El Dorado Century

Having done two 100-milers and the 70-mile El Dorado route in the past year, Ken Loo and I now have the guts to attempt the leg-breaking, pain-inducing 100 mile, >7000-feet-of-climbing route. Actually, the ride was a blast.

Ken had just recently acquired his uncle’s Colnago racing bike, which was almost 10 pounds lighter than the Motiv mountain bike he used last year. My steed, of course, is my beloved little red Cannondale. Yesterday was Canny’s 1-year anniversary with me… and what could be a better way to celebrate?

We leave the start maybe around 6:45 a.m. or so, early enough that I turned on my Vistalight rear-flasher. The first few miles were rolling, and quickly we hit some serious climbs. I was feeling good, and Ken appeared to be too, especially for a guy that has few opportunities to ride hills in pancake-flat Stockton…

But after 20 miles or so Ken gets a flat. No problem, we have the necessary flat-repair equipment, and it occurs in front of a gas station, which even has an air hose and a big tub of water. How fortuitous.

By the time we get to the first rest stop we hear remarks about how the second “stage” would be the most difficult part of the ride. Some riders are in disbelief as the first leg was plenty hilly already. But they weren’t kidding, as we got to The Hill.

A third of the riders seem to be walkin’, and you could really see the grimacing of the others who chose to stay on the bike. I was taking full advantage of my granny… at 3 miles per hour. Ken has dropped back quite a bit, but I wasn’t stopping as it would only prolong the agony. “This is impossible,” I mutter to a lady walking up her bike, at almost the same pace I was riding. She replies with encouragement. I am dripping saltwater all over Canny’s top tube, but I inch on…

After 30 minutes of this I finally get to the rest stop, feeling somewhat more relieved than victorious. By the time Ken arrives, 20 minutes later, he is muttering something about how high his gearing is. We take a look at his cogs and chainrings. “My gosh, it’s a straight 5-speed freewheel… its largest cog has only 19 teeth. And my small chainring has 42.” Upon hearing this, some cyclists burst out laughing and slap Ken on the back. “Good luck, my friend, good luck!”

And there was still 60 miles to go. Still feeling good, but now aware of Ken’s handicap, we continue to wend through the picturesque hills so abundant in El Dorado Hills. Fortunately, after the long ascent, the was a wonderfully long and winding descent of about 20 minutes… and going over 40 miles per hour all the way. Being able to keep up with cars at this speed induced a most euphoric feeling. It was a great reminder why in the last year or so at Stanford I was really becoming fond of hills… the downhills make the uphills worth it. I kept count of the number of instances I exceeded 40 miles per hour during the ride, and the total came out to be 15 different times.

From miles 60-80 I joined a couple of strong riders and we traded pulls at speeds over 20mph. Ken did the same with other riders. The scenary of the last 20 miles was a lot less verdant than the first half of the ride, but still rolling, nevertheless. I came in at around 4:00 p.m., I think. Ken did the same about half an hour later. With his incredibly high gearing, though, he once again proved to be the man of the day.

The ride was truly gorgeous; the scenary and mild temperatures was the best of any century I have gone on. And what a challenging 100-miler.


  • 100 mi.
  • 15.0 mph (average moving speed)
  • max speeds: >40 mph, on 15 different occasions
  • total time: ~9 hrs?
  • terrain: hilly


(1=ho hum; 5=best)

Scenery: 5

Support/Organization: 3

Food: 3

Difficulty: 5

Overall Rating: 4+ Highly recommended.

1994 El Dorado Century cycling patch

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