Monday, May 28, 2012

2012 Foothills Climbfest Recap

Thirteen RMCCers "toed the line" for the start of the 2012 Foothills Climbfest, contested on Saturday, May 26, 2012. Starting at the Ken Caryl RTD Park-n-Ride, the Climbfest is a grueling test of cycling perseverance, climbing well over 8000 feet in 80 miles. The route includes five climbs in the foothills to the southwest of Denver, including Deer Creek Canyon/High Grade Road (a true foothills classic), Shadow Mountain/Brook Forest, Parmalee Gulch, High Drive Road, Brook Forest/Shadow Mountain (in reverse). The Climbfest has become a mainstay on the RMCC calendar over the past few years. Like other RMCC Challenge Series events, it's not officially a race...but it's as close to race as any event on the RMCC calendar. Riders are encouraged to push themselves to the maximum of their cycling limits and friendly competition is encouraged.

Riders were greeted with cool but pleasant riding conditions (temperatures in the mid-60's) to start the event. However, there was an omnipresent haze in the sky from the ongoing forest fires in New Mexico. Weather conditions became increasingly adverse as the event progressed. The passage of a front brought swirly, (and at times) somewhat dangerous riding conditions, with southwesterly winds gusting over 60 mph. Temperatures warmed up throughout the day as well, reaching an unseasonably warm 90 degrees in the Denver area. The warm, windy conditions made it very difficult for riders to stay hydrated. Other riders really struggled with the smokey conditions. Participant Josh Horwood commented, "the conditions were tough! The smoke made it very difficult to breathe." In traditional RMCC fashion, however, Josh and the other participants persevered!

In spite of the tough weather conditions, riders set a blistering pace up High Grade Road early during the first climb of the day. Seth Stingley, a RMCC new-comer from Palmer Lake, set a very hard pace up the 3,000 foot Deer Creek Canyon/High Grade Road climb, with club veteran Mark Pfeil not too far behind. Not familiar with Climbfest course, Seth made an untimely wrong turn in Conifer, allowing Mark to slip into the lead....a lead that he would not relinquish for the remainder of the event. Mark finished in 4:54. Crafty club veteran, Steve Rudolph, who fell victim to a Deer Creek Canyon "tack attack," battled back from his untimely flat finish in third position with a time of 5:01.

Diane Benoit, who inadvertently showed up to this year's event, was a bit stunned when she found out the Climbfest was not the RMCC club ride. Diane commented, "What do you mean this isn't the club ride?!?" Diane decided to participant in this year's Climbfest anyway as our only female competitor, finishing with an excellent time of 5:54.

The warm, windy weather conditions were not conducive for breaking course records. Wendy Field's 2009 time of 5:31 (14.70 mph) and Mark Lowe's 2011 time of 4:23 (18.48 mph) remain the course benchmarks for this challenging event.

Congratulations to all of this year's participants! Results will be posted shortly on the RMCC mainpage.

Mark Pfeil road a stellar event, completing the challenging course in 4:54, an impressive feat given the warm temperatures and gusty winds.

Seth Stingley, in hot pursuit of Mark Pfeil at the top of Shadow Mountain, put in a tremendous effort, finishing in 4:58. This was Seth's first Climbfest, as well as his first time riding the Evergreen back roads.

 Riding the RMCC club ride which overlapped with the Climbfest, Sargent McDonald meets up with Steve Rudolph and Tom Groves at the top of Shadow Mountain. Steve commented, "How come you aren't out here, Sargent?"

Ron Sheng and Marty Medina took a quick break to refill their water bottles on Shadow Mountain.
Kerry Stewart took a quick break on top of Shadow Mountain before beginning the final jaunt back down Deer Creek Canyon.

Tom Miller, who proudly displayed his Colorado Triple Crown kit, used the Climbfest as preparation to make another run at the 2012 Colorado Triple Crown.

The Foothills Climbfest has an abundance of beautiful mountain scenery, including red rock formations at South Valley Park.

