This does not make sense. The arbitration decision in the Floyd Landis case was just released with a 2-1 decision against Floyd. The panel ruled that the French lab did not follow World Antidoping Guidelines in testing Floyd’s samples. They further ruled that “if the practice is continued that future results would be overturned.”
Huh? So future results by the same lab using the same flawed procedures would be overturned but these ones would be accepted?
To the uninitiated, after bonking on Stage 16 in the Tour de Farce, Floyd rode away to a victory the next day. While he was hailed as having ridden one of the great races ever, the truth was he rode well — but not like Superman. The teams that should have organized early and chased failed to do so which allowed him to open a nine-minute lead on them.
Floyd knew if he won the stage he would be tested. It would be foolish to cheat. Floyd stood up like a man and at every opportunity maintained his innocence, all the way to the Court for Arbitration for Sport. They were especially annoyed that he had the balls to fight the charges and not only found against him on June 30, 2008, but also fined him $100,000. How dare someone questions their authority.
I met Floyd in January 2007. He came away as believable to me. For full disclosure, I have to mention that I am a genealogist. I trace some of my ancestry to a Landis family in Lancaster Co., Pa. in the 1700s. Floyd, of course, is from a Mennonite family named Landis in Lancaster Co., Pa. However, I have traced some of Floyd’s lineage and have yet to make a connection. Cousin or not, I believe him.
A real analysis of the data is at Trust But Verify. Another good blog is Free Floyd Landis.
AUGUST 17, 2010 — Well, aren’t we all the fools? In May at the Amgen Tour of California, Floyd, after being denied entry into the Tour, followed through with his blackmail threat and claimed that he and Lance Armstrong were dopers.
In January 2007, Floyd made his rounds proclaiming his innocence and asking for money from people like me. And I gave. Twenty-five dollars to attend his stupid Evening with Floyd event. Then $50 and $25. And I bought his book. And it was all a lie.
Floyd – I want my money back.
FEBRUARY 29, 2012 — It continues. And it’s going to continue.
I don’t want my money back. Floyd lost his best friend, his wife (who may have been his best friend), his family, his house, his money, his integrity. He can keep my money.
I have my own theory. I believe Floyd was innocent of using artificial testosterone as he was charged. I suspect when he heard he was caught he thought “oh crap” but when he realized it was artificial testosterone, he fought that. In the end, they wore him down and he eventually confessed to being a doper – at least using blood transfusions.
Unlike Lance, he was not a good liar. It was his good Mennonite upbringing. In his first press conference after the initial doping allegations, Landis was asked flat out: “Have you ever taken performance-enhancing drugs before?”
After a pause, he replied: “I’ll say no.”
I think he speaks the truth about doping in the peloton but he lost his credibility by not confessing when he had a chance and down is discredited at every chance.
And we have found no genealogical link between us. Floyd is not my cousin.
EDIT/EPILOGUE – Ten years after the race, I had the chance to talk to one of the inner members on Floyd’s team, Team Phonak. Floyd bonked on Stage 16. But then, apparently having lost the Tour, he drank a bottle of Jack Daniels (which would be part of his convoluted defense). His team was pissed at him for drinking that night.
The team member put together two lists. And at three in the morning, woke Floyd up screaming at him. He said he had two lists: Why Floyd is the biggest A-hole in the world and Ways Floyd could regain the time he lost and still won the Tour. Which did he want?
Floyd chose how to win the Tour. Team Phonak had a plan. First, Floyd would have to get into the breakaway that sticks. And, no longer within striking distance of winning, the teams should let him go. Second, once in the break, he would have to attack them and go solo. And here was the real plan. Since it was a very hot day, almost 100°, being in a solo breakaway would give Floyd access to his team car. Indeed, throughout the stage one can see Floyd next to the team car, taking on water, often pouring it over his head to keep his core temperature down.
