Thursday, July 26, 2012

2012_07_26 RAMROD (2012)

Author:  Mike Hassur

Editorial Comment: 
One quick note about RAMROD’s Stevens Canyon descent (and many of the others that we do), IT IS DANGEROUS.  As most of you know, a man was killed there in this year’s RAMROD.  All of us do descents like this so often that I think we tend to forget that the very things that make them stimulating (high speeds, a rough road surface, gratings in the road, a cliff at the side of the road with no railings, a dark tunnel in which it is difficult to see if there is a rock in your path, etc.) also increase our risk level.  For me, nothing could diminish the joy and excitement that we share for cycling more profoundly than one of us being seriously injured in a crash during one of our rides together.  I’m not saying that we won’t take some risks, I just want to make sure that we don’t take them lightly (i.e. have fun letting the testosterone flow, but don’t let it do your thinking for you).

Short version of the 2012 RAMROD narrative: 
It went great.  The weather was cooperative (and not overly hot), Mike and Les broke the 9 hour barrier for total riding time (including stops) for the first time, and Mark Delrosario completed his first RAMROD (way to go, Mark).

Long version of the 2012 RAMROD narrative:
Les and I had talked quite a bit about our strategy for trying to break nine hours (total time including stops) in this year’s RAMROD.  What we finally decided was not to burn ourselves out riding with the >25 mph crowd in the first 30-40 miles and to spend minimal time at the rest stops (i.e. pee if you have to, quick refill of water bottles, and “adios” to the rest stop).

We met at the starting line at ~ 5:15 AM (it was easy to spot Les with his Cyclopath jersey on.  Mark showed up shortly thereafter, and we were off by 5:25 AM.  It wasn’t fully light when we left (rear lights flashing), and it wasn’t too cold (middle 50’s) so we didn’t need arm warmers, leg warmers, or an under-layer.

We were cruising along (~20 mph) just past Buckley when this woman passed us.  She was going 23-24 mpg, so we hooked in behind her.  She had no interest in sharing the work, so we just followed her.  She took us through South Prairie, past Orting, and part way to Lake Kapowsin before we hooked up with a larger group.  We made it to Lake Kapowsin at a brisk (but not killer) pace without using much energy at all.  From Lake Kapowsin to Eatonville, we were a part of a larger group.  Our pace was around 23 mph which was relatively easy in a group.  As we approached Lake Ohop, the pace picked up, and it was during this stretch that we lost contact with Mark. 

Les and I didn’t bother to stop at the food stop in Eatonville.  Our plan was to make it to the food stop just after Ashford (at 60 miles) where we would make our first brief stop.  Along the way, we met Chris Allen, who is a friend of Tom Peterson’s.  Chris had spotted our Cyclopath jerseys and introduced himself.  We rode with Chris for a while, but his pace was a little too brisk for us.  We rolled into the food stop just behind Chris, lost track of him, and didn’t see him again until the finish. 

After the food stop, it was on to the Nisqually Entrance of Mt Rainier National Park.  Once again, we were fortunate to find ourselves in a group of guys that was going at a pace with which we were comfortable.  We breezed through the park entrance and started the gradual climb toward Longmire (where the real climbing begins).  Les and I lost most of our partners as soon as we started climbing, but there was one fellow (who had been with a group of fast guys) who was going about the same speed as us.  I can’t remember his name; but he was 53 years old, and we ended up seeing him for a good portion of the remainder of the ride.

The steeper climb from Longmire to the Paradise cutoff (to Reflection Lake) was uneventful.  It was interesting that Les was not feeling very strong as we began the climb; but the further we went, the stronger he seemed to get.  By the top, he seemed to be the stronger of the two of us.

As we passed Reflection Lake, I remember thinking how much better I felt than the previous year when we had burned so much precious energy by riding too fast in the first 60 miles of the event.  We zoomed down the Steven’s Canyon descent on the east side of the mountain:  feeling great, speeding over the gratings in the road and through the tunnels, peering over the edge of the cliff at the side of the road at the beautiful valley below, and – in general – enjoying a fast descent to the food zone just before Box Canyon. 

After a fairly quick stop at the food station (not as quick as it should have been because of cookies and chocolate filled somethings(?)), we were off to the Backbone Ridge Climb.  We followed a tri-athlete (aero bars) at a fast clip all the way to the climb, where he promptly dropped us.  We summited Backbone Ridge fairly quickly and found ourselves descending toward the eastern park entrance/exit.  This descent was interesting because there were sections of the road that were gravel (they were under repair).  We noticed that these sections were very short (maybe 20 yards long) and did not have a lot of loose gravel on them; so, while many of the riders slowed down a lot for these sections, we didn’t.  We would slow down a little, pick a safe path through what gravel was there, and zip through the repair area.  By the time we reached the Ranger Station at the bottom of the descent, we had caught the tri-athlete who’d dropped us so convincingly on the Backbone Ridge climb.  We rode with him and five or six other strong riders to the base of the Cayuse Pass climb. 

