Winter is well and truly dragging when you’re getting punctures from road salt.
Lovely day riding out to Santa Cruz with AR and JP and the unphotographed MM. Good riding, boys.
Big fan of this bike. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to ride a Colnago regularly, and it’s a real treat.
I’ve had a bike-it list going for a number of years, and have been fortunate enough to check off a number of them (Marmotte, Flanders, Arenberg), so when the opportunity to ride up Haleakala came along, I was all over it.
Mt Haleaka is a dormant shield volcano on Maui. It’s nothing special to look at from a distance, but it does boast a nicely paved road to its peak. You can actually ride uninterrupted from sea level (as in, on the beach) to the summit at 10,000 feet. How amazing is that? In anticipation of the climb, I spend a bunch of time reading up on other people’s rides up the beast (this one is great).
Here’s a clip from just above the tree line:
I was respectful of the mountain, so kept a steady sweetspot/threshold pace, loaded down with an extra bottle, vest, arm wamers and gloves: it was 30+ celcius, but it promised to be a lot cooler up at the top, which was hidden in the clouds.
I rode up into the clouds and the temperature dropped about 20 degrees while it began to rain, but I felt really good and had a good tempo going.
Annoying discovery: the US govenment is pretty lame these days, and federal employees are off the job…which means national parks are closed…which means the top of Haleakala is off limits. The park itself starts at 7000’ feet, where there is a big gate blocking the road. And apparently congress decided to keep a few forest rangers working, as I was turned around a few thousand feet short of my goal. My protests of arimiles accumulated and dreams dashed meant nothing to those guys. (Dear congress: I’m giving you the finger.)
By this time it was a few degrees above freezing and raining quite a bit, so I was willing to comply and make my way gingerly through the clouds - the random, slippery cattle guards aren’t fun to find by braille. Here’s a shot as I head back down into the mist.
Even if you don’t feel like riding up to the top, the roads through Maui Upcountry are really nice and worth spending time checking out.
So Congress’ efforts to ruin my ride were a drag, but on the upside, Haleakala isn’t the best ride on Maui. The West Maui Loop wins for sure! It’s a ~120 km (from Kihei) loop of one side of the island. It’s up and down along the coast for most of the loop, and has a couple quite steep pitches, and some amazing single-lane stuff that hugs the edges of the hills. Super fun!
It’s got about 3700’ of climbing, but you’d never know it b/c it’s broken up so you’re never climbing for more than five or seven minutes at a stretch. I was going ot hook up wiht the West Maui Cycles Wednesday mornind group ride, but they were taking the week off so I Han Soloed it and saw exactly one other cyclist and no more than 20 cars. Highly recommended.
Part of the one-lane section of the West Maui Loop. You can see the road snaking up the hills across the valley:
Also highly recommended is a stop at Julia’s banana bread stand, in a hamlet on the one-lane road section (it’s in the pic above). Hunger might be the best ingredient, but it was the best banana bread I’ve tasted.
Ooh boy, those are some sore legs.
It was a shorter, 90km day today. We popped up over Old La Honda again, (popped = suffering like crazy; this hill was fun yesterday. WTF?!) and then went down the amazing Old La Honda, an old single-lane road that eventually connects with La Honda and took us most of the way to the coast. We popped (easier pop this time) up Stage Road as seen in the Tour of California.
After a quick stop at the excellent Bike Hut for water, we began Tunitas Creek Road, another one of my favourite climbs of all time. I wound its way up to Skyline Road and we dropped down Kings Mill and back to Palo Alto to end the day. Fun. Too bad about worky the next day.
I can’t say enough about coach and his camp: we were well taken care of, fed during and after the ride, and given a running commentary of the roads we were on, combined with riding tips. My hour-long climb up Hwy 9 was easier when Andrew got me to relax my upper body and tilt my head down slightly. I’ve been racing bikes for more than a decade and he found ways to make me ride better as we cruised along. That’s amazing. If you’re looking for a place to get in some quality miles, get together with AR Coaching for a week in Palo Alto; you will love it.
The next day we did what turned out to be 169kms with about 3600m of climbing. We headed out on a loop that took us up Old La Honda, onto Skyline for a sec and then down, down, down (new) La Honda to Pescadero and then up and over Pescadero Creek Rd, through Butano State Park, to the coast. We shot down the 1 with a wonderful tailwind. I wish I could have taken my hands off the bars long enough to snap a couple pics – the coast is beautiful.
After a quick stop to caffeinate at Whale City Bakery we started home. Sadly, about three minutes after I washed down my cranberry muffin, the odometer clicked over the 100 km mark and we hit the Bonny Doon climb. That thing pinches! The idle chatter of our coffee stop gave way to loud breathing and no talking. Yikes. Bonny Doon dealt out about 20 minutes of steep pitches, followed by another 20 of more relaxed climbing.
Some of you may know that coach is also former world-class pro, Canadian Champion, and Tour of California racer, etc. Andrew regaled us with tales of setting up the climbers for Bonny Doon and other anecdotes, while I suffered in silence, always appreciating the stories.
By this time I was starting to think that I’d done just about enough for one day, but we were in serious mountain man territory and there was no cabs available for hailing.
We dropped down the crazy-steep switchback Alba road to Highway 9. I had my annual coke in Boulder Creek and began the 45-minute climb up to Skyline road. Slow and steady won that race, with coach alongside for moral support. Andrew took his guiding duties seriously, point out the amazing views and ensuring I didn’t expire from the effort.
