Thursday, September 3, 2009

Chelan Redux and 8-30-09 Hills of the West Coast

As I was riding in Chelan last weekend, I was trying to think of a better town in Washington to serve as a cycling base camp. About all I could come up with is Seattle! The variety of terrain in the Chelan area is impressive, especially for climbing aficionados. You can do a traffic free 1500+’ climb to Echo Lake Ski Area literally out Tim’s front door, and that’s just for starters.

I really enjoyed riding the Chelan Century Challenge in June, and thanks to Tim’s invite, I was able to repeat much of the route. Tracy came along with me Thursday evening, and Tim even encouraged her to invite friends so that she would not be a cycling orphan. Mike and Jen arrived on Friday, and while Mike took a day to go hiking, Tracy and Jen hit the local wineries.

In addition to all of the available activities, the Chelan area also provides very well designed roads for cycling, and a local population that seemed quite comfortable with us.

Tim has had his house in Chelan for 16 years, and has cycled thousands of miles in the area. Much to my surprise, and his, in the last month he has managed to discover yet two more outstanding climbs. While I am sworn to secrecy, what I can say is that new development is not always all bad; there can be an upside for cyclists. When the necessary new road provides stunning views and dead ends high above Lake Chelan…I’ve said too much already! By the way, Tim’s house is on the far lakeshore about 1500’ below my left shoulder.

During Saturday’s ride, we were keeping track of our climbing to mileage ratio. After 21.5 miles, we already had 2895’ of climbing. We wound up with4800’ over 46.5 miles. Kind of like Cougar Mountain on steroids.

Speaking of steroids, and Cougar Mountain, perhaps some type of extra special juice could have helped 15 cyclists survive last Sunday’s HOWC. Here is Luke’s report on the final HOWC of the year at “summer pace”:

“We closed out the final month of furious summer pace HOWC riding with a climb packed day. The plan was to do two hard climbs on each of Cougar, Squawk and Tiger. Rather than thinking about any climb as ‘optional’, each was billed as having a ‘base’ and an ‘extension’. The idea is everyone does the base route and some choose to do the extensions. We had 15 riders today and I knew it would be tough to finish the entire menu:

Montreaux – Base to top of Village Park, extension up 173rd
Zoo – We all did it all! (Through the curves was Base)
Squawk - We all did it all! (Up 12th to Wildwood was Base)
North Tiger – Base to big cluster of mail boxes, extension up to end of road
South Tiger – Base to fire station, extension to top of 154th
Licorice on Cougar– Base to the start of SE 100th loop, extension through loop

We scratched South Tiger due to time limitations. The group hung tough through the first four climbs. SteveH had to bolt early and ditched the last climb. About 2/3rds of the remaining riders followed him back.

Jeff, Mike and I completed the entire route and several others did almost all of it. Credit goes to everyone for enduring some hard climbs today. It was nice to have three HOWC leaders there to keep everything smooth – thanks Emil and Jeff. Stand out climbing performances were delivered by Jeff and Mike. We had super strong, late-ride pulling after the climbs were finished from all the guys who remained.
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Rider note: Typically, folks do not jump at the chance to lead the pack back over the bridge to the tunnel. The person who finally pulls gets the reward of being dropped - riders emerge from the draft and blaze past as the bridge deck turns upwards.

It was a little different today. Mike instinctively jumped up in front and led us all the way to the tunnel at a furious pace. His first target was the rider who had exercised a sketchy / annoying pass as the HOWC massed around that hairpin turn out of Enatai. That did not take him too long. He hammered on – climb included – up to the tunnel. Jeff and I were right behind him and neither thought to jump past as we approached the tunnel. We all just hung in the draft and appreciated his hard, late-ride effort.”

Sounds like everyone rode hard, and showed some class as well. I’ve always thought it very bad form to let someone do all of the work across the I-90 Bridge, and then blast by him on the bridge ramp. Better to ride up alongside and thank him for the effort, rather than make the rider in front a sacrificial lamb.

After all, camaraderie is really what group rides are all about, at least our group ride.

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