Monday, October 21, 2013

LKHC #3: Bohlman - On Orbit

By Eddie Santos

Pain. Agony. Peace. Perhaps the only words I can use to describe the latest Low-Key Hillclimb, this week held on the brutal slopes of Bohlman-On Orbit based in Saratoga. The 4.44 mile 2,036 ft ascent only tells part of the story, as the main stretch of Norton / On Orbit is a vomit inducing 1.6 mile stretch at 14%, in which  pain and agony only begin to describe the feelings of one's legs as they weave back and forth across the road. Peace, you may ask? Well, I found myself realizing that this climb very well may be the end of me, and I was at peace with that, as long as I had an excuse not to keep going up.

Alas, that did not happen, and mayhem ensued. This week Team Bicycle Trip welcomed climbing extraordinaire Dan Perry to the fold, joining this seasons LKHC regulars, Matt, Nils, Stefano, and myself. Adrien Costa, our local junior climbing phenom, riding for the Garmin-Sharp development team, had re-emerged from a broken collarbone, and was likely looking to test his form post-injury. Kenneth Spencer, a traditional powerhouse who very recently broke the 15 minute barrier up Old La Honda, was also on the bill. The sight of these two certainly lit the fire under our Italian comrade, Stefano,who was so in the zone that we had to convince him to leave the seat post & saddle on his bike, despite his desire to shave off as much weight from his rig as possible. Okay, so perhaps I'm exaggerating slightly, but he did brave the climb without water bottle cages, so stick with me.

As expected, the pack shot out of the gate quickly, as both fast and slow riders jockeyed for position. After an initial mellow climb up Norton, in which Nils and I thoroughly annoyed the slew of riders around us with a playful banter, the fun began, the aforementioned 1.6 mile, 14% stretch, a segment appropriately titled "Son of a bi***" on Strava. My heart rate shot through the roof immediately, holding 190-192 bpm (~97%) for the duration of the segment. Despite this, I was feeling salty, and found that I had enough adrenaline coursing through my veins to keep hammering. I was mostly out of the saddle, occasionally sitting back down to give myself enough of a rest. The out of the saddle was mostly necessary, since unless I sat way up on the saddle, my front wheel would buck upwards due to the steepness.

Stefano and Dan were up the road. They were gone, off seeking glory as only they can on such a climb, as Nils and I were oscillating back and forth, making comments to each other every so often in an effort to have our competition believe this was just a casual climb for the two of us. Once On Orbit hit, bringing beauty that only an 18% stretch of road can, Nils got about 15-20 seconds on me, and hilarity ensued. Personally, the pain in my legs was as nasty as I'd ever felt. I was out of the saddle, with my hips swinging back and forth, and I was having trouble finding anything to muster into those peddles. I may have popped at this moment, but I had the advantage of watching our resident Honey Badger up ahead, in the saddle, swerving back and forth across the length of the road, as if he had been bit by a venomous Cobra and had the venom seeping through his veins. At one point, I almost witnessed him go straight off the road into the hillside (to which he later remarked, "you saw that?!"). To witness Nils exhibit pain is a rare sight, and so I knew, if he was hurting too, I should embrace the pain, and continue the journey upwards.

Once we got back to On Orbit, the terrain returned to a more steady climb, as Nils was able to recover and power up on slopes more favorable to a rider of his style. There were three guys just ahead of me and two more anxious to chase me down and ruin my spirits. With this in mind, and knowing that the end (of the climb) was near, I attacked on every rise that I could. The top was basically a set of rollers, and despite the appearance we were all dangling in front of each other like bait, no one caught each other and we all flew into the finish.

The performance by Team Bike Trip was so collectively solid, that we took the team competition ahead of LKHC powerhouse, Team Brown Zone, 358.21 to 356.79. Individually, Stefano placed 3rd with a time of 26:51 (125.67), 1:54 behind the winner Adrien (134.99), and 37 seconds behind Ken (128.55). Dan twerked in 7th at 28:20 (119.25), Nil in 15th at 29:52 (113.28), myself 21st at 31:21 (108.06), and Matt 30th at 32:24 (104.64).