Les and I felt relatively good going up Cayuse.  The tri-athlete dropped us almost immediately, and we dropped everyone else in our group.  For most of the way up, it was just Les and me.  We caught and passed a few riders on the climb, but there just didn’t seem to be that many people on Cayuse.

At the top of Cayuse, we refilled water bottles (important for me as I was beginning to cramp a bit) and headed down the other side.  In order to save time, we did not stop at the “RAMROD Deli” at the Crystal Mountain turnoff.  Instead, we zoomed by the “Deli” and immediately slowed down.  There are almost always faster riders who have stopped at the “Deli” who are leaving about the time we pass.  Our strategy was to slow down, not waste energy and link up with them as they caught up to us.  There is almost always a headwind in this last 40 miles of RAMROD, and it is much more efficient (and fast) to be in a group.  Sure enough, after a few miles two guys came cruising along at a nice pace.  We hooked up with them, and everyone was happy (except that I was starting to have some really bad cramping in my legs).  The cramping was bad enough that I was not sure if I could keep pedaling a couple of times.  Fortunately, the cramps were only bad if I really had to apply power, and I was able to keep a pretty smooth pace most of the time without too much trouble.

Just outside of Greenwater, our group encountered a solitary rider heading the other direction.  It was Leon!  He had to work that day and could not do RAMROD.  As soon as he finished work in Orting, he hopped on his bike and headed up to find us with the idea of helping us finish those last 25-30 miles.  In the end, Leon was a “God send”.  As we neared the Mud Mountain Dam turnoff, the other two guys from our group deserted us (one of them had to pee).  Leon, who had already been working like a madman, took over and pulled us up to a group of riders near Mud Mountain Dam.  We rode with them almost all the way to the finish line with Leon leading us out over the last few blocks to get us to the finish absolutely as quickly as possible. 

In the end, Leon’s efforts (and ours) bore fruit.  We managed to finish in less than nine hours (around 8:55.40) in total time (including stops) which was a first for both Les and myself.  We were very pleased.  Mark Delrosario followed us in completing his first RAMROD.  Way to go, Mark.  That was a real accomplishment!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

2012-07-08 Valley First Granfondo Axel Merckx Okanagan

Author:  Les Becker

Leon suggested this great idea to ride/race in beautiful Penticton, BC which sounded very fun.  Some folks say a Granfondo is not a race. So why the individual timing chips? And what’s with the guy with power gel packets taped to his top tube so he doesn’t have to waste time reaching into his pockets? And what about the pros from Belgium who will be with us at the mass start or the fact that this event is one of only two qualifier events in North America for this year's world championships in South Africa.
"Penticton" Cyclopaths
I am standing in the starting line with Mike H, Leon and Mike S and 1400 other riders (racers). It’s 7:00am and I am already warm with only the Cyclopath jersey, no baselayer  or knee warmers. I know the 90 deg + heat will come. Excitement builds as the announcer counts down. I think “am I really supposed to be here?” So off we go in a mass of high end bicycles and adrenalin.
Up and down the first hill got me acclimated to climbing and cornering in a tightly packed fast group. Then out the highway along Lake Okanogan with the power boys out front doing 26-29 mph. Reminded me of the RAMROD where we rode too hard in the early part. But what can you do but just hang on? Then up the first real hill; still we rode hard and passed many riders including Eddy Merckx who abandoned at that point. Then hard pacelining until about 50 miles when reality set in; I knew I was spent so let the group with Mike H and Leon go on and soon came to a rest stop and quickly got food and water and jumped back on the saddle.
Rode with various individuals and small groups. They would invariably point out obstacles, communicate slowing or direction changes and letting me into lines to help me get out of traffic or away from obstacles. Nice to be with friendly riders. Began to feel better, passed a rest stop and regained some form. Got water once more and headed up the last and biggest climb. And there was Mike Smith. He’d passed me when I stopped, so we then we rode together for awhile. The climbing took us through some beautiful high mountain valleys with vineyards. By then riders had spread out and the slower uphill pace enabled me to see and appreciate the beauty of the Canadian mountains. At one secluded farm, a gentleman about 70 was standing alone at the end of his long driveway pumping his fist in the air, cheering us on. And in many other places near town, groups of spectators were cheering and ringing cowbells. The people of Penticton love their outdoor sports!
Down the hill and then needed to turn left onto the highway. Race crews had stopped traffic so we didn’t even have to pause. Seemed like ¼ mile of cars were held up just for us. Then they gave us the entire outside lane of the 4 lane highway for the 15 miles back to town. I felt good and we had a brisk ride to the finish. My 5hr 11min eclipsed my prerace prediction of 6 to 6.5 hours.

