D-Day (Dirt Day!)...a day of cycling exploration on unpaved roads...

D-Day (Dirt Day!)...a day of cycling exploration on unpaved roads...
Riding my Mudhoney cyclocross bike (probably where no cross bike should even go!), I snapped this picture from Mammoth Gulch Road, looking northwest toward Rollin's Pass Road and the Continental Divide.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Colorado Last Chance 2010: WTF AM I Thinking?!?

Okay...I must admit that there's not a lot of things in life that really intimidate me. My list includes:

1) Spiders
2) Heights
3) Incredibly sexy women
4) Cleaning the grout in a mildew-laden shower

Well...I think I'm about ready to add a fifth item to my list: stupid-long bike rides!!! Next week's Colorado Last Chance (http://www.rmccrides.com/lastchance.htm), which runs from September 15-18, is only one of a handful of 1200km brevets that is being offered in the U.S. this year...and I was crazy enough to sign up for it! WTF am I thinking?!? 1200km.....for those who are not mathematically inclined, that's almost 750 miles!!! Almost 4 double centuries...back to back to back to back!!! The longest ride I've ever completed was a 400km (248 mile) brevet earlier this summer (which was actually part of a 600km brevet, which I ended up completing the last 200km the next day because of the intense heat and my inability to follow a cue sheet!)

Here's how I justify my stupidity:

1) Brevets, by definition, are not races...they are simply "timed events." Every rider earns the same credit for finishing (even if I am the last rider!)

2) I have 90 hours to complete this event...that's 3.75 days...which seems fairly reasonable...I think.....

3) I like challenges (???)

4) Successfully completing Last Chance will place me in the top registration group for Paris-Brest-Paris, the premier 1200km event in the world, which is only contested every 4 years. (Yes...I'm actually thinking about riding another one of these events!)

5) This event may mark a turning point in my cycling "career," giving me a glimmer of what it's like to compete some of the more prestigious (and longer) ultra cycling races in the world...Furnace Creek, Race Across Oregon, Fireweed, etc...

6) If I ride the damn thing fast enough, I can actually qualify for Race Across America (RAAM)! I must admit that it would be pretty cool to brag to my friends that I am "RAAM qualified!"

So I must admit that Last Chance is an opportunity to expand my cycling horizons...And as I'm cycling through the middle of Kansas, masochistically suffering after many hours on the bike, I'm sure I'll be clicking my heals together and saying to myself, "There's no place like home....."

Monday, August 30, 2010

Assault(ed) On (By) The Peak: My First Ever Ascent of Pikes Peak!

On Sunday, 8/29/10, I participated in the "Assault on the Peak," the first bicycling event on Pikes Peak in over a decade (actually nobody could really tell me the last time they allowed road bikes on Pikes Peak...) For those who are not familiar with Pikes Peak, it is only one of two 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado (and North America!) that actually has a road that goes to the top (Mt. Evans, of course, is the other)! Pikes Peak is usually closed to bicycle traffic, largely because a majority of the road above timberline was unpaved and really not suitable for bike traffic...at least until the last few years. Major erosion problems have forced a massive paving project on the Pikes Peak Highway. At present time, there is only a single 2.5 mile section section below timberline that remains unpaved, and this will likely be completed next year. (This section is very STEEP BTW, gaining 467 feet/mile, making it impossible to ride out-of-the saddle without spinning out!)

Now for the bicycling logistics...Pikes Peak is one HELLUVA bicycle climb...arguably one of the most difficult climbs in the world!!! Based on scales to objectively evaluate climbs, Pikes is harder than many of the best known road bike climbs in the world, including Mt. Evans, Alp d'Huez, and even Mt. Ventoux!!! It is almost has difficult as Mt. Washington, and given the fact that it is MUCH higher than Mt. Washington, it could be easily argued that Pikes Peak is significantly harder than Mt. Washington. The climb gains 7800 vertical feet in 24.5 miles from Memorial Park in Manitou Springs, averaging 318 feet/mile of vertical gain. With an average grade of 6.7% (and sustained pitches as steep as 10.5%), Pikes never gets uber-steep, but the very high altitude definitely makes those 10.5% grade pitches feel like 15-18%! And if the wind is ferocious (as it was this past weekend, with gusts on the summit clocked as high as 75 mph, according to the summit ranger), this climb can be demoralizing!!! In fact, I was shocked by the large number of riders who were haplessly walking their bikes up the mountain in several sections!!! Apparently, I wasn't the only person who found this climb difficult!!!

