2014 3CR Detailed Route Description and Past Ride Reports


This route is a tour of California's central coast region. There are many miles of fine cycling and wonderful scenery throughout. The course is designed as a point-to-point much of the way, followed by a circuit on the third day that starts which ends the 1000k distance in San Luis Obispo (often called simply "SLO"). One could think of the 1000k brevet as three stages: San Jose-King City, King City-SLO, followed by SLO-SLO. The 1200k adds the fourth stage: SLO - Mission San Miguel - SLO. This staged approach allows for better cycling than going further southward to the busy roads around Santa Barbara and Malibu, plus riders can return to the same lodgings they used on the second (and third) nights and perhaps carry a little less when they are more tired, and it makes transportation back to San Jose after the brevet a little shorter. Overall, the normal summer wind pattern should help the 3CR riders more than it will punish them.

If desired, either distance of the 3CR can be ridden straight through, and there will be a full moon to help. There are enough stores along the way to make a fast time possible, but there will be some long hours during the night when few services will be available. It is envisioned, however, that most riders will want some sleep along the way and the route is designed with that in mind.

The 3CR starts in the city of San Jose, near the airport. An early start will soon have the riders out of the urban streets and into the rolling hills behind Palo Alto. From Portola Valley, riders will climb into the Santa Cruz Mountains on Old La Honda road. This narrow road will ascend into forests of majestic redwoods for miles of tranquil if arduous cycling (12% in a few spots; the average is more like 8%.) From the hamlet of Sky Londa, riders will descend to the coast on Highway 84. They will go inland again to the lovely Higgins-Purisima wilderness preserve; after ascending a stiff one-mile climb out of its valley, they continue going north through Half Moon Bay to the town of El Granada, and the northern terminus of the 3CR. The coast route is hilly but many fine vistas will make it a memorable ride.

Hopefully with the sea breeze now at their backs, riders spend many hours going southward from El Granada. They will return to San Gregorio, and then continue onto Stage Road to Pescadero, and southward still along tranquil Cloverdale Road. Another gentle descent to the coast awaits on Gazos Creek Road. The coast highway will take riders to Santa Cruz, which has some urban riding while traversing the busy Santa Cruz-Aptos corridor on Soquel Drive, but soon rural roads are regained. Riders will visit the little village of Corralitos, and then head back into redwood forests on quaint Hazel Dell Road. From there the route takes small roads through the verdant farmlands around Watsonville and Aromas. Here the stiff climb up Carr Road will get riders' attention (12% in spots.) A swift drop along quiet Anzar Road will take riders to Hollister on mainly flat farm roads.

From Hollister the riders will follow Highway 25 and go south toward King City. They will want to be sure to refuel in Tres Piños to prepare for hours of cycling in "the outback". There is a well-placed brevet checkpoint with food and water near the Pinnacles National Monument, but riders will be traversing an empty region with few motorists, and one devoid of any services. There are many climbs along the way, though few of them would be called severe. The main worry will be the potential for afternoon heat, but hopefully after sunset the temperature will drop and riders will have a memorable ride on this lovely stretch of road under a full moon. (If the heat is extreme, the organizers will endeavor to have additional water available in this section of the route.) The stiff one-mile climb up Bitterwater Road signals the final push of the day; from the top it is 15 miles downward to King City.

Day Two begins with a ride northward from King City through the Salinas Valley. An early start by dawn is recommended, both to stay in time with the brevet checkpoints and also to avoid the strong headwinds that usually arrive before noon. Hopefully by that time riders will have reached Marina and "made the turn" at the Monterey Bay coastline.Upon reaching the hills of Carmel the wind should be at your back and the scenery sublime. Be sure to stock up at Big Sur; it is many tough miles onward to Ragged Point for the next store. More coastal riding await as you continue south to Cambria, Cayucos, Morro Bay, Los Osos Valley, and finally, the second overnight control. Overall, this day could have hard headwinds in the morning, then numerous climbs in the afternoon, followed by a long night ride on easier terrain. Riders will want to be sure they are eating enough to keep up with the caloric demands of the day. Keeping the duration of your stops short will be smart too.

Day Three is a big loop that starts and ends in San Luis Obispo. Essentially, it goes southward past Guadalupe and Casmalia, then through the rugged mountains by Vandenberg Air Force Base. Around Lompoc the riders turn inland. After climbing long but gentle Gaviota Pass, the route makes a u-turn at the summit, retraces for a time, and then goes west to Solvang on Santa Rosa Road. From Los Olivos the brevet follows lovely Foxen Canyon Road for many miles, but riders must carry extra food and drink since there will be very few services until Santa Maria. After reaching Arroyo Grande riders will sense they are near the end of their day's ride, but again, they should be sure to refuel since there are no services until reaching SLO. Here, the 1000k riders are done--bravo!

For the resolute 1200k riders, however, a fourth day comes hard on the heels of the 1000k finish. They will want be rolling early Sunday morning to avoid the strong north winds that usually start blowing before noon. After departing SLO, they cycle 19 miles on Hwy 1 to reach Old Creek Road and turn away from the coast. Here they start a tough climb into the mountains. Old Creek Road will be reminiscent of Old La Honda Road encountered early on the first day of the event, but by now legs will be more tired and it will feel harder. (Beware the false summit on Old Creek Road; there is much more climbing after a short descent makes you think the hard work is done.) Old Creek also lacks much of the shade of Old La Honda, so it can be a hot climb if the day is sunny. After several miles of toil (8-12% at times, 15% in a few spots), riders reach the top and turn right onto Hwy 46. From here they can enjoy a smooth rollercoaster descent into the Paso Robles region. After refueling and cooling off in Paso Robles, things flatten out for the ride to the day's turnaround in old Mission San Miguel. In days gone by the mission was a haven for weary pilgrims, and so it is again for the audacious 3CR riders today. They will make their way back to Hwy 46, and then climb on moderate grades up and over the summit to reach the high point of the 3CR. 3CR riders will take Hwy 46 all the way to the coast for another fun, fast descent. From here it is fairly easy riding for 32 undulating miles to the finish along Hwy 1, hopefully with a strong tailwind at your back.

Overall, the 3CR route, like this section of California, is quite "lumpy" and there will be a lot of climbing and descending. Day Two in particular, will be especially tough so keeping something in reserve for the following day(s) will be a smart tactic. The 1000k brevet's longest climb (Old La Honda) comes early on Day One, but the 1200k riders will have to surmount Old Creek Road on the last day too. Still and all, the average randonneur or randonneuse should not be afraid of the route's climbing profile if they prepared themselves for a challenging ride. The 3CR will likely feel harder than PBP, but probably a little easier than many other grand randonnées in North America.

Past Ride Reports
Much of the 3CR is based upon our successful 1000k brevet in 2010. Here are a few ride reports that will help you learn more about the route:

Equipment Suggestions
The 3CR won't require any special bikes or equipment compared to other randonneuring events, but it is definitely a hard brevet and having low gears to tame some steep grades will be useful for most entrants. Most of the gradients are less than 9%, but there are sections that are steeper and a bottom gear with a 1:1 ratio will be appreciated by many riders unless they are particularly strong. The road surfaces vary from excellent to poor, so riding 25-28mm or wider width tires is recommended. If you normally ride 23mm width tires, you may find them somewhat narrow for the bumpier sections of the route. Most important of all, each entrant, no matter their type of gearing or tires, will need to bring good lights, both front and rear. You'll see the lighting and safety equipment requirements spelled out in the 3CR Rules.