They had prepared 200 bottle of ice water that day. At least 100 would be dumped over his head. Not only would Floyd have access to cold water while riding this day, each bottle would be a “sticky bottle.” At 200 bottle hand-offs, and three seconds per bottle, this was the equivalent of holding onto the team car for 10 minutes. This would be a huge savings of energy. It was also pushing the rules if not breaking them, but much like soccer, you play to the level the referees permit.
Once Floyd got the lead, he held it. My recollection was he did not gain more time on the climbs against the peloton but did gain time on the descents. So when he won that day, his team merely thought their plan worked to perfection.
If Floyd doped, he apparently did it without knowledge of his team. After he had left Postal (USPS Cycling) whatever doping he did was on his own. He tried dirty doctors but found he couldn’t trust them. I don’t recall if he testified that he doped that night with his Jack Daniels or if he was popped for elevated levels of synthetic testosterone because he had doped in preparation for the Tour. Whatever it was, he was popped and the team would lose its title sponsor. Twenty-eight cyclists and support staff were now out of work because of Floyd.
Not my Cousin Floyd.
I did a stupid thing this afternoon. Much of my riding around Prince William County is on the bike paths/trails which follow the new roads in the county, particularly on Rte 234. But I need to take local roads to get there and Waterway Drive through Montclair is one of them.
Waterway Drive is four lanes, two in each direction, with a nice grassy median strip with trees and with curbs — no shoulders. There is no place to move except in the gutter beside the curb. On my way down Waterway towards the stop sign at Avon/Northgate, I was doing 34 mph, just one mph short of the speed limit. Still, some cars insist on flying by so I know they’re speeding.
Just before the road leveled out I was buzzed by a black SUV who got dangerously close – within a few inches. I didn’t respond with profanity or gestures. I just kept going. But as I approached the four-way stop sign, both our through lanes were backed up with seven to eight cars. I quickly came upon the line of cars and was able to move past them on the right to get up to the stop sign. Here the road does open a bit so there is a quasi-shoulder.
I had slowed and as I approached the front of the line there was the SUV. He saw me coming and swerved sharply to the right. But he tried to go all the way to the right and cut me off. I did put out my hand and slap his vehicleto get his attention and prevent him from hitting me. But then, here was the stupid part, I passed one more car then turned around.
Something said not to take this anymore. Clearly, without thinking I went back and pulled in front of his vehicle, basically daring him to run me over. Standing off my bike in front of the driver’s side headlight, I said to him, and his three passengers, “Play nice out here. You have a nice car and future ahead of you (he was probably in his late teens or early twenties and probably showing off for his friends) but if you kill one bicyclist you can be charged with manslaughter, lose everything you have, and spend a few years in jail. Just play nice.“
I didn’t yell. I was calm and used a conversational voice.
In retrospect, it was stupid because he could have gunned it and run me down. Except there was a car in front of us. He could have pinned me though. But I sort of felt protected because of the number of cars around. Call them witnesses.
But then came the surprise. He didn’t say a word. I don’t know if anything sunk in or not and will never know. But it was 70° and many drivers had their windows down enjoying the nice temperature. The people in the car beside him cheered me. “Alright! You tell him!” And the driver in the car behind his was cheering too.
For a brief moment, people were glad to see a bicyclist stand up to an idiotic driver. And maybe before he cut me off he also cut them off.
I went through the intersection before he did then wondered what would happen when in the next 200 yards when he got his chance to pass me for a final time. I didn’t give him that chance. I turned into the next driveway simply to let him pass without confrontation before resuming my ride.
It’s tough out there. I do not ever condone confronting a driver. They may be angry. They may be imparied. They have a big machine and they may use it. Heck, they could be armed. I rarely react to anything but on this day I did. And while it worked out OK, I am aware that it may not the next time so hopefully, there won’t be a next time.
CHARLES TOWN, WEST VIRGINIA
It was eight and one-half years ago that we first drove Bethany to Shepherdstown, West Virginia to tour Shepherd College. The trip to Shepherdstown and neighboring Charles Town seemed so far. But it would become a trip we would make many times as both Bethany and Ashley attended Shepherd College (now University).
