Tuesday, May 29, 2012

2012 Cycle U Skills and Hills Chelan Camp Rocked!

From May 17th-21st, we held our third annual Cycle U Chelan Skills and Hills Camp. For the first time, we had a sellout of 35 riders. Two late minute injury cancellations left us with 33 riders at camp. Combined with Craig, Kristi, Mary, Chad, Scott, Tim, Christina and myself, we had a big group rolling down the road! Here is how things went, strictly from my perspective.

My objectives were to do what I could to make the camp run smoothly, do coaching clinics, ride with everybody, and do some on the road coaching. Sounds pretty simple!

With such a large group in 2012, I decided that we should offer two different routes, each tailored for a specific type of rider. None of the riding around Chelan is “easy,” so offering a Challenge Route as well as an Expert Route wasn’t hard to do. Each day we offered the two routes, and as I hoped, the group self selected with about 50% of the riders on each route, with a few more than half doing the Expert Route on certain days.

The Challenge Route group was comprised of great people with widely varying skill, experience, and fitness levels. Every day a super nice group showed up excited about cycling. It’s always a pleasure to be around people who are eager to learn and enjoy themselves while doing so.

I knew many of the people in the Expert Group, because I had recruited heavily from both Team HPC and with cycling friends I have ridden with for a long time on the Hills of the West Coast and other rides. This cast of characters was pretty familiar to me, and many people had ridden with each other before.

We had a pre-camp meeting on Thursday evening at Vin du Lac Winery, and I can’t thank owner Larry Lembecker enough for the tremendous hospitality he showed us. We now have a long term camp sponsor that we are all very happy with. Kudos also go to Jessica from Clif Bar. We were up to our eyeballs in fine nutrition products that supplemented all of the great “regular” food we enjoyed. At the meeting, we went over the daily routes, and discussed the protocols we would be using for the SAG vehicles, meals, etc.

On Friday, I rode 52 miles with the Challenge Group on the Navarre Coulee route. Those of you familiar with the Chelan Century Challenge know it as the third loop:


The Expert Group did 70 miles on one of my favorite routes through Pateros, Brewster, and down McNeil Canyon:


While I hated to miss this route, I really enjoyed riding with the group on the Challenge Route. I worked my way forward through the riders, pausing to ride with each individual rider or group. Along the way, I got to know our new people at camp, as well as catch up with some returning riders from past camps.

On Saturday we did the Manson Loops. I truly like riding up in the hills to the north of Lake Chelan. It’s easy to imagine that you are in Tuscany or the Lake Como region of Italy, but always looking down at Lake Chelan and beyond to the high peaks. It doesn’t hurt that there are just about zero cars anywhere. We did part of loop one from the Chelan Century, but added a few climbs for good measure:


I might as well have been in Italy, because I still don’t know where I am going up in those hills, despite the fact that I have been up there a bunch of times. Without superb guiding from local knowledge guru’s Scott and Tim, many of us might still be up there!

Today I would see how I would fare with the Expert Route group, and I knew most of these riders were focused more on serious riding, and less on chit-chat. Despite that, there was tremendous camaraderie amongst the bunch. Coincidentally, it was my turn on the front just as we swung off and started the first climb up Boyd Road for 7 miles to Echo Lake Ski Area. There were about 17-20 people in the group. I focused on putting out a steady and solid effort, not sure of how many folks would "attack” at the bottom of the climb. In my little mirror, I saw people falling back, and after a short time it was just Jon and me. After 5 minutes or so of leading Jon up the hill, I asked him if he felt like taking a turn on the front. While Jon was

up there, Adam and Derek joined us. I then went back to the front, and ultimately it was just Adam and me, each of us quite content to be off the front and not testing each other.

After a fabulous descent, we started the next climb on Upper Joe Creek. This time it was Adam on the front, with me on his wheel. Once again, the two of us found ourselves riding along off the front. Adam tested me with a few little accelerations, and I dug in and held onto his wheel. After a few of these, I swung out and rode alongside Adam. Eventually, and about the same time, both of us seemed to realize that neither one of us wanted to kill ourselves trying to drop the other. As we chatted the rest of the way up the climb, other riders may have closed the gap a hair, but no one was near us at the top. Having ridden with Adam a fair amount on the HOWC, it was nice to get to know him a little better.

On the way back to Manson, we split into smaller groups and did some nice pacelining. I’m not sure how many people tested themselves on the very tough Union Valley optional climb. Coming as it did almost within eyesight of the motel, I thought it prudent to skip it, as the next climb would be McNeil Canyon in the morning. I have been up McNeil quite a few times so I knew what to expect, but many of our riders knew only of McNeil’s reputation as a fearsome climb.