We rode along the ridge of Skyline Road to Page Mill Rd, which we dropped down (30 minutes to S-bend descents, yay forearms!) back into Palo Alto, cruised past the guys’ hotel and finally to mine, 169kms into the ride. I ate every bit of food I had, did some work, and dropped into a coma.
11,000 ft of climbing felt like a lot today.
Work had me down in Silicon Valley for ten days recently, and I was lucky enough to be there over a weekend. Doubly lucky, my coach was down, hosting some of his clients.
Friday afternoon cleared up so I was able to get in three rides with the group.
Friday we rode from Los Altos, through the forested hills to Santa Cruz. I love those roads! A little cool in the shade, but a 20 or 30-minute climb will take the edge off in a hurry. The descents proved to be very chilly, and I spent most of the weekend with cold toes even when sweating buckets up top. Such is life in late February, where the temperature can vary by 15 degrees from sun to shade.
We rolled into Santa Cruz and after a coffee on the beach we headed back into the hills and over one of my favourite climbs of all time. We were cruising up Glenwood Drive for four or five kms when we cut off onto Mountain Charlie Road, the neatest narrow, barely paved switchbacked road I’ve ridden. Tons of varied pitches kept it fun (and convinced me to buy a bigger cog after the ride) all the way up the 8km of super-fun path. I can’t wait to ride that one again.
After weeks off the bike nursing a stupid broken lunate (look it up; they take forever to heal), a separated shoulder with messed up cuff, plus a lot of other stuff, I finally got back on the trainer and started to get in some good workouts in anticipation of a fun vacay to Grand Cayman. It’s a great place, made all the better by the horrible weather in Toronto. Cayman’s not a cycling mecca, but it’s warm and sunny, has fine roads, and while it lacks any sort of vertical, the “dutch mountains” can be fierce.
Coach gave me some workouts to suit and I proceeded to spend a couple hours each morning doing intervals, followed by beach time with the lovely sig other all afternoon. Life could be like this…
One day out training, a car pulled up beside and I got to chatting with one of the local riders. He gave me the details of a group ride and a dozen of us hooked up the next evening. Such a good time! Here are a couple guys at a drink break.
We circumnavigated the island, finishing just after dark – which is a bit unnerving when it’s dark, you don’t know the roads and you’re riding on the other side of the road at a steady 40 kp/h. The roads are in good condition the potholes I was imagining never materialized. If you’re in Cayman with your bike hit Fosters Food Fair in West Bay at 4:00p.m. and you’ll be in for a great ride with really friendly folks!
Other important Cayman riding facts.
1. The roads are all good quality, but there aren’t that many of them. Here’s a typical stretch of road in West Bay, where I was.
There are some great gravel roads on the north end that are worth checking out of you like riding that stuff (I do).
2. You’ll see some uncommon fauna. At least, uncommon to a Canadian. I’m used to bears and hipsters. Real bears in the woods, not…oh never mind.
3. There is a town in Grand Cayman called Hell. And the road to hell has a bike path. I think this is telling.
4. I mentioned “Dutch Mountains.” Just because it’s flat doesn’t mean it can’t be hellishly hard. That frigging wind can be death when you’re wiped, have another 15 km to go and the wind wants to blow you into the sea.
All told, a good block of riding. I gained weight (I blame you, Tortuga rum cake!), but got fitter. Things are looking up.
When a crazy thick piece of metal wire gets kicked up into you front wheel, wraps around your hub and brings you to a rapid stop, you briefly reprise the role of superman and then hit the ground, break bone in wrist and dislocate shoulder. I hate this shit.
And of course I had the carbon wheels on.
Back in the late summer, we raced the provincials. John was in the young un cat, while Marc, Jeff and I did the less young un race.
The forecast called for rain of biblical proportions, which is pretty fun. The lightning was a bit of an issue and the race was stopped briefly. I found a reason to grimace:
Upon restart, teammie Jeff made the selection and was in for a medal spot when he skidded out in a corner. Bit of a drag, as he’s quick in a sprint.
We agonized about the result a wee bit with Jeff’s dog Colin, who made it all better.
All pics courtesy the talented Luis Fernando Diez.
My declaration: kale is great.
We’ve had ongoing discussion about our Team Vegetable since out North Carolina training camp when we discovered our mutual love of kale, pan sautéed with garlic. So delicious and good for you! In the following months we’ve had a number of discussions, debates, shared points of view, etc over the best veggie for a masters bike racer. Tonight Marc noted he’d enjoyed swiss chard with dinner. I confessed a love of purple kale, and we’ve all experimented with beets and beet juice in large and extreme quantities.
Beets are particularly interesting to cyclists as there are a lot of claims of performance enhancement (on the bike) associated with them. So of course everyone pounds them back. It’s always interesting when you’re away on a race weekend and the team’s been enjoying the beets. Invariably there’s a beet virgin in the group and you hear their “oh fuck I’m dying” gasp from the toilet. No, you assure them, they don’t have ebola. It’s the beets at work.
At any ate, kale rules. It’s great steamed, sautéed, baked as chips, wrapped up in a tortilla with beans, or braised and layered into a nice cheddar sandwich on potato bread with some hummus. All good. Dear kale marketing board, we’ve got a nice spot on our jersey. We’ll trade it for a summer’s worth of kale.