Friday, July 30, 2010

Whiteface Mountain Climb

Still in Wilmington this week with the fam enjoying hiking, cliff jumping, swimming in the great Adirondacks. My legs felt good so I attempted to do the Whiteface Mountain Climb - something I've always wanted to do but had an Ironman in the way. I started at the Route 86 stop sign (the official start) and made my way up. This climb is 8 miles long at a average gradient of 7.9% to an altitude over 4600 feet. The first 3 miles were tough as my body got used to turning over the pedals for an extended period and I settled in. The grades hover around 8 percent all the way to the toll gate at mile 3. By the time I got to the toll gate I was in climbing mode. From there the scenery was spectacular! The peaks and lakes in the distance made this all worthwhile. Mile 5 got a little tougher as the grade kicked up a bit but I had a couple of cyclists in the distance to use as carrots so I got through with no issues. At about mile 7 the first of 2 switchbacks appeared yet I could not see the top as it was shrouded in cloud and mist. After the first switchback the grade kicks up a bit to the final switchback. From here I was about 300-400 feet from the summit with about 200 of it at 10%. I made the top - and the cold (approx. 5 C) really chilled me - in about 1 hour, 6 minutes. If I do this again I think I can shorten this as I rode conservatively. The ride down was exciting except for dodging the rough sections where winter has done damage over the years and also controlling my speed with tri bars! I thought my hands were going to slip off the bar ends on a few occasions and road bars would definitely be an advantage. I made it back down in 17 minutes and what a difference in temperature at the bottom - 21 C never felt so good. I have read that this climb is on par statisitically with Alpe d'Huez in France (with less switchbacks). I probably won't be in Europe anytime soon so this was pretty cool. The other thing that occurred to me having done this climb is that Tour de France riders are hardcore. I did this one climb and definitely felt the effort and these guys race up several of these over the course of 3 weeks - unreal!
I definitely want to do this again and look forward to doing it in a group.

Have a good one!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Tour de Youngstown

Well that was one EPIC ride. Susan, Peter, John, Sara and I left Youngstown, New York at 10:00 a.m. with all of our gear in the 'team car' or 'sag wagon' driven by our directeur sportif Sheila "I'm the only sane one" Ceko (who, incidentally is gearing up for a 10k). The ride along the Niagara River sent us through Fort Niagara State Park, Youngstown, and the quaint village of Lewiston. On the other side of Lewiston we encountered our first 'mountain ascent', the Alpe de Lewiston - all riders stayed within themselves and crested the summit unscathed. From here we cruised along the river dodging potholes and a few drunks who were getting a hammered start to their day. The border crossing was special - we had a phenomenal view of the falls and managed to avoid the car line by playing ignorant at the pedestrian crossing. Once on the Canadian side we followed the Niagara Parkway along the other side of the river to Niagara-on-the-Lake. It was during this time that various teams moved to the front to keep the tempo high and control the 'peloton'. A quick descent found the Beast and Stinger enjoying the adrenaline surge. Once past NOTL we followed Lakeshore Rd to our lunch destination in Port Dalhousie. We managed to secure a front row patio spot and the cold Coke tasted euphoric (ok, I'm embelishing a little). After a quick bite it was time to push the heavy gears home. We followed along the service road to Beamsville with a threatening storm just up ahead - fortunately for the peloton it avoided us as we turned south towards the second ascent of the day, the dreaded Col de Mountainview. Once onto the Col things really heated up as the peloton was blown apart. Honu popped first and struggled to maintain contact, Sara and Susan (still working on nicknames) maintained tempo and rode strong while Beast and Stinger were vying for the summit in a good old-fashioned peepee contest. Once over the summit we put the hammer as all the teams wanted good postioning for the final short climb of the day in Grimsby, Mont Mountain Road. Here Stinger got a quick jump while Beast was having difficulty changing gears (Beast was going to try riding in the big chainring - something he's never done. Sarcasm in italics). Stinger buried himself to crest the summit first. From here the road to the finish was predominantly flat but had a few sprint primes to keep the pace high. As the peloton neared the finish there were some close calls when teams were trying to position themselves for the sprint finish and almost crashed. Once in the final straightaway it was Stinger who made the surprise first jump and caught the peloton off guard. Beast gamely took off in pursuit but just came up short by a bike length. The rest of the peloton came in a few seconds later in the same time. All in all it was an exciting stage. For the win, Stinger got a cooler, a caesar and several glasses of white wine (because it's the afternoon after all). Most aggressive rider award was given by the tour organizers to Beast. The polka dot jersey for queen of the mountains went to Susan - neither alpha male Stinger and Beast would be caught dead in polka dots while the white jersey for best young rider went to Sara because she's a 76er. Honu claimed the green jersey because he had to turn himself inside out to stay away from Sara after riding by and slapping her on the butt!

This was a stage to remember - all the heads of state road without "a spot of bother" (have to throw in a couple of Phil Liggett quotes) and completely "on the rivet". Cooldown was properly looked after with booze and pizza and tons of laughs. Thanks again Sheila for looking after the group - it was greatly appreciated! Huge thanks to Susan for setting up our accomodations - the view, the sunsets and the stars were amazing!!

That's all for now - stay the course