The Ojai Valley Century is a challenging, but fun century that passes through scenic Ojai Valley and along the Pacific between Carpinteria and Ventura. The Century route has 5,300 ft. of climbing and the Hammerhead Century route, which includes a Category 1 climb up through the Los Padres National Forest, has 7,400 ft. of climbing. Both routes end with a Category 2 climb.
Beyond the climbing, the other challenge of this charity ride was the dual nature of temperatures. While most of the century was along the Pacific coast with the marine layer to keep things cool, the last segment reached high temperatures. From Santa Paula to Ojai, the sunny skies ramped up to over 100 degrees.
The Ojai Valley Century starts in downtown Ojai and runs up to Montecito, back to Ventura, and on to Santa Paula to return to Ojai. The ride has two significant climbs, the Category 3 Casitas Pass, between Ojai and Carpinteria, and the 8-mile climb from Santa Paula and Upper Ojai.
From downtown Ojai bicycle shop, we were off to Lake Casitas and Casitas Pass, the first climb of the day. Casitas Pass is a Category 3 climb, with two summits, a few miles apart on Highway 150. The first climb is the longer and steeper of the two. The first climb has an average grade of 8% over 2.5 miles, followed by a 2-mile descent and a shorter 1.5-mile climb up West Casitas Pass with an average grade of 6 to 7%. From there, it is a much longer descent to Gobernador Canyon Road and another climb, a Category 5 that goes for one mile. The descent is steep at the beginning with a sharp hairpin turn, but it is fun.
The route turns right onto Highway 192 to Carpinteria High School and the first full rest stop. Highway 192 travels behind Carpinteria and is regularly used by the Amgen Tour of California when the route passes through from Santa Barbara to Ventura County. The route makes a loop in Montecito before returning to Carpinteria High School. This area has a lot of wealthy residents. We pass by polo fields and Oprah Winfrey’s west coast mansion. Between the polo fields and Montecito, you have another climb, up Greenwell Avenue. Greenwell Avenue is a Category 5 climb, about 1.5 miles long with an 8% start, a flatter middle, and a 9% end.
Returning back to Carpinteria High School, I could see more cyclists still coming up from Ojai and other cyclists heading back to Ventura at this crossing point of the route. After a short break, I was back on the 192 heading south for the second half of the century. Soon I was on the new bike path that runs along US 101 between Bates Road in Carpinteria and Exit 78, the Seacliff exit. This new bike path takes cyclists off of the 101, where we used to ride for years. It is a quick 9 miles back to Ventura and a lunch break in the Patagonia parking lot at Mile 60.
In Ventura, the low clouds were gone, the sun was out, and the temperature was in the 60s. It was a nice day here, but I knew that Santa Paula and Ojai would be a lot warmer now that the sun was out. We passed through Ventura on the way to Santa Paula.Between Ventura and Santa Paula, it is mostly flat with an occasional rolling hill and fruit orchards along the way. And there was a faint tailwind to help the cyclists along. It began to get gradually warmer as we approached Santa Paula.
LAST STOP – ALL ABOARD!
The Santa Paula old train station was the last rest stop of the century. If it is warm here, then the 8-mile climb to the Upper Ojai Valley will be hot. This happens nearly every year, at this time of the year and day. I begin the last climb of the day, up Highway 150 to the Upper Ojai Valley, past Thomas Aquinas College.
The Category 2 climb has a 4 to 6% grade for the first 4 miles, with a 1-mile descent to Thomas Aquinas College and a 3-mile ascent to the summit at 6 to 8 %. It’s not too steep, just a grinder of a climb. You can smell sulphur in the air and see oil seeps along the road while climbing. The temperature increased almost every mile along the climb. The climb became harder and harder, but I had made sure to stay hydrated throughout the ride anticipating this section. The ride organizer had set up a small rest stop 1 mile short of the summit with Gatorade, iced water, and popsicles. I grabbed a Popsicle to try and reduce my core body temperature and dumped a cup of ice water down my back. Many other cyclists stopped there as well.
I made it to the Stagecoach Market at top of the climb where the outdoor temperature gauge showed that it was 102º. I moved on to finish the remaining 8 miles of the ride. Luckily, it is mostly downhill to downtown Ojai, including Dennison Grade, a 1.5-mile, 6 – 8% curvy descent. I pulled up to the finish line more overheated than tired. If it had not been for the heat, I could have ridden much further. Maybe next year I will try the Hammerhead route. See you out there!
For more writings by Charles Lindsey, visit his collection of posts at Gold Coast Cycling: venturacycling.blogspot.com