If you’ve done something on a certain date two years in a row you might as well make a tradition of doing it, right? Unless, of course, it’s something like visiting a proctologist. In this case, for the last two years I’ve used the President’s Day weekend/holiday to visit my parents and did so again this past weekend. The weather in Tehachapi, at 4,000 feet, in February, can be spotty at best but a weekend of training isn’t to be missed at this point, two weeks away from the race season, and I wanted to get some hill climbing in.
And what “good” training there can be too with all the steep slopes and 25+ mph wind gusts! I’ve found that there’s no easy ride in Tehachapi. When it is easy, it’s a mirage because you’re soft-pedaling at 30 mph with a tail wind while dreading the fact you have to turn around and face the same wind head-on (which necessitates dropping your hands into the hoods, getting aero, shifting to the small chainring, and fighting for 14 mph). And if not lined up with the wind, a testing cross-wind challenges your bike handling skills. Deep dish carbon wheels need not apply here.
The good news is that there is a small form of shelter to be had from the wind when climbing up to Mountain Park and it was really this climb that I was anticipating. Last year I climbed the road to Mountain Park for the first time on my bike in a mixture of slush and snow and had a blast. So much so, I rated it my fifth most favorite ride of 2012. This year there was much less snow and I was able to make it to the top of the 3.1 mile climb (7.7% grade) in just over 21 minutes. Once at the top, I re-created a self-portrait I took from the year prior:
And one year later, at the same spot, with the same bikes, wearing the same clothes (except for my new Serfas Legend optics):
I continued riding and found another climb to test the legs on that took me past the windmills that conspicuously follow the undulating terrain of the hills. Some people do not like the sight of windmills, deeming them a visual blight to the surrounding landscape. I can understand that view but I don’t share it. It’s NIMBYism. I enjoy the fact that the energy we all take for granted is quite tangible and its source can be seen and heard (while not affecting air quality). It’s iconic in a way too – it provides a sense of place. How many cookie-cutter suburbs can say their community is unique?
Continuing my now-traditional holiday rides, for the third year in a row I decided to attack the 7 Sisters Challenge on President’s Day here in Dana Point/Laguna Beach. Stated more accurately, I decided to let the 7 Sisters attack me for a third year in a row. I’ve done this route several different ways and decided to follow the exact route as laid out in Strava which begins and ends at Aliso Woods Park. Seven painful climbs await and there’s a step-sister (Aliso Creek Rd) at the end of the route that’s not included in the title but you certainly curse her too. In almost 40 miles you climb ~6,000 feet and several of the climbs are steep enough that you begin wondering what burns more – your legs, arms, lungs, the salt in your eyes, or hell? I challenged myself to get the fastest time and 3/4 of the way through I felt I was slightly off the pace.
A final time check near the end along with some questionable mental math and I decided I might be able to pull it out if I committed. The kind of commitment where you feel the haziness and lightness in your brain as it loses the battle for blood and oxygen to the leg muscles. In the end, I was able to nab the KOM by less than a minute and finished the challenge in 2 hours 38 minutes 40 seconds. I doubt my KOM will stand for long as this is too good of a challenge for all the real roadies to stay away from. Until then, I’m pretty happy with this KOM!
Based on these good tests, I feel like I’ve prepared myself as well as I can heading into the US CUP race season. March 3rd quickly approaches….