Saturday, July 4, 2009

White Mountains East Loop

This ride was planned weeks ago. As Friday, July 3 approached, the weather pattern of general suckiness made prospects for this ride dim. Seeing some forecasts calling for 100% chance of rain in the mountains, I sent out a cancel notice Thursday evening. I've organized rides before where a 30% probability of rain pops up the day before and everybody bails. Cyclists are like that. So rather than wait until 6am the next morning in desperate hope the weather would turn around, I cancelled so I wouldn't leave that one rider that might not bail anyway left hanging.

Track up "easy" side of Hurricane, "only" 15% grade. Switchbacks were well over 20% grade.

We'll, not only has the weather pattern been sucky lately, but the weatherman's ability to predict such suckiness sucks too. Friday morning I get up, radar shows no rain in the area, and probability of rain in the White Mountains is back down to 30%. Sounds perfect to me! I frantically call everybody up, able to reach two, only one was still open to riding. Thought it was still risky, so we both went in fully expected to get deluged upon at some point in the ride. On an all paved road ride, this wouldn't be such a bad thing. But the biggest climb in our planned route was dirt. 23mm tires on a seasonal forest service road in pouring rain often don't work that well.

Glen Fraser and I headed up to Conway. Traffic was very light. Took slightly less than two hours driving time to get there. Temps were pleasant enough to not need long layers. I took only a rain shell, risky given Jefferson Notch is quite high up and much cooler than Conway.

Hurricane Summit socked in, looking east.

My goal was to get good training value out of first two climbs. Ten miles of mostly flat terrain was a nice warmup to bottom of Hurricane Mtn Rd. I hit it hard. A little too hard, as I hit deflection about half way up. It took about 10 minutes to go from gate to summit, 800ft gain, easily at Ascutney race pace effort. I never recovered from this short, uber intense interval for the rest of the ride.

Others were out playing on this climb too, on this dreary morning. Apparently a large group headed the way we were heading. Bombing down the back side of Hurricane Mtn Rd, 17% grade, wet, with low visibility initially was quite a rush. Didn't dare let any real speed build up. I worried about my rims overheating.

We head north to Evans Notch, just inside Maine. This one gains a little less vertical than Hurricane and is not nearly as steep. Doesn't mean it is easier though. It just means you use bigger gears and go faster. I felt like I was going hard, but I'm sure my ability was down a notch after the Hurricane interval. I waited a good while for Glen. Apparently after I put a gap on him, a moose came crashing out of the forest and claimed the road. It refused to budge and Glen was not about to challenge him for a piece of the road. Eventually the moose sauntered off the road so Glen could resume his climb. Glen always sees the big critters. In the Berkshires a couple weeks ago, he saw a sow bear with three cubs.

Evans Notch

We caught up to a large number of riders at the summit. There were two, maybe three different groups represented, some going our way, some going opposite way. The ones going our way were doing a loop half the size of ours, heading back to Conway via Pinkham Notch.

As we approached Gorham, the skies grew dark. We felt random rain drops. Over Pinkham Notch you could see wall of rain coming down. It was moving towards Evans Notch where we were just 30 minutes earlier. I wondered if our Jefferson Notch climb was doomed, as the sky seemed to be filling in. We quickly replenished at 54 miles into the ride and carried on.

The sky seemed to be clearer on the other side of the Presidential Range. As we approached the base of Jefferson Notch, it was more sunny than cloudy. How lucky could we be? We just might pull this thing off without even getting soaked.

Bottom of Jefferson Notch

With all the recent rain, the gravel was perfect on Jefferson Notch Rd, just as I expected. Almost like riding on pavement in places. The first three miles is pretty mellow. Then you hit the last two miles where the average grade doubles, and the peak grade quadruples. I saw sustained grades of 15% on my GPS. The switchbacks near the summit were over 20%. No wonder some guys end up walking this when conditions are dry and loose. I was amazed there were only a couple cars up here, as it is a popular hiking trail head for Mt Washington. The Washington summit was actually clear!

