Posts tagged ‘heartrate’
Racing – Southern Cross Ultra-endurance Cyclocross 2011
You could not pick a more perfect setting for any kind of bike race than Dahlonega, Georgia. Nestled right at the base of the North Georgia mountains is the home of the Six Gap Century, tons of climbing, and for the third year in a row – the Southern Cross Ultra-endurance Cyclocross race. This year’s race attracted over 200 people and was held in the most perfect weather conditions you could ever imagine. This also happened to be my first time to race my mountain bike in close to 15 years. Yes, I did say mountain bike. I raced a 1999 Specialized Rock Hopper with shoes given to me as a birthday present (thanks Steve) over 10 years ago. Check out the annotated picture below:
Annotated picture of my 1999 mountain bike. (photo credit: chines37)
The race started out with a traditional cylocross course including some crazy run-ups through the steep hills of the Montaluce Winery just outside of Dahlonega (“Daw-lawn-eh-guh” in case you were wondering…). I knew that my skills would be lacking, but the course traversed some pretty deep grass which my mountain bike wheels floated over. This helped me to make it to the first run-up just behind the first few guys who were able to ride the 30+% pitch out of a ditch. I couldn’t ride it so I hopped off and ran up the slope. I knew that I could ride the next part which was only about 15% so I tried to remount rather than exercising my non-existent running skills. Unfortunately, starting on a 15% pitch in deep grass isn’t the same as starting on a 15% pitch with a road bike. I tried to clip in and pedal, but I couldn’t get enough momentum to balance and so I fell over – in front of everyone who was running up the climb. I felt bad as people had to veer around me, but I picked up my bike quickly and then proceeded to run the rest of the way up the climb (over 1/10th of a mile).
The end of the run-up was a paved road so I remounted, flew down it to the main road which exited the winery on a climb, trying to catch the leaders. By this point I was maybe 20-25 riders back from the very front of the race. I passed about 10 people in the winery itself and then another few on the road outside the winery as it continued to climb. I made it to the very front of all the riders behind the lead group of about 3 or 4 riders who were almost out of sight by this point. Having spent the past five seasons racing pretty much exclusively on the road, I knew that my strong point would be hammering the road sections as hard as possible. I pulled for about 2 miles pedaling my largest gear as fast as possible. Then I realized I had a pretty strong group of riders with me and pulled off to let them help with the chase. We worked very well together rotating through the paved road section. I would guesstimate that there were maybe 8-10 of us?
As soon as we hit the first gravel/dirt section, the pace didn’t really slacken at all. We just kept hammering and surprisingly continued to paceline albeit pulling over and letting somebody around was a bit tricker on the dirt roads. By the time we had hit the bottom of the first climb, we had lost 1 or 2 riders and I had slid to the back of the group. We were climbing fast, and I had a hard time trying to find the right gear to be in as I would alternate between too easy and too hard of a gear as the terrain and pitch changed. In the end, I got dropped about 1/3rd of the way up the climb with another guy who was riding a mountain bike (but with cyclocross wheels). We just couldn’t keep up with the lighter, stiffer cross bikes. Still, the two of us worked very well together, and I can tell you for sure that I would not have done as well as I ended up doing if I had gotten dropped by myself in this section.
Instead, the two of us continued riding together literally inches behind each other going something like 5-7mph up this climb. I think we were both afraid to let any kind of gap open up because that would spell the end of being able to keep up with each other. When I would get tired, I would slow down just a tiny bit and move out of the way to let the other guy come to the front. Then I would hop right on his wheel, and when he got tired he would do the same. This was all happening over a sometimes loose/rocky dirt road at 5-7mph. What an amazing motivator that was though to have someone else there suffering with you and who wouldn’t let you slow down! I was able to keep my heartrate several beats above threshold for over 30 minutes of the climb!
Finally, we made it to the first crest of the climb to get a breather for starting the final kick to the top. About halfway up this kick, some guy on a green bike rode up to us! It caught me completely by surprise because I had periodically been looking back and hadn’t seen anyone. Well, when he came up, he was going quite a bit faster than us and dropped us almost immediately. Fortunately, though the terrain was much more undulating across the true summit and before the long descent. This guy would drop us on each uphill, and we would nearly catch him on the downhill or the start of the next uphill. Once we made it to the long descent, our mountain bikes were able to handle the downhill better than his cross bike, and we flew down the mountain.