I rode the Pikes Peak Highway in 2:44 (8th overall), well off the winning time of 2:17 by local hillclimb extraordinaire and Cat. 1 cyclist, Leroy Popowski, of Colorado Springs. Riding with a compact crankset, I found myself in my 34 x 25 combo for nearly 2/3 of the ride!!! It was the first time all season that I found myself wanting to quit a climb before reaching the top!!!

Overall, the Assault on Pikes Peak was an unforgettable experience for myself and other contestants, who were equipped with an eclectic mix of bicycles, including 3 motorized bikes, tandems, a handcyclist, one cyclist who had a prosthetic leg, and even a unicyclist! (That guy was actually rode much stronger than many riders who had two wheels, although I'm sure his downhill experience wasn't much fun!) Given the steep grades and blustery winds, it is safe to say that all of the contestants who participated in this weekend's event (myself included) probably felt as if they had been "assaulted by the peak!" Nevertheless, I am truly grateful for the experience to ride America's greatest hillclimb! I hope the event flourishes in the years to come!!!

Happy to be at the top...fully geared and ready to begin the blustery (but bomber) descent!

The Pikes Peak Highway snakes its way up the northwest side of the mountain, with over 300 cyclists creeping their way toward the blustery summit.

A view that never gets old...looking down from the Pikes Peak summit upon Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs nearly 8000 feet below!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Denver to Aspen

I've been slackin' on the blog a bit! Thanks to my life long friend Jill who supported my Denver to Aspen make-up ride. The ride would have been impossible to accomplish without her help! I had a good day on the bike, riding the 180 mile, 13,500 feet of vertical gain route in 10:04 (average speed 17.9 mph)...very close to cracking the 10 hour barrier. (Unfortunately, I got hung up in traffic on the Aspen side on Independence Pass, losing almost 15 minutes in that section alone compared to last year). It was a strong ride, but was still well off the pace set by former U.S. pro and Giro d'Italia competitor Michael Carter, who rode this route as a double century in 10:15 (average speed 19.5 mph). Definitely a time to shoot for in years to come!

Cruising through the South Park Valley east of Fairplay. Winds were very light, allowing for fast riding times.

Climbing up the east side of Independence Pass...and feeling good!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Race Recap: The Colorado Death Ride

This year's edition of the Colorado Death Ride was a bit more "death-defying" than last year! Cooperative weather and favorable winds made for faster times for myself and several other riders during this year's event! Overall...I was happy with the results, but believe that this course--given similar weather conditions--could be ridden much faster than I rode it this year!

Once again...the scenery was second to none! Some of the most beautiful landscapes in Colorado!

Many thanks to Charlie Henderson and Jim Kraychy, who gave up their July 4th holiday weekend to organize and support this event!!! It would not have happened without them!!!

Mountain views from Imogene Pass Road, just to the northwest of Ouray, Colorado

A picture of Red Mountain, taken the day after the Death Ride...

The picturesque Sneffels Range, take from the Dallas Divide, the final climb and descent of the Death Ride...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Colorado Death Ride.....

The Colorado Death Ride, sponsored by the RMCC on July 4, 2010.....just the mere mention of this ride makes my knees quiver and my teeth chatter!!! 226 miles, over 15,000 vertical feet.....This event, the 2nd (and longest) stage of the Colorado Triple Crown stage race...brings back a myriad of bad memories.....During the 2009 edition of this event, I suffered more than any other race I did in 2009! The long climbs and high altitude definitely took their toll during this long ride...but the scenery was breath taking at times!!! Some of Colorado's most breathtaking landscapes are located in the San Juan Mountains...I'm hoping to suffer a bit less during this year's event than I did during the 2009 campaign!!!


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Race Recap: The Terrible Two...Somewhat "Terrible" Day on the Bike!

Last Saturday (6/19/10), I participated in the Santa Rosa Cycling Club's "Terrible Two," (http://srcc.memberlodge.com/TT), the third and final double century of the California Triple Crown stage race...Although the race was extremely well-supported and incredibly beautiful, the day was a disappointing one: I flatted 3 times in the first 40 miles (likely because of a faulty rear rim), which doomed any glimmer of hope I had of advancing onto stage race podium.....

