Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mt. Graham Hill Climb

I'm not trying to compete with Darcy and Harley on the hill climb post, both harder men.  Mt Graham is 2 hours east of Tucson, basically in the middle of nowhere Arizona.  Trev and I heard about this race late summer, lots of badass talk about how tough it was and true too form when Trev "heard bad-ass tough" he wanted to "Crush It".  By the end of August I was done with the bike, it had been a long season starting in January with 200KM Brevets and finishing trying to get back in race shape to help the team at the end of the race season.  Didn't quite get there but had fun competing and meeting many of the new team members.  Basketball, gym workouts, scotch and moderate riding were now the norm.   I was out and Trev started to realize he had time constraints so we would look into it another time.

Now I'm down in Tucson at the local bike shop a week before this race, its also the Arizona Sate Hill Climb Championship and the trash talk is so thick you're choking on it before you're a foot in the door; Nasty, hardcore, suffer-fest, killer, 7- 14% grades, rated HC and then "Relentless", fuc*..it, I'm in.  I'll go and participate, recon for when you guys come down; Brevets, Mt. Lemmon general pre-season training.  Perhaps we should add it to the bucket list of suffering.  It just so happens I'm in the shop having an 11-28 put on my 6-pound training wheel, after the race I had that 28 blessed at a church.

This is a mass start race, all categories, which makes me a little nervous even though it hits a 5% grade right off the bat.  For the first time in my life I enter my masters age category, starts me at the back of pack and keeps me away from the young studs where I have a bad tendency to want to try and keep up. Start easy, find a comfortable pace, cruise up, no pain and low on the suffering that was the plan and I actually executed on that.  After getting harassed at the start, all in fun, for wanting to drag my rear light and Rando size tool bag I'm set to go.

After 1 KM I'm right at the back and I can see the guns off in the distance.  By KM 8 I'm in a groove spinning the 28, I now think I can hold this effort forever from a cardio perspective and my legs would be the problem.  Now the one thing about a mass start is that you can start to hunt, riders up the road become targets you know the feeling.  I pick up a group on my wheel and I start reeling in other groups, just a tad little effort and three riders are rolled up, I don't sit in just stay at my tempo and roll by, typically the guys on my wheel would stay with the new group and a couple of riders from the caught group would jump on to my wheel.  This goes on all the way up.  Of course most riders I'm never going to catch but no one goes by me, ok until the end, that parts coming.   I'm steady all the way up, it is steep and unforgiving, the switchbacks remind me of the mountain stages in the Grande Tours in Europe and there is no relief until the last 2 kilometers.  The climb goes up 6000ft in 20 miles climbing to 9100ft with mostly 6-9% grades hitting 11-14% in sections.  The scenery is spectacular, although I stop talking to riders on the way up, it didn't seem appreciated once we hit 20km.  With 8KM to go I have two riders with me, they sound like two steam engines behind me their breathing so hard.  One guy attacks often and he is in the big chain ring the whole time, freaks me out, no way these two guys are going to last, they are way over the rivet.  I keep bridging the attacks dragging the other guy with me.  1000 meters and these guys are still there; 100 meters and they both pass and beat me to the line.  A race within the race, tons of fun.  Here's the good part, the thing that gives me hope, both those guys were in the 60 + category.  They had snot all over them, sweat dripping of their bikes and partial lungs coughed up resting on the front of their jerseys.  The next time when someone asks me "Stephen why do you keep doing it?"  I'll smile and think of those two dudes. I was 1:47 getting up, very happy with that time as I thought it would take me 2:15

Yep put it on your bucket list.



Reinier Paauwe said...

Haha, great story Stephen!
I can totally envision that race and the suffering you must have inflicted upon those 2 with your "relentless" pace - having endured it myself during JayLap RR !!

Rick C said...


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