San Francisco to Watsonville
Distance: 96.4 miles Elevation Gain: 5,785 feet
Elevation in the ride:
It’s finally here; the first day of cycling. I was so excited to hit the road and get cycling in California after arriving the previous day. Day one started off in San Francisco with a gorgeous view of the Golden Gate Bridge, finishing in a rural town called Watsonville 96 miles later.
We has a bit of a delayed start after trying to fit everyones built bikes into the back of our support van, and after a slightly hairy taxi ride across the city, we came across the iconic view of the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s so strange to see landmarks like the bridge in person; you see them all the time in postcards and movies, but to see it first hand is always a little odd…
The first section of the ride was through the streets of San Francisco; a couple of lovely steep hills to get the legs moving and a few miles to get familiar with cycling on the right hand side of the road. The city looked flat from the plane as we landed the day before, but I can assure you that road after road was hill after hill! It was a nice pace early on, and with junctions and stop signs things were fairly tempered and I could start to get to know some of the other 21 cyclists on the trip; I turned up only really knowing 3 of those on the trip, so the slower pace was good to introduce myself and get the conversation flowing!
Once we had left San Francisco, a lot of the day past was quite open and we had a nasty head wind for just about all of the day; it was absolutely relentless. Whilst most of the day was ‘wow, I can’t believe i’m cycling down the west coast of the USA’ there were certainly periods where I reassessed the reasons for signing up on such a ridiculous challenge! As you can see from the elevation chart above there were a few nasty little summits; these wouldn’t have been too bad if it weren’t for the wind, but it was a matter of pushing through and getting to the end.
After lunch I was split up from the group and had to do a fair bit of catching up which mentally and physically takes its toll; there is a certain feeling of freedom being on the open road without another human in sight, but it’s exhausting setting a consistent pace whilst being battered by the wind; no chance for slip streaming other riders to give the legs a bit of a rest!
I managed to catch up with Steve (CEO of Cry in the Dark) & Bernie and we set a fairly good pace for the next 2 hours or so of the ride before meeting up with the other riders on the edge of Santa Cruz. Much like San Francisco at the start of the day, it was really nice to cycle as a whole group, as the sun went down, through the streets of a typical U.S city.
It started to get dark as we left Santa Cruz, but the route became more sheltered so I could start to pick up the pace and get some serious tarmac behind me before arriving at our hotel in Watsonville for our second night. We had a lovely meal at a cafe/bar called ‘Allie’s Diner’ which was a great way to end an interesting first day.
There were sections of day one which were particularly tough, but it was good to start to find a rhythm, get to know the group and start to work my way into the 620 miles in total!
Here are a few more photos from the day: