Wednesday, April 17, 2013

They're Baaaaack...Los Cinco Diablos!

For 2017.....they're baaaaaack! Los Cinco Diablos...or otherwise known as the Boulder Fearsome Five, for the first time since the epic Front Range floods of 2013. The Boulder Fearsome Five is the nation's toughest century ride!!! Featuring 16,000+ feet of climbing in 100 miles (>160 feet/mile), the Boulder Fearsome Five is truly the nation's most vertically-challenged cycling century! And with several climbs reaching over 8,000 feet in elevation, the rarified Colorado air definitely adds to the challenge!

The climbs featured in this event are truly Boulder County's most "devilish" climbs...Flagstaff Mountain Road, Magnolia Road, Sugarloaf Road, Sunshine Canyon/Fourmile Canyon loop, and the SuperJames. 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!

Holy crap!!! What are we getting ourselves into???

The elevation profile for the 2016 Boulder Fearsome Five. Do you feel nauseated?!?

Event Background Information and Rules:

1) Date: Aug/Sept 2017  TBD.

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 of the park to preserve parking for park patrons.

3) Course: 2017 Boulder Fearsome Five
Official cue sheet will be available at the start of the ride. Climbs must be ridden completed in the order previewed on this map and listed on the cue sheet to receive credit for completing the climb.

4) Mission: the primary goal of this event is to safely complete as many of Boulder County's most notorious climbs as possible within the 11 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 friends. For other riders, it will a chance to train for other "climbing" events...maybe a local hill climb race such as Bob Cooke/Mt. Evans or the events of the Colorado Triple Crown. However, for everyone who participates, it will be a cruel reminder that cycling season is finally here! Time to dust off those climbing legs and get to work!!!

5) Results. Results will be posted based on number of climbs completed in 11 hours. Individual rider's times will not be posted.

6) Registration. RMCC membership is required to participate in this event. If you're not a member and you want to participate, please sign up: RMCC Membership! There is no additional registration fee...just bring a smile, a good attitude, and your best climbing legs!!! RMCC membership forms will be available at the start of the ride. Pre-registration on the RMCC main page is encouraged to participate in this event. Pre-registration allows us to plan how much water we need to stock our support vehicle with.

7) Safety: 1) Riders are strongly encouraged 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! 2) This course has about 8 miles of dirt/gravel roads. Riding road bikes on gravel roads is an acquired skill. Please practice before the day of this ride!

8) Did I mention that this ride is extremely difficult?!?

Climb Descriptions:

The top of the SuperJames climb and the high point of the BFF course, a little over 8,500 feet!

Devil #1: The Super James
Starting from Eben G. Fine Park in Boulder, riders will travel north on the western streets of Boulder, turning west on Lee Hill Road and climbing over Olde Stage Road. At the junction of Lefthand Canyon, riders will head west and embark on their first devilish climb of the day. This devil, known to Boulderites as the "Super James," climbs James Canyon Road through the town of Jamestown, eventually pitching upward as the road name changes to Overland Road. For participants of the Boulder Fearsome Five, this climb marks the beginning of a long day suffering! After passing through the town of 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, participants can breathe a sigh of relief after completing the first major climb of the day!  Now back to Boulder! Time is ticking to complete the Boulder Fearsome Five course in under 11 hours!

Mini-Devil #1: Lee Hill Drive
Lee Hill Road is a route that is familiar to many RMCC club veterans, as the club frequents this climb several times per year. From Lefthand Canyon, participants will climb up the western side of Lee Hill Drive. Riders will be relieved to know that the western side of Lee Hill Drive is not nearly as long or as steep as the eastern side. After descending the steepest sections of Lee Hill Drive, participants will make an immediate right onto Wagonwheel Gap Road.

Mini-Devil #2: Wagonwheel Gap Road/Linden Drive Loop
Okay...not many riders outside of Boulder are aware of the Linden neighborhood. Nestled in the foothills to the west of Boulder, this little community--with its steep, windy residential roads is a mini-cycling gem--and in this case, a mini-devil! It also marks the first time that riders will encounter gravel roads for the day. What was that??? You read that correctly.....gravel roads. I beg your pardon! Road bikes on gravel roads??? This is simply preposterous!!! This simply cannot be!!! Well, the Boulder Fearsome Five is a clear departure from the RMCC norm to not ride on gravel roads. But that's what you're going to do to complete this mini-devil challenge!!! From Wagonwheel Gap Road, riders will turn south onto Bow Mountain Road. The climb up Bow Mountain Road is not long...only a little over one mile in length, but it is steep!!! Riders will encounter grades as steep as 15% on gravel roads. Be prepared to keep your hind end in the saddle! Riders will complete the paved Wild Horse Circle loop at the top of the climb before beginning the twisty descent down Timber Lane and Linden Drive to return to west Boulder.