Towards the bottom of the descent, the course came back out onto a paved road, and I drilled it for a few minutes with us sustaining close to 35mph. By the time the course made it back onto the dirt road to start the final climb, we had caught three more riders from the original group that we had been with. So for the very bottom of the climb, the group I was with had swelled to about 5 riders. I was feeling great and bothered a bit by our slow pace, but I kept anticipating that the climb would get steeper and I didn’t want to blow up. But the climb wasn’t getting much steeper, and I just felt like we weren’t going hard enough so I turned on the gas again. Only one rider was able to keep up. He and I traded pace together as we started to catch two more riders we would periodically see in the distance in front of us. As we got closer, the guy I was with fell off the pace and so I finished the bridge to the two riders in front of me by myself. I believe this picture below was taken during that part of the race, but I don’t know for sure. My second water bottle looks like it might be empty so I think that would put it about that time as I ran out of water shortly before the top.
I would guess that this was about a mile or so from the top. The two riders I caught were Jayfer Beizer (Locos) and Gerry Pflug. I knew Jayfer a bit from road racing, but I didn’t know Gerry at all. All I remember is that he was one of the guys who looked really strong in the original group before I got dropped on the first climb.
The three of us worked well together over the top of the second climb and then into the next steep uphill sections before the long descent. Jayfer was struggling a bit on the first uphill section, but made it up that one and was still with us until about halfway up the final steep uphill before the long descent. Gerry led the way down the descent at breakneck speed on his cross bike. I was having a bit of trouble keeping up on my mountain bike, but we were together when the descent went back out onto the road. I went to the front and drilled it again hoping to stay ahead of Jayfer since there were only three guys in front of us meaning a top 5 finish. Little did I know that we were actually gaining on 2nd and 3rd place! We were passing all the 30 milers on the road and saw up ahead somebody else passing riders. We knew he must be a 50 miler and redoubled our efforts right about the time we made it back to the winery.
The final run-up was awesome – easily 40+% gradient to start out with then a nice 20% section. I was tired by this point and had run out of water before the long descent (almost 15 miles before the winery). I couldn’t do the run up by running straight up it. Instead, I had to “crawl” it at an angle before straightening out. Fearing a cramp, I pretty much walked the rest of the run-up, resigned myself to 5th place and cruised through the rest of the course as fast as I could, but still at a more leisurely pace than on the way out of the winery at the start of the race. The long grassy sections including the steep hill were rideable in my granny gear, and I didn’t see anyone behind me so I enjoyed the last few hundred meters rather than trying to crush it.
When I finished, the 2nd (Brendan), 3rd (Stephen), and 4th (Gerry) place riders had also just crossed the line – but the winner, Thomas Turner (Jamis), had finished over 10 minutes earlier. Wow! It was fun rehashing the last bit of the race and how for such a long race, the finish times for 2nd – 5th place were really close together with us all on some part of the finishing cylocross course at the same time.
Riding and climbing
I took my road bike with me for the weekend and got some really epic climbs in on Friday and Sunday. I’m going to save that for another day though and close this blog with my heartrate data and more pictures from Southern Cross. What a great way to start the season, and awesome training for Rouge Roubaix – first big road race of the season!
Excellent weather yesterday for our first team race of the year. About 20-25 guys lined up for the Category A race with our squad represented by me, Pat Allison, Chris Allison, Stuart Lamp, Mike Lackey, and Timo Stark. Other strong teams included Velocity Pro Cycles led by Ed Whitehorn and Preston Beasley; Bob’s Bikes/Alabama Masters with Will Hibberts, Jim Brock, and Miro Novak; Alabama Cycling with a few riders; and one more team with a kit I didn’t recognize, and then a few strong independents.
Ed Whitehorn and I led out the group and rode at an easy pace up and over the first hill. As soon as you crested the hill, you were hit with a pretty strong crosswind, and several riders started to creep up on our somewhat leisurely pace. I could sense an attack coming, and sure enough on the flat section leading into the hill after the first turn, there was an attack which either Mike or Stuart covered. We were wanting to get a couple riders in the break, so when I saw someone else start to jump across I went with them. But it was too early in the race for the group to let us get away and so we were caught.
