Sierra Fall Century number 4 for me, now known as the Mammoth Gran Fondo

Since trip reports (TR) are floating around, I thought I would include a brief TR of the Mammoth Gran Fondo (GF) for Swami’s-Team Fun. If you’re looking for open roads, no traffic signals nor stops, big vistas and mountain scenery, this is the century for you, and it’s not too far from southern California. The GF is just over 102 miles with about 7000 feet of elevation gain. But you can actually take your pick of 102, 70, or 42 miles, all chip timed. There is even an uphill prologue time trial if you feel like a kick in the pants the day before. Check it out at http://www.fallcentury.org. The event photos are even free! The tough part is that you start and finish at 8000 ft elevation in the ‘Mammoth Village’ area. Arriving a few days ahead of time will help your body to adjust ever so slightly to the elevation. But to ride at this altitude like you do at sea level would require a full month of acclimatization, or I guess you could do as the dirty pros do and just take drugs like EPO.

This year my husband invited some cycling buddies and their wives from the east coast to come and partake in the GF, and we made a bit of a vacation out of it with a trip to Yosemite Valley, hiking from Glacier Point with spectacular views of Half Dome, past Nevada and Vernal Falls, and down to the valley floor. The next day since the men could no longer properly walk, we took it slow and easy and did some kayaking at scenic Mammoth Lakes. Later we met up with former Team Fun cyclist Tammy, turned Mammoth local, and her husband Ted for craft beers in nearby June Lake. There are plenty of fun diversions in the Eastern Sierra.

The day before the GF, the guys and I drove down to a relatively flat area south of Mammoth near Lake Crowley for an easy hour of spinning. Everyone was feeling a bit better after getting trashed hiking and felt they would be ready for the GF.

Saturday morning arrived very early for me so I could be done eating at least 2 hours before the mass start at 7:00. We started lining up around 6:45, and my preferred location for safety’s sake is fairly near the front. At 7 we were off with CHP escort for the 4-mile downhill to highway 395. Last year was at least 10 degrees colder, maybe as low as the upper 30s. For those who need to dress really warm, there is a rest stop and clothing drop off at mile 20. By then the temperatures are plenty warm enough especially with the high Sierra summer sun as it seems to always end up in the 80s. This year I didn’t need the drop off because it wasn’t as cold.

After the escort, the fun begins; just don’t get caught up in those wanting to take off hammering uphill right away. Ease into the pain as your lungs scream for O2. After a couple of shorter climbs Deadman Summit is reached at about 15 miles, and the first screaming long descent starts. It is best to try and find the wheel of some heavier person to gain some speed if you like going downhill fast. If you have time to look up from the road there’s a great view of massive Mono Lake, a salty sea where gulls come all the way from the Pacific to have their young and eat all the shrimp type things living in the lake. The descent with some flat areas lasts a good 14 miles, and then the next climb hits for a fifteen hundred foot ascent. The next rest area is at mile 40 at the top of Sage Hen Summit. Then you are rewarded with another great downhill followed by rolling terrain that includes a few steep kickers. By now it’s very warm since you are in the high desert of the Eastern Sierra. At mile 62 you hit the lowest elevation at 6500 feet. This is the lunch break but don’t hang out too long because the heat is on. Right after, there is another climb that has the steepest gradients of the GF just before the end. It’s about 1100 ft of climbing and arriving at Wild Rose summit (always with a welcome cooling headwind) there is another rest stop. This is only 6 miles from the lunch stop. Rather than carry a bunch of water up this climb, I prefer loading up at Wild Rose. On the next downhill if you pay attention you will see a windmill to the left just before the Mammoth Brewing Co.’s hops field, not something you see every day. Now on to another climb that is somewhat rolling and you gain 500 ft from the low point of the last descent. This is Watterson Summit at mile 78. I would rather avoid this stop, but with the heat and crampy legs it was quite necessary. From here there’s another great downhill but unfortunately I was alone on this one as I was on much of the ride. The winds were a bit more favorable this year and at the bottom of this hill there was a welcome tailwind in this wide plain. But as the road turns I was broadsided by a very stiff cross/headwind for the next 6 miles, with a couple of short climbs thrown in for good measure. A bigger guy that was sitting on my wheel for a while finally pulled through at this point and helped me a bit with this strong wind. I really needed our workhorse Heather Bruemmer but she was resting up for the brutal Giro of San Diego. At mile 92 there is the final rest stop that I skipped. Finally arriving back at the 395, and a right turn with the only stop sign on the GF route (I will admit that I didn’t stop), the winds were at my back again helping me along as I nursed cramping quads. From that point there was only 10 miles left, but with another 1000 ft of climbing to the finish. When arriving in Mammoth Lakes there is a traffic signal but there is a thru lane for cyclists, then just before the finish there is another light, but I lucked out and had green. Once again I was so thankful to be done with this century and was surprised to be able to finish with a total time of 6:04:19. I think riding this century 4 times has been enough for me, but I highly recommend the Mammoth GF for the open and empty roads, and the good organization. You cannot do this ride unsupported because there is NOTHING out there, no gas stations, no 7/11 stores, nada. Afterwards there is food, beer, wine, ice cream and live music all happening in the Mammoth Village square. I ran into Chin from Team Fun who had also completed the GF. My husband Achim, also a new Swami’s member, had a great GF time of 5:15:05.

Half Dome from Glacier Point

Half Dome from Glacier Point

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Liberty Cap in the foreground and Half Dome in the back

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Vernal Falls

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On the Mist Trail

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Lake Mary and Mammoth Mountain backside

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Twin Lakes

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Tammy and Heather K at June Lake Brewing

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And we are off…

Mammoth Gran Fondo

Mammoth Gran Fondo

Mammoth Gran Fondo

Mammoth Gran Fondo

Mammoth Gran Fondo

Team Fun cyclist Chin

Mammoth Gran Fondo

My brief time with a group that included two strong women both top cyclists in the state and country

Mammoth Gran Fondo

Uphill and into the wind at mile 90

Mammoth Gran Fondo

Ah the finish!

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Achim and me posing with extreme skier Glen Plake and bad ass wife Kimberly. Glen is an Elan Skis ambassador and I’m a ski pro rep for Elan.

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One response to “Sierra Fall Century number 4 for me, now known as the Mammoth Gran Fondo

  1. Big ride, Heather! 😀 Sounds like a dream to go almost all day long without running into traffic lights and stop signs. Good thing the big dude started pulling a bit after sitting on your wheel. I’d probably start tossing banana peels and other nasty stuff over my head at him otherwise!

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