Friday, May 22, 2009

Kingsbury Grade Time Trial

Kingsbury Grade TT
May 17, 2009
Gary Griffin

While we in California suffer with races that fill up in two hours and have traffic jams in the parking lots, there is the other State in the NCNCA, Nevada, which has a more relaxed atmosphere. Relaxed also means that results may or may not be posted; only one of the four races from last year had results and they were for the wrong race (either that or half the field was climbing 5000 ft per hour). Of course I didn’t travel 280 miles to a race just because it was layback and I would never have to worry about how low in the field I finished, I entered the race because my brother lives in Carson City, is a member of Alta Alpina, and was entered in the race. This was a chance to visit my brother, meet the people he rides with, and ride the roads he is always braggin about.
The race was a time trial up the renowned Kingsbury Grade, a 7.9 mile course which climbs 2550 feet to the top of Daggett pass at 7344 feet. This was one of four NCNCA sanctioned hill climbs which Alta Alpina and Reno Wheelmen put on each year.
There was no preregistration so my brother, Alan, and I got to the start area early in order to beat the high temperatures which were forecast for later in the day. While waiting for the race to start I was surprised by the last thing I expected to see there, which was another Bicycle Trip kit, but there was indeed a guy in one of the old, green jerseys. We chatted for a while but I am ashamed to say that his name slipped out of my 55+ memory banks during the race. He raced for Bike Trip several years ago and now lives in South Lake Tahoe where he does mainly cyclocross – maybe someone knows him?
Despite the early 10:05 start time the temperature was already in the mid nineties and it was rising fast. And then there was the altitude; even though the first half mile was almost flat, I was already breathing hard and my heart rate was up to 165, already above my L4 level of 157. I hadn’t thought too much about the altitude because I had done some high altitude rides the year before and didn’t seem to be affected much, but that was at a touring pace; kick it up to race pace and altitude, I found, is a major factor. Although I kept my heart rate near 160 the rest of the way up, my power output was 15% lower than it would have been on a hill of similar length in the Bay Area. The thin air sure didn’t seem to affect the locals though; I had only been riding about five minutes when the first red and blue Reno Wheelmen jersey zipped by. Since this was an open category event, being passed didn’t bother me too much especially since I did a little passing myself, but when I was still about ten minutes from the top, I was passed by someone in an Alta Alpina jersey going at an unfathomable speed – these guys sure can climb.
The route was really spectacular with a panoramic view of the desert which extended to the horizon on the right and to the High Sierra peaks on the left. The road was impeccably smooth with a four foot shoulder for all but a short section near the top. I was near my limit when the finish came into view, but Alan’s wife and three girls had come out to cheer us on so, with the roar of four pairs of Livestrong thunder sticks in my ears, I managed a 100 yard, 400 watt kick at the end. I never waited to get my official time, I would have been lucky to finish mid-field, but I was 51:50 on my own clock. That was an abysmal seven minutes slower than I had expected, the altitude and heat having taken their toll. My brother cut two minutes off his time from the previous year but he was disappointed because he was several minutes off his best time. I heard from a couple of riders that the course record of 35:01 had been smashed by three minutes so at least one rider didn’t mind the heat and lack of oxygen.
After the race, while I was trying to re-inflate my lungs I was able to meet some of the other riders. I was surprised that Bicycle Trip was well known and the locals liked to throw out Jim Langley’s name. It seems that his win at Madera gained him a lot of respect – well deserved of course, but being noticed by these guys, who think nothing of knocking off a couple of High Sierra passes after work, is quite a compliment.
After the race Alan suggested we ride the Diamond Valley Road Race course which was only a ten mile ride from the bottom of Kingsbury. In spite of the triple digit temperatures I liked the course so much that I think I will come back in July to the Masters Road Race Championship and have my tail handed to me one more time.


Satin Matt said...

I drove down and up Kingsbury Grade about a year ago and thought it would be a great climb...and an even greater descent. Sounds rough in that heat though. Good ride Gary.

Jim Langley said...

Nice report, Gary, and great job out there. I've heard of that climb for years but never done it. Good for you for topping another famous hill climb and doing the team proud.