Wow what a fantastic day Brandy and I had on yesterday's Mount Laguna Bicycle Classic Pre-Ride.
Fifteen riders began at 630am and one later on. We had riders of different levels but there seemed be quite a few Furnace Creek 508 veterans. A ride like this gives us an opportunity to get to know each other since the 508 is essentially a 500 mile time trial -- drafting or riding alongside another racer is prohibited. We also had a special guest the godfather of Ultra Cycling John Marino. Complete list below:
Jack Blackbird BochslerJohn Byrne (mtn biker who arrived late)
Brian Emperor Moth Davidson (Team Swarm!)
Brandy DeLuca (Team Sho-Air)
Joe Gargoyle Garza
Francis Picachu Ignacio (Adobo Velo)
Elizabeth Jefferson (AdventureCORPS Rough Riders)
Chris Kostman (AdventureCORPS Rough Riders)
Jack Jaxartasaurus Lindquist (Team Swarm!)
Matt Desert Locust Ruscigno (Team Swarm!)
Greg Great Dane Sherman
George Red-Eyed Vireo Vargas (Team Sho- Air)
The first loop from the AdventureCorps website:
Loop One is a clockwise route from Pine Valley to Guatay, north on 79, around Lake Cuyamaca, and south on Sunrise Hwy over Mt. Laguna. (It does not quite return to Pine Valley.) Distance: 43.4 miles; Elevation Gain: 3770 feet.
A short descent from the Pine Valley start, a short climb to Guatay and then another quick descent. We then climbed for next 30 miles. Lots of up and down as we gradually made the ascent from 3600 feet to 6000 feet. The views were spectacular throughout the ride. In particular, I've always enjoyed going around Lake Cuyamaca and seeing the meadow off to the right with the mountains as a backdrop. Race Director Chris Kostman promises an even better view in the spring with flowers in the meadow.
Checkpoint #1 approx 17 miles and 1940 feet of climbing
Checkpoint #2 approx 16 miles from CP#1 to CP #2 and another 1770 feet of gain (34 miles 3710 of gain)
A note of caution-- the road to Lake Cuyamaca is narrow. It does widen later but there is a short stretch where you must stay as far to the right as possible. We had little traffic, considering it was before 7am. Riders should expect a few kickers here and there that ramp up over 8% just to keep things interesting. There was also a few switchbacks as well. There was also a few switchbacks as well. The Race Director knowingly made this the first loop anticipating higher traffic in the spring. The ascent on Mount Laguna from the north heading south is my favorite and most scenic way to climb up and over the Mount Laguna summit of 6000 feet on Sunrise Hwy. The traffic is significantly less from this direction than coming from the south where there is freeway access (Interstate 8).
Here are a great couple of shots taken of us going around the lake.
Next we had a long descent down Sunrise Hwy towards Old Hwy 80. The descent on Sunrise Hwy is long because you never really get up to high speeds and it requires a little work to keep the speed above 30 mph. I have been climbing so much in the San Gabriel Mountains that I had forgotten that the San Diego mountains have cattle guards. Here's a tip for you-- most of the cattle guards have a straight strip welded perpendicular to the others. When I cross cattle guards I line myself up on that strip which is just wide enough for a bike tire. In addition, I have a very loose grip on the handlebars. The combination of those two things makes for almost no shock at all as I cross cattle guards. You will master this technique as you descend Sunrise Hwy on three separate occasions.
We continued to descend past the right turn for Pine Valley across I-8 and onto Old Hwy 80. The shoulder on Old Hwy 80 is a little tore up so be careful. You can easily attain 40mph on some of these sections. We passed a Border Patrol checkpoint along the way-- wave as you go by it must be boring work.
TIP: If you need something from your car this would be the time to detour from the route and get it. It will be a couple of hours before you return.
Loop Two, depicted in the following three images, is a counter-clockwise route from Sunrise Hwy east on Old Hwy 80, north on Kitchen Creek (which is closed to cars for 3.7 miles in the middle), north on Sunrise Hwy to the Mt. Laguna summit, then south on Sunrise Hwy and back to Pine Valley. Distance: 33.6 miles; Elevation Gain: 3300 feet.
At the base of Kitchen Creek we were treated to an awesome SAG stop by Adobo Velo. These guys do it right! Ricky and Mandy had been roving SAG during the day. At the base of Kitchen Creek, they set-up a table with water, Hammer products and even hand sanitizer. Also on the menu: figs, nacho chips, bananas, PB & J and so on. THANK YOU ADOBO VELO!!
