Here is a link to the event:
The weather was excellent with a cool morning start warming up to a mid afternoon high in the low 80's. Not a cloud in the sky and the air was crystal clear. The ride was very well organized and supported and I was on the road by 7:15. My goal was to complete the first 2 loops for a total of 70 miles which would be my personal best. The big question for me was not the distance but how well I would do on the big climb at the end of loop 2.
Here is a link to some photos:
The first loop was 30 miles though wine country on the foothills just north of Lake Chelan. We gained about 1000 feet in the first 6 miles which got everyone's heart started. Some nice switchbacks followed by rolling hills and another short climb. A longer rolling decsent through a mix of vineyards and residential areas brought us back to the city park where we began.
The second loop was 40 miles and headed through scenic rock outcroppings and great views down to the Columbia river. The roads were smooth with wide shoulders and very light traffic. A nice tailwind made swift going but when the loop turned back it became a headwind. Spent about 5 miles or so in the drops to save energy for the climb ahead. We crossed the river and then began the long climb out of McNeil Canyon.
The sign left no doubt of what was ahead.
The first four miles of this 2,200 ft climb were 7-9% with a few false flats. Very manageable - hard going at times but I was still able to maintain a decent cadence. I took short breaks every 10 minutes or so, gulping mouthfuls of warm gatorade, but also enjoying the scenery. So far so good.
Pretty soon the road turned up sharply and the last mile and a half was 12% or more. Although familiar with similar grades on my local rides the length of this hill was far beyond anything I had experienced. It became harder to keep a reasonable cadence and so I alternated standing with sitting. When it became more and more difficult to turn the cranks without exceeding my anaerobic threshold I was forced to take more frequent breaks. I decided to walk while taking these breaks in order to keep making progress. At one point the SAG wagon stopped and asked if I was ok - not sure what to think about that....
Slowly but surely I make it to the summit by alternating walking and riding. Cycling shoes aren't the best for walking and my feet were starting to burn. A couple of times I was tempted to just point the bike downhill but I stuck it out and made the summit!
The ride down as exciting with a top speed of 47 mph - the road had wide sweeping turns, wide shoulders and virtually no traffic to speak of.
The last part of the ride involved a 7% climb of 400 ft up out of the river valley back to the lake level. I was concerned that another hill would leave me gasping on the side of the road waiting for the SAG wagon but to my surprise my legs had recovered enough to maintain a very comfortable pace.
What I learned:
- I accomplished my goal of completing both loops for a total of 71 miles and over 5000 ft of climbing.
- I feel that a century is in my reach - certainly so if the course does not involve as much climbing.
- My current gearing (triple with 30T front and 25T rear) is adequate for my local hills with similar grades but for a long climb this steep I really need at least a 28T if not a 30T cassette.