed elevation sign 3,000 ft, I first noticed the heat.  As the sun rose even higher, the heat penetrated more & more.  By 4,000 ft, I was still on a strong pace, but was working incrementally harder as each minute passed.  After what seemed like an eternity, the 5,000 ft sign appeared ahead, leaving .8 mile to the summit.  I wanted to post a good time, not too fast, or too slow. I rolled over the Summit finish line at Mile Marker 47.8 with a 1:21:27. I was very satisfied. Time was 9:06 A.M. and I was the only person on the Summit.  Made the 4.5 mile grinder climb up to the Palomar Observatory and returned to Mother's Restaurant for water at 10:00 A.M. I had ridden 78.3 miles with over 8,000 ft of climbing in the first 6 hours. Should have been about 2,000 more ft of elevation showing on my Garmin, but the dense fog clogged the barametric sensor early in the morning--no worries.  As I descended the East Grade, that's where the true intensity of the high heat warnings slammed into me.  Newsflash: when it's hard to ride downhill, watch out!

Made it down the 12.5 miles to Lake Henshaw.  The transition from downhill to slight uphill wasn't fun. My only advantage was that I KNEW this was coming.  I cranked away for the 3 miles to the Hwy 79 turn.  From there, I focused on reeling in the 1st Century.  Needed about 4 miles and it seemed to take even longer when I was watching the clock.  By now, temps were in the mid to upper 90's F.  Hit the century mark at 11:26 A.M.  Normally, even in July, the 40 mile round trip from Lake Henshaw to Sunshine Summit is hot, but manageable.  I know the prevailing winds, and can anticipate the harder and easier sections.  But on this day, things were very different.  When I arrived in Warner Springs, I passed the Sunshine Summit sign, showing 8-miles ahead.  I've seen this same sign many, many times.  And all of those times, I've look down and was rolling at around 25-30 mph, because it's a downhill section, with a tailwind. Today I looked down and it read "14.6 mph".  Good Grief!  AND I WAS WORKING!  My time at the century mark had been consistent with past Shadow Tour Stages, so I was fine to that point.  Just 3 miles later, and I was in trouble, and knew it.  That's how fast I was "Rocked".

The 8 mile section to Sunshine Summit is slightly uphill with a few roller hills.  It's about 500 feet of gain from Warner Springs. Fluids were getting low, but adequate, with a small safety margin, to get me to the Sunshine Summit store (mile 111.2).  Wave after wave of hot thermals assaulted me and my senses over that wicked 8 mile stretch. Unusual hot headwinds tortured me and made an already bad situation even worse.  Legs were heavy and progress was very slow.  Time slows way down when you're riding in the "pity pit".  The reality was it took about 45 minutes, but in my mind, it was so much longer.  What sustained me was the idea that upon turning around, I'd sail back to Warner Springs, downhill, with that bloody wind as a Tailwind this time.  That was my hope, but didn't play out that way.

Winds went crossways then flat. Temps soared. Knew I was near redline.  Still had about 20 miles to get back to Lake Henshaw. If I didn't do something serious, I risked heat exhaustion or heat stroke. So I shut it down to the "safe mode". I've done this before. It's when I stop riding with any authority. Just "soft pedal", eat carbs, drink extra water. Stop watching the clock. Think about cool (as in temp) places and things. Envision myself on a Fall spin along the coast with a cool breeze on my cheeks. Think about anything except the climatic battle and pain I feel in my legs right now.  It's dangerous, but if it works, as a conditioned athlete, it's like a re-set button.  It takes hours, and the big risk is that if conditions get even a little worse, the outcome will be predictably bad.

So I mentally checked out of the Tour for a few hours--about 50 miles.  Made it back to Lake Henshaw, and ground my way up the East Grade (even stopped once!), then on to the Summit, and Mother's Restaurant for ice, ice, and more ice.  Oh yeah, some water too.  I vaguely remember carving S's down the South Grade.  When I got to Rincon Valley, rising heat thermals practically burned my face. So that's what 110F feels like?  Yeah.  My black Pearl Izumi shorts were stained white with salt.  It was about 4:00 P.M. when I made the left turn off Hwy 76 onto Cole Grade. That first 2.2 miles was Hell-on-Earth.  It reduced reigning World Champion Philip Gilbert to pedaling clumsy squares during the Tour of California in May (was 95 F that day).  Not sure what shape my pedals were making, but am sure it wasn't round. A very kind motorists even pulled up beside me to ask if I had enough water.  Funny how such a small gesture can restore one's faith in Humanity.  Somewhere on that awful 9 mile section, the high heat of the day broke.  Like a fever subsiding, it was all over, and I was okay.  Made the right turn onto Valley Center Parkway at Mile 170 and knew I was gonna make it back to the Coast.  Just 30 miles of mostly downhill roads separated me from my cool shower and about 10 lbs of food & drink.

Hit the Golden Miles on San Dieguito Road (5.5 miles to go) about 6:35 P.M.  Watched the sun settling over the Pacific as I climbed up to Del Mar Heights Road.  By now, temps were about 75 F.  Locals were blissfully unaware of the inland fury.  And if you asked 'em if it was a hot day, they might say something like, "Ya know...it was a bit warm today, even opened my windows to let in the breeze".  My reply would have been, "Yeah, really nice day for a ride on Palomar Mt".  Onward!

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                              Harrah's Rincon Casino, photo from 7-Eleven/Chevron parking lot 
                                 Entrance to Palomar Mt Observatory, Elevation 5,500 feet
 East Grade
                                    Views to Lake Henshaw from Summit of Palomar Mt
                 Mother's Kitchen Restaurant on Palomar Mt.
     Jim at Harrah's 7-Eleven
  Stage 2:

More fierce high temperatures awaited me inland on Stage 2.  If that wasn't enough intimidation, I was still jaded from the Stage 1 joust with Mother Nature.

Rolled off at 3:44 A.M.  Things started going my way almost immediately.  First, there was no fog on the 15 mile warm-up in Rancho Santa Fe.  Decided to add 5 more miles to help shake out the rest of the cob webs.  Riding out to Rincon, I was feeling better and better.  That's always a good thing.  When daylight broke, I could see the a thick Marine Layer blocking the sun.  That Marine layer was likely the same fog bank that pestered me just 2 days earlier.  This time, it was at a much higher elevation.  It kept temps moderate all the way to Harrah's Casino.  Just a few degrees cooler tempature can radically affect this kind of ride.  Fact is, small tweeks, here and there, add up to make the overall ride a much more manageable, and yep, even enjoyable.

Same prep for the South Grade, this time starting just after 8:00 A.M.  Hit the first time mark at 20:45, just a few seconds off Stage 1's pace.  Then made the turn onto South Grade Road at just over 30 minutes, also only seconds behind Stage 1.  But the big difference was a thin band of cloud cover, filtering out just enough of those sun rays to stay inside my comfort zone.  Worked all of the road elbows (switchbacks) for the entire6.6 miles.  When I say "worked" that means I accelerated with "jumps" (controlled out-of-saddle accelerations).  This is just a technique to stay on pace.  Falling asleep, i.e. resting at a slightly slower tempo, will pull one so far off pace that there is no way to recover.  While it sounds counter-intuitive, resting on the South Grade is the worst thing you can do if you're trying to post a good time.  On this day, my target was, you guessed it, to negative split my Stage 1 time (go faster).  For me, that meant to shoot for a 1:21 and change.  Stage 1 time was 1:22:27.  At the turn I knew I was on pace, and the thin cloud cover gave me just enough margin to shoot the gap.  Near the top, at Mile Marker 45.8, I glanced one more time at my Garmin.  It's extremely difficult to make time calculations when riding inside near one's Red Zone.  As best I could tell, I was on the bubble.  With one mile to go, I launched a series of hard attacks and hit the 47.8 Magic Mile Marker at 1:21:24.  Was totally stoked!  A positive mental frame of mind is yet another intangible the supports strong cycling in difficult conditions.  Went straight over the top, then down to Lake Henshaw to top off water.