We had a picnic at Bethany and Andy’s place today. For the second time this year, I decided to bike to Charles Town instead of drive. It is getting lighter later and I couldn’t leave home until almost 7:00 a.m.
My route took me up Minnieville Rd to Delaney Road where I sprinted and reached 42.3 mph crossing Neabsco Creek. I always have to break 40 mph there. I followed Delaney to Ridgefield Rd then to the Prince William Parkway. I took the Parkway to Manassas then followed Sudley Road past Manassas Mall and Manassas Battlefield. After passing the battlefield I turned right on Gum Springs Rd which immediately enters Loudoun Co. I followed Gum Springs Rd to Braddock Rd then turned left on Braddock Rd.
Braddock Rd becomes a washboard dirt road in the woods for about three miles. It is very rough riding. One of my water bottles flew off here causing me to stop for a minute. Braddock Rd connects with James Madison Hwy (US Rte 15) which, thankfully, I only had to ride for one mile to Gilberts Corner. At Gilberts Corner, US 50, I turned west on 50 and followed it about a mile and one half past Aldie.
After Aldie, I turned on Snickersville Turnpike a delightful almost traffic-free country road that cuts a neat northwest diagonal. This is the shortest way to Charles Town.
Maybe traffic was lighter than normal because the Hibbs Bridge is out. On the run in to the bridge I reached my high speed for the day – 43.1 mph. I was flying. But the bridge was closed and I had a decision to make. Turn around and take a 10-mile detour or ford the Beaverdam Creek with my bike. I was able to carry my bike over the creek and continue on. I went as far as Airmont then turned north through Round Hill where I went under Rte 7. I followed the road north and came to Cider Mill Rd which connected with Rte 9 west of Hillsboro.
Route 9 is a major road and connects Loudoun Co., Virginia with Jefferson Co., West Virginia. It is two-lane, 55 mph road which crosses the Appalachian Trail at the state border but with no shoulder. I had no problems on Rte 9 and climbing the mountain was painless and quick. I like this route because the descent into Jefferson Co. features some very technical curves. On the first set I rounded one at 41 mph. There is a second climb before a second descent which then crosses the Shenandoah River.
Total mileage was 70 and took me just under 4 1/2 hours at an average speed of 15.5 mph. I arrived at Bethany’s and was able to “relax” by jumping in their pool. Sweet!
So why build up to a big event? The first-ever mountain hill climb race I ever entered was the granddaddy of them all — Newton’s Revenge up the Mount Washington Auto Road in New Hampshire. Then when it was canceled I rode up Mount Evans in Colorado, the highest paved road in the U.S. Now one month later, I found myself in my first ever registered century ride. This was not a flat 100 miles like the Sea Gull Century but the most physically demanding one I could find — the Blue Ridge Extreme Challenge, which featured 11,000 feet of vertical climbing.
Early yesterday I went for a short ride which turned into one much longer than I planned. Just a stroll around the neighborhood and up some steep, but short, climbs, ended up as a 32-mile ride in 95° heat and 95% humidity. I was absolutely drained after that ride. I could not hear myself talk and was seeing black spots — or were they white?
I drove down to Afton Mountain Saturday afternoon to be near the start since leaving the house at 4:00 a.m. would probably in itself, wipe me out. I checked into the hotel and started reading the road rules. Problem number one: There was a five-hour cutoff to be under at mile 56 or forced to take a shorter route home. I didn’t know how that would work out.
The race promised two 10 km climbs, the first being a 10 km Category 2 climb at mile 50 and the second about 15 km Category 1. Each climb featured a 2.3 mile (4 km) 11% grade of “tantalizing joy.” Or higher — 18% on Reed’s Gap
The race went off at 7:30, actually, it was 7:33 a.m. which would become important in my final time. It was overcast and 70° – perfect riding weather. Four hundred riders started with a police escort about four miles down the mountain into Waynesboro.
