Sunday, July 6, 2008

Kearsarge Hump and a Half

56.5 miles, 6490ft vert, 3.2 hours
What are the ingredients that make a perfect road ride? Cooperative weather, big climbs, nice roads, and a little dirt. I scored all of these today on a solo, exploratory ride. The temp did reach into the upper 80's, and my legs were in a serious funk from yesterday's hike, but the riding was good.

I've been eating ibuprofen like M&Ms today. Don't know what the hike did to me, but if feels like both calf muscles are shredded as well as lower hamstrings. I know I have back side flexibility issues, but this is nuts. My wife, in her 50's, rode hard on Friday too but didn't have trouble with Saturday's hike. She also runs, I don't. I really need to start addressing this more aggressively, as this ain't getting better with age. Getting old sucks.

Kearsarge from Rollins side near top

After getting a report from Paul H. that the Kearsarge had been repaved, I was motivated to check it out. Last year it was slated to be resurfaced this year, then it was axed from the plan due to budget cuts. But it still happened. The resurfacing was a minimalist job. In many places, old frost heaves broach the surface of new asphalt, which was laid only about 2" thick. The road had at least 6" of unevenness to it. The good thing is all the divots are filled, and there is nothing that will taco a wheel now. The descent surface is one of the best in New England. Don't expect it to last more than a couple winters though. In a way, the descent is now much more dangerous. Without non-stop frost heaves to check your speed, you can go silly fast. Beware. The curves are just as sharp, and the new asphalt is barely a lane wide. There really isn't enough room for you to bomb 30mph with a car coming up.

I was able to hit the climb quite hard, surprisingly, as my legs were so messed up. But the hike didn't trash the cycling bits. I had only mild discomfort. The state now collects $4 per person entering state parks. This is true whether you are on foot, bike, or in a Hummer. My philosophy is such that NH public lands should encourage non-motorized use by charging less for bikes or more for cars. Most other state and federal parks are set up this way. When I arrived at the gate, I asked if she was going to charge a NH rider to just go up and back. She exclaimed "would you believe it!" She was pretty cool. She said after about 5 or 6 visits, she gives riders training there a no-charge sympathy admission. Sounds like quite a few of us go there. I have 4-5 visits to go.

After the descent, I picked up a couple more water bottles from my car parked at the park and ride lot of exit 9 of I-89. I took Rt 103 towards Sunapee, then Roby Rd towards Sutton. Roby was nice, climbing gradually along a stream with minimal traffic. Crossing back under I-89, Shaker was taken to Rt 11. From Rt 11, Old Windslow Rd is taken up the north side of Mt Kearsarge. What a shock. This is over 12% right from the highway. Eventually it tapers off but turns to gravel. After about 0.7 miles of gravel, climbing resumes on Kearsarge Mtn Rd. This too is steep at times. The gals at the toll booth were nice and just waved me through. It is only a few tenths of a mile to the end, gaining another 100ft or so. They usually don't charge cyclists here if you are just going in to loop around and back down. I've climbed to this park once before, but I stayed on pavement last time. The Old Winslow route climbs at a much steeper, monotonic pitch, gaining over 1100ft in about 2.6mi.

Kearsarge from Winslow SP

I was running out of water after the Winslow climb, and I eyed a beverage machine behind the golf cart rental building at a golf course in the middle of nowhere. A $2 Powerade did the trick.

That's three for three this weekend - a big mountain and a blog post three days in a row. Nearly 16,000ft of climbing isn't bad either. With no races that interest me next weekend, the summer epic ride series may continue. Not sure yet what's on deck. White Mountains East? Catskills? If anybody is interested in a 6-7hr, 100+ mile, 10,000+ ft vert ride, let me know. Be forewarned, rides like these have dubious training value.

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