Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Author:  Leon Matz

As I head out on this adventure, I am filled with a number of emotions. It is with excitement and anticipation of a real difficult challenge ahead of me. I feel jubilation at the thought of completing my 6 year adventure to climb to the top of the 100 most difficult climbs in the US. There is also a sense of sadness as this adventure has taken me to some incredible places, with some incredible friends, on some wonderful bike climbs; and it is kind of sad to see it coming to an end.  I am also feeling nervous as this trip has some logistical problems along with the obvious pure physical challenges.

Since I have only 2 days of personal leave I had to place the trip around the two days we have off for Memorial weekend. It is an attempt to finish the 6 climbs left on my list in New England and then go to Toronto to race to try and qualify for AMATUER WORLDS. This led to a real tight schedule.  I flew out of Sea-Tac and was scheduled to arrive in Albany at 11:30 p.m. to pick up my rental car get a few hours of sleep and then start my climbing. Contrary to Southwest’s normal on time record; my flight was in Baltimore and my arriving at Albany airport after midnight.  Enterprise rental car company closes at midnight. Was I going to have to put my bike together in the airport and sleep there until morning to get my car?  Thank goodness I could get ahold of the rental car company and get them to stay until I could arrive.  After gathering up my stuff my first challenge was getting Conor’s bike box into the rental car.  The Ford Focus I rented was slightly smaller than my Corolla and it took two of us to fit it inside. After a short trip to my hotel, I got busy putting my bike together and getting all my gear ready to go. It took me two hours to accomplish that.

My schedule for the trip was to do 3 climbs on Wednesday, 2 on Thursday, 1 on Friday; then drive 7+ hours to Toronto, have Saturday off the bike and then race on Sunday.  Obviously a very tight schedule and not a good way to prepare my body to race.  Without making two trips east, it appeared to be the only way I could do it.  

My first scheduled climb in was Mt. Equinox in Vermont. The climb is on private property, and the gate for cars to drive up opens at 9:00 daily.   That meant going to sleep at 2 a.m. getting up at 4 a.m. having some breakfast and then driving one and a half hours to the start of the climb. I took off early to avoid as much traffic as possible.

Mt. Equinox (# 11 on Summerson’s list of climbs) is a rather short climb of only 5.2 miles but you gain 3,157 feet (over 3 x the average gradient of our Climb) with an 11.5% average and a 17% maximum gradient so quickly the difficulty of the climb took over my attention.  After my adrenaline slowed down, my riding fell into a rhythm. Soon, pitches of 20% start to show up on my Garmin, and my attention quickly returns to the task at hand.  

Mt. Equinox - forced to go down only 0.3 miles from the top...

Only .3 mi from the top with just 400 ft. of elevation to climb, one of the proprietors of the private land came by in a truck and told me that I had to turn around and descend (apparently for insurance reasons).  This was disappointing, but I complied.  The ride down was quick, and I was relieved when I reached the bottom.  I quickly put the bike back into the car and got ready to drive to the next climb.

Climb #2 is Okemo Mt. (# 76 on the list). It is a 3.9 mi climb 2,190 ft of gain and 10.6% average and 17% max. The climb went pretty smoothly.  To make up for the climbing I was denied at Mt. Equinox, I headed back up the climb a second time until I made up over 450 feet of elevation gain.

Okemo Mountain - the view from the top...

After an hour drive, I arrived at my third climb for the day, Ascutney Mt. (3.7 mi. 2,250 ft with 11.5% average and max of 18%).  As I was unloading my bike, two bike racers came by and sprinted up the start of the climb. I wish I had that kind of energy in my legs.  With over 5,300 ft in my legs that morning, I will be happy with a much slower pace. It was a pretty climb through a pine forest and is part of a state park. My legs were clearly getting tired and getting the pedals turning over when the pitches hit the 18% was a challenge. As I approached a right curve near the top my head was down just trying to keep a rhythm going I heard someone shout “ohh” just as one of the two cyclists I saw went racing by me. He was cutting the curve and came within 2 feet of me.  It happened too quickly to scare me, but his partner sure saw the danger. After making it to the top and then riding down, I loaded my bike up and drove for 3 hours to Jackson, New Hampshire to get ready for the biggest challenge yet!  Mt. Washington #1 on Summerson’s list.  

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