Sunday, September 23, 2012

2012_09_21 & 22 Leon and Conor Trip

Author:  Leon Matz

Conor and my trip to Southern Oregon and Northern California started at 4:00 AM. We drove for 6 ½ hours to get to Merlin OR (near Grants Pass) for the start of our Bear Camp Rd. Climb.  Most of the way the road was wet from some light rain. The first rain I had seen in two months.  The sky was pretty cloudy and somewhat threatening.  As we climbed over the last hills prior to our start the sky cleared and the air warmed up considerably. We hoped this sign was an indication of good fortune.

The first 10 miles of the ride were rolling hills. It started with 3-4 % grade following a creek. The grade soon changed to 10-12% and lasted for about 10 miles. Conor enjoyed the steep pitches while I just sweated and tried to somewhat keep up.  He kindly would wait or loop back when he was too far in front. The climb was mostly shaded with very few cars and 2 logging trucks. It is the road that about 10 years ago a couple and their daughter became trapped in the snow and the husband actually perished trying to get help.  On the decent our roles reversed as I felt more comfortable going fast and Conor taking it slower. We eventually made it back to the car grabbed a quick bite of food and for me some chocolate milk; we headed off for Mt. Ashland and our second climb.
Conor atop Mt Ashland (Mt Shasta in backgroung)
Although we were both a little tired from the first climb we quickly jumped on our bikes and started our climb knowing that we had to get up and down pretty quickly to avoid trying to come down in twilight. The 17-mile ascent started right away but only a 5-6% grade. With the temperature in the low 80’s I enjoyed the shady start.  On this climb I was doing a better job of staying close to Conor.   At about mile 12 I started feeling a little stronger and Conor started feeling the effects of his first double climb. I lead for a while and then gradually pulled away. Wanting to stay close to each other I would loop back or just wait.  I saw a side of Conor I had not seen yet.  I could see he was in lots of pain but he would not give into that pain and kept riding hard. After arriving at the ski area we took a few quick pictures including some of Mt Shasta, our next challenge.   The climb was a very nice climb with no steep pitches but with lots of smooth curves and lots of trees the decent was pretty cold. As the sun had started down the temperature quickly went from the 80’s to the low 60”s and racing down the mountain caused both us to get cold with goose bumps evident.  We quickly loaded up the bikes and headed to our hotel and eventually dinner having road 79 miles and climbed over 8,000 feet and 480 miles of driving.  Conor was a little down because I had beaten him up the second climb. Who knows but it may be the last time I beat him up a climb.
Conor heading up Mt Shasta
Leon climbing on Mt Shasta

Mt Shasta from the air
The next day we were up at 5 and on the road by 5:30 heading to CA.  After about an hour we could see an outline of our next challenge.  It actually looked a little scary. The 14,140 ft peak is pretty impressive looking. When we arrived at the start of the climb we put on all of the clothes we had because the temperature was in the low 40’s. As we headed out I worked hard to get warm and to try and stay with Conor.  I wasn’t very successful with either.  Conor would loop back every mile or so come back and say hi and then just as quickly leave me behind. Gradually I warmed up and even stopped to take off my jacket as the sun started to warm up the air.  The climb was full of wonderful vistas of the mountain and the foothills below.  Conor patiently waited on a regular basis.  I started to feel think that the previous climbs had me tired out and causing me to climb slowly but after checking my climbing rate I discovered I was actually climbing pretty fast; with over 2,250 feet climbed in the first hour. What this meant was that Conor was climbing incredibly fast.  I wish his Strava time didn’t include all the looping back he did to keep us somewhat together.  As we started getting closer to the top I started feeling stronger and tried to catch up with Conor but as soon as he noticed me starting to move up he stepped on the gas and he left me far behind.  The view at the top was wonderful as you can see. It was probably in the top 5 of my all time favorite climbs.  I hope all of you have a chance to climb it someday. The 14-mile climb is not easy with 4,300 ft of climbing with an average grade of 5.9% and a max of 11%.  The large number of views of the mountain and the foothills surrounding it were wonderful.  I was grateful that our 3 climb was finished.  The 9 ½ hour drive was still to be completed.  Almost 1100 miles of driving, 107 miles of riding and over 12,400 ft of climbing in 39 hours left us both tired and anxious to hit our own bed.  One of the best parts of the trip was getting to know Conor better as a cyclist and as a person. He is a very special 15 year old who has an exciting future in cycling.  I don’t know of any other 15 year olds who would take on this challenge with some “old guy”.  It was a trip I will never forget.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Mt. Baker Hill Climb 2012 (RIDE 542)