For the next lap and a half you can cut and paste the previous paragraph as the same scenario played out multiple times with Mike and Stuart covering every move and then me trying to tag along with someone attempting to bridge. Every move got brought back, though. Then on the start of the third lap, our pace slowed again, and I believe it was Jim Brock who launched out on his own. A little while later Stuart attacked with somebody else. Pretty soon it was Stuart alone with three other guys. We wanted to have somebody else from our team in the break, so my teammate Pat Allison attacked and made it across a quickly widening gap with about 10 pedal strokes and tucking on the downhill. It was impressive to watch!
Then another rider started to bridge, and I believe it was Timo who saw it and went with it. The two of them made it across and by this point, the “break” had about 10 riders in it, which meant there was only about 10 riders left in the field as we had dropped about 5 or 6 guys towards the end of lap 1 with all the attacking that had been going on. I liked that we had 3 guys in the break, but I didn’t like that the break was essentially half the field. So I waited until somebody came off of a strong pull on the long gradual downhill after the hill after Turn 1 and drilled it super hard. Somebody who was on my wheel saw it and jumped with me, but that was it. The field started to chase, but our gap was good enough right from the start that we were able to make it across to the break bringing our total to maybe 12 riders?
We finished the bridge at the start of the long hill on the backside of the course. We knew that the break was too big to stay away, so I pulled through hard to keep the pace high, but ended up pulling away from the field. The break organized itself to chase which kept its pace high, and then when they caught back up to me, we got a good rotation going which meant that the field wasn’t going to come back together.
Even though we had a good rotation with 4 out of the 12 riders in the break on our team, I knew that we were better off with a smaller break so that it wasn’t left to a 12 man sprint at the end and so that there would be fewer people chasing any attacks that we might launch. So I kept the pace high and then on the hill leading to the start/finish, we pulled hard enough to cause a separation. I think it came back together though right before the start/finish when there was another move with Will and Pat off the front with a couple other guys. This looked good because everybody was tired. Jim Brock knew it and attacked to bridge. I was right there with him and together the two of us were able to finish the bridge, but Jim popped right at the top of the hill settling the final break of six at that point.
There were six riders in the break – Stuart, Pat, and me from Tria. Will represented Alabama Masters, and then there was Joe from the black/white jersey team and Alex from Alabama Cycling. This was pretty much the perfect scenario for our team with all three of the Cat 1s in the break. We still had the rest of the third lap to finish and then two more laps, so I wanted a nice smooth rotation for us to get a good lead on the field, while giving us enough wiggle room at the end of the race should it come down to any cat/mouse games. That’s exactly what happened with everybody working together extremely well (average speed 25.4mph for the next 2 laps).
Then right before the start of the last lap, I think everybody must have known that since we had numbers we were going to start attacking to try to get somebody away. The pace slowed down quite a bit. When we made it past the start/finish area I was looking for the right time to attack, found it, and only my teammate Pat was able to respond. We had a great gap and pushed it all the way to the finish. Behind us, Will and Stuart were by themselves with Joe and the Alabama rider dropped. Joe ended up bridging to Will and Stuart, and the two of them chased with Stuart able to take it easy and save energy for the finish.
Pat and I decided as fun as it would be to try to practice the tactics of a two-up finish, that it would be better and more enjoyable to simply cross the line together, which we did! (See the attached photo). Behind us Stuart got the jump on Will in the sprint and coming into the last meters it looked like he had it, but Will with a very late burst of speed was able to pass him literally on the line with a bike throw.
The remnants of our original break came back together with the field, and Chris Allison had a great sprint to finish sixth or seventh in the race. All-in-all, it was an AWESOME start to the season with our team placing five riders in the top ten and three riders in the top five.