At the Lake Henshaw store, the clerk told me they were out of water!  You gotta be kidding me!  He said they sold 50 cases of water over the weekend, due to the hot temps.  Surprisingly, it didn't freak me too far out.  There were other options available.  So I purchased a large bag of ice, a bottle of Gatorade, a V-8 (slammed thatO, and a liter of Tonic Water.  The Tonic Water had ingredients like Sodium, and it's carbonated.  Figured it couldn't hurt, and might even be a good call.  The bitter task made no difference to me as long as it was cold.  I loaded my Camelbak with ice, then dumped in the whole bottle, and rolled off.

Decided to work some out-and-backs on Hwy 79, S-2, and Montezuma Grade, instead of my normal long run out to Sunshine Summit and back.  The psychology is all about "smaller bites".  S-2 and Montezuma actually have more total climbing elevation than Sunshine Summit, but the distance of each leg is shorter, and the reward of a descent comes several times, instead of just a couple on Sunshine Summit.

On the East side of Palomar Mt, it was another scorcher--absolutely no clouds or relief of any kind. But I had my plan, and I had some early success, so I stayed inside the box.  I took out the 1st Century, at 11:11 A.M. a few minutes faster than Stage 1, so I was feeling pretty good, despite the fierce heat.  I noticed many more CHP vehicles than I'd ever seen before.  They kept passing me and waving.  Maybe they were keeping an eye on me? That was my mini-fantasy anyway.

The 5-mile grind from S-2 to the Ranchita Store was gruesome.  Just a long, long grinder in the heat.  Feet hurt, legs are screaming, oppressive heat and headwinds, you name it, it just plain sucks.  For some unknown reason, there's a 12 foot Yetti statue in front of the Ranchita store.  Somewhat ironic that the Abominable Snowman stands guard in the blazing July heat.  I had planned on taking an arrival photo, but I just couldn't get past the "Closed" sign in the store window...ARRRR!  The inland world operates in a far different way than life on the Coast.  I'll never understand it and won't try.  But once again, no panic.  I had taken note of a nearby Fire Station on the climb up, so I went there instead.  They let me fill my empty water bottle from the faucet on the outside of their building.  Although I noticed it, I didn't know why their flag was at half mast until the Stage, when my Mom informed me of the tragic loss of 19 Firefighters in Arizona over the weekend.  Very sad.  My Condolences to these brave men's families.

Made a speedy descent on Montezuma back to S-2, then 5 more miles down to Hwy 79.  Did a tough 9 mile out-n-back to Warner Springs.  Returned to S-2 for yet another 2.5 + 2.5 to round up necessary miles.  Average speed was a bit behind Stage 1, but was able to pull it all back in on the final 7 mile return to Lake Henshaw.

Decided a Cheese Burger would hit the spot, but didn't have time to sit down and order the meal.  Turned out the store had a frozen Cheese Burger and a microwave.   The clerk was clueless on how long to zap it so I put in 5 minutes.  For the record, 5 minutes is way too long, LOL.  So while the former Cheese Burger cooled down, I topped off water bottles with ice and Gatorade.  Loaded another Liter of Tonic Water and slammed a Diet Coke.  Choked down the former Cheese Burger and got psyched for hard hour on the East Grade.  Remarkably, in the time I was inside the store, afternoon Thunder Boomer clouds gathered above Palomar Mt.  That very good news, because the winds sweep up the Mt in these conditions.  Wasn't a huge tailwind, but a little is all I needed.  Felt strong the whole way up.  Went 13 minutes faster than Stage 1, so was glowing over the summit.  Topped off with WATER at Mother's, then straight down South Grade toward the Cole Grade nightmare. 

But it wasn't very scary on this day.  No wicked heat thermals this time.  The descent was fun and there almost no vehicles in either direction.  Got to Cole Grade and knew I'd be fine.  It's still a steep wall, but with less heat, it's a very different challenge.  Locked in a solid pace and negative split by a couple minutes, sweeping all major climbs for the day.

Golden Miles were a breeze.  Ready to do it all again on Wed & Fri.

                                      Highlands around Ranchita, CA, elevation 3,800 ft
   Magic Mile Marker 47.8, South Grade Palomar Mt
      Your guess is as good as mine, Ranchita, CA
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Stage 3:

Today's ride was all about maintaining negative splits on the South and East Grades of Palomar Mt.  Traditionally, Stage 3 is a real grinder.  This year proved to be no exception.  Late afternoon saddle sores, and screaming feet, combined with oppressive heat made the back half of the ride a real bear.

Rolled at 3:45 A.M. and did a 10 mile RSF warm up, with no issues.  On Del Dios Hwy, I first noticed my speed was dropping into the 14's mph range.  That's too slow.  With the early roll time, it was still dark, so I couldn't tell from normal cues (like leaves and vegetation movements) what was happening with the wind.  It felt like I had a headwind, but that's almost always the case.  It's just a matter of to what degree.  As I hit my normal time checks, the avg speed was one full mph slower than normal.  That's not good, b/c it's important to be efficient in the cooler morning hours.  It's difficult to hold even 16 mph in the dark, so I always shoot for 15+.  On this day, even pushing it, keeping 14-something showing was a real gut-check.

When daylight broke, I started to feel a little better.  It's easier to hold better speeds when there's light.  It did not appear to be significant headwinds.  Sometimes one just has to admit the MoJo just wasn't there.  As I started the long Valley Center Rd climb, the engine came back to life and I actually went up that tough 3 mile climb with some authority.  That's called "active recovery".  By the top, around mile 38, I was about .8 mph behind and closing.  By my arrival at Harrah's Casino, the gap was about .3 mph behind and it was only 7:30 A.M, which is a very good start time for the South Grade ascent.

Did a quick top-off and blasted off.  Temps felt perfect.  Sun was blocked again by a layer of low clouds. Winds were zero.  Hit the Taco Shop start line and settled into a very high tempo through the first 3 miles.  Hit the 1st time check at 20:07 and knew I was on a fast pace.  Objective was 2:21 or faster.  Held a strong pace without doing too much damage to the legs all the way to the turn.  Time said 29:46 at the left turn onto the South Grade.  That's an excellent time for me.  First 2 stages I did not attack that butt-kicking first mile, but this time I did bear down on it a little.  Avoided looking at Mile Markers and Time on this section.  I put in everything I had, with nearly continuous jumps and pace-lifting techiques the entire climb.  It was just me and the Mt.  No other riders.  Wish there has been at least one.  As a competitive athlete, nothing beats an adrenaline rush of reeling in a rider ahead.  No worries though, I was on it and pressed hard the whole way.  Topped off with 6 furious jumps from 47.6 to the summit at 47.8.  Looked down, knowing I had made my 1:21, but was STOKED to read 1:18:48!  This sets up Stage 4 to try and beat that.  My best ever SGPM during a Shadow Tour was in 2012, with a 1:18:19.

That positive result flushed out all the early A.M. memories.  Bombed down the 12 mile East Grade to Lake Henshaw store.  Topped off and rode West on Hwy 76 back up to "The Turn" onto South Grade.  Quick nature break, then straight back to Lake Henshaw.  With some time to compute, I determined that by lifting the pace a bit, I could negative split the 1st Century (go faster than the 1st Century on Stage 2).  What-the-heck, nothin' else to do, so I went for it.  Even benefitted from a rare tailwind on Hwy 76 heading East.  Worked those 8 miles quite hard and successfully pulled back all the lost time and then some (3 minutes), posting a 6:53:54 at 11:08, with 8,780 ft of climbing.

Still riding a high, made my way on a gentle out-and-back to S-2, returning to the Lake Henshaw store for more ice & water.  Also had a microwave cheeseburger.  As I ate my burger on the front patio, both store clerks came outside and took smoke breaks 5 feet away from me.  They were honestly oblivious to how awful their smoke smells to someone with healthy lungs.  They even asked me about my ride as they took drag after deep drag on their disgusting cigarettes.  I'd guess they were in their late 20's.  Needless to say, it was a relief to roll away as soon as possible.

