Here's my report of the 2008 "Breathless Agony" ride. Lovely ride, sells out fast! This was my third.
Several other 50+ riders, but none in the 50+ jersey from bikeforums.net For more details on the ride, go to their website at: http://www.cyclingpros.com/onyx.htm
Drove into Sylvan Park in Redlands, CA at 5:30 AM and (for once!) got a primo parking spot for my Miata! Walked over Registration, saw Elise (OCRebel), then saw Caligurl (Linda), gave her a big hug, also saw SirLanceImNot (Chris), formerly of bikeforums.net, but pretty much on one else I knew.
Started right at 6:00 AM, as was my plan, with a very friendly and happy Master of Ceremonies Chuck Bramwell getting people started. Right after the start (like within one block) I hear "Hey Rick is that you?" from behind, and it's Lee (scvroadie) from bikeforums.net, so I talked with him as we rode out of town, plus rode with his whole (or at least part?) SCV (Santa Clarita Valley) team.
Eventually dropped Lee before Jack Rabbit Trail (the first Pass), but rode with SCV riders right up to that point. Once on JRT I found I was picking my way through the rubble pretty good, climbing easily, dropping other riders without even trying. So I was happy, but worried perhaps I was using too much effort too soon. JRT is very rough, marginally "paved" with lots of rocks and dirt sections.
Got to the first checkpoint right at 8:00 AM (Official Opening), took off vest, took off arm warmers, took off glove liners (yeah, I hate cold weather!). Checked in, refilled bottles, and off to Oak Glen. Lovely morning by this time, warmish in the sun, cool in the shade, but spun up in my (mostly 39 x 25t) lower gears, passed by four riders but I felt no inclination to chase!
Over the top quite easily (for Oak Glenn), 2nd Pass behind me, I hammered down the switchbacks, tucked for the straights and passed two of the riders who'd passed me on the climb! Into checkpoint #2, friendly volunteers all happy, filled my bottles, two electrolites (E-caps), a couple of Fig Newtons, and off up Damnation Alley.
What a long boring climb that is! Rode for awhile with Mike from Inland Inferno Tri-Club, then the rest of it by myself as I dropped Mike. Got passed by a few other riders (yeah, they started an hour after me!) but a girl in a SAG truck said I was "Number 8 on the road!" as I passed her truck.
"That's cool," I thought, but as riders passed me I became more like "Number 35 on the road." until that game became too depressing and I stopped counting. After the "U" turn at Forest Falls I was still riding well (for me), even though more riders were going by me. And no, I wasn't passing anyone at this point.
I was feeling a bit de-hydrated and since I had a huge (2-hour) cushion on the time limit I drank three Mountain Dew's, sucked two GU packets (Chocolate Mint! - yummy!) and talked to a bunch of riders, none of whom I knew before, but whatever. I saw an old friend (Jeff Ishmael) who I'd worked with at GT Bicycles, and he was feeling bad. Sliced a tire on Jack Rabit Trail, and was salting out badly. He eventualy turned back. On the other hand, I was feeling good, nothing hurt, and it was a beautiful day. All good!
Leaving Angeles Oak (3 Passes gone!), fueled by caffeine, I was feeling kinda super-charged and actually passed a few riders on the way to Barton Flats. Talked to them a bit and then rode on. Of course, other riders were passing me along here too, but I was feeling good, the bike was working perfectly, no worries!
Well, after Barton Flats the last 8 miles to Onyx are often a worry, but I was amazed that I was able to hold 8 mph. Okay, it helped that we had a wonderful tail-wind (at more than 8 mph, since I could feel it on my back), plus still powered by Mt. Dew, I had my easiest climb to Onyx in 3 BA's.
Once on top, huge party! I saw my friend Chuck (OCRebel, lightweight Taiwanese, v.strong) who had passed me before Angeles Oaks, then saw Brandy and George, Caligurl and Sir Lance (again), Vert. Bob (50+), Tome (from Norway, she's very fast!) Fast Larry (Carter) 50+, Dave Slaton, Sarah Lee, Robert Freese (50+), Keith Christensen, Andrew May, "Burrito Bob" Davidson (50+) . . . and whenever I started to think "Maybe I should head back" . . . more friends would roll into the Onyx checkpoint.
Plus (big plus!) they had chocolate covered strawberries! That's a first for checkpoint food for me (sorry, no pie!). Very (extremely) yummy. I drank a couple of Cokes, munched more cookies and strawberries (w and w/o chocolate). I was on top of Onyx (8, 440 feet of elevation) for probably an hour and half, but it was warm up there (for a change) so it was all good fun and visiting with friends. I took a photo of Caligurl and Sir Lance (with her camera) and told her she should post it on bikeforums! Her reply, "No, I don't post there anymore!"
Then I had to add, "Yeah, I know, just kidding!" She was nicely turned out with a pink jacket, and matching pink sunglasses! Too bad she doesn't post here either. Oh well.
Rode back down with Chuck Chen on my wheel, tucked in and passing lots of riders on the way to Barton Flats, rolling at 42 - 45 mph (easy to do on that drop) into a headwind. Chuck stayed with me on the climb up Barton (though he could have easily powered away), but then I inadvertantly dropped him when the road got twisty since he is a careful descender whereas I am . . . well, still kinda careful, but faster.
That's the only time I've ever dropped Chuck, since on ANY climb he can fly up the road. I hooked onto a Santiago Cycling peloton (8 - 10 riders), and drafted them all the way back into Redlands, and the park. Doug Patterson (50+) was the only Santiago rider I knew in that group, but they sure didn't mind several wheelsuckers hanging on (me included).
Big burrito feed after the finish, saw all the OCRebels that started after me (Linda, Arthur (50+), Tito (50+), Sheila (50+), Joe Rayburn, etc.) had a great lunch and we all waited for Kim, the tiny Vietnamese woman who is such a good climber and quite probably 50+ (though she refuses to reveal her age). Turns out she had been forced into a guard rail by a passing car, but only scraped her knee (and didn't hurt the bike!) when she crashed. It did slow her down a bit though.
In fact, this whole Breathless Agony was a beautiful ride for me, no worries, riding well within my capabilities, feeling no pain and turning in my best time ever. I think it was 7 hours and 6 minutes but will have to wait to see the "official" time when its published. I agree that the BA support was beyond excellent!
Kind got long there . . . sorry! Great ride though. I'd give it two thumbs up and recommend it to anyone who enjoys climbing!
To see videos of these passes, and see the scenery (per Chuck Bramwell) go to Youtube and in the search field, type in Breathless Agony
Rick / OCRR