Author:  Conor Collins

            This ride was a blast! We left home on Saturday around noon, to get up to Bellingham around 3ish. After a late lunch, the evening was dedicated to relaxing and analyzing the Mt. Baker STRAVA segment, which could only tell me so much about what the race was actually going to be like… The next morning came fast, and we left for Glacier by 7 a.m. The hour drive to Glacier went by fast, and we were parking alongside the road about ½ mile from the race start. I quickly put my tire on my bike, and rode into town to check-in, and get my number. Over the next hour I paced up and down the ½ mile strip of road until the race official started staging us in town. Once everyone was there and ready to race, we then ‘rolled’ ¼ of a mile to the race start. My positioning at the start of the race was poor, not where I would have liked to be, something to keep in mind about mass starts.

Start of the race: passing through the town of Glacier
            At the start of the race, we quickly gained speed, going faster than 25 miles per hour within the first ½ mile of the race; I couldn’t believe the group I was with! The first ‘little’ climb of the race whittled down much of the start group. I got stuck right in the middle of the whole group, so I wasn’t able to catch the high paced leading group. I was all on my own the next 11 miles of the relatively flat part of the race, not knowing how far behind the lead pack I was. Once I passed the USDOT barn, I knew the actual race was about to begin. The real climb started shortly after that, and quickly started to gain altitude. I slowly found myself passing guys that were a part of the main breakaway group. They told me there was a fairly large group not too far ahead of me, so that became the next target. After about 2 miles, I passed the whole group, and enjoyed seeing the surprised look on their faces. Soon after passing that group, I passed quite a few guys one by one. Once I reached the ski resort (which I would find perfectly acceptable to being the summit after 10 miles of climbing) I thought the end of he race was near. Well it turns out it was, I just had to climb another 1000 feet, and navigate through the most intimidating switchbacks I’ve ever seen with under 25 meters of visibility. Thankfully all of that went by fast, and I crossed the finish line with a time of 1:38:24.

Overall I think it was a good race, with lots of room for improvement over the next few years. This ride also being my first ever bike race offered a great learning experience. The best high paced sprint riders, and the mountaineers from the Pacific Northwest area all come to this race, making it a good experience ride.

Race finish at Artist's Point (38 degrees)
The descent was brutal; having only half-finger gloves on, the 38-degree weather at the top did not make the descent any fun. Once I got to a more comfortable level, I was finally able to take in the beauty of the ride. The river, and the dramatic mountain cliffs make the ride amazing. Once I got back to Glacier we decided to wait another 3 hours for the results… that, naturally, never came.
I have to say thank you to all the Cyclopaths that helped prepare me for this race over the past 2 months; and, of course, thank you to my parents for taking the time and supporting me on the start to my cycling career.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Puyallup Cyclopath Windy Ridge Climb

Author:  Mike Hassur

This ride was so much fun.  First of all, I got an email from a cyclist in Germany, Jurgen Becker, who said that he would be visiting Tacoma for three weeks and would like to ride with us in the mountains during his stay.  He had somehow found the Puyallup Cyclopaths Blog, read it, and decided that we might be the guys to guide him through the mountains in the Tacoma vicinity.  I sent an email back to Jurgen with a few questions and received a prompt reply that 70 miles and 6500 feet of climbing would not be a problem.

