Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Boulder Fearsome Five: Los Cinco Diablos

Back in the future!

Due to road damage sustained during the EPIC flooding that struck the Boulder County and the rest of the Colorado Front Range in September 2013, we will be unable to host this event in 2015. Final repairs in James Canyon and Lefthand Canyon should be completed by the end of 2015.

Okay...everyone wants to claim that they have the "hardest century ride" in the nation:

1) Planet Ultra has the Mulholland Challenge, featuring 13,375 feet in 116 miles (115.3 feet/mile)

2) The Mt. Shasta Summit Century features 16,500 feet of climbing in 139 miles (118.7 feet/mile)

3) The Everest Challenge Stage Race (day #1) features 15,465 feet of climbing in 120 miles (128.8 feet/mile)

Well...the RMCC has just upped the ante with this year's first challenge series event, the Boulder Fearsome Five!!! Featuring 14,000+ feet of climbing in 98 miles (142.8 feet/mile), we have what we believe is truly the nation's most vertically-challenged cycling century! With several climbs over 8,000 feet in elevation, our rarified Colorado air definitely adds to the challenge! And I wouldn't get too disappointed that the course is a little shy of 100 miles. With the amount of "weaving" that many riders will be doing during these climbs, I'm sure that many participants will easily eclipse the century mark!

The climbs featured in this event are truly Boulder County's most "devilish" climbs...Flagstaff Mountain Road, Magnolia Road, Sugarloaf Road, Four Mile Canyon Road/Sunshine Canyon Road combination, and Super Jamestown via Lee Hill Road. In fact, there's probably not many places in the world where you can find as many challenging road cycling climbs within such close proximity to each other as in Boulder.

Here's what you're getting into...CLIMBING INSANITY!!!

Event Background Information and Rules:
1) Date: Sunday, May 6, 2012. Check-in time/Start time: 7:30 am/8:00 am

2) Start/End location: Eben G. Fine Park, west Arapahoe Street, Boulder, Colorado.
Note: If possible, try to park in the neighborhoods to the east and south of the park to preserve parking for park patrons.

3) RMCC membership is required to participate in this event. If you're not a member and you want to participate, please sign up!

4) Pre-registration is encouraged (but not required) to participate in this event. Pre-registration allows us to plan how much water we need to stock our support vehicle with. If you make a last second decision to partipate, please plan to bring extra water for yourself which you can store in the support vehicle. There is no registration fee.

5) The primary goal of this event is to safely complete as many of Boulder County's most notorious climbs as possible within the 10 hour time limit. This club event is not a race!  For some riders, this event will be an opportunity to spend a fun (but challenging) day on the bike with their fellow RMCC colleagues. For other riders, it will a chance to train for other "climbing" events...maybe a local hillclimb race or the events of the Colorado Triple Crown. However, for everyone who participates, it will be a cruel reminder that cycling season is here! Time to dust off those climbing legs and get to work!!!

6) Each rider will receive an event passport during the check-in. At each control point, riders must record: 1) the time they reach the control point and 2) answer the question on the passport to verify that they actually completed the climb. Please bring a pen or pencil to record your answers.

7) Riders must complete the climbs in the following order: 1) Flagstaff Mountain Road, 2) Magnolia Road, 3) Sugarloaf Road, 4) Fourmile Canyon-Gold Hill-Sunshine Canyon, 5) James Canyon Road/Overland Road (via Lee Hill Road). Please refer to the cue sheet and map for route specifics. This will be posted on the RMCC mainpage very soon! For a prelimary preview of the route, click: Boulder Fearsome Five.  Riders may complete as few or as many of the climbs as they want to. But in order to receive credit for any of the climbs, they must have their event passports turned into the final checkpoint at Eben G. Fine Park by 6:00 p.m. Passports will not be accepted after this time.

8) Results will be posted based on number of climbs completed. Individual rider's times will not be posted.

9) Riders must have a red tail light to ride through the tunnel in Boulder Canyon. This tunnel is not very long (75 yards or so), but it is simply too dark to ride through it safely without a tail light! Rider safety is our utmost importance!

10) Please bring a good attitude, a smile, and your climbing legs! This ride is extremely difficult!

Event Tips and Strategies:
1) Nutrition and hydration are critical to completing this challenge! These climbs are insanely difficult and it is very easy to bonk (especially early in the season) if you do not keep up with your caloric intake, hydration, and electrolytes. Consider eating a bar or snack at the top of each climb.

