Saturday, September 12, 2009


At the beginning of the year I postulated that short steep climbs were much harder than long gradual climbs. It is for me and everyone I ride with. But one reader retorted that this wasn't the case, and gave me a few climbing formulas I'll look at once the cycling season has faded away into the Buy Buy Buy Xmas Season and after I figure out Bill James' Win Share formula.

When Chairman Ward is not going on crazy rides or practicing the Chicken Hawk Dance, he graciously supplies elevation charts that unfortunately are never flat.

On Labor Day weekend didn't put in alot of miles, around 100, but got over 11,000' climbing in 2 days.

First day was up Mt. Hamilton from the easy side, (aka the San Jose side.) Full disclaimer--we didn't start from Alum Rock Park, but from a club member's family ranch 3 miles uphill--so the climb was about 13 miles. The San Jose side is a winding, gentle grade, as it used to be the way horse drawn carts got to the top of Hammy. When we were driving to the ranch we saw an organized ride start up with quite a few novice riders--another indication that this is the easy side. (Novice in speed but at least they knew the rules of the road.)

Turns out we went up pretty hard. As it is predetermined that local cyclocross champ Mark is going to zoom up whenever he decided to--so I played around with sitting in until the last mile waiting for Mark to turn on the afterburners, or be a shit disturber a little early. With Mark alone I would have waited to see him zoom off, but rounding out our group was Paul and Brother Joe who will attack and attack (Brother Vic had started the festivities) and Dr. Dave who has turned into a real consistant/ fast climber. So not waiting for the inevitable, I attacked early and counterattacked early in the cool morning air (not the best for me), fell off the group, and didn't see Mark coast to victory nor see Dave zip by Paul/ Joe on the last climb--but I kept riding hard as not to get caught up to by the dozen clumbmembers (and troublemaker Vic) still behind.
When I got a couple of miles from the summit I passed two folks on the Arthritis Ride I knew from rides long ago--Bob is a tremendous rider who years ago showed me that fast folks could help slower ones when he and his clummates helped drag my ass around Tunitas Creek on a really hot day. Anyway, when I got to the top I circled back and did the last mile again bsing with Bob/ Leticia. This climb, piece of cake.

When Jack arrived he suggested that we do some fun bonus miles--go down the steep side of Mt. Hamilton (The Mines Road side) to the bridge and reclimb. This sounded like such a WONDERFUL idea that no one from the lead group who just flew up the easy side, albeit Dave, was game--and the steep side is only 6 miles long. But the climb back to the top features many sections with DOUBLE DIGIT grades.
Styling bonus mile group doing both sides of Mt. Hamilton (top-1) Dr. Dave, resplendant in his golden Grand Tour Double Jersey leads me in Devil Mountain Double Jersey, and Christine in generic jersey (she either has to do a double or take over as The Club's Jersey coordinator) (top-2) Joined by Jack in his throwback Diablo Cyclist jersey. (Photo taken by Ward who is off the hook on doubles as he was last Diablo Cyclist jersey coordinator--fond memories abound)

Ward, Chris, & Ron joined Jack and I for the lousy downhill to the bridge (fast & twisty with many small ruts in a light surfaced road that is hard to pick out.) The good news is that the climb back was much better than at the beginning of the year--first time my back didn't go out and it was relatively cool on the treeless climb. On the other hand, it was still a bear that took a lot of effort and we were certainly going slower though Dave and I kept pacing each other (he'd spin up consistantly faster when the road wasn't super steep, I'd go by when the grade kicked up.) No question in my mind, I rather have gone up the easy side again.

I had hoped to do Tunitas Creek or go to Marin the next day, but I had also hoped for 90 degree weather--it looked like the high for the holiday weekend might be 70, and it would be a fog banked 70. From the ranch you looked down at San Mateo and saw the west side of the hills just covered in fog. F'ing wonderful. On the way back I came up with an idea to go to the Gold Country--but not the Gold Country I am familiar with but higher North to Auburn where there is even more steep climbing.

Ward was game.

Figure it is a 2 hour drive so we have to do at least a metric once there. The easiest course to follow would be an out and back on the last leg of the super steep Auburn Century--from Auburn over the tallest bridge in America, the Foresthill Bridge, up Foresthilll Road, past Foresthill, which was the only place I knew we could get water, and then continue on Foresthill Road for at least 30 miles and maybe do the whole 45 if weather, food and our legs cooperated. Even I could remember that Forestsomething name and not get lost.

Going "outbound" on the 30+ mile climb, it soon became apparent that maybe doing a climbing ride the day after you do a climbing ride is not the greatest idea in the world if your not one of the Schleck Brothers. We had a slight headwind working against us. There was also a slight chill in the air, though the air was very dry which made it pleasant and the dense pine stands we eventually rode next to mixed with the mountain air and smelled great. Also Ward & I didn't have to go balls out, and just rode at a bs'ing pace. Light traffic on Foresthill Road but a nice shoulder. Strangely very few cyclists on this great road.

We got to Foresthill, @ 15 miles away, and we head over to the small park for water/ bathrooms. The park is jammed--the town is out for their holiday bbq. A huge BBQ at least 10 feet long is all fired up, bellowing out smoke on the hunks of meat laying 4' above the fire. We're 5-6 picnic tables away and are covered with the smoke and BBQ smell. As we are eating our sawdust tasting powerbars an old guy on oxygen sits down at our table and happily says "today is tri-tip--YESTERDAY WAS CHICKEN!"
(above) Close to "Chicken Hawk Rd" we came across this super patriotic house-fence extended 200'+ in each direction and each post had an American flag. Wonder if they take the flags in at night/ bad weather like you are supposed to. (Photo by Ward, enhancements by Ward Industries and Pumpkincycle)

(below) Two action photos of Ward--last climb from the Foresthill Bridge back to Auburn, and doing the Chicken Hawk Dance at the China Wall Turnaround (The 'No Mushroom Sign' was hanging en route)
North of Foresthill the road narrows, traffic lessens, and the pine trees get closer and even smell better. Gradewise its a climb reminiscent of the easy side of Hamilton. After another 15 miles we get to the China Wall Staging Area--good view, bathrooms, but NO water. We're not out but the prospects of climbing another 15 miles (and then returning) with less than one bottle of water isn't appealing. But if we had been able to "liquor up" then another 15 miles of climbing a gentle grade was very doable. As we hit the 30 mile mark, a return will give us a 60 mile ride.

On the uphill we were putting an effort to keep at 11 mph, now we were coasting back to Foresthill at 30 mph. At Foresthill we took a back road detour than effectively ended the unencumbered downhill--in fact we hit one 1/2 mile downhill of 15-20% that immediately went into a 1/2 mile uphill of 15-20%--THIS WAS MORE DIFFICULT than either of the 15 mile uphill sections of the main road. As a last kick in the pants--the short piece between the Foresthill Bridge and Auburn again kicks up to attention getting levels.

Good ride--something different, and good to keep up the difficult rides with the Knoxville Double coming up. But turned out that I was a "slacker," Jack did the 100 mile Mines Road-Mt. Hamilton-Sierra Raod loop the next day.

This was next weekend near Tomalas on another great Stephen produced out of town metric. Once again I'm accused of riding in a fog. (Ward Photo)

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