The Northern California Flèche is a yearly event that follows a unique set of rules and allows teams to determine their own routes. Last year’s event proved to be a difficult but rewarding experience for our team, as our route featured a significant portion of mixed terrain riding up Fish Rock Road. This year, we joined 16 other teams in participating in the Northern California Flèche.
Brian did the majority of the route reconnaissance and we got some great recommendations and input from friends (s/o to Jake “the” Mann). Our final route had us starting at a military base (!!!), going through the Los Padres National Forest, winding through Greenfield –> Soledad –> Gonzales –> Salinas and then climbing through the Santa Cruz mountains before arriving in San Jose and taking an urban route back to San Francisco.
The team featured our core group from last year, as no one was lured away by any rival Flèche teams (the bribes of moth eaten wool cycling jerseys were hard to resist). In addition, we were lucky enough to pick up Gabe from the rando free agents list.
Logistically, our plan was to have Brian and Emily drive the team car (fittingly, a Toyota Corolla) with the bikes and gear from San Francisco to Fort Hunter Liggett. The rest of the team would take Amtrak from Oakland to Paso Robles before getting picked up from team car and heading over to our hotel within Fort Hunter Liggett.
Planning for a true one way Flèche route (rather than a loop starting from San Francisco) often takes extra time and resources, but I believe it is an essential part of the event experience. Most importantly, it allows you an extra day to bond with teammates and goof around. The camaraderie and goodwill built during this extra day are important when in the next twenty-four hours, you may be mentally and physically fragile.
Upon arrival at Fort Hunter Liggett, we checked into our “cowboy rooms” (a.k.a. lodging with shared bathrooms) at the Hacienda Hotel. The Hacienda was formerly known as the Milpitas Ranch House and it housed the workers tending to William Hearst’s farmlands and cattle. The hotel retains many of its period correct details but also throws in modern amenities, like mini fridges and modern televisions. We enjoyed the scenery and had a quick #dinneroutside, before heading over to the hotel bar for a drink (beers on tap = Bud Light and Firestone DBA) and a few games of shuffleboard before retiring for the night.
Despite all the planning and preparation that went into this ride (*SPOILER ALERT*), it turns out the rando gods deemed that we would not have a favorable next twenty four hours. The big fat DNF on my brevet report card (oh man, my parents are going to be PISSED) will be difficult to forget, but I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. I couldn’t have asked for better teammates to ride with through the breathtaking sections as well as the mentally draining and physically exhausting ones.
The rest of the ride report will be split into portions, with each of my teammates taking the task of describing a section of the ride. Join us later for Gabe’s details of the fabled “Indians Road”.