Pictures, videos, and heartrate data below …
Dist: 48.02 mi (1:55:56) Climbing: 1754 ft Energy: 1662.1 kJ Cals Burn: 1589.0 kcal Braking: 0.0 kJ (0.0%) Min Avg Max Power 0 238.9 820 W Gravity -637 1.5 486 W Speed 10.9 24.9 36.9 mi/h Wind 7.6 19.7 38.3 mi/h Elev 574 662 740 ft Slope -6.2 0.02 6.4 % Caden 4 85.7 121 rpm HR 119 158.6 187 bpm NP 277 W; IF 0.999; TSS 192.8
I explored three new climbs today on a somewhat epic 103 mile ride in the rain with nearly 8500′ of climbing. Classes ended last week, and my students finished up their finals online today. With the icy roads and a very busy day of grading yesterday, I decided to take yesterday completely off. That opened up the opportunity in my training schedule to go for a super long ride today. The only thing that didn’t cooperate completely was the weather. Today was much warmer than yesterday with temps in the mid to upper 50s, but it was still quite wet. It wasn’t raining when I left my house, but within 1/2 mile it had started to rain, and another mile later it was a veritable rain shower. Unfortunately, the rain shower was tracking the same direction as the route I had planned out. So I ended up riding in the rain for almost 10 miles straight before it let up. Then it was nice, cloudy, and nearly 60 degrees for the next 40 miles. Then right about the halfway mark of the ride, the rain picked back up again and didn’t stop all the way home.
About the ride – awesome – well, except for all the dogs and the rain. Seriously, as one set of dogs chased, you could hear dogs barking at the next house up the road. The dogs were heavily concentrated in the Annie Lee, Blackjack, Mountain View area. Two of the new climbs were on Pine Mountain just outside of Springville. I had done part of one of the climbs, but never turned to continue climbing the rest of the way to the top. Also, I descended off the backside of Pine Mountain into the valley containing Alabama Hwy 75 near Remlap, and then climbed the backside of Pine Mountain all the way to the Pineview Rd towers. Also, near Clay I climbed Goodner Mountain for the first time. Great view on a nearly bald exposed top (unusual for Birmingham) looking back towards Pine Mountain and Cedar Mountain.
Two days, 75 miles, one high speed crash, and over 12,000 feet of climbing! Read all about it below…
Day 1 – Cherokee Orchard Climb and Gatlinburg Bypass Loop
I just posted a few days ago about the awesome Double Oak Way 1500ft climb in Birmingham, and it is definitely an awesome climb. But if the Double Oak Way climb is awesome (which it is), then the Cherokee Orchard climb here in Gatlinburg, TN is beyond awesome.
Before I dig into my recap, here is my word stream of thoughts on the climb:
And as the climb reached its crest, and the narrow two-lane road turned into a one-way paved path through the woods and eventually plunging back down the mountain, here are the next words that come to mind:
Those were the word summaries. Here is the recap …
We had a long adventuresome drive from Birmingham to Gatlinburg arriving late at night so we didn’t have the grand majestic view of the mountains as we drove into town. Instead, we arrived after midnight to beautiful Christmas lights, cold temps, and a hotel room that had accidentally been double-booked with another guest. So when the security guard gave us our key, there was somebody already in the room! After a few phone calls, the guard was able to get in touch with the hotel owners and find us another room. By 1:30AM, we were settled into our room and I began working on a few last minute things for the computer conference the next morning.
At 2:30, I set my alarm for 5:45 to get up and go for a short ride before the start of the conference. Even though it was only three hours of sleep, I was wide awake as soon as the alarm went off because I knew what was waiting – a nearly 2000ft climb up Cherokee Orchard Rd and a first-time descent of a one-lane, one-way scenic drive through the woods just outside Gatlinburg! This was a route I had planned out over a month in advance, and it turned out to be a really nice selection of roads around Gatlinburg with the centerpiece being the Cherokee Orchard climb and the one-way descent through the woods all in a loop less than 20 miles long with over 3000 feet of climbing.
I was out the door by 6AM. It was still very dark, and as I turned onto Cherokee Orchard road and headed up the initial slopes of the climb, I kept wondering if I would stumble upon a bear rooting around for food before daybreak. My small headlight that I was carrying didn’t shine very far. But I made it up the 3 mile initial part of the climb without seeing much of anything. It was cold and quiet (except for the creaking of my bottom bracket). By this point, I was 20 minutes into my ride and the pre-dawn sky was brightening a bit. I turned onto the one-way, one lane scenic drive road (speed limit 10mph) and continued climbing for another couple miles before reaching the high point at just under 3200ft (1900 ft of vertical gain from the starting point at 1300ft).
