|Raleigh Super Course - After Gran Fondo Winthrop 2017, with Compass Bon Jon Pass tires,|
in tubeless mode on DT Swisss 460R rims.
Vicious Cycle Gran Fondo Winthrop was really fun. Beautiful, hard ride. Great people. Terrific organization. And, great after-ride pizza party. (Ride reports for and 2015 and 2016.)
Big thanks to Vicious Cycle for a great day, invigorating and life-giving! Facebook pictures.
The route is complex and challenging, a fascinating mixture of roads and different kinds of gravel. Usually I can replay a ride in my mind's eye. But not with Gran Fondo Winthrop. Sure, bits and pieces stand out: some of the climbs and descents and the views. But, mostly GFW - especially the middle section - is blurry. Perhaps tunnel vision and focus inhibits our ability to remember.
I do, however, remember that I encountered a good number of cows. Like a high school dance, neither the cows nor I seemed to know what to do!
I was riding on 35mm Compass Bon Jon Pass tires, with about 35 psi in the front and 40 psi in the back. This set-up worked well for me, with, I think, good efficiency on the roads and climbs and good control on the downhills. A happy compromise I suppose. But, I do wonder what the experts would recommend. Anyway, I was happy with the set-up. Deciding to not go with the 38 mm Specialized Triggers on the front seemed okay. Getting the Bon Jon Pass tires to work on DT Swiss 460R rims was quite the challenge for me, but in the end they worked great and I'm glad I persisted (see initial set-up and getting better). After about 2 months since the tires were installed, I injected another 1.5 oz of sealant into them just one week before the ride. I had zero problems with the wheels, which was awesome. I looking forward to opening them up and seeing what about 3 months of riding does to the sealant, the inside of the tire, and the tire bead
The start was quite fast, a bit like 2015. I was a good distance back when I noticed a fairly big gap forming just after one of the little climbs and so I decided to go head to the front group. I did not observe, unlike past years, any dead skunks or big rocks on the road along the Chewuch river. Read about the 2016 dead skunk.
As the climb started to steepen, I guess at about 8 miles or so, a group of riders took off. The pace was too hard for me, so I backed off and watched them go up the road. They seemed to be going really well on the pavement, and I figured I wouldn't see them again. Once we got over the small two-board bridge (about mile 14) and onto the gravel I started to feel better and I got into my rhythm. I kept drinking from my bottle of Gatorade and bottle of water and on one of the flatter parts on the first climb I was able to stuff a rice cake down without choking or coughing too much. (Interesting story on rice cakes.)
By the first aid station, I had finished off almost 2 bottles, so I filled them up with water. I took off and up ahead I saw the group of riders working their way up the climb. I kept at my pace and found that I was slowly moving up to them. I kept at it and by the top of the first climb I was making good progress.
The downhills and middle section were mostly good. One moment of excitement was that I almost fell at the point where the road was washed away, and marked by orange pylons. At the rider's meeting Jake had given a warning. I should have paid more attention. I was drinking and was going too fast and I had a hard time slowing down. Anyway, somehow my bike and body awkwardly went over the massive washed out gully. It was a completely unnecessary mistake.
Another memorable moment was one of the flat sections where my hamstring cramped - imagine a very sharpe ouch. Not pleasant. I kept peddling but with less force and it got better. Why the cramps? Probably, I'm guessing, because I'm unaccustomed to long, hard, sustained climbs. Interesting discussion of cramps at Velonews Fast Talk.
Nevertheless, my rhythm continued to feel quite doable, and, somewhat surprisingly, I found myself passing people without too much trouble and by the time I got to the high point of the day (Lone Frank Pass, about mile 33 and 6733 ft) I was, as it turned out, in 4th place, with I presume the three leaders a good distance ahead. I rode the long very rough downhill to the Salmon Meadows Campground quite smoothly, with one rider passing me (we would later get over the "Mt. Baldy Pass" or whatever it is called and the final big climb together).
|A - Two-board bridge; B - Aid station #1 and #3; C - Lone Frank Pass; D - Salmon Meadows; E - Conconully. See the route map and thoughts about segments.|
He was just ahead when we passed three mini dirt-bikes, ridden by two kids and an adult. I smelled the 2-stroke engine way before I saw these machines! Getting by them was a little awkward and I hope that I did not interfere with their riding.
My tires were biting into the gravel well, the brakes were working well, and the corners were all good.