Had to psych up quick, because the turn onto East Grade Rd is only 1 mile from the store.  Not sure why I was confident I could take out the 1:09 ascent from Stage 2.  I just KNEW that I could.  A friend once told me that 90 percent of the time, your expectations are realized.  So if I let myself question it, I probably would have failed.  So I just thought, YES, I CAN DO THIS.  I was hitting the early mile markers at about 6 min per mile.  The Official East Grade Climb on Strava is 10.8 miles. So I knew that 6 minute miles should be good-2-go.  Now, that assumes winds remain neutral AND the engine keeps up.  The lower miles had just the thinnest of cloud cover.  By mile 5, elevation about 3,500 ft, it was back to direct sunlight at the 2 O'clock high heat of the day.  Not to worry, I kept saying.  Ipod was serving up "Fly like an Eagle", the Seal Version.  I dropped in very hard attacks on every flat & down to maintain the pace.  Only felt weak a couple times, at predictable steeper sections, so did not fall apart. Got back on it each time.  Hit Mile 10 at 1:06:35, then the 10.8 Mile Marker (Summit) at 1:07 plus, beating the 1:09 by a narrow margin, given the extra effort I exerted.  I'll need to dig even deeper on Stage 4 to take out that 1:07.  I've got a few tricks up my sleeve.  We'll see :)

So, it was 2:34 P.M. back on top of Palomar Mt for the 2nd time of the day.  All the big climbs were done.  Negative split matrix was in-tact.  Was at mile 125 of 200, a mile above Sea Level.  All I needed to do was roll back down the East Grade, around to Santa Ysabel, then 52 mostly downhill miles to the Coast.  Shoulda been easy.  Wasn't.

Making up all the lost time AND smashing back the Palomar Climbs took it's toll.  My legs were thrashed and I was feeling flat.  Plus, in the back of my mind, I still needed to complete Stage 3 in and OVERALL faster time than Stage 2.  So there was no time to rest.  The late afternoon fry-session baked me good on the 12-mile descent to Lake Henshaw.  Then came the 4 miles on Hwy 76 to the right turn onto Hwy 79.  I'd forgotten just how insanely evil that 3.5 mile climb could be past the Santa Ysabel Casino.  It's all about heat.  The road surface is good, and not too many vehicles either.  Just heat and the cumulative excaustion of today's stage and the previous two.  Kept seeing 8's and 9's.  Tried to turn them into 10's and 11's, but wasn't happening.  Ate my one of my two emergency carbs stash:  1 Luna Bar and sleeve of Clif Blocks.   Saddle sores were on fire.  In the high heat, being soaked for 12 hours (to that point), and no way to lift off the saddle is was agonizing.  Even when I finally hit the summit, my legs were too shredded to lift my butt off the saddle for more than a couple seconds.  Ground out that long straight 2 mile segment to the Santa Ysabel Market.  It's line-of-sight, but mentally appears to be moving away with each pedal stroke. 

At the store, applied more Chamois B'ttr, topped off water, iced-up, another Luna Bar, plus a sleeve of Peanut Butter Crackers, and launched.  I ride this last 52 mile section ALL THE TIME.  It's usually a fast & fun run down to the Old Julian Hwy, then Ramona, Escondido, then Del Dios to the Coast.  I've done it in 2.5 hours.  All of that seemed like an illusion on this day as I labored just to break 15 mph on some of the flat spots.  It was just a rough patch of the Stage.  In context, I probably handled it well, but in the saddle, it was a suffer fest.  At around 5:00 P.M. I could feel the Pacific Ocean breeze.  It felt so good.  Still had about 25 miles to go, but temps dropped just a few degrees.  Plus, I could raise up on the descents, and let the rushing air dry out my bib shorts, which instantly put out the saddle sore burn.  Got a quick Diet Coke in Esco and delt with the Via Rancho Parkway up-and-down.  Onto Del Dios Hwy and soon enough, Golden Miles in Rancho Santa Fe were under my wheels.  Brain could function a little better by now, so calculated that I needed to maintain 18's to take out Stage 2's total time.  Didn't WANT to do it, but DID IT ANYWAY.  That meant no relaxing on the 5-mile Golden Miles, but I knew I'd be more satisfied in the end.  Almost unbelievable, but after 200 miles, over 14 hours of total time, it all came down to ONE MINUTE.  When I pushed the "Stop" button on my Garmin at 200.13 miles it read 13:31:15.  Stage 2's time was 13:32:57.  That's just the way I roll.

"Just one more to go" said the sledgehammer lady in the move "Misery" :) 

             Views to South and West from Palomar Mt South Grade Summit (South Grade Rd in photo)
      View of Palomar Mt from the East side.  Note stark dry contrast with green vegetation in photo above.
    Jim at South Grade Summit, just rode 1:18:48
             Don's Market in Santa Ysabel

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  Stage 4:

Stage 4 pushed back hard.  In previous Shadow Tours, the 4th Stage on Palomar Mt has been the best day.  I had high hopes for a repeat.  To push the odds slightly to my favor, I rolled at 3:16 A.M. and did a 21 mile warm-up in Rancho Santa Fe.  The idea was to substitute hot inland miles for early A.M. coastal, although in the dark.  Also wanted to be at the Harrah's Casino to start the South Grade Palomar Mt climb NLT 8:00 A.M.  All of this part went quite well.  I arrived at Harrah's by 7:48 and started the big climb just after 8:00 A.M.  Almost from the beginning, the thin cloud cover gave way to direct sunrays.  The temps were not too hot, but losing that sliver of protection would make a fast ascent that much harder.  Having posted a 1:18:48 on Stage 3 meant I would need to go close to my Shadow Tour SGPM Personal Record of 1:18:19.

I was still in good shape at the first time check with a 19:49, 18 sec faster than Stage 3.  Once again, there were no other riders to get the adrenaline rush, so I just had to imagine riders ahead and behind.  I hit the turn at 29:17, a full 29 sec ahead of Stage 3.  For this Mt. Time Trial I had planned to press hard every single time my speed dipped.  As described before, that involves "jumps".  I used both out-of-the-saddle (less frequent) and just-off-the saddle (all the time), to change the riding position and to lift the pace.  On South Grade, even a couple seconds of "drift" will pull those 9's and 10's down to 6's, 7's, 8's (mph).  I needed 9's and 10's.  So that's what I pushed for.  About mile 7 of the 11.6 miles, I felt the first right hamstring stab.  If felt just like that--something stabbing into the center of the muscle.  My right hamstring was the downfall of my running career.  I've strained in many times, and tore it once, on a cross country race, that caused a part of the hamstring to roll up into a ball.  This really sucked, 'cuz I needed to hammer.  I tried to ride a delicate balence of weighting to the left leg, moderating the jumps, and allowing a little time for the hamstring to recover.  I was confident I was only in the "strain zone", not tearing the muscle.  I knew I was well over one minute ahead of pace, so had a little time to work with.  When I go back on pace, the hamstring started singing again, so had to ease off. 

Near the top, I was suffering as the heat rose, and the extra strain on my left leg was nearing the cramp zone.  By now, everything hurt, so I figured I had nothing to lose.  I did a time check at Mile Marker 45.7 (2 miles to go) and realized I was on pace for 1:18 something.  So that was my trigger to let loose.  I pushed very hard to each of the intermediate Mile Markers (every .2 miles).  Right leg was okay, relatively speaking.  At Mile Marker 46.8 I realized a Sub-1:18 was possible if I dug even deeper.  So down I went.  Sweat was pouring out.  It felt like one continuous jump.  Those last couple switchbacks define those who can, from those who can't.  On this day, despite the "issues" I could--and did.  When I hit the line, I stopped my watch at 1:17:56, which was the accurate time for the climb.  My Garmin download recorded it at as 1:18:03.  I created that segment, so no complaints.  It's not possible to EXACTLY define the Start and Finish points, but I got it pretty close.  PLUS, the Official 1:18:03, was still a PR from my Shadow Tour SGPM climbs.  Big smiles a mile up!

