Lemme just start by saying that this past weekend's race (Whiteface Mountain Uphill Bike Race) was definitely one of the HARDEST things I've done on a bike. Just over 8 miles (that's about 13km for us metric folk) at an average grade of 8% (gaining 3500ft in altitude) makes for one frickin' tough ride. Having never done a climb of that length I didn't know what to expect, and didn't really have any way to prepare either.
Pre-race with my good luck charm.
The race started at 5:30 in the evening, and despite being cloudy out, it was hot and muggy. I was in the third wave to be sent off, comprising 30-39 men. I recognized Aaron Fillion in my wave and thought "Chalk up another win for Aaron." The pace was pretty high off the start, which was no surprise given the riders in our wave. I managed to work my way into the lead group...about 6 or 7 guys, but considering that the road went straight up from the get-go, I couldn't hold on for too long, got passed by 3 or 4 riders, then settled into an uncomfortable pace.
The road was pretty straight, with slight curves in it, and it felt as though it kept rising at a consistent pitch....never any relief. A couple times it levelled off for a few hundred metres, but it was hardly enough to provide any kind of recovery. I was in my smallest gear (34x25) from early on, and it stayed that way for most of the race. Before leaving for the weekend, I replaced my 11-23 with my old 12-25, and although it was only a small difference, I'm glad I made the switch. Ocasionally I would shift up about 3 gears and stand for a bit, just to switch things up a bit.
Cue sheet on my stem. Reading from bottom to top, first column is mile, second is km's and third is % grade. The numbers are loosely based on the chart below. The cue sheet proved to be completely USELESS. Seriously, when you're suffering, any change in the grade is not really noticeable.
(click the pic above for larger view)
About halfway up the climb, the summit came into view, and I just remember thinking how FAR AWAY it looked from where I was. It was kind of discouraging, actually. Another thing that made the going tough at times was the wind. Along the road, there were some clearings where you could stop to check out the view (which wasn't happening). On these sections, the wind gusted across the road, making things tough. Closer to the top, there was one switchback, and for the first time, I started to pick up speed, since the road was pretty flat at this point. I continued to pick up speed and actually shifted into my large ring for a bit!
View of the course from the summit.
Approaching the finish, I was SUFFERING, but tons of people were lining the road, cheering everyone on. There was even a bagpiper offering, um, inspiration (to get out of earshot!). It was a pretty cool atmosphere, and it made me feel like I was at the finish of a mountaintop stage in the Tour or Giro.
To the right you can see the people lined up and cheering the riders as they came upon the finish.
Here I am hoping I don't need to be rescued by Wilmington's finest.
Completely spent after finishing.
Overall, this was a really cool, unique experience, and definitely something that I would do again. Not sure how I finished relative to the rest of the field, but my time was about 58 minutes...certainly something I think I can improve on in the future.
This dude rocked a hybrid with no front brake and an old-school styrofoam helmet. Hardcore!
Alison and Dave. I had to get out of my jersey 'cause it was soaked and I didn't pack any warm clothes for the top. Alison and Dave were eating greasy food and downing a pint of beer hours before this pic was taken...rock stars! On another note, Alison has ridden in the Alps, and said this was probably harder due to the lack of switchbacks which actually give you a chance to recover.
The results are can be found here.