On the season, Stefano moves into to the yellow jersey / top spot, a first ever for Team Bicycle Trip, with a firm 4 point lead over challenger David Collet of Pen Velo/Pomodoro, with Nils, myself, and Matt chasing in 7th, 20th, and 22nd, respectively. In the team competition, we advanced to 2nd overall, behind the Brown Zone, who have remained ahead of us on the strength of their women (we're looking at you, Katrin. No pressure.). I managed to claim the brown jersey, as the most improved rider from 2012 to 2013, having increased my median points by 23.47, from 84.59 last year to 108.06 for this year. This week's effort allowed Dan to claim the best Mass Adjusted Climbing Rate for the Fall thus far, illustrating the fact that he is, indeed, an animal.

Next week brings the Portola Valley Hills, a self-ride through the foothills of the Peninsula. We kindly request your presence.

Results & pictures here
Stefano obviously thirsty from not having any water bottles.

Dan making On Orbit hurt.

Nils pondering life's deepest questions.
I was in the saddle at some point?

Couldn't find a picture of Matt, perhaps he drove to the top? ;)

Monday, October 7, 2013

LKHC #1: Montebello

You know Stefano's full bore when he's out of the saddle.
By Eddie Santos

This past Saturday marked the return of the Low-Key Hill Climb series, once again kicking off with a climb up Montebello Road on a picture perfect morning. I've anticipated the return of LKHC greatly since last Fall, in which the series provided my first introduction to competitive cycling. Though I enjoyed pouring everything I had into the pedals, gritting my teeth climbing up the likes of Soda Springs Rd with a torn meniscus, the results were not pretty, and I vowed to return to the series with great vengeance.

Bike Trip had fine representation for this week's climb with Matt, Nils, Stefano, and myself present. Montebello is a very nice climb, totaling 2,000 ft of climbing over 5.2 miles. The first 2 miles are roughly 9%, the next mile is 3%, and the final two are 8% before giving way to some rollers leading up to the finish. The field had some pretty strong talent on the start list, including Chris Phipps, the recent masters national champion.

Nils shows (knows?) no pain.
The group staged in the upper parking lot, and after a rolling start to the bottom of the climb, the race was on. Stefano and Nils immediately did a great job navigating through the hordes of overly ambitious riders to get towards the front, clear of some riders who were making noises that made the rest of the pack concerned about their well-being. I followed Matt for the first mile, while he also weaved around riders who were dropping back fast. Initially, my legs (particularly my quads) felt somewhat sore after a week full of softball games, but it was only pain, and knew that they would be ready to go when I needed them. 

After clearing a large number of people, we finally got some space, and so I decided to punch it to see if I could keep Stefano and Nils in my sights, at least until the flatter, middle part. I eventually lost sight of the two of them, but managed to ride up to a pack of eight or so riders to draft as the gradient eased. I drank, calmed my breathing, and hit it hard once again once the serious climbing resumed. I dropped four or so riders, and went uphill with another four at a decent pace. The next two miles were a hammerfest, in which somehow I managed to keep pumping my legs despite my heart rate holding steady at 187 bpm (95%). I found a groove smoothly moving in and out of the saddle to let the different muscles in my legs recover.

As we approached the top, it became obvious we were getting to the rollers when the group of riders I was with attacked. In hindsight, I should've followed, but I was on the brink and unsure how much longer the climb would last, and figured I wouldn't lose too much time simply maintaining my pace. Soon enough though, I saw the sign indicating 200 paces, and gave what I had left in the tank to get to the line, scanning the scene for the refreshments as I yelled my number out to the coordinators.

Glad photos can't capture internal stress!
The overall winner was a junior, Jason Saltzman, of Team Specialized Racing Juniors, with a time of 26:08. Stefano had a sizzling time of 28:09 (score: 122.43), good for 7th overall. Nils also had a blistering time, coming in at 29:01 (118.74), for 11th place. I was the next 'Tripper, arriving in 29th place at 31:15 (110.29), and Matt was just behind me in 32nd, at 31:55 (107.95). As a team, we finished sixth with a score of 351.46, yet just 4.34 points behind the winners, The Brown Zone!
Perhaps the picture of the year.
Last year, I averaged 86.45 over the four climbs I did in the Low-Key series, so to begin this year's climb with a score of 110.29, an improvement of nearly 25 points, was very fulfilling! It definitely reflects upon the high quality of training with great teammates week in and week out over the past year, along with the great support provided by the guys at Bicycle Trip. This next week's climb brings Montevina (+ dirt), which I'm very much looking forward to, and hopefully will be joined by more than a few of you fine folks!

Official results and photos here.