I almost never decide where the ride is going until the morning of the ride. The main variables are the weather, who shows up, how many show up, and, to be honest (and selfish), what kind of riding I feel like doing as well as how fresh I feel energy-wise.
I like to climb, so when I saw a group of like-minded folks show up this morning, I started to narrow my options. I actually didn’t commit to a route until we had ridden out to the I-90 tunnel. It was tempting to head north on a flattish loop because of the reported clear skies and ten degree warmer early morning temperatures, but no way! As opposed to the last two years when I was getting ready for trips to Europe, we have not taken the HOWC on any purely climbing focused rides so far in 2009. I think everyone, me included, was getting a little sick around May of last year of our weekly assaults on Cougar and Squak Mountains.
So we headed out to the “mountains”: across Mercer Island/up the “Honda Hill” in Factoria/to Eastgate Elementary School/up Horizon Crest to The Summit/down to Lakemont/up Cougar Mountain from the south/down Montreaux/out to Issaquah/up Squak Mountain via Olympus Dr. (for my money, the hardest of the hard routes)/up the climb of your choice, either Zoo Road or 164th to the top of Cougar Mountain/down Forest/back through Mercer Slough/optional loop around Mercer Island on the way back. Depending on whether or not you did the Mercer Island loop, you wound up with 49 or 57 miles, and around 5000’ of climbing either way. Not a bad first 2009 climbing ride for the HOWC.
We had a great crew of 13 today, strong riders who worked together as a group. I never saw a wheel “out of line”, and just about everybody took turns on the front, a not insignificant accomplishment considering how little flat terrain we traversed in between hills! The pace on the flats was really about what it should be for this time of the year; turned up a little bit from a month ago, but nowhere near the frenzied pitch of a mid-summer ride. FYI, for May we will be leaving the starting gate at 8 AM sharp.
As always, pace on the hills is what you make of it. While we certainly had some strong climbers, we definitely didn’t have any weak ones, which is good when there is no easy way up most of the climbs. When the climbing gets steep and long, you have to bring either the legs or the gearing to handle it, and since we don’t allow triples…just kidding! Luke on his triple can smoke just about anybody he chooses to.
While we don’t have any 10+ mile climbs lurking right outside our backdoor, we are so fortunate in Seattle to have an incredible variety of high quality climbs scattered across the entire metro area. Living downtown, in the winter, when I want to keep it close I can just go to Magnolia and Queen Anne, or over to West Seattle. When the weather is nice a short boat ride gets me to Bainbridge or Vashon, and it’s an easy jaunt (and a way to add some more miles) to buzz out to Cougar and Squak. Tiger stands alone a little bit, but it’s great to add it as part of a longer loop, and it is worth doing from either the north or south.
Hey, nothing is perfect. We don’t have the Galibier or the Stelvio, but man, we have it good.
I hope to see you on the road.