That was mile 75 of the ride.  I had 8,006 ft of climbing to that point.  That's a monsterous amount of climbing.  It was about 9:25 A.M. as I free-wheeled down the East Grade to Lake Henshaw.  On the hot descent, I realized, more fully, the damage I had done to myself chasing that PR.  My right leg was definitely injured.  I was also rocked.  On a couple flat spots, I nearly tipped over because I had no juice to get back onto the pedals.  Plus, it was sizzling inland by now.  I had decided the night prior, to top-off at Lake Henshaw, then do a 10 + 10 mile on Hwy 76 to the South Grade Rd intersection and back.  It's a good road, and has some shade.  But, it has about 1,000 ft of climbing, all told.  I'd hoped to get a second wind, but was just holding on.  Then I realized I needed to left the pace to get the 1st Century done in under 7 hours.  This is what pride does to you.  I wanted to keep my 2013 streak alive, so I went deep again, uphill, in the heat, when I was already semi-fried.  It was getting harder to compute pace, time, everything.  So I just went as hard as I could, finally reeling in the century at 6:59:48--good grief!  That was it for me.  The rest of the ride plain ole sucked.

Had to do a 12.5 + 12.5 mile out to S-2.  It was on the return that I first noticed the hot Westerlies slamming into me.  Since I needed to ride the next 72 miles due West, my spirits sank.  I made it back to Lake Henshaw, had another microwave Cheese Burger and Diet Coke, which helped.  I dreaded the East Grade Climb.  Needed to go Sub-1:07:56 to sweep my goal to ride each climb faster, each day.  It was in the 90's F and 10-12 mph winds were making life miserable as I ascended through the first mile.  The winds were so loud I could not hear my Ipod.  I didn't matter, I was working so hard, all my concentration was focused on turning those pedals.  I knew the pace was off.  I attacked furiously through the flat sections around mile 4, 6, and 7.  Actually got very close to being on pace, but then winds got even worse.  And my jumps were getting weaker.  But those of you who know me, know I don't give up very easy.  I made it to mile 9 (of 10.8) before I realized it wasn't going to happen.  Literally, within 10 seconds, I felt and heard the awful situation of my rear wheel rim hitting the asphalt.  That means, I either had a full flat tire (meaning full stop), or worse, a slow flat that was nearly flat.  Well, it was a slow flat.  That means, in my desperate efforts, I was also fighting a flat tire, but didn't know it.  It's incredibly hard to climb fast on an under-inflated tire.  Not sure how long it was torturing me, maybe the whole way.  That was the last straw.  I tried to milk it to the summit (ride the flat), but the rim was touching, so had TO STOP and fix the flat BEFORE the summit.  So all that time counted, ugggg!  Yeah, I could have stopped the Garmin.  That's not me.  Sweat was pouring out on the side of the road, no shade, as I fiddled with the tubes and tire.  Finally zapped it with a CO2 cartridge and finished off the climb.  It was much easier, I might add, with a full rear tire. 

From the store, I topped off, and rolled down the South Grade.  I was beyond fried.  Just 52 miles separated me from the Coast and the finish line.  Oh yeah, had to grind up the sinister Cole Grade at the hottest point of the day at mile 163.  Only the upcoming final 30 miles of the ride held my motivation together.  At last, Cole Grade was done.  I made my way through Esco (Escondido), and onto Del Dios, and down to the coast.  Temps cooled, so it wasn't too bad.  On the Golden Miles, I realized the rear tire was nearly flat again!  Oy!  But it was right on the line, rim wasn't touching the asphalt, just very low pressure.  I rode forward on my aerobars, and pressed on to the finish.  Was just able to break 14 hours, so that was good.  All-in-all, it was a tough 4 Stages on Palomar Mt.  That's what I wanted, so that's what I got.  From the Time Matrix above, you can see I rode very consistently, and even strong on the South Grade, which is the climb that matters most to me.  Now it's on to some different routes!

   Last few turns of South Grade Rd, Palomar Mt, CA
             Jim at Mile 172, Valley Center, CA   

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  Stage 5:

Got going on Stage 5 at 3:47 A.M.  Went through the extra 10 mile warm-up in Rancho Santa Fe fairly well.  Noticed I was averaging 14.2 mph at the 15 mile point, vs. 15.2 in the previous stage.  As I labored up the Del Dios Hwy climb past the Lake Hodges Dam t was very clear that there was no steam in boiler.  Average speed dropped into the 12's, a major indicator that today was going to be a flame-out.  I tried stopping and stretching out, but it didn't help.

The accummulated fatigue of 4 hard days on Palomar Mt in the blazing sun, had slammed me against the wall.  By mile 28, turning over the pedals was all I could do.  Considered the option of returning home and getting a few hours of sleep, but decided to press on with a modified route to see if I could pull myself back to life.  I rode out to Elfin Forest, one of my staple daily training rides.  Ate some carbs and tried to drink extra water.  As daylight broke, the normal increase of speed did not happen.  It was agonizing to work so hard just to keep a 13.0 mph average showing.  I rode a slightly better out-n-back on Via Rancho Pkwy, then tried one more round-trip through Elfin Forest, hoping for the best.  But, it was more of the same--very hard work, with no improvement in speed, or comfort in the saddle.  I was too far down in the pit.  So I rounded up just enough miles to complete a century, and called it a day.

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  Stage 6:

Another heavy legs day in the mountains.  Got a 4:00 A.M. start and felt okay through the 15 mile RSF warm-up.  But once again, at mile 20, was showing a 14.2 mph avg, which is 1 mph too slow.   Doesn't sound like a lot, but I ride with extreme consistency, and being over 4 minutes behind in the very first hour, is significant.  From the 20 mile point, it's an interminably long climb to Julian, well over 50 miles.  When daylight broke, there were no clouds so temps inched higher with every passing mile.

On Old Julian Highway, I stopped to water a tree, laying my bike down on the side of the road.  One car passed as I came back to my bike.  I vividly remember thinking that person probably thinks I'm nuts riding up this monster hill on such a hot day.  As fate would have it, a couple hours later, I made it to Julian and stopped at the Grocery store for some water.  As a checked out, the clerk asked me, if by any chance, was I cycling on the Old Julian Hwy earlier!  She said she saw me picking up my bike and noticed that the temperature was already above 90 F at that point!

On the long 7-mile grind up to Julian, I noticed many CA Fire Trucks passing me.  By many, I mean dozens.  Clearly there was some kind of fire in the back country.  When I eventually got to the left turn onto Sunrise Hwy, there was a road block with CHP on site.  That meant the fire was somewhere on Laguna Mt, which was my intended route for the stage.  The alternative really blew.  I had to proceed straight on Hwy 79 past Lake Cayamaca, 21 miles to Descanso.  That's one of those impossible "downhill" segments that will bring you to your knees.  It's a series of ups & downs.  And to make matters worse, I needed to go all the way down, TURN AROUND, and COME BACK UP all during the 10:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. hottest part of the day.  It truly sucked.  Legs were already thrashed from the 76 miles to Julian, plus 6 more to Lake Cayamaca.  If there were any other option, I'd have taken it.  But no.  So I kept going.  I'll be very honest, I'm not used to seeing 13.0 mph avg on my Garmin.  Even though I knew it was skewed due to the circumstances of this Shadow Tour, it was nontheless demoralizing.  I simply could not get the bloody needle to move.  It was getting Africa hot and I felt wrung out.

After what seemed like hours, I made it to Desconso right at Noon.  Stopped at the little store in the intersect right before the bridge and topped off fluids and ate a Clif Bar and sleeve of Shot Bloks.  What's so weird about this stretch of road, is that I can ride up the hill at the same (or even faster) pace than I can ride down the same hill.  Must be something to do with the way the hills come at me, and the wind.  So I got it going right away.  Started adding tenths to the average speed too, working up from that 13.0 nightmare.  Started feeling better about life and sailed past Lake Cayamaca, on track to make it back to Julian by about 1:30-ish.  Hit a couple dead spots, which temporarily took the wind out of my sails, but made it to the Julian Deli at 1:38 P.M.  Took a rare Lunch Break, had a Turkey sandwich and giant Diet Coke.  Went outside to eat it on the bench and there were 3 very heavy motorcycle people sitting on the bench smoking cigarettes.  Ended up going around the corner from them, sat down on the sidewalk and ate, drank, and sweated.  I was right on the Beyond Caring Bubble, which is a hazardous zone for a long distance rider.  Luckily, the carbs & caffeine snapped me out of it.

