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.)