We were flying down the mountain which is important for calculating average speed. Nothing like a few miles at 30 mph. I looked down and noticed I was going zero. The magnet on the front spoke had slipped up and I was torn between stopping and fixing it or just letting it go. After all, we would have the official time at the end. But I eventually pulled over, did a quick fix, fell behind a hundred riders then jumped back in with the group.
The road was flat down in the valley and we kept a good pace and went flying by Rest Stop One at 17 miles. Here we formed a group of riders who would stay together much of the day. I met Ashley Hightower, a chef from Charlottesville. Eventually, we formed up with some others including Shana Garland, a triathlete from Virginia Beach.
When we arrived at the second rest stop (Mile 29) the one port-a-john had been tipped over. But that didn’t stop a number of the men from relieving themselves right beside where the port-a-john was. Even the Tour de France fines riders for public urination and these riders simply had no class or self-respect. There were women riders in our group as well as women volunteers at the tables that were set up offering food and water to the riders.
The ride was quite enjoyable until we reached Vesuvius. By then it was raining and we began the long climb each at our own pace. Ashley had an incredible spin and quickly was gone up the hill. I went at my own pace hoping to meet them at the top. Eventually, I looked up and to my surprise was Ashley, walking. This absolutely broke my spirit. She was the strongest climber and if she was walking I had no chance. I caught her and asked if we were going to ride or walk together. She choose walk which, truth be told, was fine with me.
I had never walked on a climb before but saw a number of riders had been beaten by the mountain. We stayed together for a while then decided to climb some more. She got into her rhythm and then I cramped (quadriceps). I was done. So I walked some more before resuming.
We reached rest area number four at the top of the climb. I kiddingly asked one of the volunteers if it was 12:30, the cutoff time not to be allowed to continue. He said, “sorry, you beat it by at least an hour.” We continued.
This time it was over the Blue Ridge Parkway and our “descent” started with another climb for another half mile or so. We sort of broke apart with me bringing up the rear but once we crested I eventually was able to make my way to the front. At one point I had a car in front of me keeping me from catching the other riders but was able to pass the car and still not cross the yellow line – a rules violation.
That left me wondering if I was that good at descending or just someone willing to take foolish risks to catch up? I’m not sure. But at one point I was so far ahead of our group that I pulled over and waited for them. My thrill for the day was bombing the descents and this was a ten-mile descent. Oh how I wished the ride ended at the bottom.
While enjoying every descent you know you will pay for them later. And I did. Our sixth rest stop, at Mile 80, was at a store at the base of the climb to Wintergreen. Of course, I didn’t know what was in store for me having never ridden this route. We began together but eventually broke apart. It was a gradual climb that kept getting steeper. I went as far as my legs would allow knowing that I had been foolish for riding so far in the heat on Saturday.
The temperature in the last 20 miles had risen 14°. It had gone from 70° and cloudy to 84° and sunny. I worried about the heat but was thankful it wasn’t with us most of the day. But the humidity was draining me.
I looked up the road and could see riders starting to “paperboy” the ride (ride back and forth across the road). They were struggling. I had no energy and I dismounted. I was pushing the bike at 3 mph and noticed that the riders in front were not gaining any distance on me. I continued for a while then mounted and rode some more.
About half a mile from the top was the seventh rest stop. Here were some volunteers from the Wintergreen Fire and Rescue. One said, “grab him and I’ll take the bike.” They met me and had me sit right away. Gave me some bottled water and put some cold towels on my neck. I removed my helmet and soaked down my head too. After the forced stop of about 8-10 minutes, they gave me a push to get going again.
Someone asked me if they pulled every rider off their bike on the ascent. “No,” I stated, “probably only those who looked ready to die.”
I reached the top which is the Blue Ridge Parkway. I expected 13 miles of downhill but to my surprise, was met with another four miles of climbing. Grrr. It wasn’t steep, just unrelenting. I simply kept my pace and started clock-watching, wanting to get in under eight hours. At first I thought I could do the final 13 miles in 26 minutes (30 mph) but faced with uphills, I knew I was toast if I was to finish in less than eight hours.