We had a massage therapist with us in camp this year for the first time. I think Christina was probably more tired than any of the riders, as she was booked solid.

Sunday was the Queen Stage of camp, the crux section of riding being the roughly 6 mile climb to the Waterville Plateau via McNeil Canyon. All 33 riders were to tackle this one, and there were quite a few nervous riders, and not all of them were in the Challenge group:


The Expert Route would total about 70 miles with stops in Waterville for lunch, down Waterville Canyon back to the Columbia River, and the back from Orondo up the east side:

The Challenge Route took the riders for a rectangular tour of the Waterville Plateau after summiting McNeil. This would give these riders a chance to descend McNeil, something the Expert Group had done on Friday’s ride.

After riding out to McNeil with the front of the group, I waited at the start of the climb for people who had been riding in the Challenge Route group. Because McNeil Canyon is so hard, finishing with 2 miles at an average grade of over 10%, many riders were visibly apprehensive (for good reason!) as they started up the climb. My plan was to play cheerleader and coach on the climb. I had been rehearsing my lines, “Doing great! Looking good! Keep turning the pedals over!” I don’t know if my encouragement did any good, because after all everyone still had to push their own pedals. I did see a lot of smiles, which should be on the McNeil Endangered List for so few riders do this on the climb. I was mostly riding with individuals, as almost no one was trying to stay in a group on the climb. I’d ride a bit and then wait for the next person to come along.

After a while, I realized that the gaps between riders were much larger than I figured they would be, and I wound up waiting around for too long. I decided to do an about face with my tactic. I headed uphill and put my head down, riding pretty hard. I began catching people I had ridden with lower on the climb. Instead of pausing and riding along, I kept on going, giving encouragement as I went by. I must have pretty good fitness, because for the first time, McNeil felt like only a hard climb, and not like a really hard climb. I felt great on those two final very hard miles.

At the SAG stop on top, I joined up with the Expert Group, many of whom had started out together. A pretty brisk paceline soon took form and I settled in for the ride south to Waterville. Our initial group of 10-12 soon became 5-7, and once again, frequently it was just Adam and me riding by ourselves at the front. Just as the day before, I had great energy on the bike, something unusual for me, as I normally don’t recover well. Instead of the usual one DOB (Day off Bike) after a period of hard riding, this year I have been taking more blocks of 2-4 days of rest (much of the time weather imposed, I must admit). Perhaps this style of days of hard riding with a lot of rest is enabling me to recover better. If so, I look forward to my next long alpine tour!

At times, the pace would ease, and the group of us would find ourselves socializing in the MON (Middle of Nowhere) on the plateau without a car in sight (literally) for miles and miles. Whether we were riding hard or cooling our jets, it was fantastic riding and I was glad to be a part of a great group. At the Waterville lunch stop, we encountered Reg, who had started early and ridden 20 miles before McNeil. He would add a few more after we got back to Chelan to get his 100 in for the day. I wound up riding down Waterville Canyon with Reg, and then along the east side of the Columbia River back to Chelan from Orondo. That’s what is great about a cycling camp; one can find just about every combination of riding company out on the road. I’d done my “coaching” for the day, and seen enough paceline wheels. It was time to take it easy and ride side by side most of the way back to Chelan with a good friend.

Later on Sunday, we had our big group dinner at Vin du Lac. Larry raffled off bottles of wine, and Cycle U raffled off prizes, making sure that everybody got something. Nice!

On Monday, I offered to drive SAG so that both Craig and Mary could ride. Mary had worked tirelessly all weekend at camp, without getting a chance to ride with the group. I could tell that Mary really enjoyed herself on the ride. Driving SAG was fun, and I enjoyed it almost as much as riding.

The Expert Route was the Navarre loop, the same route I had

done with the Challenge Group on Friday. The Challenge Route was a very scenic out and back rolling route along the south lakeshore of Lake Chelan, all the way to where the road ends at Twenty-Five Mile State Park.

So far in 2012, I’ve done most of my hard riding on the mountain bike, and a fair amount of endurance riding on the road bike. It’s a combination that appears to be working well for me fitness-wise, and it’s a lot of fun to swap back and forth between road and mountain bike riding.

Now I just need to spend some of that hard riding mileage riding up some of my favorite timed climbs on Squak Mountain roads to see if I am actually going better than normal at this time of the year. I’m looking out my window at Squak right now, and later in the year we will be living on Squak Mountain in the house we are remodeling and building an addition onto. Maybe that will motivate me to get on up there, seeing as I won't have a choice!