Addendum by Leon Matz:

On Sat. July 7th I left for Penticton at 6:20. I wanted to leave early because I was told Axel and Eddy Merckx were going to be signing autographs from 1:30 to 2:30 and I wanted to take advantage of that. If you have never been to that area before, you really should visit.  It is very beautiful with lots of  beautiful orchards, vineyards, and lakes.
Eddy Merckx
After I registered for the ride and visited all the booths I decided to find out where the signing was going to take place. When I enquired I was told the signing was cancelled because Axel and Eddy were forced to do it for a long time last year and did not enjoy it.  The gal said the two of them were down at the park watching the little kids race. I decided to walk downtown.  It turned out to be father than I thought and when I finally got there I was thinking I made a mistake tiring my legs out in 85-90 deg temps. As I approached the announcers booth I thought to myself that I better keep my eyes out for a large  group of people surrounding Eddy or possibly a stage that he might be on.  As soon as I finished the thought. Eddy walks right past me. I had come prepared with a permanent marker and my Cyclopath jersey. I quickly got it out and approached Eddy and asked for him to sign my jersey. He replied, “Sure”. When I held the jersey up he said in a gruff voice, “stretch it out” . I held it to my chest and spread it out tight. He responded in a disapproving way , “No not like that but like this”  I finally got it right and he signed a 8-10 inch signature. “SWEET”  I expected my request would now cause others to approach Eddy but no one seemed to notice.  As he walked away I thought I need some kind of proof it was Eddy s I walked fast past him up the street and then took the picture of him. After sharing the story with Les and the two Mike’s I decided to take their recommendation and retire my jersey and put it in a display case. I haven’t done that yet but plan to.
The next day about 15 miles into the race we were going up a fairly long hill to the town of Summerland. All four of us were climbing pretty fast passing lots of riders. Up ahead of me I noticed a rather big guy going fairly slow. As I started to approach I noticed a #1 rider number on the back of his jersey. I though  to myself, “Could it be Eddy??” As I go around him it saw that it was!!!  Here is the greatest cyclist ever being passed on a hill by  4 Puyallup Cyclopaths. BOTH WERE INCREDIBLE EXPERIENCES AND ONES I WILL NEVER FORGET.
WE ALL QUALIFIED FOR THE UCI WORLD CYCLING RACES IS SOUTH AFRICA. I don’t know if any of us will actually go but it is spectacular that we all qualified.
For the 100 mi course (~ 4000 feet of climbing):
Leon                      4:55.17                  20.2 mph             201st of 1424 riders          6th of 78 (age group)
Mike H                  4:57.01                  20.1 mph            210thof  1424 riders          7th of 78 (age group)
Les                         5:11.30                 19.1 mph             316th of 1424 riders          30th of 161 (age group)
Mike S                  5:18.23                  18.7 mph             380th of 1424 riders          15th of 78 (age group)

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Author:  Mike Hassur

"Triple-By-Pass":  one of my favorite rides and, definitely, my favorite name for a ride.

The weather forecast was pretty good (i.e. 10-20% chance of rain and partly sunny).  The plan was for Scott and Mike H to meet Les and Mike S at the top of Cayuse Pass and be leaving on our bikes by 6:30 AM on Sunday, July 1st.  When we arrived at the top of Cayuse; it was misting heavily, and the roads were quite wet.  It didn’t take us long to decide to drive over Chinook Pass and look for a drier place to start the ride on the eastern slope. 

About 14 miles east of Chinook Pass (on Highway 410), things had dried out considerably.  We unloaded our bikes and headed out on a clockwise route.  The temperature was cool but not cold (1/2 fingered gloves and no jackets seemed pretty comfortable).  We were riding past  Whistlin’ Jack’s Resort in no time.  As we descended next to the Naches River, the landscape changed from an alpine setting to the more arid scene that is found near Naches and Yakima.  The ride from where we started to the junction with the road that leads to White Pass was downhill most of the way, so it was relaxed and fairly brisk. 

