I drove to Lake Placid yesterday to pre-ride the Wilmington Course. And yeah, for what felt like the 100th time this spring, it was raining and windy when I had a long ride on tap. Seriously? What the hell is the universe prepping me for? So on goes the rain coat (Shower’s Pass BTW. Working great for me this spring, grrr!). I got on my bike and started out. My plan was to do the first two serious climbs on the course, turn around at the top of the second and come back to my car. Total time about 3 hours.
The rain stopped about 15 minutes into it and I’ll just say up front, it ended up being one of my best rides of the summer so far. The first climb was hard because the road (which has a lot of sand) was very soft. Tire sinking soft. But up I went. Feeling strong. I bombed down the other side and headed to climb 2. The second climb is hard both physically and mentally. The first half of the climb is paved but it has 4 very steep (greater than 20% grade) sections on it. There are two false “tops” that just leave you sad when you see the next steep section. But up I went. And while I was going up on of the higher grades I thought that the first time I rode this, I had to get off my bike and walk. Yesterday I felt strong, and good. There is a 2 mile (false) “flat” section that leads to the second half of the climb. The second half of the climb is a relentless 6-8% grade section that seems to go on for a long time. You hit one false summit, feel good, and then turn a corner to a 100 yard long 25% grade loose gravel section. This is actually the last part of the climb and once you get up that section you are there. I have never cleaned that section, and it is the place where I learned that sometimes its faster, easier, safer, to walk than to ride. And I got as far up it as I could and then walked the rest, again. Continued on for a little mountain top flat section. Rough rutted road. Lots of standing water. Total blast on a MTB. In a wet misty way, it was a beautiful site.
(There was no snow BTW. Most of what hit over the weekend was at elevations higher than 2,000 ft, and most of that had melted already.) Then it was time to turn around and bomb back down. Of course steep up is steep down and I hit 40 mph on the way back to the bottom of the hill (I love this descent, but I did take it somewhat cautiously. Nothing to be gained by putting it all on the line in a pre-ride.)
Back up and over the first mountain. That’s my favorite climb of the race. It’s set-up perfectly for a tired return. Up and over. Then back down.
Got to my car and ended with a short 2 mile single track.
All finished. Dirty and gritty.
The best part of the day came when I got home and uploaded my gps track. And there to my shock on STRAVA were a whole bunch of personal best times.