Miles: 71-83+ Climbing: 8400’-10,300’ Route: Sunrise turnoff on Rt. 410—Cayuse Pass from north (option to Chinook Pass)—Ohanapecosh—Backbone Ridge—Paradise—Ohanapecosh—Cayuse Pass from south (Chinook Pass option)—Sunrise turnoff Participants: David L/Tom M/Tom N/Luke B/Carol P/Perry S/Reg N/Emil K/Steve H/Jeff T Cima Coppi 1st Tom N 2nd Tom M 3rd Perry S Attrition Rate: 0
The payoff for a Team High Performance Cycling 7 AM start time at Mt. Rainier was fantastic weather and roads that at times appeared to be closed just for us. During the initial climb and descent of Cayuse Pass, I believe only one car went by the group. For most of the ride, we saw a car about every 20 or 30 minutes. Sweet! Yes, we all had to get up early, and at times some of us were a little drowsy, but it was worth it. This was to be my first BOMROD (Best of Mt. Rainier in One Day) of the three that have taken place annually since 2008.
Today’s ride was not perfect; after all, the road to Sunrise was being chipsealed, so we had to abandon our last climb of the day. The best thing about the day for me was that the ride was a team ride in more than name only. Rarely does a group stay together on a route with so much climbing and descending, but for the most part, we hung together. The whole group rode solidly, but when a rider did fall behind, the group waited, and no one seemed to be concerned about it. Perhaps since we all knew that there would be no riding up to Sunrise at the end of the day, the ride had an unhurried feel to it. There was a lot of chatting and photo opportunities.
After the descent from Paradise, the whole group pretty much came together at the Ohanapecosh park entrance. There was some milling around and shuffling of feet, but eventually our group of seven rolled out and headed north to Cayuse Pass. Luke B and Jeff T started a few minutes behind our group, and I am not sure where Steve H was at this point. Luke and Jeff eventually caught up to some riders in our group before the top of the climb.
All day long, I had been happy to let others set the pace, and it was really nice just to be a follower. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen on Cayuse, but quickly I found myself in a single line, as opposed to the side by side riding that we had done for much of the previous climbing. It wasn’t hard to detect that the pace was going to be higher on the last big climb of the day, and Tom N was setting the pace right off the bat.
I suppose any of us could have just opted out and just ridden up the climb at a comfortable pace, but no one did. People were hanging in there, and looked to be settling in for the long haul. Cayuse from the south is an 11 mile long climb, and I can only imagine what was going through everyone’s mind. A penny for your thoughts!
The way our group of seven came apart was like a mini-peloton that you see at the end of a climbing day at the Tour de France. One by one, riders fell off of the back, until it was just Tom N and me.
I rode with Tom for ten minutes or so. Tom was setting a pretty solid pace, but one that I felt comfortable with. When he stood up and started to pedal harder, I didn’t give it a lot of thought. Tom had done this previously on several climbs and the group had reeled him in just by maintaining the pace we had been at. After a few seconds, I began to sense that this time was different. This was to be a bonafide attack, and off Tom went!
I remained about 150’ behind Tom for a good five or ten minutes, and I thought there was a decent chance that I might be able to regain his wheel, but that didn’t happen. Tom attacked and stayed away, and I settled into a tempo once I realized he was gone. At that point, the impetus had left my legs, I guess you could say.
In contrast to earlier climbs in the day, I rode up Cayuse by myself. Late in the climb, I could see Tom up ahead of me when I was on a straight section, but no one was in sight behind me. Traffic was light, so I rarely bothered to check the radar in my little mirror. I was a little shocked when I spied a rider in the distance when I did check, and I couldn’t even guess as to who that UFR (Unidentified Flying Rider) could be. Since I didn’t think I had slowed down very much, I was inclined to think that it was not someone from the initial group I started with. Perhaps either Luke or Jeff was burning up the road?
At this point, I was probably 75% done with the climb. Since I had not seen anyone for quite a while, the logical conclusion was that this rider was gaining on me, and closing the gap. I grumbled to myself, because I instantly made the decision that this rider would not catch me, and I knew that meant I had to dig a little deeper than I wanted to, especially this late in the day. Funny how this psychology works; I was content to just ride up the pass knowing that I would not catch Tom, but I didn’t care if it was Lance Effing Armstrong behind me; I was going to do what it would take to make sure he didn’t catch up!
When I saw the gap shrink, I would push harder until I had the margin back to where it was, but I was a little sneaky. When I would go around a curve, knowing that I was out of sight of the following rider I would juice the pedals a little bit. When I next came into view, I would be ever so slightly farther away. I reckoned that after I did this a few times, I would demoralize this rider. It didn’t work, and the gap was gradually shrinking! I must have had a target on my back. I guess the back of our team jersey does kind of look like a bull’s-eye from a distance.
I said to myself, “Grind it out, hang in there and hold the gap, it’s almost over.” Once I saw the “35mph speed zone” sign, I knew I was home free. It pleased me somewhat that Perry S was panting quite a bit when he rolled up to Tom and me!
I felt good all day, and I feel pretty fit, but perhaps not as fit as in the past few summers. Our odd summer weather has prevented us from having the consistently hard HOWC every Sunday that I (among others) count on to hone my form. Normally at this time of the year, I lose interest in riding really hard. With less intense riding this summer than normal, hopefully that won’t happen this year, because I have a seriously hard trip planned for September.
Speaking of seriously hard trips, Tom N had just returned from an incredible ride across the United States, encompassing 3467 miles of riding over thirty straight days:
I’m not sure what a cyclist could do that would test (and improve) your fitness more than a trip like this. Well, OK, the Tour de France comes to mind, but not much else. The TDF covers only 2100 miles over 22 days, so Tom’s group blew the Tour away in terms of total mileage, as well as miles per day. For the curious, Tom posted a daily blog account of his trip:
One thing is for sure. Our ride at Mt. Rainier must have seemed like a cakewalk for Tom compared to his cross-country excursion. It showed.