It’s been over 10 years since I’ve done this ride. The last time I did it, I saw a big crash on the “rollers” leading into Laguna Beach. It’s a crazy ride where hundreds of riders start and well over 100 riders stay together from Long Beach to Dana Point.
I stayed away from the ride for over a decade, after doing it about half a dozen times because of the danger and the “outlaw” nature of the ride. With so many riders, the group often blocks all southbound lanes of Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). Even though the pace is regularly 30+MPH, the speed limit is often 55-60 MPH on this stretch of road. People eventually let cars pass but not before engendering angst from New Year’s morning drivers. Also, in the past, red lights were something to run, whether the light was red for the lead riders or not.
Fortunately, I heard that in recent years and definitely this year, if the lead riders encountered a red light, they stopped. Given that bit of added sanity, I decided to give it a try again.
The weather has been cold for Southern California the past few weeks but this morning was a bit warmer with a temperature of 46°F at the start where I estimate 350-400 riders headed out precisely at 7:55a. The roll out is a 1/4 mile (from the meeting place to PCH). Then the pace hits 25-30+ MPH and stays there.
I’m sure some of this is psychological but most of my angst is reasonably well founded as there are a lot of riders who really don’t have sufficient skills for a group ride at this pace. I stayed near the back of the lead group trying to keep away from sketchy riders and closing gaps as people were falling off the back starting within the first two miles.
There were a couple of times where I was caught in groups that did fall off the back but I was able to get back into the lead group of 150-200 riders until we reached the south end of Corona Del Mar. PCH gradually climbs for about 1/4 mile and that was enough to crack some riders. There was a small gap to the main group and I was going to try to close it again, but a stoplight turned red and the people just in front of me stopped (appropriately).
While stopped, I saw a crash just a couple of hundred yards ahead. When the light changed I rolled past the crash slowly to (1) see if any friends were in it (none were) and (2) see if anyone was badly hurt and needed help (everyone was standing). I rode the remaining 4 miles to my predetermined turnaround essentially without help.
I had arranged to meet some clubmates and friends in Laguna Beach to ride back home at a more leisurely pace. Overall, it was a good morning and despite witnessing a crash and some very erratic riding, I will probably do this ride much sooner than later.
Below are the detailed statistics from my segment of the “big ride” starting when we hit PCH to where I stopped to turn around:
Intensity Factor™ (IF): 1.00
Training Stress Score™ (TSS): 98.9
Moving time: 00:59:31
Avg. speed: 23.6 mph
Avg. heart rate: 142 bpm
Avg. power: 187 W
Normalized Power™ (NP): 212 W
Avg. power (including zeroes): 177 W
AEPF: 143.5 N
Basically race-level numbers.
Ended up with 52 miles for the day. The ride home with clubmates and friends ended up being harder than I expected.