I started down the descent excited, but hesitant because of the steep drop-offs, trees, and sudden twists and turns. I decided that it was bright enough by this point to stuff my headlight into my back pocket since I might need both hands for hard braking and cornering. The descent was so much fun. I couldn’t let it completely out because this was my first time down the descent, and because I couldn’t see very well. In fact there were several times where I thought the road went one way and in fact it went the other way so I kept my speed in the mid to upper 20s. Because of the poor lighting, though, it felt like I was going twice that fast. And with so many twists and turns, it was just amazing. You literally were dipping and diving between trees on a paved path through the woods about the same width as the Lakeshore trail in Homewood.
Here is a picture of the paved path that I took the next day with a bit more daylight. Note that this is looking down a gradient of nearly 15%. You’ve got to be sure to lean the right way – no room for errors!
Paved path, one-way, one-lane descent off the Cherokee Orchard climb. This wasn’t even the narrowest or coolest part of the descent, but rather towards the very top. I wasn’t going to ruin the descent to stop and take pictures!
The rest of the ride was great, either up or down with very little flat sections. I made it back in time to get ready for the conference and help staff the registration table (I was on the organizing committee). The conference went great, and I was very busy all day so I didn’t get a chance to debrief the ride until that evening when I talked Kristine’s ear off about it at the Bubba Gump shrimp factory.
Day 2 – Clingman’s Dome and Cherokee Orchard Remixed in the Daylight
The 22.5 mile Clingman’s Dome climb is as epic as Cherokee Orchard is awesome. The sheer scale of the climb makes it difficult even though the average gradient is only 5%. The climb starts at an elevation of just under 1,300ft in Gatlinburg, TN before climbing up to a final elevation of 6,643ft at the top of Clingman’s Dome. The average gradient of 5% is a bit misleading though because it includes a steep mile long descent and several flat sections. So that means that the “uphill” portions are a bit more than 5%, more like 7%. The descent is also epic because of its length, even though there aren’t very many technical sections. I ended up wiping out on one of the more technical corners at the top because the corner had a sheet of ice on it only on the downhill side! In other words, it was dry on the uphill side of the road so I was caught completely by surprise on the descent when my rear wheel started to skid and down I went at 30mph, sliding across the ice on the road, across the ice on the shoulder of the road, and into a snow bank.
But before we get to that, let me take you through the day’s adventure. I set the alarm for 5:45AM again, because the traffic in the Great Smoky Mountains on a weekend is horrible. I was warned about this ahead of time a few years ago, and so whenever I have done the Clingman’s Dome climb, I have always tried to be out the door by 6AM. This year, I was out by 6:20AM and a little concerned about traffic. My concerns were misdirected though, as I should have been more concerned about ice and keeping my bike upright. There was actually less traffic this year than normal on the 2 hour climb. I’m not sure why, though, because when I came back down the mountain there was tons of traffic coming back up the mountain. I guess everybody must have decided to sleep in this year!
Let me step you through the climb. As soon as you leave Gatlinburg on Hwy 441, you begin climbing — pretty gradually for the first couple miles until you pass the intersection with Little River Rd. At this point, the gradient kicks up to 6-8% which it stays at pretty consistently for much of the climb. There are a couple sections that are flatter in the 2-3% range bringing the overall average gradient down to 5.1% for the first 15 miles of the climb reaching an elevation of just over 5000 ft at the Newfound Gap scenic overlook on the border of TN/NC. After a short flat section, you leave Hwy 441 and head onto the Clingman’s Dome spur and begin the final 7 miles of climbing (22.5 miles total).
The Clingman’s Dome section of the climb starts out pretty gradual, and you are totally pumped from having made it up to Newfound Gap. So your average speed kicks up a bit, but pretty soon the road angles up more sharply into the 6-7% range for about 2.5 miles before cresting on the backside of Mt Collins. It is not until this point nearly 20 miles into the climb that you can see your first glimpse of the top! Just as you finally see the top, the “climb” turns into a one mile descent in the 6-7% range. Keep in mind that this entire road is twisty with no straight sections. Very fun!
