While most roadie folks were at Sterling today, a few of us went out on a Hill Junkie ride. I've done Sterling once, last year, and the course didn't excite me much. It is a lot of laps around a small circuit with moderate amount of climbing. Seems to favor sprinters over climbers. So to get my fill of climbing and maybe a little training value thrown in for good measure, Dave P, Glen F and I headed over to Mt Ascutney in Vermont.
The state park was still closed. Just as well. This meant there was reasonable chance we'd have the mountain to ourselves (hangliders have key to gate and can enter any time). It was raining on the way up, only misting at Ascutney. Roads stayed dry just a mile north of Ascutney. The weather actually worked out well.
Dave brought his newly acquired PowerTap device and planned to capture a baseline FTP during the first 20 minutes of the climb. It would be an interesting experiment, as he is just learning how to pace with power feedback. It is quite revealing for new users actually, as almost everybody goes out way too hard at the beginning of a TT, and when steep terrain levels off a bit, it is almost impossible to keep the power up. I had no PowerTap and wasn't even going to time myself. My legs were still wrecked by Wed/Thur training.
Dave got his numbers, quite impressive I might say. Seems he has been putting his time while unemployed to good use. Back at the bottom, we loaded the bikes up with bottles for the big loop. Plan was to hit Tyson Road, aka "The Alps," the dirt Shrewsbury/CCC climb, and then finish ourselves off on Okemo.
Funny what a 20 minute TT can do to your body when you still have a boat load of climbing to do. Dave didn't exactly bounce back from that stellar effort. I know exactly how that goes. Been there many times. We all put in a pretty good effort on the steeper, upper portions of the 1200ft Tyson Rd climb. I was still feeling pretty good. The descent down to Rt 100 is always a blast, but not without risk. Seems the one hairpin corner always has rocks or gravel on it.
Glen summiting dirt Shrewsbury/CCC Rd. Smooth as pavement here.
We headed north on Rt 100 about 8 miles to pick up Shrewsbury/CCC road. It was still gated. Not good. The last time we encountered a gated seasonal road, we had to dismount about every hundred feet for fallen trees. Plus it was really soft that time. The sign on the gate said something about soft conditions, foot traffic welcome. Great. We gave it a go anyway. Turned out it was only a little soft for our 23mm tires. The one-lane gravel road was actually smoother than most of the pavement in the area. And there was no dead-fall. It doesn't get much better than that. This was the second major climb of our ride where we had the road to ourselves. This one gains over 1000ft at 10-12% grade. Without auto traffic on it all winter, it did feel like riding two flat tires. It was work, but doable.
Once we got past the gate over the top, auto traffic packed the surface much firmer. We rocketed down. When we got down to Rt 103, we were expecting tail wind. Mother nature was playing tricks on us. Headwind heading west, now headwind heading east. Go figure. We gradually climbed about 700ft into a vicious headwind on this road. Slow going. Most of this gain was dropped in just a couple miles before picking up Rt 100 again to head into Ludlow.
By this point, Dave's goose was cooked. He opted out of the Okemo climb. He wanted to avoid crossing the dubious training value threshold. Glen and I were not going home without doing Okemo. I was scared. It was now very muggy out, and I feared the cramp demon would make an appearance. Dave camped out at the deli sipping espressos while Glen and I killed ourselves at 4mph up another 12%, 2000+ foot climb. This time we could not go fast enough to ditch the black flies. We were clearly on the doorstep to dubiousness.
I noticed a lot of snow in the terrain park areas of ski runs. Looked enticing in my overheated state. Reached the top, took a couple obligatory photos, then headed down. Glen was not far behind. I stopped at the snow. Just had to flop down on it. It is not normal to be so hot and still have snow to lay in.
Our fears were now Dave would be rested and abuse us over the remaining 20 miles with one modest climb back to the cars. Normally Rt 131 can be cruised at high speed with minimal effort. Not today. The wind was sure to always be in our face and got stronger in proportion to our fatigue. Wind, you suck! Anyway, we made sure Dave took his share of pulls, having done about 2150ft less climbing than Glen and I.
The ride took longer than expected. I think part of it was softness on Shrewsbury Rd. And Dave killed himself for the first 20 minutes and wasn't himself thereafter. I logged 93.3 miles in 5hrs, 41min riding time. It includes warmup and putzing around at the tops of climbs regrouping. Topo says 11,550ft of climbing, plus my warmup gives nearly 12,000ft of climbing. I know this is high, as Rt 131 is nearly all downhill, yet Topo gives about 700ft of climbing on this part of the course. It is safe to say Glen and I did over 10,000ft of climbing and Dave did over 8,000. The title of this post suggests 100 miles, but we didn't quite get there. We cut a little bit out to meet time commitments. Turned out to be a great ride with decent training value if you plan to do 50 or 100 mile MTB races later this season as Dave and I do. 6-Gaps is in two weeks. That clearly taps into the dubious regime. Expecting a large turn-out, with three different start times this year based on anticipated riding time. Then a few of us plan to do an inaugural Berkshires Boondoggle 100x1002 ride on June 6. So many fun places to ride in New England, wouldn't you say?