Rolled off at about 2:00 P.M. knowing I had just 52 miles to go.  The ride down to Santa Ysabel went fast.  I stopped once more at Don's Market to use the restroom and top off ice in my Camelbak, then straight down on Hwy 78 to the Old Julian Hwy.  Ramona was baking and winds were not ideal, but I continued to crank it.  Ipod was serving up some great songs as I worked my way down Highland Valley Rd to Esco.  Via Rancho Parkway was one final gut-check climb, but the high heat had broken, and I was mentally on the glide path to Del Dios Hwy.  Made it down Del Dios okay, then cruised the San Dieguito Golden Miles without incident.  Was satisfied to get the average speed back above 14.0 (14.13).  The effort and concentration to achieve that cannot be conveyed in this blog.  It took everything I had.  Nothing in reserve.  Hoping to shake off the high heat and high mountain after-affects in the next couple days.

              About halfway down the Cayamaca hill.  Photo doesn't show the blazing heat.
                                                             Julian at about 2:00 P.M.

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Stage 7:

Stage 7 was yet another weather distorted Stage!  This time, it was lightening that wrecked havoc.  I have had a very bad experience with lightening, during a Shadow Tour, on the climb to Onyx Summit, near Big Bear.  That incident cured me for life, which means I don't ride went lightening is in the forecast.  So the plan was to get the early miles in, so rolled off at 4:01 A.M.  Did 20 miles, got hit with some rain, so I returned to my home to check the Accuweather predictions.  It showed lightening up-and-down the coast, intermittently, for the whole day.  Since that was the route for the stage, I had to look at other options.  Inland locations also were forecasted to have thunder, lightening, and rain.

There wasn't much I could do.  Showered, grabbed 3 hours of sleep, and checked weather again--still showing dire predictions.  3 more hours in the rack, still bad.  2 MORE hours, and the picture looked better, but now it was 2:00 P.M!  Was supposed to ride 175 easy miles up-and-down the coast.  The coast was not going to work, so I blasted off into the dark clouds hanging over the inland highlands, hoping for the best.  Caught a couple raindrops here and there, but at least the temps were mild, due to the cloud cover.  Also noticed I was moving along in the 15+ mph avg range AND it felt good AND I was riding elevations.  All good indicators that the extra rest was helping.

I knew 175 wasn't going to happen, so I set my sights on getting to 120 for the day (20 early A.M. plus a swift P.M. Century).  I rode out the Bandy Canyon, then added an Elfin Forest out-n-back.  Felt 100 time better than Stage 5.  Even with a good pace, in cooler temps, it still takes time to ride a century.  On this day, it meant riding well into the evening.  I hoped that as the sun set over the Pacific Ocean, that it would clear out the thick Marine Layer of clouds (which sometimes happens). But no.  That meant the clouds would block the sun's rays and bring about darkness a little earlier.

I hit the 110 mile mark at about 8:08 P.M.  It should have been totally light, but it was nearly dark due to the clouds.  I set it up so that I could collect up about 12 miles on the safe stretch of San Dieguito Rd, then up the El Camino hill to my home for 121 miles.  Had built up some extra miles, so was only about 1 mile behind schedule, despite doing 121 miles vs 175.  The good news was that my legs were feeling much better.  Looking forward to a good Double at Big Bear on Sat!

                                 Swami's Beach, on Rest Day ride following Stage 7
  Dan Rock (left) & Jim (right) @ Revolution Bike Shop
  Dan indicating his # of South Grd Palomar Mt climbs
   Jim at Swami's Beach on Rest Day after Stage 7
    Coming back to life after some difficult Stages

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Stage 8: 

The capstone high mountain stage blasted off at 3:46 A.M.  Temps were in the low 50's F, which was fine for cycling.  On the first 6 mile segment along Big Bear Lake, I had the road to myself.  About 3 miles in, a strange clicking noise started from the back wheel.  It sounded like a broken spoke, which would have been awful, but when I stopped, all spokes were fine.  I was under a streetlight, but couldn't locate the source of the noise.  I rolled off again, hoping the noise would stop, but no.  Stopped again, took off the front NiteRider light, and carefully inspected the rear wheel.  Eventually found a huge, industrial-sized staple embedded in the tire.  With each revolution, the staple was impacting the chain stay.  Luckily, Specialized Armadillo tires are incredibly tough.  I pulled out the staple and the tire stayed fully inflated.  Got back in the saddle and rode away with a heavy sign of relief.

The next early A.M. event was the 9.5 mile climb on SR 38 to the Onyx Summit at 8,443 ft of elevation.  The climb has about 2,000 ft from where I began.  What's always weird about this climb is the sense that daylight might not break.  It's some kind of illusion, because I'm so focused on keeping my front wheel on the white line, and avoiding rocks and other debris in the narrow bike lane.  It's not really an official bike lane, just a narrow section of about 1.5 to 2 ft to the left of the white lane marker.  Regardless, at a speed of about 9 - 12 mph, it's a long, slow grind to the summit in the darkness.  Timing-wise, it's necessary to start this ride as early as possible, to avoid being caught in darkness during the evening.  From 4:00 - 5:30 A.M. there are very few vehicles.  But from 8:00 - 9:30 P.M. there are many vehicles, most traveling too fast, especially on a Saturday night.  That's why riding in evening darkness is to be avoided at all cost.  Therefore, I had planned my early roll time to get me to the top of Onyx Summit just as daylight (should) break.  But it didn't happen that way.  I made the summit at 5:15 A.M.  Even taking time to put on full winter gloves and wind parka to break the cold air on the 30 mile descent, it was only 5:17 A.M.  And still dark!

I was faced with strange dilemma:  stay in place, getting very chilled at the Onyx Summit for another 15-20 minutes, waiting form more light, or roll off, and take my chances descending fast with less than full light.  I didn't really have a choice, had to go.  I reasoned that I'd control my speed with my brakes, but that proved nearly impossible.  Once the descent starts, it's on!  In maybe 20 pedal strokes I was bombing downhill at 30, then 35 mph.  I tried breaking, but the cold air quickly tightened up my fingers (even with 2 pairs of gloves!). It was also hard to keep a tight grip on the breaks for so long.  Needless to say, it was literally a white-knuckled descent for the first half hour.

At last, there was adequate light to see and I flew down at speeds of about 35 - 40 mph.  As I came down through lower elevations, it was a delight to enter warmer bands of air.  These thermals are tucked in all over the mountain on the coast-facing side.  About half-way down, it was warm enough to pull over and strip off the extra warm gear.  That's always a big deal for me.  It means the most dangerous part of the Big Bear Mountain Stage has safely concluded.  Even with another 15 miles of descent (with lot's of up's and down's in there too) it's still a very long trip to get to the bottom.  The last section of the SR 38 segment is a dead-straight downhill along Mills Creek for 7 miles.  On this section, there's even a full lane dedicated to cyclists--it's actually a snowplow lane, I think.  Nonetheless, it's wide, clean and one can cruise at 40+ mph with no problem. 

Made the turn off SR 38 with an average speed of 18.4 mph.  Not my fastest, but was satisfied and on-track for a good 1st Century.  Made the gut-check climbs through Yaciapa, then down the bumpy Oak Glen Rd to Beaumont.  A quick top-off at an ARCO in Banning, then a fast 6 miles to the 243 climb to Idyllwild.  All systems were go.  Felt good, temps were reasonable, maybe in the upper 70's F.  Once on the 243, it's a 20-mile climb up to 6,000+ ft of elevation on the San Jacinto Mt range.  The lower elevations are endless switchback style turns.  Not too many vehicles, but (as always) they tend to drive too fast for the road design, so it's necessary to be 100% alert every second.  There was no cloud cover at all, meaning even though the temps weren't too hot, the direct rays of the sun cause extra dehydrating effects.  I had plenty of water, but the long climb gradually took it's toll.  My average speed dipped into the low 15's range.  Normally, I would lift the pace, because the slope isn't too steep, but on a double century like this one, the hardest climb of the day STARTS at mile 155, so I had to pace myself carefully.  It was still a difficult climb even trying to maintain 15 mph hurt.  The section from mile 20 to 26 has a series of awful rollers that sap out whatever energy remains.  By then, it's also after the 10:00 A.M. hour and temps are in the lo 80's F on their way to 90 F.