For the final push, you have to regain the elevation that you just lost on the fun descent. This is a pretty steady 6-7% two mile climb with amazing views to the east, and icicle covered cliff walls above to the right. Coming around a corner, you suddenly enter the massive parking lot for the top. When I did the climb Saturday morning, the parking lot was pretty much deserted which is another reason to start the climb so early. The final 300 vertical feet of climbing is compressed into about 1/2 mile making for an average gradient of 12.5% with stretches in the 17% range. Steep – but not as steep as South Cove Dr in Vestavia (220 feet in 0.2 miles) or stretches of the Double Oak Way climb! Of course those climbs here in Birmingham don’t come at the very end of a 22.5 mile climb!
As I made it to the very cool tower at the top with its circular wheelchair accessible ramp, I noticed that the tower was pretty full of people! I was surprised because I hadn’t seen very many people up until that point. It turns out that it was a boy scout troop starting out on a hike on part of the Appalachian Trail to mark spots that need maintenance. They cheered me on the final stretch as I raced up the ramp. The view is breathtaking, and I have included a few of the pictures below that I took with my cellphone camera and a few pictures that I took when we drove with the kids back up to the top at sunset.
Annotated picture of a portion of the Clingman’s Dome climb
Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Clingman’s Dome route
(Download huge version 6.8MB)
Descending off Clingman’s Dome
The descent begins with the steep paved trail back to the parking lot. I was fortunate because there was only one family on the entire trail. That meant I could go a bit faster than other times of the day when the path is completely overcrowded and overrun with people. You still can’t go that fast though because somebody might dart out. Once you make it back to the road, you get to descend on a twisty, beautifully paved road with slightly banked corners. Very fun. After 7 miles, you make it back to Hwy 441 and continue for another 15 miles down the mountain back into Gatlinburg. Towards the top on one of the shaded north-facing side of the mountain, I ran into my problem with the ice. Besides the immediate pain of falling hard, I was very distraught that I might not get to finish the rest of the ride. After picking myself up and seeing that I wasn’t hurt and my bike appeared to still work, I took off again. I was hoping to catch up to the pick-up truck that I had been drafting at the time I fell.
The truck had gotten too far ahead, but I still enjoyed the rest of the descent slowing down at the only other spot which could have had ice. Once I made it past that point, I pushed my 53×11 the rest of the way down averaging 37mph for 6.5 miles! The descent is fun because of the novelty of its length, but for a speed freak like me it’s disappointing to max out at 43mph.
Cherokee Orchard Remixed
Once I made it back into Gatlinburg, I turned onto Cherokee Orchard Road and immediately began the Cherokee Orchard climb that I had done the day before early in the morning. I wanted to do the descent again in the full daylight. I knew that there would be more traffic. I ended up having to wait behind two cars at the very bottom, but all the other cars I came upon moved out of the way just enough for me to pass. This was sorta tricky because the road was only just wide enough to fit a single car through between the trees. I’ve posted a few pictures below from when I drove Kristine and the kids through after I finally finished the ride and we had breakfast. If you could find a time with enough daylight and few cars, that would be the optimal time.
Ober Gatlinburg and Home
Tired and exhausted I made it back over the final hills to our hotel to pack up, head to the nearby Glenstone Lodge for brunch, and then head up to Ober Gatlinburg to enjoy the day with Kristine and the kids ice skating, mini-golfing, alpine sledding, and chairlift riding before beginning our drive back home to Birmingham with a quick drive up the mountain, quick hike up to the top of Clingman’s Dome from the parking lot, and a beautiful sunset. All the pictures below are from that portion of our trip. Check them out!
The Double Oak Way climb has been a favorite of mine since I first rode it a couple years ago after somebody at Tuesday Worlds mentioned that they had rode their motorcycle up it the day before. The very next day, I went for a ride out to Mt Laurel and climbed it for the first time. I had scouted it out ahead of time using topocreator.com and knew that the road would take you up over 1400ft, which is very rare for the Birmingham area. The only other climb I am aware of that tops out at over 1400ft is the Pine Mountain climb north of Trussville.
So anyway, my first time up the Double Oak Way climb was the summer of 2008. Since then, I have climbed it probably 20 times over the course of a couple years. Well, as I was working on the topocreator.com website last night (yes, it is going to go into real beta testing soon!), I stumbled across a topocreator map of the climb and noticed for the FIRST time that there was a small thick contour line representing 1500ft not too far from where the road ends at the radio towers. The towers are at an elevation of just over 1450ft, but less than 3/4 of a mile away was the opportunity to ride up to 1500ft. I immediately scanned the map to find the lowest point in the area to see just how big a climb I could make it. And it turns out there is a spot in nearby Chelsea at 475ft meaning that the total vertical relief was just over 1000ft. Plus with a few downhills thrown in throughout the climb, there is over 1700ft of total elevation gain in the 10.3 mile climb.