2) After completing the first climb up Flagstaff Mountain Road, riders are encouraged to return to their vehicles at Eben G. Fine Park to refill their water bottles before starting the jaunt up Boulder Canyon to the beastly Magnolia Road.

3) Riders are strongly encouraged to ride with three water bottles. The RMCC will provide a support vehicle stocked with water that will be located at the turn-off for Foumile Canyon in Boulder Canyon. Riders will be able to access this vehicle before starting the climb up Fourmile Canyon. Riders may store any additional provisions that they may require in the support vehicle, but please note that most riders won't reach the support vehicle until at least 3-5 hours after the event has started.

4) After descending Sunshine Canyon, riders may get additional water at the Shell Gas Station on the west side of Broadway Street at the intersection of Rosewood Avenue and Broadway Street before tackling Lee Hill Road. Please note that there are a few restaurants (including a Subway) directly to the east of the gas station. So if you need a lunch break, feel free to stop and refuel. But don't stop too long...the clock is still running!

5) Consider riding with 25 mm tires for this event! These will be especially helpful on the long (7+ miles) packed dirt sections of Fourmile Canyon Road, Gold Run Road, and Sunshine Canyon Road.

6) If your legs require a bit of "warming up" before riding, consider arriving 15-20 minutes early to do a bit of spinning.

Brief notes about the climbs:
This event has absolutely NO junk miles. Starting at Eben G. Fine Park off of west Arapahoe Street in Boulder, riders will begin to climb IMMEDIATELY...

Devil #1: Flagstaff Mountain
From Eben G. Fine Park, riders will head south through side streets of west Boulder to approach Baseline Road, which runs to the north of Boulder's beautiful Chautauqua Park. From this point, riders will begin the daunting task of climbing Flagstaff Mountain, gaining nearly 2300 feet from Eben G. Fine Park. The actual climb is only a little over 5 miles long, but mile 4 to 4.5 will have you begging for mercy, pitching up over 20% in the switchbacks! Flagstaff will be featured in this summer's US Pro Cycling Challenge during Stage 6 (Golden-to-Boulder), giving RMCC riders the opportunity to pre-ride this epic climb!

From Flagstaff Mountain, riders may return back to Eben G. Fine Park where they can grab a quick snack and refill their water bottles, before beginning the second climbing challenge of the day. From Eben G. Fine Park, riders will turn west up Boulder Canyon for the next devilish challenge...Magnolia Road.

Devil #2: Magnolia Road
Okay...Magnolia Road is a BEAST! Don't be fooled by its serene, peaceful name... Magnolia Road has Boulder County's steepest sustained grades, climbing almost 2100 feet in 5 miles (avg 9.1% and 420 feet/mile). In comparison, Lookout Mountain in Golden climbs 1,250 feet in 4.5 miles from the pillar at the bottom of the mountain to the turn-off for Buffalo Bill's grave (277.7 feet/mile). Magnolia is 34% steeper than Lookout Mountain! The first two miles will hit you like a "ton of bricks," averaging almost 14%! The road does "mellow" a bit after the first two miles, but then pitches upward again as the road switchbacks toward the summit. Exhausted riders will turn around at the "Pavement Ends" sign. Be sure to record your time and answer the informational question on your cue card to receive credit for completing the climb. At this point in the event, riders will have climbed 5,000 vertical feet in only 22 miles! From the turn-around point, riders will begin the gnarly descent down Magnolia Road, returning to Boulder Canyon. Be cautious of gravel on the road! From Boulder Canyon, riders will continue west a very short distance, where they will reach the turn-off for Sugarloaf Road...

Devil #3: Sugarloaf Road
It can be argued that this climb is perhaps the "easiest" of the Boulder Fearsome Five climbs: 1) It doesn't have the insanely steep grades featured in the other climbs of the Fearsome Five and 2) Sugarloaf Road "only" gains 1,600 feet in 6.7 miles. (Although it does descend almost 500 feet to the turn-around point at the "Pavement Ends" sign. Riders do have to climb back up this section to return to the "high point" of this climb). However, Sugarloaf Road can become a beast of climb if there are brisk westerly headwinds or if temperatures are on the toasty side. Sun exposure can be a real issue on this climb as forest fires from past years have left the top portions of this climb with a barren, moonscape appearance. Be prepared to descend like "blazing saddles" when returning toward Boulder Canyon as this descent is not nearly as technical as some of the other downhills that riders will descend during the Boulder Fearsome Five.