As soon as we made the right-hand turn onto the road to White Pass (Highway 12), things changed.  The road started going uphill almost immediately, and it was into the wind (as it is almost every time that we do this ride).  We just chugged along in a pace line and were at Trout Lodge (the place where we traditionally stop to replenish food and liquid supplies on the climb to the summit of White Pass.  After a brief stop for food, liquid, and bathroom; we were off again. 

The climb to Rimrock Lake seemed to go by quickly, and the relatively flat riding by the lake was a nice break before the steeper final climbs up to White Pass. 

 The temperature was cool probably high 50’s on the final climb to White Pass which eliminated overheating and made this final part of the climb comfortable.  We were at White Pass with a minimum of stress or effort.  After restocking at the summit of White Pass (and the all important bathroom break), we were off descending the west side of the pass.  Les, Mike S, and Mike H took off pretty fast; but Scott took off like a missile.  He waited for us after a few miles, and the next time he took off I (Mike H) stayed right behind him in this little “cocoon” of a draft.  It was wonderful.  We were going 40 mph – AND I WASN’T PEDALING!!  Okay, so maybe I pedaled a few times on the rest of the descent, but not much.  Thank you, Scott.

We reached the bottom of the White Pass descent and turned right onto Highway 123 (the road to Cayuse Pass) with Les and Mike S right behind us.  We ascended past the road to Paradise (Steven’s Canyon Road) and headed up toward Cayuse Pass.  Mike H had to stop for a bathroom break early in the climb.  Scott and Mike S went on ahead, while Les waited.  Scott and Mike S were out of sight by the time the bathroom break was over, so Mike H and Les took off with the idea of trying to catch up.  We rode well and were pretty strong for the entire climb, but there was no catching Scott and Mike S.  They were cruising.

We regrouped at the top of Cayuse and headed up to the summit of Chinook Pass.  The section of road from the top of Cayuse Pass to the summit of Chinook is a “Cyclopath Classic” (i.e. you are climbing the entire way and the scenery is breathtaking).  In spite of being fatigued, we seemed to breeze up this section. 

After the Chinook summit, it was 14 miles of fast descending back to our vehicles.  This was fast and fun and a little scary (scary because our fatigue compromised our judgment and reactions (at least mine).  Before we knew it, the ride was over.  The sun was shining, it was warm, and we’d had a memorable Triple-By-Pass.

2012_06_24 Chinook Pass (Yakima) Ride

Author of this post:  Mike Hassur
Date:  07-04-2012

This title is a bit of a misnomer.  Due to a dubious weather forecast west of the mountains and a decent one east of the mountains, our plan (Les, Jim, and Mike H) was to meet at the top of Chinook Pass at 7:30 AM, ride 30-40 miles down the east side toward Naches, and head back up the way we came. 

As we drove through Enumclaw and headed toward Greenwater, the rain seemed to get worse; but that was to be expected because we were on the west side of the mountains.  When we got to Cayuse Pass it was still raining some and the roads were quite wet, but – no problem – because we were still  on the west side of the mountains.  At the top of Chinook, sure enough – no rain, but the roads were quite wet and it was cold 35 degrees.  No problem – we would just drive down the east side of the mountains 30-40 miles.  It would be dry there; and by the time we rode back up to Chinook, it should have dried out as well. 

The further we drove east, the more it rained.  Finally, we were in Naches; and it wasn’t raining.  By this time, we had decided to ride a loop from Naches to Yakima and up north of Yakima.  We stopped at a Shell Gas Station for a bathroom break before getting out the bikes.  As we were standing inside of the Shell Station, the hardest rain that we had seen all day began.  At that point, I was ready to call it a day and drive home; but Jim Wilcher suggested that we drive over to Yakima, have breakfast, and see if things dried out.

We drove to Yakima; and, lo and behold, NO RAIN.  We decided to forego breakfast and head out on a ride while it was still dry.  Our goal was to ride through the town of Selah and catch Canyon Road which runs north along the river toward Ellensburg.  In keeping with our less than stellar luck for the day, we got on the wrong road and never saw the river to Ellensberg.  On the other hand, the road that we were on turned out to be beautiful.  We had decided to turn around at a certain time in order to get home at a reasonable hour.  Ironically, when we reached our pre-determined turnaround time; the road ended (turned to gravel).  We had been riding into the wind and gradually climbing for the entire first half of our ride, so the ride back was fast and fun.  We were back to Yakima in no time. 

 It turned out that we really enjoyed this ride - enough so that we discussed possibly having an early Spring Cyclopath ride in this area next year (maybe from Yakima to Ellensburg and back).  We actually know where Canyon Road is now, so no worries about missing it the next time!