Finally, made it over the summit, about 6,150 ft, then straight down 3 more miles to Idyllwild.  Normally, I would stop for fluids, but was behind on time. I figured I had enough water to make it another 10 + 10 miles to Lake Hemet and back to Idyllwild.  I forgot there's a nasty little climb over Keen Camp Summit, so that one drained me a bit more, about 3 miles from the Lake Hemet turnaround point at mile 100.  Got there at 10:34 A.M.  about 6:20 minutes for the 1st Century, with 8,470 ft of climbing.  Not bad, but at least 30 minutes behind my intended pace. 

Made my way back on the same route to Idyllwild for a fluids stop.  Saw some cyclists from Palm Desert, wearing Jessup Auto jerseys.  Didn't have time to socialize, but said "hi" then back on the road, climbing back up the 1,000+ climb to the Pine Cove summit.  By now, it was hot.  At least 90 F and I felt every degree of it.  Wanted to push the pace up, but now I just didn't have the gas to do it.  Then swirling winds made it impossible anyway.  So I just dug in and worked my way through the wicked 6 mile roller section.  The 20 mile descent offered some relief, but side winds prevented a truly fast descent.  Plus, I had to share the road with motorists who did not understand why I was being pushed out of the bike lane.  Almost all were cool about it though. 

Back down in the Interstate 10/Banning corridor, I was at mile 134 and basically cooked.  Had to press against relentless westerly headwinds for 7 miles to get to Beaumont.  Turned onto Oak Glen and began the brutal 6-7 mile climb to Yacaipa.  That's a climb that will sweat you out.  It's long, steep, bumpy, and your legs are thrashed.  I focused on maintaining 9's, then 8's, then 7's, then 6's.  Finally, threw in the towel and focused only on getting to elevation 3,450 ft, which I knew (from the descent) was the summit for that climb.  Sweat poured out of every pore as I rounded the last little curve.  I could see the summit just ahead, maybe 100 yards.  I suffered on every pedal stoke from here to there.  Nothing, I repeat, nothing, is free on this kind of ride. 

The ridiculously fast 4.0 descent from there to Bryant Rd restored some energy.  Also ate a Clif Bar and sleeve of Shot Bloks.  Knew my 7-Eleven Store was just 3 mile miles ahead.  That's the last chance store before starting the 30 mile climb back up to the Onyx Summit.  I loaded up on ice, water, Gatorade, drank a 44 oz Diet Coke and braced myself for the agony ahead.

Made the turn onto SR 38 just before 4:00 P.M, about an hour behind schedule.  The climb on Damnation Alley, the dead-straight section, is the most agonizing stretch of asphalt I know.  For this ride, it starts at mile 155 with over 10,000 ft of climbing already in the legs.  It's not very steep, just long and hot.  There's not one instant of downward elevation for relief.  Both feet ached, but the left foot was hurting worse, so had to pore ice water directly on my shoe to ease the pain.  Stopped to take photos of the 3,000 & 4,000 ft elevation signs.  Unfortunately, someone stole the 5,000, 6,000, and 7,000 signs.  Anyway, made it to the BIG TURN off Damnation Alley and onto the switchbacks that characterize the remaining 23 miles of the climb.  It's about 5 miles from there to Angelus Oaks restaurant.  That's the only store on the climb, so it's my traditional top-off stop.

Just as I neared the parking lot, I briefly looked up, out of my little bike lane, to find a crossing line.  In an instant, I felt a violent bump.  Then the asphalt rushed up to my face.  I was crashing.  It was all in slow motion as I went over the top of the handlebars.  I vividly recall watching the road surface coming to my face then it was over.  I was on the asphalt, dazed, sweating, and on my back with the bike on top of me.  Two kind motorists stopped and ran over to render assistance.  As my head cleared, I could hear them asking me questions.  My only response was "are any bones poking out?".  They said "no" and helped me to my feet.  They checked me for blood, but it was all just dirt.  It appeared that some debris in the bike lane, either a branch, or plank of wood, had been sucked into my front wheel.  When the item impacted the front fork, the wheel stopped, and that's when I continued over the top of the handlebars.

The aerobars were bent, but everything else, including my body, seemed to be basically okay.  My elbows hurt and my right quad had impacted something and ached.  I got back onto the bike and pedaled to the parking lot.  The Good Samaritans made sure I got to the store then bid me well and drove off.  Some mountain bikers was there and I asked them to double-check my bike for cracks or damage.  They poured over it and said it was good-to-go.  I went into the store, topped off my Camelbak and bottles.

I absolutely knew I was on the pivot-point.  It was almost 6:00 P.M.  If I didn't roll soon, the remaining 19 mile climb would take so much time that it would be dark by the time I reached the summit.  Also, I was aware that I might be in a mild state of shock.  Stopping could cause my body to shut down, or at the least, tighten up all those sore muscles.  I did not wallow in my misery.  Got back on the pony and rode off.  Immediately my right quad screamed out to stop.  It was truly mind over matter.  I squirted ice water from my bottles onto my leg and adjusted the effort to my left leg.  That's another high-risk tactic, because if my left leg cramped, it would have been all over.  But my left leg did not cramp.  I rode just the right balance.  Needed to go fast enough to hit the summit inside the 5:00 P.M. hour, without cramping my left leg.  After a couple miles the right leg loosened up a little, but hurt with each contraction.  I did everything possible to stay positive.  I watched my Garmin's elevation number.  That was the only number that changed relatively fast.  Miles, even tenth's of miles, come very slowly on this kind of climb.  I stayed inside my safe zone for mile, after mile, after mile.

Finally, the last 7 mile beast to the summit appeared ahead.  I've done this 8 times before, plus 2 Breathless Agony Races.  I had what most riders don't have:  confidence through direct experience.  It was after 5:00 P.M, but I just knew I could make the summit inside the 6:00 P.M. hour.  My pattern of spraying water on my leg, keeping a nice pace, and watching the elevation proved valuable.  I made the summit at 6:36 P.M.  I pulled over to take my proud "Summit Photo".  Got the bike set up, pulled out the camera, pushed the camera button, and the phone said "Battery Dead" and shut down.  Dammit!  So I pulled out my wind parka, pulled on the arm warmers and rolled down toward Big Bear Lake.  The 9 mile descent was fast and frightening.  I had adequate light, but it was hard to maintain good control of the machine because I couldn't use my normal body language on my right side.  The leg tightened up because I was not pedaling (not necessary on a fast downhill).  So it even hurt to descend!  Near the bottom, there's a flat-ish section that requires peddling.  That hurt so much I became nausious.  Also light-headed.  It was what we call a "bad stretch".  Even with only 7 miles to go, it nearly took me out.  I was cold from the wind-chilled descent and was likely still in shock.  But I could process enough to know I was right on the edge of the cliff.  That's when the sun popped out from behind a cloud.  The warm rays immediately restored enough of whatever I needed to keep it going.  Made the left turn onto Big Bear Lake Road and pushed through Saturday evening traffic all the way to the Northwoods resort and the end of the ride.  Even the very, very last turn was hard.  The light was red.  I was in the front position, with a pickup truck behind me.  I had signaled my left-turn intentions, but the pickup driver either didn't see, or didn't care.  When the light changed I began turning left and I heard the pickup's engine roar and he proceeded straight through, missing me by a couple inches.  I didn't even respond.  It was over, I wasn't dead, and the hotel was right there.  Another 200 ft and I stopped the Garmin at 200.44 miles at 7:34 P.M.

