Sweaty Sausages & Salty Hams: The 9th annual Italian Sausage Ride

Sweaty Sausages & Salty Hams: The 9th annual Italian Sausage Ride

The 9th annual Italian Sausage Ride (ISR) has come and gone. It destroyed nearly every rider who courageously toed the line. Of the twenty four who dared to give it a go, only three riders finished the entire route. In true ISR fashion that is just how hard 73 miles with 7,000 feet can be. This edition was a Gravel+ ride. The “+” sections were no joke and made it clear that anything resembling a road bike would be destroyed on this course. The following is my account.


Rollout was as advertised, 6:30am sharp. Yes, a few riders were left in the parking lot while the rest of us set out to beat as much of the looming heat as we could. The pace was steady and purposeful as the cooler morning temperatures near the coast needed to be enjoyed and taken advantage of. 


Some folks had no intention of consuming the entire ISR and that is just fine. But keep in mind these same folks are experienced, fit and respected local riders who were more than worthy of the invitation. So with that, coupled with those suffering mechanicals and or unable to match the pace, the group quickly dwindled in size.  


Nineteen miles in the "peloton" caught up to a couple of wisemen who rolled earlier in the morning prior to the official 6:30 AM depart. They were taking a nature break and inquired whether or not we all had enjoyed a stop at the local Denny's as they had. Gotta love good attitudes. 

tunnel 1

Thirty miles in, approximately ten riders remained together as we climbed Cougar Pass. The pace was enough to splinter us even more and with Daley Ranch looming more selection was about to be had.

not cougar pass

During the pre-ride announcements it was mentioned that if you encounter a trail closure and resulting detour in Daley Ranch you will need to take it and “follow your nose to regain the intended route.” The detour was in fact in play and it certainly added some violence to the ISR. As could be expected some did not hear or heed the morning announcement and rode straight through the “closure” to stay adhered to the GPX track. Word on the street was that a ranger indicated it was fine to do it since it was the weekend and no active work was taking place. Either way this did not count against anyone except, ironically, for those that rode the detour as it was very rude and added time and significant punishment to the body and soul.  

cliffy diffy

As we descended the chunky, rutted and sandy exit from Daley Ranch the heat was full on. The cool AM coastal temperature had long since gone and it was game time. Only five of us remained within shouting distance as we finished Daley. - DB, John, Bart, Jason and myself. Back on the road as we sped towards Lake Hodges Torin and Arthur caught back up. A solid 3.5 hours in and there were now only seven of us—and the day was just getting started in terms of heat and difficulty.

rick and Laura may

We stormed a SHELL gas station for a much needed resupply. Not a lot of idle chit chat was had as time was of the essence. Temps were soaring well north of 90F and our next main obstacle was looming. It was the Cima Coppi of the ISR—“Once is Enough” as it's known by the locals. Not the highest point, but without compare, the hardest point. At just over a mile in length and nearly 14% average gradient it doesn't sound overly complicated but what the data doesn't disclose is that there is a small descent and even a few short flat bits factored into that. Furthermore, at this time of the day the sun is straight onto your back and there isn't a sniff of a breeze. The white granite with loose-over-hard below your tread reflects the sun's intensity and you roast as you grovel your way along trying to maintain traction. To top it all off the last quarter of a mile has pitches that exceed 20%. Any movement from the narrow climbing line or lifting off the saddle and you will spin out and be forced to dismount.


As we rolled from the SHELL, British John and Kit rolled in. We had no idea what was happening further back other than some statements similar to “Are you kidding me?!” and “WTF?!.”

once is enough

Around Hodges was uneventful other than DB leading, but not navigating, thus taking himself off course. A self inflicted wound I say.  Once across Hodges I started “Once is Enough” first. Settled into a let's-just-clean-it pace. At the infamous left turn where the last quarter of a mile comes into view, I eased and DB, John and Arthur passed me. It was ugly at that point and it was about to get way worse. I was glad to have a sunskin filled with ice from back at the SHELL. I could write a small book on my overheating exploits and I didn't want to add another page to it. In the end DB and I were the only two to clear “Once is Enough.” It wasn't pretty but the goal was met. I used every bit of my 40T chainring x 52T max cog to get it done in the oppressive heat. 

ice ice cliffy

DB, John and Arthur and myself stopped for water and shade at the fountain not far from the top. Here we gathered location data on Torin, Jason and Bart.  Torin was to arrive about the time we set off again so we intercepted him and he declared “Mercy” [or something to that effect] and would prefer to manage his way back to the finish solo. Bart, fresh off COVID and a non-cycling vacation to South America had exceeded expectations with his fitness to that point but wisely decided “Once is Enough” would be skipped on the day. Jason, a seasoned and experienced long distance local guy was a bit further back and we felt safe in the decision to carry onward as he could manage any challenge he might encounter. Additionally we were roasting and we needed to get moving and get some air blowing across our salt encrusted kits.


DB, John, Arthur and I would survive the gnarly descent down “collar bone” followed by a slow paced ride up “Questhaven” to our final water stop in San Elijo. Here it was time to take on our last refuel before a grind up to the top of La Costa Preserve and the remaining random silliness back to the finish. DB was "over it" and not keen to ease up for much, and with about 5 miles to go went off course again. We chatted on the phone in order to reunite and realized it was too complicated to sort out. But as luck would have it, we joined up again for the last couple miles. Once at the finish some folks who edited the route a bit were already cleaned up and ready to imbibe while others had yet to arrive.   


Several beverages were consumed. A lot of food was inhaled. New friends were made. A couple lies were told. All up a great day.   


Until next year, LORD Wellington.

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