Quite literally, and also figuratively. For riders who’ve been in the “pain cave” for the full duration of the CDP, when there’s simply nothing left to give, it’s here that the ripcord is pulled. Detonation. A white flag. It’s officially the worst night of the week.
But it’s also here where we are swallowed up by giant coastal redwoods as the westward-facing pitches of Panoramic Highway road, warm and sun-bleached in the day’s last light, enter the forest. The gradient relents, but only just. Riders in contention form up once more, and surge again with whatever’s left in the tank. Everyone else just tries to hold the wheel of the rider in front of them. If you’re lucky enough to have caught a wheel, you can save your energy for a final sprint in the last switchback below Pantoll Station. If you’ve not played your cards correctly and find yourself pedaling squares off the back, it’s a long, slow drag to the top. It is eerily silent in the forest, with only the sound of your heart thumping in your ears to keep you company.
And then, just like that, it’s over. The road flattens at Pantoll Station. Your vision widens as the heart rate slows. You ride through the campground for one last look at the sun as it slips below the fog and back into the Pacific. It’s the best night of the week.