Miles: 50.3 Climbing: 4350’ Attrition Rate: 82% Route: Downtown—Mercer Island—Honda Hill—Newport Way to Issaquah—Olympus climb on Squak—Wildwood climb on Squak—Newport Way—164th climb to top of Lakemont on Cougar Mountain—Forest—Coal Creek-Lake Washington Blvd—Mercer Island—Downtown
Stacking two back to back hard Squak Mountain climbs early in the ride can wreak havoc with the ride attrition rate, and the Olympus and Wildwood climbs of Squak did splinter the peloton.
We started with 10 riders on a cloudy and cool morning, the day after Flying Wheels. Going across Mercer Island, we picked up a kit attired rider who at first resisted the inevitable pass by the HOWC train. He wound up joining us, so then we had 11, at least until after the first climb at Squak, at which point he bailed. I think there might have been a little bit of “I’ll show them” involved, and when he finished the climb far from the front, it might have turned into “If I stay, I’ll get my ass kicked”.
Jeff took a long rapid transit pull on his aerobars just before that climb, and that might have had something to do with several riders cracking and departing us after Squak. Doing Olympus and then Wildwood as our first two climbs proved challenging, and several riders even abandoned part way up the second climb.
By the end of the ride, only Don and I were left, and I was glad for that, as I had left my mini-pump at home! Don hasn’t been on the bike much, and maybe it was fitting that he toughed it out and hung in there. Of course, not everybody left us early because of a couple of hard climbs. Bill and Jason split on the way back to add more miles, and Jeff did just the first climb because he is tapering for his first Iron Man next Sunday.
By design, today’s ride was shorter than the past few HOWC’s. On Thursday I am heading to Chelan, and on Saturday I will ride in the Chelan Century for the first time. With McNeil Canyon at the 50 mile mark, and an 11% climb at 98 miles, I thought it prudent to keep the route reasonable.
As an aside, today was the first Sunday ride in three years that I did not expect Tracy to be working when I came home. Yesterday, she “walked” at Husky Stadium, and had her name called out to receive her Doctorate in Education. I expressed my concern that the uninhibited frivolity of the HOWC could be compromised if I started to feel guilty now that she wouldn’t be working every single Sunday morning. Tracy has informed me that I need not worry, as she will be going to brunch, getting pedicures, reading the paper, and maybe even riding her bike. In other words, there is no need to rush home, and she is looking forward to a little relaxing. It's good to have her back!
We have always chuckled about how many riders leave the ride early, and some of the muttered excuses we have heard are pretty unique. While we have never formally tracked the attrition rate, I think I will add it to the ride stats I list at the top of the ride report post.
Not that I am trying to scare people off, or anything like that. For people who read the ride description, there are no surprises. Besides, one can always retrace the route home anyway.
Come prepared to ride hard and safely, share the work on the front, have a good time, and likely be very tired at the end of the ride. That’s what the HOWC is all about, and that’s the way I like it.
I hope to see you on the road.