The Heartbreak Double Century has over 16,000′ of elevation gain. This spectacular course showcases some of the most quiet, beautiful, dramatic, and unknown regions of California. There is essentially no traffic and the route explores an area that most of the participants will never otherwise visit. There is less than one “junk mile” on the entire course. Veteran riders can attest to all of this, while rookies will take away that sentiment after completing this challenging and rewarding cycling adventure.
The early morning air in the high desert can be cold, but as you leave Palmdale and enter the Angeles National Forest, you’ll warm up quickly. The first section of the course to Three Points is fairly fast with rolling hills. En route you will pass the towns of Lake Hughes and Elizabeth Lake while most are still sleeping. Leaving Three Points, you’ll climb some more while cutting over to Highway 138 on Pine Canyon Rd and Ridge Route. The wind here generally blows from the west, and it’s not uncommon to have a headwind on the way to Gorman and Lebec. Your first checkpoint is at mile 50 at the Heartbreak Hunded start in Lebec.
The next 20 miles are mostly uphill, though there are some very nice descents along the way. As you climb toward the summit of Mt. Pinos, take time to look around; the scenery here is truly beautiful, as the high desert gives way to alpine forests and gently sloping mountain meadows. Look to your left at Lake of the Woods and see the road you will be descending later in the afternoon, then look ahead at the road that will take you higher into the mountains. Deep in the mountains you will Apache Saddle, your next checkpoint. As you refill and refuel, contemplate the fact that you have already accumulated about half of the 15,500′ of climbing that you’ll conquer this day.
Leaving Apache Saddle, prepare yourself for one of the most rewarding stretches of road in all of Southern California. You will primarily descend for 20 miles along the ridgeline that divides the Lockwood Valley on your left from the huge Central Valley on your right. Look around for wildlife as you ride through the Los Padres National Forest and the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge. The descent continues at Highway 166. A left here and another onto Highway 33, and then you’ll be a few miles from checkpoint three at “Santa Barbara Pistachio Company” in “downtown” Ventucopa.
Leaving Ventucopa, you will follow the beautiful Cuyama Valley and Cuyama River to a left turn at Lockwood Valley Road. Rookie or veteran, you are in for a treat. As you enter Lockwood Valley you will encounter a gradual climb that just keeps getting steeper. As you reach the infamous Heartbreak Hill in the hot afternoon sun you will learn why it got that name. Checkpoint four is just beyond the “heartbreak” summit.
Leaving Heartbreak Hill, you’ll descend and climb your way to Frazier Park and your final checkpoint at the Holiday Inn Express. Leaving Lebec and Gorman, there is a short climb to the overview of Quail Lake and the California Aqueduct. As you descend to Quail Lake you should be greeted by a “world class” tailwind that has been known to blow riders all the way to the turn onto Ridge Route and then across on Pine Canyon to Three Points. Leaving Three Points there are two noticeable climbs as you otherwise descend towards the finish line in Palmdale.