Scenic views from Fourmile Canyon

Devil #2: Sunshine Canyon-Gold Hill-Fourmile Canyon: The Dirty Devil!
For their next devilish climb, riders will embark on one of Boulder's classic cycling loops, the Sunshine Canyon-Fourmile Canyon loop, passing through the communities of Gold Hill and Salina. This loop 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, and amazing mountain views! However, the climb is very steep in places, pitching up to 18% toward the top of Sunshine Canyon. And there is also the omnipresent reminder of forest fires. The 2010 Fourmile Canyon fire devastated large sections of Fourmile Canyon and Sunshine Canyon...the damage can be seen for miles.

Ominous views from Sunshine Canyon are a constant reminder
that forest fires are a very real risk in Boulder County!

In order complete this loop, however, riders are going to once again ride on gravel roads...nearly seven consecutive miles of gravel roads for that matter! For the most part, the gravel roads are in very good shape. Yes...there are some sandy sections (especially in the switchbacks) that can be a bit tricky to negotiate. But the views of the amazing rock formations and mountain vistas from the top of this classic Boulder loop are stunning, making this loop worth the added effort! From near the top of Sunshine Canyon, riders will complete the final three miles of this climb on packed gravel roads, then make a tricky four-mile descent through the rustic communities of Gold Hill and Salina. From Salina, riders will once again embrace the beautiful smooth pavement of Fourmile Canyon Drive, descending south to Boulder Canyon. Riders will turn west onto Boulder Canyon Drive toward their next climbing challenges of the day...the feared Sugarloaf Road and Magnolia Road!

Views from the packed gravel roads on top of Sunshine Canyon

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. After returning to Boulder Canyon, riders will head east down the canyon, immediately turning south onto Magnolia Road.

Yup...that's not a lie! Be prepared to suffer, especially on Magnolia Road!!!
Devil #4: 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. From the turn-around point, riders will begin the gnarly descent down Magnolia Road back to Boulder Canyon. Be cautious of gravel on the road! Riders will then head east down Boulder Canyon Drive back to Eben G. Fine Park to grab a quick snack and to refill their bottles before beginning the final devil of the day...Flagstaff Mountain!

The pristine Boulder Flatirons at the base of Flagstaff Mountain
Devil # 5: 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 to 20% in the switchbacks! Congratulations on conquering the final devil! But participants shouldn't get too content! They still have to get back to Eben G. Fine Park to get their event passports turned in before the 11 hour time limit expires. From the summit of Flagstaff Mountain, riders will make the final descent back to Eben G. Fine Park.

Views of the dreaded tunnel along Boulder Canyon Drive

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'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. This road has a very narrow (and in some places no) shoulder.

3) Riders are encouraged to take their time and safely navigate the gravel sections of the course, especially from the top of Sunshine Canyon through Gold Hill and Salina.

4) I'll mention it 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 are strongly encouraged to have a rear red tail light to ride through this tunnel!!! It is simply too dark to proceed 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!!!

5) Please be careful on ALL of the descents. Given the frequent spring snow storms this season, many of these roads will undoubtedly be covered with gravel.  These descents are NOT the best places to try to beat your friends to the bottom!

Riders at the start of the 2012 Boulder Fearsome Five.
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, at least for the first 40 miles. The RMCC will provide a support vehicle stocked with water that will be located at several locations along the course (see above). Riders may store any additional provisions that they may require in the support vehicle. After completing the climb up Magnolia Road, riders may return to their vehicles at Eben G. Fine Park in Boulder and refill their bottles before beginning the final climb up Flagstaff Mountain.

5) Consider riding with 25 mm (or even 28 mm) tires for this event! These will be especially helpful on the long (7+ miles) packed gravel sections of Sunshine Canyon, Gold Run Road, and Fourmile 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.

7) Oh yeah...gearing...bring the smallest gears you can find. A 34 x 28-32 would be ideal (and you still won't have enough gears)!!

Good luck to everyone as you get ready to tackle Los Cinco Diablos! May the cycling forces be with you!