Well organized, very well marked course, friendly volunteers and organizers, great swag, great after-ride food... it was really well done.
Challenging. If you're just trying to cross 160km off your list, this isn't the ride for you (unless you're an awesome climber!). But if you've done it and are looking for a great challenge? Go for it! It's pretty wicked.
I'm not much of a climber, so this one was very tough. Lots of 10%+ grade hills, some very long (the highlight being the 12% "Heartbreak Hill"). It smacked me around, even with the triple chainring.
I decided to make this a 200km instead of 160km, not realizing just how challenging the course was. I did it, but it wasn't easy!
I originally planned to do 35km before the ride, register, then tool around for 5km before the start. But on my way there, one of the roads I planned to use was under construction, so I ended up doing all 40km before the ride. Worked out well, got there in plenty of time, had a little breakfast and was ready to roll!
The first 50km went by pretty fast - I was mostly riding in larger packs. At first it was about 50 people, but by the rest stop I was down to a group of about 6. We had dropped a bunch on the rollers - I don't know what it is about these things but it seems like few people know how to carry downhill momentum onto the next uphill very well.
That's about where the fun ended for me, as from there on there were a lot of steep hills, and I just couldn't keep up. It was my turn to be dropped, and from there on I was mostly by myself, picking up the odd small group here and there.
At 80km (120km for me!) disaster... I missed the rest stop. They had signs for the 100km and 160km course diversions, but I didn't realize that was also the rest stop. I should have read the map better, or listened to the volunteer who I couldn't quite hear due to blowing by too fast... by the time I realized it I was 5km up the road with 3 nearly empty bottles and 25 brutally hilly hot kilometers to the next water.
Worse still? The huge hill challenge was on this stretch, Heartbreak Hill.
I suffered, barely limping into the water station, only to find that it was just that - a water station. No Gatorade, no food, just water. Ack! 15km to calories. So all told, I did about 40km of the hottest and hilliest part of the course without consuming a calorie. The only saving grace was that I had Nuun tablets with me, so at least my electrolytes were replenished.
By the time I got to the food stop, my heart rate was way down and I was just turning the pedals with nothing to give. I scarfed down as much as my stomach would take - 2 bananas, 2 granola bars, a bunch of Gatorade, some orange slices - and didn't puke! Awesome. Filled my bottles, and got back out there.
The last 30km were mercifully quite a bit easier, a few hills but nothing compared to the rest of the course. I found myself getting stronger as my body absorbed the much-needed fuel, and finished strong with a smile on my face.
I'm happy to cross this one off my list. I can't see myself doing more than 200km in a single day, but multi-day rides are possible (ie. the Tour for Kids, 2 or 4 days of 200km/day). Ultimately I wasn't quite well enough trained to do this course justice and mucking up the nutrition made it hurt! Live and learn.