Thanks to club president, Charlie Henderson, and Mark Lowe for providing support for this year's event!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Boulder Fearsome Five Recap

Boulder's beautiful Chautauqua Park...the gateway to Flagstaff Road

Fifteen RMCCers lined up for the inaugural Boulder Fearsome Five on Sunday, May 6, 2012, a new, extremely challenging RMCC event. This event features a unique format: participants had ten hours to climb (and descend) Boulder County's five most difficult climbs, including Flagstaff Road, Magnolia Road, Sugarloaf Road, the Fourmile Canyon-to-Sunshine Canyon Loop, and James Canyon/Overland Road (aka the "SuperJamestown") via Lee Hill Road. Mile-for-mile, this is the most difficult event the RMCC has to offer, featuring multiple climbs with insanely steep pitches. And given the steep grades and high altitude, this course is very likely the most challenging century course in the nation! The route climbs over 14,000 feet in a mere 98 miles. It also includes a tricky, somewhat technical (for road bikes) seven mile dirt and gravel section during the climb up Fourmile Canyon, through the community of Gold Hill, and windy descent down the upper three miles of Sunshine Canyon.

RMCCers at Eben G. Fine Park, the start of the inaugural Boulder Fearsome Five
When asked why the event was placed so early on the RMCC cycling calendar, event organizer Mark Lowe responded, "this event is really meant to prepare riders for the much more difficult events the club has to offer later in the summer...whether it be a mountainous brevet or one of the Colorado Triple Crown double century events. Plus the non-competitive format is conducive to greater rider participation. And even if riders can't (or don't want to) complete all of the climbs, riders are guaranteed to get a great workout!"

Most riders would agree with that. However, many riders weren't so excited about riding the dirt and gravel roads over Fourmile Canyon and Sunshine Canyon. RMCC speedster and Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) Charly Miller recipient (sub-56 hours, 40 minutes), Billy Edwards, definitely wasn't so keen about the dirt roads. "I don't know...some of those gravel sections were pretty sketchy!" Ryan Franz, also a Charly Miller recipient from last summer's PBP, disagreed, "I've ridden thousands of miles on roads like that." Club veteran, Will de Rosset, agreed with Ryan, stating that "it really wasn't that bad!"

Snow accumulating the SuperJamestown made for a frigid descent!

At the start, riders were greeted by partly cloudy skies, cool temperatures in the mid-50s (much cooler than the summer-like temperatures the Front Range had been experiencing over the previous several weeks), and relatively gentle (but chilly) breezes. As the day progressed, however, the Boulder Fearsome Five truly lived up to its name as the weather became a bit more "fearsome" in its own right. Temperatures began to plummet as the afternoon progressed, and riders experienced snow showers--heavy at times--on James Canyon Road and Overland Road, an unpleasant surprise to many riders who were inadequately prepared for the winter-like weather! A couple of Fearsome Five participants made the ill-fated attempt to complete the climb up the SuperJamestown as the nasty, bitter weather progressed, only to become hypothermic during the frigid descent. Fortunately, Jamestown locals rescued these riders, sagging them back to the Eben G. Fine park.

Dave Secunda is stunned by the snow showers on Overland Road

Event results will be posted shortly on the RMCC website according to number of climbs successfully completed, not according to time. Congratulations to Ryan Franz, however, for setting the club benchmark for the course! Ryan completed the mountainous course in 7 hours, 21 minutes, a truly impressive feat for this very challenging course! Congratulations to all of the riders who participated in this insanely difficult new RMCC event!

Interestingly, several riders felt "cheated" that the course route was only 98 miles...not 100 miles. We'll see if we can fix that for next season!

Special thanks to RMCC veteran, Dick Wiss, who gave up his Sunday to provide event support!!!

Will deRosset, Chuck Matthys, and Kelly Shannon are grateful to have survived the insane climbing and bitter cold!

What the riders said about the Boulder Fearsome Five:
"Great, challenging course! I would come back again. It's in my backyard!"
-Ryan F.

"I [was] trying to survive!"
-Tom G.

"I think you should rename the ride the 'Climb, Puke, and Repeat x 5...the CPR 5!'"
-Sargent M.

"Great event! Thanks for organizing it!"
-Sheeyun P.

"I was shivering so hard that I couldn't control my bike!"
-Chuck M.

"I can live with myself for only completing four climbs!"
-Sandy P.

When asked about the event, Billy E. didn't say a word as he prepared for his frigid descent down James Canyon Road...he just gave me the one-finger salute. (I consider that a compliment when talking about this course BTW! :)

"This course could only have been created by the mind of madman!!! Wait a second...that was me!"
-Mark L.

The dreaded tunnel along Boulder Canyon Road