Devil #4: Fourmile Canyon-Gold Hill-Sunshine Canyon: The Dirty Devil!
"I beg your pardon! Road bikes on dirt roads??? This is simply preposterous!!! This simply cannot be!" This route is a clear departure from RMCC tradition to not ride road bikes on gravel roads! But that's what you're going to do to complete this devilish challenge!!! The Fourmile Canyon Road-Gold Run Road-Sunshine Canyon route is simply one of the best cycling climbs in the state! Andy Hampsten, the only American to ever win the Giro D'Italia (1988), has called this route his favorite in Boulder County...well, if it's good enough for Andy, then it's good enough for the RMCC!

In all honesty, if you've never ridden this route, then you're missing out on a true cycling gem! This loop features serene, peaceful canyon roads, generally gentle climbing grades, and amazing mountain views! However, there is the omnipresent reminder of forest fires. 2010's Fourmile Canyon fire devastated large sections of Fourmile Canyon and Sunshine Canyon...the damage can be seen for miles...

And now...here's the dirt...on the dirt. There is a long (7+ mile) hard-packed dirt section starting shortly after Fourmile Canyon Road veers to the west and the road name changes to Gold Run Road. This dirt road is in very good shape. Yes...there are some gravel sections, especially in the switchbacks, but these are fairly easy to negotiate. And the views--amazing rock formations and pristine vistas--are stunning! Riders will climb through the rustic town of Gold Hill before reaching the summit of Sunshine Canyon Road. At the summit, participants will have already climbed over 10,000 feet in under 53 miles! From the summit, riders will begin a tricky, 3 mile descent on the hard packed dirt roads. Remember to ride cautiously and take your time! Eventually, the pavement will return in earnest and riders can begin the blazing 3,000 foot descent down Sunshine Canyon Road back to Boulder.

The Mini-Devil: Lee Hill Road
Lee Hill Road is a route that is familiar to many RMCC club veterans, as the club frequents this climb several times per year. Lee Hill Road features steep grades (and twisty descents), climbing over 1,400 feet from Boulder before descending to Lefthand Canyon Road. Don't get greedy!!! Riders who are running a little short on time should consider returning back to Boulder via Old Stage Road so they can have their passports turned in before the 10 hour time limit expires! Riders will get credit for completing this mini-devil climb!

Devil #5: The Super Jamestown
This devil, known to Boulderites as the "Super Jamestown," climbs James Canyon Road through the town of Jamestown, eventually pitching upward as the road name changes to Overland Road. For riders who are already suffering, this climb is a heinous way to add to their misery! After passing through Jamestown, James Canyon Road continues to get steeper and steeper and steeper! The final 1.5 miles features consistent grades of 14-15%! As the road flattens out a bit at the summit and riders reach the very much anticipated "Pavement Ends" sign, riders can be content that the hardest part of the day is complete. But participants shouldn't get too content! They still have to get back to Boulder (over Olde Stage Road) to get their event passports turned in before the 10 hour time limit expires.

Words of Caution:
1) Overall, this route is a fairly safe route. However, Boulder Canyon--with its speedy traffic--is not the safest cycling road. But hey...it's Boulder, and most drivers are fairly conscientious of cyclists. In spite of this, riding single file is imperative!!! Always be sure to look behind you before passing another rider to make sure you are obstructing traffic.

2) As previously stated many times, please be extremely careful when riding (either ascending or descending) Boulder Canyon Road. This road has a very narrow (and in some places no) shoulder.

3) I'll mention it again...as riders cruise west up the Boulder Canyon, they will encounter a short (75 yard) tunnel approximately 3 miles west of Eben G. Fine Park. Riders must have a rear red tail light to ride through this tunnel!!! It is simply too dark to procede through it without a tail light!!! If you notice that you will be riding through the tunnel as vehicles approaching from behind, please pull of the road momentarily to allow traffic to enter the tunnel first!!!

4) On Magnolia Road, please be extremely careful on this descent! This is not the place to try to beat your friends to the bottom! It is very steep and windy and there are still many patches of gravel on the road.

Good luck to everyone as you prepare to "dance with the devils!" May the cycling forces be with you!