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? ;)