The Jefferson descent was a hoot. Could really let the speed run out here. I think this is the best I've seen this road. It dumps out right at Crawford Notch, where the descent continues on Rt 302. We stopped again at the General Store a few miles down, as the store in Bartlett disappeared. I was running on fumes by this point. Glen was past running on fumes. We still had Bear Notch to go.

View from near top of Bear Notch

Bear Notch is included in all sorts of White Mountains loops. It's the only connector between the Kanc and Rt 302. From Bartlett it gains about 1100ft at around 6% grade. Very easy to get a good climbing rhythm going. I maintained around 11mph. A few weeks ago when I rode with Keith, Rich and Dave, I was able to hold 14mph on this climb. But that was a shorter ride and this climb came earlier in that ride. We now had 100 miles and most of the climbing in our legs.

Glen cresting summit of Jefferson Notch.

We finished with a bit of the Kanc and Passaconaway Rd back to Conway. I logged 115.6mi with 6hrs, 25min riding time. A little slower than last couple times, but there were only two of us this time. Topo says this ride entails nearly 10,000ft of climbing. My GPS says 7900ft. Big discrepancy. Ride feels like a lot more, but that is because I tend to hit the first couple short climbs as hard as I can.

Turned out to be perfect day weather wise. I even got sunburned, not thinking sunscreen would be needed on such a dreary day starting out. Two more rides are planned in the Dubious Training Value Ride Series, Jay/Smugglers and Catskills. The Jay/Smugglers loop shown for July 10 will have to get pushed back I think, as Newton's Revenge might get in the way.


Dave said...

80 ft /min climb rate. You are an animal. 50/min is about all I'm worth. Don't forget to work on those rusty singletrack skillz you're gonna need at Stokesville in Sept.

CB2 said...

What are you running for wheels that you're worried about overheating the rims?

Hill Junkie said...

I'm running older Rolf Vector's. I would worry about overheating of any type of wheel under those conditions. I've blown tires out twice coming down Ascutney, which is only 12% grade. Those blowouts were cases where the rim tape got too hot and the tube blew out through spoke nipple holes. Others have blown tire beads off the rim on Ascutney. Still others have warped rims or snapped spokes. Most riders know to reduce tire pressure 10-15 lbs before descending Ascutney. Bigger riders need to let stop part way to let their rims cool. Being less than ideal conditions descending Hurricane's 17% side, I used way more brake than usual. I should have checked my rims when I got to the stop sign. I bet I could not have held my fingers on them for even a second. My tires were pumped to max psi, so I didn't have much margin to work with.

A couple weeks ago a rider destroyed a carbon rim coming down Kingsley Hill Rd in Mass. I have a picture and may put a post up around it. Riders need to realize that if you burn 400W for 10 minutes going up a slope (240kJ), then go down same slope in two minutes using mostly brakes to control speed, much of that potential energy gets disipated in rims as heat, maybe the equivalent to a 1000W toaster oven heating your rims up. Heat builds very quickly.

CB2 said...

I never really worried about it too much. The three times I've descended Ascutney, I've just let it rip!
I know Indurain rode clinchers in the mountains for fear of rolling a tubular, but I usually ride tubulars on the road.

Rob said...

Great post Doug, quick question for you. How many years of riding did it take before you were able to complete one of these 100x100^2 rides?

Hill Junkie said...

Rob - I was probably riding about 3 years before I did my first road century ride. No big mountains. Many factors need to be considered. First, how fit is a person to begin with when they started riding? I was totally unfit and 70 lbs overweight. Second is how many hours per week does the person ride, and do they train all winter? Riding 8 hrs per week in the summer, only to take the whole winter off and gain weight will probably not get you in shape for a 100x100^2 ride by the end of the next season.

Assume a person is lean and fit (not sedentary) to begin with, I'd suspect by the end of a second season of focused riding a young to middle-aged person could tackle and finish a ride like this. Not fast, and maybe really low gearing would be required, but at least finish. How many hours/miles per year? Maybe 4000 miles/250hrs. To do it in 6hrs would take a couple more years of rigorous training. For about the last 7 or 8 years, I've been averaging 7000-10,000 miles and 500-600 hours per year. This combines road, mountain bike and XC ski miles and hours.

jason_ssc1 said...

I'm curious, did you take North Road again on this loop instead of route 2?