Today, for the first time I did the complete 10.3 mile climb topping out at 1502 ft. Let me take you through the climb as I remember it. First, I didn’t get started until later in the day, so I knew that the only way to make it all the way out to Chelsea and back before it got dark was to bee line a good portion of the route on 280. Once I made it to Chelsea, I promptly turned around and began the climb. You first go through the Chelsea Corners shopping center before crossing under a small railroad bridge where the road turns into onto Old Hwy 280, which follows a creek on a fairly gradual incline right between these towering cliffs on either side of the road and creek. At the top, I just missed the light to cross 280 so after a short wait, it was game on again to finish the climb. There are a couple of steep rollers as you head out on Co Rd 41 towards Mt Laurel. Then, once you make the right turn onto Double Oak way just on the outskirts of Mt Laurel, the real fun begins!
The climb hits you hard right at the beginning with a 0.6 mile stretch that climbs 389ft for an average gradient of 11.8%. There are a couple of short spots where the gradient approaches 25%! There is also a gate about 3/4 of the way up this part of the climb, where you have to dismount and literally climb through the middle of the gate between the thick bars to keep cars and motorcycles out. Remount just in time for the 20-25% “am I going to fall over” 1/10th of a mile stretch which I went up at 7.1mph (avg), 5.9mph (min), 9.2mph (max). The next part of the climb starts out with a short steep downhill followed by the start of the next section of the climb, which is a 1.75 mile stretch with an average gradient of only 2.75%. This is where the best views are, too, and it is so nice and peaceful to ride on a road without any cars at all! The only thing you have to worry a little bit about is deer. I startled three on the ride today narrowly missing one on the way back down!
The road kicks back up to 16% gradient as you make it to 1425ft at the top of this first crest. On the other side, is a super steep downhill (20%) that bottoms out before you immediately start climbing again at nearly a 20% gradient up to the radio towers. This is where I have turned around the past 20 times I have done this climb. But after seeing the topocreator map last night, I knew that I was going to do my best to make it to the 1500ft circle on the map! So I headed off-road onto what is probably a hunting trail (have to be careful about that, I tried to make a lot of non-deer sounding noises, i.e., whoops and hollers which was pretty easy since I was having just about as much fun as I have had all year on the bike!). I followed the trail which was mostly double track covered in leaves and even some grassy areas. I flew through this area which was fairly flat at 1450-1475ft before it dives down again to an intersection with what is probably a motorcycle dirt trail judging by the ruts and rocks. This was really hard to ride because the rocks were big and loose.
At the intersection with another trail, my memory was getting a bit hazy about where to find the final stretch back up to 1500ft, and I almost turned around thinking I had missed it when I looked up and saw another split in the trail heading up to the top. It was super steep, sandy in spots, rutted, and rocky in some spots so I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make it up the 1/4 mile trail with max gradient of 18%. But as I got further and further and hadn’t fallen off yet, I thought maybe I could make it to the top. Alas, I got stuck in a rut not 50m from the top and decided it would be faster just to run the rest of the way up. At the top, there was another path off the trail that led to some rocks where I got a few of the pictures below. I had made it to 1500ft. Total time for the climb – 10.3 miles in 41 minutes for an average speed just under 15mph!
It was beautiful, and the sun was getting ready to set so I couldn’t enjoy it long. Took a few pictures and then booked it back through the trails, over Hugh Daniel, back across 280, and all the way home just after sunset. It was an amazing awesome ride. Check out the maps, pictures, and data below. Also, the bottom map shows the climb in relation to several of the other climbs and high points in the area. So who’s going to go with me next time??? I can’t wait to tour guide this climb to some adventurous riders!!! Click on the maps for the “medium” version or click on the link marked “huge” for a huge version where you can read all the residential road names.
Complete ride, shows entire 280 corridor (medium version)
Huge version (17.9MB, prints at resolution of 84″ x 84″)