24 years ago in 1988 Rick Benson and I posted a fast time (they stopped timing this ride long ago) on the original course (they have since shortened the route by a few miles) and today we connected for most of this ride again by chance(!) for what I think is the first time since that year.
But the motivation for today started because of the impetus of Jeff Reed who lucked out and got a lottery entry. He gave me a shout and it turns out I got in too so along with some of his friends we headed to THE mountain.
In addition to Jeff we also hooked up with Sean "my mouth is saying I'm okay with a casual pace but really I want to teach younger people to respect their elders" Phillips, my friend John Ospina and the two friends of Jeff were Tony Blazejack and Justin Calvo.
It was a fabulous day. The mountain was in the clear and I opted to throw caution to the wind with regard to wardrobe and started in a sleeveless top. Bring it! The sun that is. As our group coalesced at the start line I saw Rick and his group roll out so I told everyone we needed to catch that train. It did not take us long and then we were at least 15 riders.
It was a stated goal of mine to hit up every food stop so that is what we did. It's the way I like to roll and as I have heard Jeff say many times, "I ride to eat!" You go Jeff.
The low-lying fog and clouds persisted a bit longer than I would have liked but I never got cold so it was okay. But of course when the sun did come out - as it usually does on the way to Ashford - it was sooo nice.
We must have been moving along at a reasonable clip as not everyone was too pumped up to pull. It was also the case that some people pulled too much and too hard too early and paid the price later on. :) Still, we were all together as we entered the park.
As the first real climb started Justin had to slow down a bit and Sean decided it was time to up the pace. After about 500 m I had enough and dropped off. Lucky for me Jeff, Rick, John and Tony felt the same way mere meters later. We never saw Sean again.
I had to stop once on the way up to Paradise to stretch my back but it was still a nice climb. I must have been excited (I love this ride!) because I kept pointing out the views to everyone I was riding with. :) At the top we got a group photo with the mountain in the background. The cloud 'halo' was really spectacular.
I also made sure we stopped at Box Canyon for a peek into the crevasse that the water flows through. We all wondered aloud how many phones and sunglasses had been lost here… This was of course AFTER stopping for food at the Box Canyon aid station. I'm not sure I will ever tire of the chocolate croissants they serve here. That's right, I had two. I am not ashamed to admit it.
The little climb out of the Box Canyon aid station is always deceptive and today it wrecked me. By the top I was just about to cramp and John was slowly pulling away from me. Luckily I recovered on the descent and at the bottom I filled my bottles again for the climb up to Cayuse Pass.
I have ridden this climb totally empty/shattered and fresh and it's amazing how different you can feel on the same stretch of road. today was not a stellar day in terms of performance but it was beautiful out so who cares. John and I slowly pulled ahead of Rick and Tony dropped back with Jeff and Justin. I realized pretty soon that 9 mph was my max so asked John to keep it there and he was happy to do so. Nice.
we pulled over at the water stop half way up and I soaked my head and cycling cap - that felt freaking great. I think I slowed a little more toward the top and then Tony caught us with literally 200 m to go. Awesome! After regrouping it was a big plummet down to the deli stop.
Once we arrived Jeff had to fix a flat and we all marveled at his perfect timing. They had a floor pump here and everything. What can I say about this aid station that has not already been said? Probably not much but here goes.
- Smiling volunteers greet you and make you sandwiches.
- You have your choice of breads, cheeses, cold cuts and they even have a variety of mustards!
- The drinks are on ice. Literally.
- The potato chips are fresh.
- The porta-potties are clean.
- They have folding chairs for you to sit in.
- There is tons of fresh water to fill bottles, rinse your body, etc.
We all sat down to enjoy a leisurely sandwich and a Coke. I recall some years when I had two but this year one seemed sufficient. At this point Rick had to continue as he had a time constraint so now we were down to five.
One key to having a successful/enjoyable RAMROD is to leave this aid station with a big group. The last 40 miles are always into a headwind and if you are alone it's brutal. We waited and waited and not seeing anything roll out decided we had to take off. OMG did my legs feel heavy…! It was downhill to start and I was barely able to do 20 mph as we hit the highway. Slowly, very slowly, we all came back to life and the pace picked up. After a bit we were humming right along at something like 27 mph. Much better.
We kept catching and dropping people; our rotation was really smooth. After catching a group of three that seemed really strong John flatted and so we had to stop. But everyone was having a super time so no biggie. WE got the flat fixed and rolled out and soon were flying again.
There is one last climb as you approach the turnoff to Mud Mountain Dam and I happened to be on the front as we approached it. I must looked like I was feeling kind of spry because I stayed on the front all the way to the top. Truth be told I was faking it and turned the corner totally spent. But then it's flat and smooth and then down hill to the finish. Yes.
About .5 km from the finish John's rear tire started going soft again so I hung back just a bit to cross the line with him. Again, pretty perfect timing if you're going to flat.
At the finish there are COLD showers; hard to get in but oh so rewarding if you do. And ice cream! And more food and drinks! And a sprinkler! Awesome.
Looking at my Garmin file below our ride time was not too shabby! Of course if you rest long enough you can pretty much do any ride time but still. I have never ridden with power for this long and it's cool to see what I did. For example, you can see the power slowly trail off on the way up Cayuse… :) You can also see a massive spike when Sean gunned it going up Paradise. :( Stats are fun. So is this ride. Especially with good friends.
As Rick and I passed each other on the way up Cayuse he asked me, "Didn't we used to go up this on our 23…?!" I think we did. These days I can't even swing my leg over a saddle unless the cassette includes a 25-tooth cog. And my winter bikes has a 27.
Here are all the pictures and video.
|Breakfast||4:00 AM - banana, water|
6:00 AM - Clif Bar (when I realized there was no free food at the start…)
|Workout Food||2 large bottles each w/3 scoops Perpetuem, 2 large bottles Gatorade, 2 large bottles water, scone, 3 (4?) cartons of O.N.E. Coconut Water, peanut butter and jam sandwich, 2 bananas, nectarine, 2 chocolate croissants, 2 PowerBar Energy Gel, turkey and cheese sandwich, Coke|
|Time of Day||6:00 AM|
|Weather||upper 50s to upper 70s, dry, calm until the usual moderate headwind for the last 40 miles|
|Equipment||Ti Cycles Hyak|
Neuvation R28 SL wheels
|Clothing||bib shorts, sleeveless undershirt, sleeveless jersey, cap|