 Big Bear
                                    Big Bear Mountain from Yacaipa at about 7:00 A.M.
 San Jacinto
            Views toward San Jacinto Mts (Idyllwild) from top of Oak Glen Rd in Yaciapa, El 3,450 ft
 San Jacinto 2
                          Views from west side of San Jacinto Mt's, mile 100, toward Idyllwild
 Keen Camp
      Keen Camp Summit near Lake Hemet, mile 97
           Idyllwild, el 5,303 ft, near mile 109
             Damnation Alley, 3,000 ft el
                  Damnation Alley, 4,000 ft el
                          Photo taken on Stage 8 Rest Day, Lakeview Point, El 7,112 Ft
                    Stage 8 Rest Day
      Views of Big Bear Lake on Stage 8 Rest Day

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Stage 9:

After a miraculous recovery from the Stage 8 crash, I rearranged my last two stages.  Decided to do a Double Century on the Coast to minimized difficult terrain.  Rolled at 3:58 A.M. with a 20 mile warm-up through Rancho Santa Fe.  Got onto Hwy 101 before 6:00 A.M.  The roads were still empty, so I enjoyed the northbound spin through Del Mar, Solana Beach, Cardiff, all the way to Carlsbad.  Got the average speed above 16.0 mph and actually felt fairly good!

Normally, this stage is under the cover of a thick Marine Layer of clouds.  Usually with light fog, or even some rain.  But today, it was blue skies.  I knew that would turn to hot later in the day, but it was such a pretty morning, and I just relaxed and enjoyed the ride, as the miles rushed under my wheels.

Added 8 miles to the Camp Pendleton section to bring my normal distance from 175 miles to 200 miles.  I still enjoy watching our brave Marines doing there training in the early morning.  They were detonating claymore mines at one of the ranges, which was very cool.  Lot's of armored vehicles moving around.  Very polite Marines greeted me at the store across from their barracks.  I probably was not supposed to be there.  It was all good...Semper Fi!

Continued north of Camp Pendleton, past San Clemente, thought the San Juan Capistrano Bike Lane Maze, and up to Dana Point and Laguna Niguel.  Turned left off Hwy 101, onto Crown Valley, for the 10 mile uphill stretch that reaches into the Orange County highlands.  Reeled in the 1st Century at about 10:45 A.M. in 6:12.  It was definitely hot as I rode further, and further, inland.  My objective:  Trabuco Canyon.  Traditionally, I've entered Trabuco Cyn, done a few miles, then turned around.  But needed extra miles to get to 200 miles, so rode the full length of Trabuco Cyn, including that torturous "wall" in the middle that took me all the way down into the Pity Pit.  I was "just sure" that Trabuco Cyn was 10 miles long.  Wrong!  It's only about 7 miles.  So I hit the T-intersection at the end and still needed 3.5 more miles to get to my turn-around point.  That T-intersection is at Modjeska Cyn Rd.  Both directions seemed to go "up", so I went left and climbed for 2.5 more miles.  Wouldn't-ya-know-it, one mile from my turn-around, the road disappeared straight downhill into a dark canyon.  So I flew downhill for that mile, knowing full well that I needed to turn around at the bottom and climb right back up it.  Kind of a buzz-kill, but made it all happen.

By now the temps must have been in the high 80's F, but I was getting fried.  Was trying (too hard) to hold a good average.  Had to throttle back and move back into my safe zone of smart pacing.  Eventually, made it back to the Crown Valley Rd corridor back to the coast.  Decided to stop for a Turkey Sandwich at the Subway store in Dana Point.  That sure tasted good!  Topped off water bottles and braced myself for the gnarly afternoon traffic on Hwy 101 for the remaining 52 miles to my home.  Being on "high alert" for that many hours is a huge energy drain.  But there's no way to avoid it.  Tourists (and locals) are not watching for cyclists, so we must watch for them.  Had a couple close calls, but honestly wasn't too bad.

Reeled in some time on the flat & fast sections through Camp Pendleton and through the coastal communities.  Had a chance to go sub-12 hours, but it would have meant going into the race mode and I was in no position to do that.  I was just thrilled that my right leg wasn't hurting from the crash.  I do have an ugly black bruise the size of Nevada, but no deep tissue damage.  I kept the pace fast, but steady, got my average to 16.5 and held it through Solana Beach, then inland on Via De Santa Fe, to El Camino Real.  Lost the .5 on the El Camino hill, but rolled to the finish at 5:12 P.M.


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Stage 10:

The Champagne Stage got underway at 3:57 A.M.  I needed just 67 miles to match the total distance of the 2013 Tour De France, so naturally, I decided to ride a Double Century. 

The morning air was cold as I dropped down onto San Dieguito road.  Yet another in a long line of bizarre pre-dawn weather phenomenon.  I had rolled out without my arm warmers.  After freezing for about 23 miles, I stopped and put them on.  They don't provide warmth, but at least they broke the wind a little.  I was thinking the cold morning air might take the edge off the 91F forecast for Temecula later on (it didn't).

Legs were still heavy from the Big Bear Stage and the Coastal Double.  Still, the extra motivation of completing the Tour helped me through the dead spots.  Focused on just getting to the 1st Century point.  Stopped more frequently to capture photo images.  The clear blue sky made for some great photo op's. 

Made it up and over the steep side of Couser Cyn, then the more gentle, but still 5.0 mile climb through Couser Cyn.  Got to Temecula, did a 3.5 + 3.5 mile out-and-back past the massive Pachenga Casino complex, then out to Rancho California.  Did 2 loops to rack up the necessary miles.  On the first lap (at last!), the 1st Century popped up on my Garmin.  It was just before Noon and it was Hot!  Was stuck on 14.6 mph avg and just couldn't get the needle to move.  Needed one more Pachena Casino 3.5 + 3.5 miles.  That section is flat, so pushed the pace with whatever I had and was able to get my average to 14.7--Woo-Hoo!  It's necessary to celebrate small accomplishments to keep the positive vibe in place.  Plus, I was now at 130, just 70 more to go!

I had been eating energy bars, peanut butter crackers, and Clif Shots all day.  I must have had enough calories, but still felt weak.  The stretch past Rainbow was difficult.  Even the 3 mile downhill did little to make me feel better.  The 5 mile roller set to Fallbrook beat me up.  Decided to grind it out to the 6 mile downhill on Mission Rd, then stop for some regular food.  In this case, that meant a #3 Extra Value McDonald's Meal--Yum!  Those salty fries tasted fantastic.  The 10 minutes inside the air-conditioned restaurant was a big help.

Got things going on the 2.5 + 2.5 mile Bonsall section.  Even got the avg to 14.8 mph.  On the UPHILL 5.5 mile on West Lilacs, was aided by a sweet tailwind.  Got the avg to 14.9 mph, despite being at mile 155 in the high afternoon heat, and on an uphill climb.  This is where Finish Line mentality takes over.  I rocked it all the way through the tough 5 miles through Avocado Country and around to Circle R Rd.  Made the fast descent, and rode to the San Luis Rey Rd intersection, where I knew that 30 miles remained.  Picked up 1.5 + 1.5 miles on San Luis Rey Rd to be at exactly 170 miles.  During this fast section, 15.0 avg finally appeared. 

The long grinder on Lawrence Welk Rd, past the Lawrence Welk Resort, wasn't as bad as usual.  The winds were from the side and back, which makes all the difference.  Made it through Escondido, then down Del Dios Hwy to the Golden Miles.  Had it made at that point.  Even stopped for photos with 5 miles to go.  Have never done that before.  Enjoyed the perfect late P.M. cool coastal temps & sunset.  Thought about all my bicycle buddies who supported me along the way, and all my Strava followers.  Of course, also reflected on support from my concerned parents, especially Mom, who lit a $1 candle at her Church to help keep me safe. Many Thanks to all for the kind support.  It meant more than you can know :)

Shadow Tour IX is now safely in the books.  The blazing hot early stages rocked me like never before.  The Big Bear crash was tough too.  It turned out that this Tour had the steepest overall gradient ever.  Also had the most Double Century stages (7 of 10).  The average speed was slower than usual, but on a harder (and hotter) course, so that's perfectly acceptable.  Finished Shadow Tour IX and moved into 2nd Place Overall on the Strava's "Take on the Tour" Challenge (out of 40,000+ worldwide participants).  It's a relief to have this one done.  Le Tour c'est Fini!