As the date for our ride approached, we had seven cyclists interested in going: Les Becker, John Winter, Conor Collins, Jurgen Becker, David Garate, Brent Moody, and yours truly.  Since Les was driving from Tacoma, he agreed to pick up Jurgen (who is staying with a family in Parkland). 

Mike, John, Jurgen, Conor, & Les
We met in Randle at about 7:45 AM and were surprised to see Mark Delrosario pull into the parking lot.  I had not heard from Mark before the ride, so I had no idea that he was interested in going.  When Mark got out of his car and informed us that he would be our Windy Ridge Sag Wagon Driver, we were even more surprised.  Mark had come well prepared: lots of water, chocolate milk, pretzels, etc. in a huge cooler that sat on the backseat of his car.  All of a sudden we went from trying to make it 70 miles in the mountains with just two water bottles apiece to – NO PROBLEM!!

We were going to try to leave by around 8:00 AM.  By 8:15, there was still not sign of David and Brent (who were driving together); and the cell phone reception was spotty so calling wasn’t working.  We left and had Mark stay behind in his car to see if they showed up.  Mark waited for a while and then met us 8.5 miles up the road (where the single lane National Forest Road - #26 began).  NF-#26 is a cool road: single lane, very little traffic, and climbing almost continuously for approximately 19 miles with beautiful scenery the entire way.  We asked Mark to go back to Randle and check for David and Brent one more time.  If he found them, he would make sure that they did not miss NF-#26 (as it was not well marked) and then proceed up NF-#26 to find us.

Jurgen and Conor in the distance heading up NF-#26
With Mark headed back to Randle (thanks again, Mark, this would not have worked without you), we proceeded up NF-#26.  Since the serious climbing begins right away on this road, Conor took off almost immediately.  Jurgen followed him, and we lost contact with them within the first mile.  John, Les, and I proceeded up at a brisk pace but not so fast that we couldn’t enjoy visiting on the way up.  About six to seven miles into this climb, Mark caught up with us again and reported that David and Brent were on the road about 6-7 miles behind us.  ONCE AGAIN, we asked Mark to go back and let them know that we would meet them up at Windy Ridge.  We proceeded on up our single lane road enjoying the climb (or at least most of it).  The only problem with NF-#26 is that it has one long descent that has some dangerous patches of gravel (maybe 50-75 yards long) that you could hit at high speed if you didn’t know about them.  Les, John, and I had done this ride before; so we made sure to warn Jurgen and Conor about the gravel.  Everyone made it through safely, but I was so busy talking to John as we descended this section of road that he had to remind be to slow down as we approached the first (and worst) of the gravel sections – thank you, John.  We climbed up to the end of NF-#26 where it meets NF-#99 at Meta Lake.  We then climbed on NF-#99 to the Spirit Lake overlooks (linking up with Jurgen along the way) and on up to the Windy Ridge Lookout area where we took photos and hung out until David and Brent showed up.  

Les, Mke, John, and Jurgen at Spirit Lake

Windy Ridge Lookout
It had been overcast when we began our ride with temperatures in the high 40’s.  By the time we reached Windy Ridge, it was sunny and starting to warm up; and we had enjoyed spectacular views of Mt Rainier, Mt Adams, Mt Hood, and – of course – Mt St Helens on the way up. 

Leaving Windy Ridge (Mt Adams in background)
After our stop at the Windy Ridge Lookout, we descended back the way we came to Meta Lake.  Then, instead of taking NF-#26 back down, we proceed on #99 to NF-#25 and took it back.  The road surface is rough in many places (especially on NF-#25), so we had to be vigilant; but we managed enjoy a fast and safe descent back to Randle.

This was a really enjoyable ride.  The weather was perfect, the cycling was challenging, and it was a great group of guys with whom to share an adventure.
Finished: Mike, John, Les, Jurgen, Conor, Brent, & David

Click on the following link to view all photos for all rides: