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Santa Cruz, CA

Santa Cruz, CA

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Published by: Holly Bachman Bennett on Oct 27, 2011
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tOur guide

Wilder Ranch State Park, home to the new Xterra Pacific Championship race

By Holly Bennett
While most famously known as a surfer’s paradise on the central California coast, Santa Cruz holds equal appeal for triathletes seeking picturesque training spots and quirky, casual culture. Anything and everything goes in this funky city by the sea, with surfers, sailors, cycling aficionados, ’60s-era holdouts, Silicon Valley escapees and beach-going tourists mingling in the easy ocean-side atmosphere. Spend a few hours on any of Santa Cruz’s numerous road ride routes and you’ll travel along rugged beachside cliffs and up through ancient redwood forests, testing even the most skilled cyclist’s climbing and descending skills. If your ride includes coastal Highway 1, be sure to stop at Davenport’s Whale City Bakery, 9 miles north of Santa Cruz’s city limits (the city limits sign traditionally spurs a final sprint on group rides). From December through April, catch a glimpse of migrating gray whales as you munch on a muffin. Roadside fruit stands will also tempt you with locally grown

Santa Cruz Shout-outS If you want …
Two-Wheeled Love Local favorite Spokesman Bicycles serves as a community hub for cyclists of all levels. Spokesmanbicycles.com Fat Tire Tech Support another Bike Shop, conveniently located on the way to Wilder ranch, specializes in all things MtB. Anotherbikeshop.com Lap Lanes Simpkins Family Swim Center offers daily adult fitness workouts or less structured lap time. Scparks.com Old-Timey Thrills ride the Giant Dipper, the Beach Boardwalk’s 1920s wooden roller coaster. Beachboardwalk.com Post-Training Treats Visit Marini’s Candies (locations on the Boardwalk, the Wharf and Pacific ave.) for its famous saltwater taffy, candied apples or other treats. Mariniscandies.com
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This funky surfer town has beachside bike routes, abundant running trails and farm-fresh dining.

The Giant Dipper rollercoaster, a Santa Cruz icon

strawberries. Be sure to pack cool-weather cycling gear, as you can count on some coastal fog most mornings. If off-road riding tempts you, trails are endless and adventuresome. All ability levels will enjoy a fun, dirt-packed playground in Wilder Ranch State Park on the northwestern edge of town, home to the new Xterra Pacific Championship race. Wilder Ranch is equally suited for trail running, with a network of hilly fire roads and technical single-track leading

A Bike Industry Job Santa Cruz and the surrounding area is loaded with cycling companies, including Giro, Specialized, Santa Cruz Bicycles, Sidi, Calfee, Look and Praxis.


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to spectacular views of coastal farm fields and windswept whitecaps. Keep an eye peeled for wildlife inhabiting the park, including wild boars, turkeys, coyotes, foxes, bobcats and even mountain lions. A paved, multi-use path heading back toward town leads from Wilder Ranch to Natural Bridges State Park, an annual autumn resting spot for thousands of monarch butterflies and the endpoint of the 3-mile West Cliff Drive bike and run path. West Cliff is host to numerous 10K races and is ideally suited for a social run or stroll, refreshed by an occasional highbreaking wave. Stop and stretch by the lighthouse, where you’ll watch surfers put on a show at renowned surf break Steamer Lane (where Jack O’Neill conceptualized the modern surfing wetsuit). The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, housed inside the lighthouse, displays 100 years of local surfing history. West Cliff Drive originates at the Santa Cruz Wharf, where you’ll find Main Beach, souvenir shops, seafood restaurants, beach volleyball players and the bustling

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk amusement park, complete with an authentic wooden roller coaster. Many local triathlons, including the Big Kahuna (half-iron Take a leisurely stroll along West Cliff Drive. distance) and the Below: Monarch butterflies at Natural Bridges State Santa Cruz TriPark athlon (Olympic distance) require a swim around the wharf, with wetsuits recommended year-round due to the everchilly water. To experience Santa Cruz in full tourist style, stay at the Beach Street Inn adjacent to the Boardwalk, with recently renovated and reasonably priced rooms (check Beachstreetinn.com for off-season specials). Or consider a weekly or monthly beach bungalow vacation rental in Santa Cruz’s classic Seabright neighborhood or nearby Capitola Village. For a more

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Live it. Share it.


The state of your body changes every day, especially when you are in training. The RCX5 guides you like a personal coach. It adjusts your heart rate zones depending on the state of your body, so you train at your best, every time.

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THE NEW RCX5 BIKE Comes with the small and light CS speed sensor W.I.N.D. Also compatible with cadence, GPS and running sensors.

42 Polar_TriMag_1011.indd | 1 triathlete.com October 2011

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luxurious getaway, head to South County and the Seascape Resort in Aptos, with ocean-view suites and villas, golfing greens and Palapas—one of the area’s prime venues for sunset margaritas and Mexican food. Aptos is home to Nisene Marks State Park, another rich natural resource for mile upon mile of forested trail run. Mountain lions and wild boar also call this park home, though you’re more likely to spot the University of California Santa Cruz’s vibrant yellow mascot, the banana slug. The pivot point of Santa Cruz’s eccentric character is downtown’s Pacific Garden Mall, where you might be serenaded by a street performer, asked to sign a Greenpeace petition and brush shoulders with local “American Idol” celebrity James Durbin all within the space of the same block. People watching and boutique shopping abound, with eateries appealing to every taste. El Palomar is the downtown cousin to Palapas and a favorite local spot to fuel. Just off Pacific Avenue and not to be missed are two “truly Santa Cruz” establishments: Red and 515 Kitchen and Cock-

tails. Both dimly lit late-night joints share a similar magic-carpet-ridemeets-cocktaillounge feel. The menus feature farm-to-table fresh ingredients with delectable Nisene Marks State small plates and Park has more than meals designed for 30 miles of trails sharing. Looping back to the city’s beloved west side, visit the swank Swift St. Courtyard, anchored by Kelly’s Bakery, a haven for sweet treats, coffee drinks and ample breakfast and lunch fare. Don’t dare leave without sampling the delicious—and arguably nutritious—date bar. While away your final Santa Cruz afternoon at one of Swift St. Courtyard’s several wine tasting rooms where you’ll sample varietals from such acclaimed local vintners as Sones Cellars, Bonny Doon Vineyards

and Pelican Ranch Winery. If wine over-indulgence gets the best of you, you’re a mere mile inland from West Cliff Drive once more, where a brisk walk in the ocean air will clear your head in no time.

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