2013 Solo Shadow Tour Recap


Total Avg 

Date Day Stage Miles To Date  
Time Speed Elevation To Date Start Finish

29-Jun Sat 1 200.11 200.11 13:43:51 14.57 15,806 15,806 3:48 6:55
30-Jun Sun
30.58 230.69 2:00:53 15.18 1,756 17,562

1-Jul Mon 2 200.11 430.80 13:32:57 14.77 15,880 33,442 3:44 6:41
2-Jul Tue
30.21 461.01 1:59:34 15.16 1,700 35,142

3-Jul Wed 3 200.13 661.14 13:31:15 14.80 15,585 50,727 3:45 6:36
4-Jul Thu
30.54 691.68 1:56:16 15.76 1,761 52,488

5-Jul Fri 4 200.15 891.83 13:59:03 14.31 15,963 68,451 3:16 6:04
6-Jul Sat
68.44 960.27 4:24:47 15.51 4,724 73,175

7-Jul Sun 5 103.55 1,063.82 7:12:27 14.37 7,128 80,303 3:47 11:09
8-Jul Mon
75.02 1,138.84 4:50:29 15.50 4,644 84,947

9-Jul Tue 6 175.29 1,314.13 12:24:33 14.13 12,797 97,744 4:00 5:41
10-Jul Wed
64.51 1,378.64 4:11:44 15.38 3,790 101,534

11-Jul Thu 7 121.33 1,499.97 7:26:24 16.31 7,640 109,174 4:01 8:54
12-Jul Fri
54.58 1,554.55 3:32:33 15.41 3,246 112,420

13-Jul Sat 8 200.44 1,754.99 14:20:21 13.98 19,989 122,281 3:46 7:24
14-Jul Sun
20.21 1,775.20 1:26:05 14.09 1,412 123,693

15-Jul Mon 9 200.06 1,975.26 12:09:24 16.46 9,861 143,682 3:58 5:12
16-Jul Tue
45.49 2,020.75 3:11:56 14.22 3,227 146,909

17-Jul Wed 10 200.69 2,221.44 
13:16:47 15.11 12,330 159,239 3:57 

149:11:19 14.89 159,239 

Shadow Tour Recaps

Year: 2004 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013

Age: 43 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52
Miles: 2,111 2,274 2,222 2,189 2,140 2,267 2,132 2,167 2,221
Time: 142:06 143:31 149:51 137:21 129:28 135:22 130:46 138:47 149:11
Avg mph: 14.85 15.84 14.83 15.94 16.53 16.75 16.31 15.62 14.89
Ft Climbed: 107,460 126,772 134,970 142,891 150,022 155,485 149,887 162,464 159,239
Gradient: 0.8900% 1.0558% 1.1501% 1.2705% 1.3274% 1.2989% 1.3312% 1.4179% 1.3576%
Start Wt: 190 192 200 188 182 180 178 178 174
Finish Wt: 172 179 186 175 170 167 165 167 166
Wt Lost: 18 lbs 13 lbs 14 lbs 13 lbs 12 lbs 12 lbs 13 lbs 11 lbs 8 lbs
Doubles 0 1 6 5 1 2 3 5 7
Flat Tires: 1 1 1 1 2 3 0 1 1
Days: 23 23 23 22 22 21 19 19 19
Field: JK & LG Solo Solo Solo Solo Solo Solo Solo Solo

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Jim's 2013 Solo Shadow Tour Background

For 2013, I'll be attempting a 9th unsupported solo replica of the entire Tour De France (TDF) bicycle race. The TDF is an annual professional bicycle race held in France, crossing into Italy, Spain, Belgium, and England.  The race covers 2,100+ miles in 21 stages in 23 days, with 2 travel/rest days. The 2013 TDF dates are Jun 29 - July 21. My personal version, the "Shadow Tour" starts on Jun 29th, covers the same distance, has substantially more elevation, finishes 3 days earlier, and is held entirely in So Cal.  The Shadow Tour includes riding 10 very long stages of 142-200 miles, alternating with 20-30 mi "rest days".  The 7 x 200 mi stages represent my own spin on the "CA Triple Crown," which is a series of 3 Double Century rides completed in a 12-month period.  The Shadow Tour's first 4 stages, aka 4 Kings, each include 2 ascents of Palomar Mt (South Grade + East Grade).  Average speed is a lower priority with this much climbing, heat, and mileage, but I'd like to keep it above 16 mph. All 8 previous solo replicas were successful (2004, 2006 - 2012). If you conclude this is all routine--trust me, it's not. This is extreme ultra-distance, ultra-climbing, in July's blazing heat, in So Cal's inland desert & mountain regions, with many, many dangerous elements; so an important disclaimer: Do Not attempt this!

At my end, I have 26 years of cycling and racing experience in all types of terrain and weather, especially in sizzling desert environments and advanced mountain cycling. I'm a lifelong conditioned athlete. I know every stage by heart, with no need for a map. I've mentally mapped nearly every crease in the asphalt, studied traffic flows of every mile of the route, and know how, and when, to make adjustments, as necessary.

My traditional venue for the Solo Shadow Tour is So Cal, from along the Mexican border to the south, north through San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Orange Counties, east through Imperial County, and west along the Pacific coastline on Historic Highway 101. The 2013 Shadow Tour will match all the total riding distance and far exceed the total climbing elevation of the actual TDF.

In 2004, Shadow Tour Co-Founder Larry Gitman, and I embarked on an adventure to replicate the entire Shadow Tour as a rigid mirror image of the real 2004 TDF. I discovered that precisely replicating the modern-era TDF format was not challenging enough. For example, in France, pro cyclists start about noon each day, following a huge breakfast/lunch, morning spin, and massage. The pelaton rides at a relatively fast tempo, but well within the capabilities of trained professional cyclists. They average about 180 km/day (about 4-5 hrs). There are 2 rest days. Most stages are about 100 miles in length.

The real TDF has exciting early stage sprint finishes, which cannot be re-created. The middle and late stages separate the leaders from the pelaton on just a few difficult high alp mountain passes. Further separations occur in Team & Individual Time Trials. Unfortunately, the last several years, with 3-4 stages remaining, the final podium rankings were relatively "fixed". Doping has, sadly, continued to plague the event. Both issues I find utterly detestible. In 2009, TDF organizers finally intervened by situating the brutal Mt Ventoux high mountain stage one day prior to the traditional "Champagne Spin" to Paris, along with other measures, to make the race more of a true competition. In my opinion,it needs many more reforms, starting with ethics training and a much more selective process for inclusion of well-qualified riders and teams in the event.

In stark contrast, the original 1903 Tour De France--the one that started it all--had just 5 monster stages of 400 Km each, plus a final gruesome 480 km finishing stage to Paris. The race was spread out over 19 days. They rode on unimproved crushed gravel roads, on heavy steel bicycles, with just two gears: a large ring on one side of the rear wheel and a small ring on the other. To change gears, a rider stopped and turned the wheel around. Outside support was not permitted. They rode day and night in all weather conditions. There were no team tactics, every rider rode to win on every stage. In the late 1960's and early 1970's the legendary Eddy Merckx "The Cannibal" rode with a ravenous Will-to-Win. In his first TDF in 1969, and again in 1970, he scorched the field. He won the Sprinter's Jersey, the King of the Mountains Jersey, and the overall winner's Yellow Jersey. He won the Tour de France five times, the Giro d'Italia five times, and the Vuelta a Espana once, tallying 11 Grand Tour victories. Eddy Merckx remains the greatest cyclist of all time, well beyond the accomplishments of all other multiple tour champions including recent multiple TDF winners.

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