This was my third time doing the Mulholland Challenge, which is one of the most difficult ‘centuries’ in SoCal. After signing in, I topped off with a banana and Powerbar gel. I set off with the 7:30 group which contained the eventual winner for the day. The group was pretty big at the start, 50+ riders. It was also clear to me the lack of group riding experience some participants were displaying, which made me eager to start climbing and break the race apart. Everyone managed to stay upright and together to the the start of Topanga, at which time the first selection took place. I started off the climb back too far and had to bridge the gap up to the front group, which meant burning match #1, but at least the group had shrunk to around 30 riders which made things a lot safer.
Next up was the Rockstore climb which produced another selection, the group was whittled down to 20 riders. I felt pretty good on this climb even though the pace was high. The next series of twisting technical descents opened up a large gap and our group was overcoming riders who had left earlier. It was difficult to get around some of these riders, especially the tandems! I worked with 2 other riders to close down the gap to the front group, which by now was maybe 10 or so riders. In doing so I had to burn match#2.
I barely had any time to recover before Yerba Buena. Half way up the climb our group split in half with me on the back half, that was the last time I saw the leaders. After a brief water stop and Powerboat top off, I continued up the brutally steep top section of Yerba Buena where I found myself alone. I would remain solo the rest of the day, 50+ miles. Deer Creek is a terrifying descent, steep, shape turns and a crappy road surface. I was on my brakes the whole time.
Next up was Decker, Decker is evil.
After riding through a headwind for 5+ miles I started on the final climb of the day, Stunt. I felt ok at the start, but quickly started a case of some major suffering. My back was en fuego, heart rate was pegged at 170 and I could only manage very shallow breaths. These were the longest 4 miles of my life, and the whole match book was gone by now. At the top, the kind souls at the sticker stop had an ice cold coke and pretzels which I quickly consumed. Man, coke is a miracle elixir in situations like this. I felt renewed and pressed on. The final 20 miles were mostly uneventful and I really just wanted to be done for the day. Some power returned to my legs and I was able to finish 16 minutes faster then my best time, even with the additional climbing at the end. I ended up finishing 10th overall.