By the time I got past the meadow and onto the road down to Conconully, I could see one rider about 10 sec. ahead of me. After I slowed to eat and drink, I then took off to try to catch him, figuring we might be able to work together a bit on the way the aid station in Conconully.
Then, something "interesting" happened: Some cowboys were moving their cows across the road and asked us to stop and wait. I remember that one of the cowboys said, please, please, wait and I sensed that he was really concerned for his cows. I didn't want to bother his work. I was out there having fun, but he was trying to make a living. So, we waited, perhaps for as long as 5 or 6 minutes or a little longer. And, in the meantime, 4-5 riders come up to us and we all waited together.
Finally, it seemed safe, and we slipped past the cows without too much trouble and started down the paved road, fast. Somehow, however, the little group of riders got ahead of me and seemed to be going really fast. How did I loose contact with them? I was slow in taking off I suppose. Anyway, I killed myself for 5-10 minutes trying to catch them on the downhill. What was supposed to be an easy 10-mile ride down to Conconully turned out to be, well, too damn hard. Bummer. Anyway, I got back to them and all was good.
I finished my two bottles and, by the aid station in Conconully, I had eaten 3 rice cakes, one Cliff Bar, and one roll of shotblocks and four bottles - so the eating and drinking were good. I quickly filled two bottles and took off. Now the big climb (about 17 miles and 4,000 ft), with beautiful views of Old Baldy mountain!
The climb, all in all, was good! I felt quite solid on the bike, not fabulous but not terrible. I rode without a watch and heart rate monitor and just concentrated on being as efficient as I could. I rode mostly in 34 x 26. From time to time, I used a 34 x 21 but it seemed to be a bit too hard. If I had one, perhaps as 23 would have been perfect! Occasionally, I had to use my easiest gear, 34 x 32.
Jaimie Van Been - with beautiful and strong and smooth peddling - went by me on the pavement and slowly but surely kept going. I came back to her just before the gravel, presumably because she slowed a little to eat, but then she took off again. For the whole climb, wherever there was a steep pitch and a good line of sight, I could see her, not too far ahead. I tried to bring on just a little more effort to close the gap but lacked the fitness and confidence to push harder. By the top of the climb another rider came up to me (he and I were close together at Salmon Meadows) and I shared some water with him and we cheered each other up.
Once over the pass, we started down the descent and it was all good - about 24 miles and 4,000 ft to the finish!! I was able to control the bike and ride well. The sun came out for a bit, and the whitish gravel turned bright and the forests were streaked with light - inspiring. But, alas, the details are foggy, as I was in a tunnel, on the lookout for holes and big rocks.
Surprisingly, my arms and hands were not too tired and my back was great, perhaps an indicator that I didn't put enough into the climb. No stopping at the last aid station. On the very crappy washboard, just beyond the aid station, Geordan Hankinson passed me, flying along, standing on the peddles and absorbing the energy, evidently with great efficiency and control. I was barely surviving on this two mile stretch. I would be interested in his tire set-up because they seemed to be working beautifully for him.
Shortly after Geordan went by me, Jake came by on his Moto. He was trying to tell me something. I eventually figured it out "Your chain is off! Your chain is off!!" I said to myself "My chain is off - how could that possibly be the case? Well. Thank you Jake. I hadn't noticed. I guess I hadn't peddled for the last 2 miles!"
So, with a flip of my front derailleur, I put the chain back in place, and I got through the washboard and over the two-boarded bridge (about mile 14, and rode as fast as I could to the finish on the up and down pavement, encountering only a couple of cars.
I got in with a time of 6:51:36 (good for 6th place), about 7% behind the winner (6:27:32), Thomas Baron (who beat me in the last 100 meters at Gran Fondo Ellensberg!), and 1.5% faster than my time last year (6:57:59). Jaimie put about 4 minutes into me on the big climb and descent and Geordan, after passing me on the washboard, put about 40 seconds into my time. Here are the results.
So, all and all a super duper great ride!! So great to be out in a beautiful landscape, riding with such fit and skillful riders. Good to be alive; good to be peddling. Thanks again to Vicious Cycle.
If you haven't done one of these rides - and you are up for a bit of a challenge - definitely sign-up and give it a whirl.
Onward... its time to set some goals for next year. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to regular commuting and safe riding in the autumn and winter.
|Raleigh Super Course. Ready for winter commuting with 27 x 1 1/4 " wheels, 36 spokes and 50-year old hubs, 5-speed, fenders, and a bell. And, it all works, more ore less, just fine ...|