2013 US Natl. Road Race Champion Jade Wilcoxson rode to training camp in style this year with her big brother Ryan Wilcoxson. Together the duo rode down the California coast starting in Santa Cruz and traversed over 300 miles before arriving at the team’s annual training camp spot in Oxnard.DIAMONDBACK BICYCLES generously provided the two with their HAANJO bicycles which proved to be the perfect machine to deliver the riders to their destination safe and sound and ready to start the season!
Days 1 & 2
The first two days couldn’t have been more perfect as far as ride conditions go. It’s more difficult than I thought pushing a 50lb bike, but thankfully between the bike, components and wheels it’s a pretty plush ride. I am continually shocked that day after day when we put in 5 hours, when I get off I still have energy to set up camp and cook dinner without being super cranky about it and miserable to be around. The night time has been another story, though. The first night out, I almost got my face eaten off by wild boars. Check out Jade and Ryan’s harrowing account of their run in with some hungry critters.
The second night out, it started pouring down rain. I was protected warm and cozy in my bivy. But, when morning came, we didn’t have any protection as we packed up our stuff. As a result, it all got pretty wet. We ended up carrying at least an extra 10 pounds in water weight today. That, combined with an epic headwind and having to dodge rocks falling from the cliffs above us and scattering across the road made for an epic day. You know the snow mover trucks you see in snowy places? They have those here for rocks. They come up behind you making a horribly loud scraping sound. Apparently the road closes often due to slides. More than once I envisioned either my brother or me being pushed over a cliff by a landslide. It made me ride faster though. We first said we’d make it to the first hotel, 10 miles away. When we made it there, we decided since we weren’t too cold yet, we’d go another 10 miles to the next town. Once there, we scarfed a cheeseburger to avoid a serious bonk, downed some coffee and left as fast as we could to push another 20 miles to a bigger town. Ryan was shivering pretty bad at that point. I was worried once we started that he was going to get hypothermic and we’d be in between towns without many options to get him warm. But, he warmed up on the next climb. I wasn’t sure what my course of action would be if he couldn’t ride anymore since we were 20 miles between towns. We checked into the first hotel we found. They had a room with a fireplace. Sold!! We unpacked everything and used every piece of furniture to dry our stuff before tomorrow’s ride (when we’ll probably get wet all over again). If there was ever a day for our bikes to fail, today was the day. We were carrying so much weight from our wet gear, we were dodging rocks (and hitting a few), it was downright nasty out there. And everything held up great. No flats, no buckled wheels, it was smooth sailing from the equipment side. And the disc brakes!! Lifesaver…no doubt.
Today was just a mental day. We wanted to give up so many times, but we didn’t. And when we finished the ride and got into our warm hotel room, we both looked at each other and said “that was an awesome ride.” And now I can say I’ve put in some time training for the spring classics this year. Here’s a recap video of the day.
Day 4 Cambria to Santa Maria
While at the hotel on night 3, I had a chance to work on my bike. There wasn’t anything seriously wrong, just normal break in, cable stretching stuff. This isn’t something I do often, mostly because it’s one of my least favorite things about bikes. I like to ride bikes, I don’t like to work on bikes. But, I thought pulling my brake levers down to the bars wasn’t good. The only problem, was that I have disc brakes, which I absolutely love and have no idea how to fix. In the interest of safety, I attempted to fix the brakes. Basically it went like this: I found a knob that turned down by the disc, it resulted in having more lever to pull at the bars. Problem fixed. Until I was about 5 miles into my ride the next day and figured I’d better check on the rubbing sound I was hearing. As I lifted up my front wheel, it was dragging so bad, it wouldn’t turn a full revolution. Neither would the rear wheel. It was so bad, all I could do was laugh. I turned that knob back to where it started and never touched the brakes again. I guess that’s the nice thing about Avid brakes. Even when they need adjustment, they still work pretty good. In hindsight, I’d spend some time prior to my tour getting a lesson on disc brakes from my local mechanic. Or, more realistically, I’d probably just invite a mechanic on the ride too. Today we moved away from the coast and more inland toward massive strawberry, lettuce and cauliflower farms. I really love the farm lands of California. I grew up in the central valley and have a love for the culture of farming. Seeing the farm workers in the field, doing back breaking work, I felt grateful for my good fortune and the life I’m living and for the work they’re doing that puts food on my table. As corny as it sounds, they truly are the heart of America. Mad respect.
Day 5 Santa Maria to Santa Barbara (El Capitan State park)
Oy! Long long day. We travelled about 70 miles back over the rolling coastal range to a campground just north of Santa Barbara. We stayed ahead of most of the rain, but not all of it. Geez California! It doesn’t rain for 9 months in California and the week I’m touring it rains for 3 days straight! I keep putting my head down and telling myself this is the best training for the spring classics in Europe! We found a beautiful little campground overlooking the ocean; that always make the ride worth it.
Day 6 El Capitan to Leo Carillo State Park (just north of Malibu)
It was so nice to be back on the ocean. As we rode down through Oxnard and Ventura, my Optum kit started to get recognized because my team camp is down there every year. I even ran into my teammate Leah Kirchmann in the grocery store! The disappointment of the day was to get to Leo Carillo State Park campground and find the the biker/hiker site was also called the RV dump station. It was even labelled on the sign! In my mind that’s a big screw you to cyclists and hikers. Maybe I’m too sensitive, but there were about 100 campsites there and they stuck us in a back corner at the poop station. Do you think the designers of the campground were laughing when they put us there? We could have upgraded to a regular campsite, but the difference is $20 versus $50. It wasn’t in our budget. The best thing that happened today was after 5 days on the bike, I finally felt a competitive drive after some cyclists passed us. Prior to today, I had no desire to catch anyone, race anyone or be competitive with anyone we saw on the ride. I’d had my fill of competition over the last year. The tank was empty. But then, we were on our way into Ventura and some kitted out dudes passed us. Before I knew it I was thinking “I can get on that wheel.” I looked back at my brother to get the nod to go for it. I felt that competitive fire rising up to catch them. I had so much fun getting on their train, I did my best to look as relaxed as possible as they looked back a little shocked that we were with them. And just like that, I knew I was ready to trade in my heavy bike for my race bike. Magic.
Day 7 Home stretch! Leo Carillo to San Pedro (LA)
We woke up and the sun was shining, it was our last day, we had a tailwind and the elevation profile wasn’t too bad at all. It would have been hard to have a bad day today. We had a nice mellow ride and ran into a few people that knew who we were! This guy Rich had been following our blog with his kids and enjoyed the Racoon story. It warmed my heart to know that a family was following our adventure. We ran into another couple through Hermosa beach that knew our story as well. I hope that’s evidence that the sport of women’s cycling is advancing when I run into random people on rides that know who I am. I can’t thank my sponsors enough for helping to make this dream a reality. It’s important to me to be more than a bike racer and to spread the word and importance of human powered health. This bike tour was a great opportunity to do that. I want people to know my story and that I wasn’t always a fitness freak. I was faced with some health challenges in my twenties, I made some decisions to change my lifestyle and ultimately the course of my life was altered. Doors opened that I never thought possible. Almost everyone can ride a bike, it’s a great way to hang out with friends, spend time with your family, or even spend time alone. It’s therapeutic, it’s practical, it’s healthy. If this bike tour inspired one person to get out and ride, I’m happy. Thanks for coming along on my journey! Where should I tour next?
Check out Jade and Ryan’s full blog to see more daily videos and pictures from the road.
Photos c. Ryan Wilcoxson