The route description for Sunday’s populaire posed a simple question, written by a master of understatement:
Really, how bad can a ride of 110 km with just 7 little hills really be? In fact, the climbs make up only about 8 miles/13 km of this 110 km ride – the rest is flat or gently rolling. (110 km, 1650 m/5400 ft of elevation gain).
Answer: It was brutal. I didn’t finish.
|Map of the route|
I had doubts going into the ride, but I had so much fun on the
two populaires, I thought I’d try it anyway.
The first, hardest, and longest climb was Cougar Mountain Road, two miles into the ride. This one was as nasty as they warned, averaging 10% on the long section I tracked. One of the hairpin turns was closer to 17% as it was difficult to keep my front wheel on the ground. (When climbing, I tend to pull on the handlebars for leverage.)
The view at the top was fantastic and was soon followed by the first checkpoint of the day, at mile 5.3. I hit this at 9:53, about 20 minutes past the main pack. After getting my card signed, I blasted down Lakemont. Although there’s a bike lane, my potential energy was rapidly turning to kinetic. When I got to the posted speed limit (35mph), I eased out into the lane for a smoother ride.
After a left onto Newport Way, I started the climb back up Cougar Mountain on 164th Ave. This was a much gentler grade, leading to the checkpoint about 50′ from the first. Foreshadowing how the day would go, I was the last person to check-in. I wouldn’t see another rider until I was in my car, driving home.
The next several miles were generally downhill rollers interrupted by a few inopportune traffic lights. I came to the third, self-reporting checkpoint, near point 13 of the map. I noted my answer to the question and proceeded on.
I came to Issaquah-Hobart road. On the map, you’ll see there’s a detour in the opposite direction (point 14) to get in “one more hill,” Tiger Mountain. Because there’s an obvious short-cut, e.g., not doing this road at all, this is an obvious candidate for a “secret checkpoint.” The hill’s long, but not onerous. Although it was late, I decided to go ahead and do it in the unlikely event someone was still waiting. Tiger Mountain provided a nice respite from the busier alternative.
No one was there, which meant I was officially going to “Not Finish.”
Tiger Mountain dumps out onto Issaquah-Hobert (point 16), which I followed back through Issaquah to my car (point 1). Total for today was 41.4 miles, 3,129′ elevation gain.
The other hills are all familiar.
- Black Nugget is my preferred way up the Sammamish Plateau when biking home from Seattle. It’s a 11.7% grade, very busy, and no shoulder. I stay on the sidewalk most of the way.
- Dulthie Hill is only 350′ gain with a slope about 6 1/2%. It’s not very busy, and there is a bike lane on the uphill side.
- Tolt Hill has 400′ gain with a varying slope. The initial portion isn’t that bad, but as it turns, the grade picks up for a short bit.
While looking for a profile for Tolt Hill, I found the SIR writeup for this same route done two years ago, also led by Jan Heine. Jan noted:
Unfortunately, none of the new riders managed to finish. Two riders never made it to top of the first hill, while the third got lost again and never reached the finish. I hope they will be back for one of our less challenging rides. Most of all, it was nice to see our randonneurs ride so strongly.
On a positive note, I’m within 75 miles of my new years resolution for mileage for the year. (I also accomplished the long distance ride.)
But, you DID finish and you know it, and that’s what really counts.
Sounds tough! I need to check out some of those hills. Sadly, I’ve never been on cougar mountain or tiger mountain (well, just for mountain biking). Been looking for a longer hill for training.
Ah, the question “how bad can a ride of 110 km with just 7 little hills really be?” The secret to that question is the questioner, Jan Heine. If I dig far enough I’ll find an email from him that says a ride without a hill is uncomfortable. He needs hills. So “7 little hills” to him . . .
Look forward to meeting you on one of the 2005 brevets.
Comments are closed.