The first flat occurred only 4 miles into the race.....I must admit that it is a disheartening feeling to flat that early in a 200 mile race and watch a peloton of 225+ riders advance effortlessly down the road. After changing my flat, I assumed the role of the virtual "Lanterne Rouge" of the race, a position that I am not used to riding in... I made up some time over the next 20 miles, riding with a triathlete/ultra-distance runner who had started the race late because he had left his cycling shoes at home. We worked together until the first series of climbs at Trinity Grade Road, (where I happily relinquished my position as the last rider of the race!). After a series of strong climbs, however, I would go on flat again at mile 37 and mile 38, only to watch all of the riders that I had "picked off" during the previous climbs effortlessly pass me by again.....Fortunately, I did not flat again for the rest of the day...which was a good thing because I was completely out of tubes and CO2 cartidges!

I spent the rest of the day mostly riding alone through the hilly (and often incredible beautiful) mountains surrounding Santa Rosa, Occasionally, I would join forces with small bands of riders who were lagging behind, trying to "survive" the ride in the fastest time possible...but the rest of the day was mostly a solitary effort...I finished in 12:57, well off the pace of the lead riders.

Although the results of Saturday's TT were disappointing (to say the least!), the ride was very beautiful and several of climbs were incredibly steep! Temperatures were perfect (from a Colorado perspective), with temperatures ranging from the 60s along the coast to the low 80s along Skaggs Spring Road, which lies to the south of Lake Sonoma. (This 35-mile-long road often experiences temperatures greater than 100 degrees in the summer months, giving the Terrible Two its nasty reputation!) The weather for this year's edition of the Terrible Two was not nearly as "terrible" as it could have been and I was grateful for that!!!

My hat off to Marc Moons of Petaluma, CA, who captured the overall title for this year's California Triple Crown Stage Race. Marc is a super-strong climber and has a lot of invaluable experience in California's Double Century racing scene. He's a ferocious racer, but very gracious and humble off of the bike!!! Don't pick a fight with him on an uphill bike race, because he'll probably win!!!

Many thanks to the Santa Rosa Cycling Club! They put on a very classy, well-organized event...perhaps the best supported double century in the country! If any rider is considering trying an out-of-state double century, either as a race or just for the sake of trying one, this would be the ride to try! The ride support and post-ride banquet is superb! Just be wary...you only have 16.5 hours to complete the ride to earn an "I DID IT" T-shirt!!! And you better bring some climbing gears...many of the climbs are super-steep, with sustained grades between 10-18 percent, and some pitches steeper than that!).

I also want to thank Brian Meadows from the RMCC, my home-town club. Brian had driven out from Colorado a few days early to participate in the TT and was kind enough to pick me up at the Sacramento airport, saving me the hassle of getting a rental car! Brian is a TT veteran, and his insights into the course were very helpful!

Well...enough whining! Time to get back on the saddle and get back to work!!!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Terrible Two.....How Terrible Is It???

This weekend's cycling adventure takes me to Santa Rosa, California for the Terrible Two (http://srcc.memberlodge.com/TT), the third and final race of the California Triple Crown Stage Race (http://www.caltriplecrown.com/). The race, which is 200 miles in length and has over 16,500 feet of vertical gain, notoriously earns its reputation from its steep climbs and punishing heat! Certain parts of the course have recorded temperatures well over 100 degrees during past editions of the race.....hence the name the "Terrible Two!"

I was a bit disappointed with my performance during the first two events of the California Triple Crown Stage Race, the Mulholland Double and the Devil Mountain Double. During the Mulholland Double (http://www.planetultra.com/), which featured over 18,500 feet of vertical gain over 206 miles, I was plagued by cramping for almost 120 miles. By the end of the race, my entire body was in a state of tetany! During the Devil Mountain Double (http://quackcyclists.com/), I was the unfortunate recipient of a flat tire about 55 miles into the event. As a result of the flat, I was forced to burn a lot of calories to chase down the lead pack of riders, which I caught by 85 miles into the race. After 120 miles, however, I started to experience a mid-race "bonk" and then experienced my most bizarre over-use inury to date...a left foot sesamoiditis, an injury that slowed me down for the remainder of the race. My foot problems have continued to plague me for the past 2 months and have definitely hindered my training!

So, I really don't know what to expect this weekend's race...I enter the event undertrained and with a slowly healing left foot. Probably more importantly, I'm ill-prepared for the intense heat I'll likely encounter during the race! So how terrible is the Terrible Two? I'll have to let you know!!!