Updated in 2006, on the occasion of moving the start/finish to Analy High School in Sebastopol.
Willowside Middle School was the staging area for the Terrible Two since 1993. But the event has outgrown that little facility and we are relocating--permanently, we hope--to the campus of Analy High School on the north edge of Sebastopol. It’s a bigger, better venue for the event in all ways: more parking, more showers, more everything.
The move has introduced some changes to the course, most notably the alterations attendant on the new start/finish. But we have also taken this opportunity--while the route was undergoing changes--to do some modest tinkering with other spots on the course to correct the mileage shortfall we discovered last year. (New GPS mapping had uncovered a long-standing error in our traditional route slips. Once corrected, the course turned out to be only 197 miles.) Now, thanks to the changed start/finish and two other, minor adjustments to the route, we are pleased to announce that the new TT course measures exactly 200.0 miles.
The biggest changes involve getting away from Analy in the morning and back again at the finish. The ride now begins by heading north on High School Road out of Sebastopol. It jogs over the Laguna de Santa Rosa to Sanford Road and then picks up the traditional route as it passes Willowside School on Hall Road. Analy is about four miles from Willowside, so this means all rest stops and other critical points around the course will pop up at least four miles later. For instance, the first rest stop in Calistoga now comes up at 55 miles. (Start the ride with plenty of pocket food!)
It also means there are now almost six country miles between the start and the seven-mile transit of the city of Santa Rosa. These miles will not be neutralized behind a pilot car. Riders can set their own pace. However, a pilot car will be waiting for the riders at the city limit and will lead the way through town, tripping signals ahead of the pack. (There are 20 signals on the route through town. Most, but not all, can be tripped by the pilot car.) If a significant gap has appeared in the field by the time the riders reach Santa Rosa, we will try to slot a second pilot car into that gap, ahead of the second wave of riders.
The first of the two course modifications--aside from the start/finish--is in Napa Valley, just at the bottom of Oakville Grade. We are returning to Oakville Cross as our way across the valley to Silverado Trail. This was the traditional route until the mid-90’s, and now it’s back. The second change is late in the ride, south of the town of Cazadero. We are going to leave Cazadero Hwy for a left onto Austin Creek Road. This is actually slightly shorter than staying on Caz Hwy, but it’s a bit hillier, so the timing over that section will likely be about the same.
Finally, for the finish, we stay with our traditional climb and descent on Graton Road out of Occidental. But before reaching the town of Graton, we turn right on Sullivan Road, right again on Mill Station Road, and left on Occidental Road, which takes the route back to High School Road for the run to Analy.
So much for the changes. Read on for the full course description. Miles noted in the description have been changed to reflect the new course.
Although the route has varied in small ways over the years, its defining features have always been its four big climbs (and the steep, twisting descents that follow): Trinity Grade, the Geysers, Skaggs Springs, and Fort Ross. Numerous smaller but pesky hills add to the overall challenge. Trinity, the Geysers, and Fort Ross are all double-summit climbs, while Skaggs Springs is a long series of climbs and descents. Few gradients on the course exceed 15%, but many climbs stay in the 8-12% range for long distances.
The ride starts and ends on the north side of Sebastopol at Analy High School, a pleasant facility with parking, rest rooms, and showers. The course heads north and east for six flat miles to the city of Santa Rosa and takes the next seven miles to cross the city (usually very quiet at that hour in the morning). At 13 miles, the route becomes rural again, with the first rolling climb out of Bennett Valley. The first major ascent (at 25 miles) is Trinity Grade, a feature of the old Coors Classic stage race, and more recently of the Tour of California. The descent off the back side of Trinity often surprises over-eager riders: it’s steep, twisty, and sometimes wet with dew in the morning. A second, shorter climb leads to the top of Oakville Grade and the wide open, 50-mph downhill into Napa Valley.
The next 40 miles (35-75) roll easily through the picturesque vineyards and meadows of Napa, Knights, and Alexander Valleys, with only a few moderate hills. The first rest stop is in central Calistoga (mile 55). Serious climbing begins again at Geysers Road, with the next rest stop at the top of the nine mile, twin-summit climb (mile 84). The descent off the backside of Geysers begins with an extremely steep drop of about one mile. Following a hard left turn, it settles into seven miles of gradual downhill into Sulfur Creek Canyon, then several miles of small climbs and longer descents along the canyon. This is an active geothermal area, with steep, unstable terrain. The road is often washed out or in some state of disrepair. There are several sheer drop-offs into the canyon, with no guard rails. Caution is advised. After passing through Cloverdale, a short climb on Dutcher Creek and a descent into Dry Creek Valley lead into the midway lunch stop at the Warm Springs Dam Visitor Center (mile 110).
After lunch is when the Terrible Two gets truly terrible. The first half of the TT climbs 7500' in 110 miles. The second half climbs nearly 9000' in 90 miles, 5000' of it in the first 30 miles after lunch. It often takes riders up to three hours longer to complete the second century...if they finish it at all. Skaggs Springs--the road the Army Corps of Engineers built to bypass Lake Sonoma in 1981--is an endless series of steep, sun-baked climbs and false summits. It can be very hot (90°-110°). There will be two informal water stops along this stretch. Eventually, the old road emerges from under the lake and the course returns to pavement from an earlier age...bumpier, but also shadier. After 15 miles of steep ups and downs, riders can recuperate on 12 mellow miles of downhills and rollers along the beautiful Gualala River.
There is a rest stop at Kashia School (Rancheria) at mile 143. There is a notorious climb leading up to this rest stop: a wicked, 1.7 mile, 900' wall. After the stop, there is a steep, technical descent to the Gualala River, an easier 300' climb, then another tricky drop to the sea. At Stewarts Point, the route turns south along the ocean on Hwy 1. Temperatures are usually much cooler here and sometimes one can even catch a tailwind while cruising for 15 miles alongside the rugged beaches and pounding surf. Although this Hwy 1 section is considered easy, it actually adds nearly 1000' of climb to the total before reaching the next rest stop at Fort Ross (mile 162). It also features the heaviest traffic of the day.
The climb on Ft. Ross Road is 2.6 miles, averages 11%, and feels even steeper. Some riders find it to be the hardest climb of the whole ride. However, most of it is shady and all of it is beautiful. It’s followed by a bumpy, narrow descent, a more gradual climb up to Black Mountain, and a long, technical descent into Cazadero. A flat, shady run along Austin Creek and the Russian River leads to the last rest stop in Monte Rio (mile 184). After that, the road climbs gradually for seven miles, just skirting Occidental, before a long, smooth, fast downhill. After the long roll-out at the base of the descent, there is one more small climb on Graton and then, just over the top, the right turn onto Sullivan and the new route back to Analy High School.
Except for the transit of Santa Rosa at the start, the entire course is rural and very scenic: vineyards, orchards, pastures, oak-studded meadows, shady forests of redwood, bay, and madrone, the spectacular coastline, wild rivers, lakes, and streams, and always the sweeping panoramas from the summits of all those climbs. It’s enough to make you forget how hard it is!
The ride will be held, rain or shine. (Yes, it has rained on the TT, although very rarely.) Temperatures can range from 50° in the morning to 100°+ in the afternoon on some of the inland portions. It will cool down again as riders reach the coast and encounter fog or its influence. The wind can be a factor, but is not usually a major player in this hilly terrain.