If you don't know the Kitchen Creek climb it's a remote climb with a closed gated section to motor vehicles. It is a great climb with a few steep rollers before reaching the heart of it.
Here is a shot of me teasing Brandy that I could push her if she wanted. No actually I'm just giving her props for doing well.
We descended Sunrise Hwy back to Pine Valley and restocked before beginning the third and final loop. I can't believe out of all the times I rode to and from Pine Valley that had I never made the turn onto Pine Creek Rd. The third loop is the shortest but the toughest of the three. I like the fact that it comes last in the event as a way to really test your resolve!
Loop Three, depicted in the following three images, is a clockwise route from Pine Valley, west on Old Hwy 80, then up the one-of-a-kind Pine Creek Road (as featured in the event logo) all the way to Sunrise Hwy, then south over Mt. Laguna and back to Pine Valley. Distance: 25.7 miles; Elevation Gain: 2820 feet (2000 feet of which is gained in the 10.2 miles on Pine Creek Road).
Notice the sharp ramp up beginning on Mile 4. There are significant pitches of over 18%. Be assured this will be the climb that separates the "pretenders from the contenders" as they say. I would strongly suggest compact gearing.
What is COMPACT GEARING you ask? Cranksets typically come in "standard" set up of 53/39. In other words, your big chainring is 53 teeth and your inner or small chainring is 39 teeth. A compact crankset has typically a 50/34 for chainrings. It allows for easier climbing in your 34 front chainring and whatever large cog you can muster for the back. Don't be ashamed to use a triple chainring on this course either. By the way, the term compact does not have any relation with crank arm length just the chainrings.
Brandy and I had to really work on keeping the pedals turning. I had a standard 53/39 and 12/27 cassette. I consider myself a good steep grade climber. By that I mean, that when the road really pitches up I can ascend them better than the next guy or gal. On long climbs of 6% grades I don't fair as well. Brandy had a compact crankset and a 12/27 cassette. She really suffered on the Pine Creek Rd.
Let's set aside the difficulty of the climb for a moment and focus on why we climb mountains. The views from Pine Creek Rd. are simply amazing. It's so incredible to see nature's beauty. It was on this climb that I spent a few minutes talking to John Marino. It was an honor just to be in his presence. I related to him that I was born and raised in New Jersey. I was a city kid. And even though I have lived in Southern California for 10 plus years nature still amazes me.
As a group we stopped several times on the climb to take pictures and regroup. We also took time to enjoy the scenery. I'm always in race mode and never "take time to smell the flowers" as they say. But being with a good group of friends made me realize that it was a unique opportunity to take advantage of.
Except for a few cars the road was ours. The climbing is slow because of the steep grades (expect 4-5mph) but that's a good thing-- it gives you more time and opportunity to enjoy the solitude and the scenery. Just look at the photo below -- just awesome.
Climbing one of the steep grades on Pine Creek Rd.
Brandy didn't really need the push I just wanted to "help her" ;)
Nearing the summit and getting into the tree line.
A note of caution-- after all the steep stuff you have a couple or more really steep dips. The road is single lane-- make sure you are looking up ahead as you drop in and out of these dips. You may surprise a motorist not expecting a cyclist to be on Pine Creek Rd. The Race Director will provide Caution Bicycle Event signs that will alert drivers to expect cyclists on the road. But who knows the motorist might be in awe with the scenery as well ;) There is also sand on some of the corners. So be careful.
Once we made the junction with Sunrise Hwy we climbed up to the Visitor's Center one last time. It was 9 hours and 25 minutes into the event almost 4pm.
Mileage 92.25 miles with 11,100 feet of gain
The only thing left was the third and final descent on Sunrise Hwy to Pine Valley. We arrived at Pine Valley, the start/finish point, at 4:20pm. Just shy of 10 hours on a hard climbing century with plenty of regrouping and picture taking. The event will have a 12 hour limit. It is more than doable!!
Once at the finish Adobo Velo pulled out all the stops. They had set up a HOT MEAL! Can you believe that? There was Chicken Adobo and a Vegetarian Stew complete with bread and all the other things we had during the day. It was a cold descent from the summit of Mount Laguna but the hot food at the finish helped me forget about my discomfort. Thank you again Adobo Velo.
Additonal graphs from my friend's Garmin. It calculated 11,700 feet of gain.