Still, I hit the downhill portions and was able to roll. But I knew the last 200 yards was a 20% grade up to the finish line. And I got there a couple of minutes too late. It was 3:30 p.m. I had caught a rider, Malcolm Lively, on his descent and didn’t want to pass. So I “sat on his wheel” the last half mile and followed him around the last turn.
“Those sadistic bastards!” he yelled out to no one as he started to climb. “They just had to put this climb at the end like we haven’t suffered enough.” I agreed quietly.
As I reached the top I heard “Here is number 427, Barry Sherry, of Woodbridge.” I had finished.
At the finish line, there was pizza. While my body needed food it struggled to get a piece of cheese pizza down. I was offered a Blue Ridge Extreme beer glass from the event but turned it down. I just wanted to get out of my soaking wet clothes and go home.
Photo Credits: (1) Scenery: Barry’s cell phone; (2) Ashley Hightower and (3) Barry Sherry — Erik Irtenkauf (http://www.flickr.com/photos/12449522@N04/collections/72157601778306959/)
Epilogue: More than anything my ride in the extreme heat and humidity the day before coupled with not knowing how to properly replenish left me woefully short of energy for this challenge. My time was 8:03 (remember those three minutes at the beginning?) but 45 minutes was spent at the various rest stops. One rider finished in less than five hours and 36 did it in less than six hours. They’re animals! By my account, I was number 160 and was still ahead of 19 other riders including more than one hour ahead of five riders and three who did not finish. Although I was disappointed virtually everyone comments how few people can attempt such a feat and accomplish it. Maybe. Still, I want to do better.
About this map — This was drawn from memory on RidewithGPS.com four years after the ride and does not reflect the actual route of the day. The ride to Waynesboro and from Vesuvius to Beech Grove back to the mountain is accurate. However, we went farther into the I81 valley and actually did 100 miles on the day.
Embarrasing. The definition is getting dropped on your group ride. Yea, it happened to me.
We met at Nokesville Park on Sunday for what was to be a “BB” ride with the Potomac Pedalers Touring Club. The BB pace is about 18 mph which is what I ride solo or think I do. In theory, I should be able to do a little faster in a group. The BB ride is one that goes off at 16-18 on moderate roads and 18-20 on flats. I do that solo. Even though I hadn’t ridden with them I wasn’t worried about the pace.
My biggest worry was shaved or not shaved. Been reading and talking with a lot of folks about shaving my legs. It’s not for aerodynamics although if one feels faster they will probably tend to ride faster. But it’s for that nasty thing called road rash. Not only does the shaven skin clean up and bandage better after a crash but I have read reports where the hair on the skin will peel the skin back like a banana, unlike the shaved skin. Yuck. Anyhow, with trepidation I revealed my hairy legs and pretty much was in good company. I didn’t notice any shaved legs amongst us.
We headed off on the roads around Nokesville and soon were in a single file paceline. I think very early on we dropped a rider. I’m not sure because I didn’t have time to look back. We were flying too. The average speed was 22-23 mph. One by one I moved closer to the front as the leader moved off the front and drifted to the rear. Even at this pace, it wasn’t too hard to keep up.
At mile 14 there was just one rider in front and he too peeled off. Now I was left to pace the group. I did not want to let anyone down by pacing at 16-18 mph and I kept the speed up. Way up. We were going about 24 mph and I was pushing it. After a half mile I peeled off and made my way to the back of the pace line. Having been worried about leading the pace line in my first ride, the guy in front of me said it wasn’t that bad.
Now I was letting the pace line pass me and as the back reached me he said to me “that wasn’t so bad, was it?” I didn’t respond. I was in the red zone. I tried to slip in behind him but had let me pace drop too much and the line went flying by. For about 10 seconds or so I tried to bridge the gap but they were 10 yards, then 20 yards, and after a minute, 100 yards ahead. I was losing ground.
For the next couple of minutes I tired to hold the gap but soon realized I screwed up. That was my first attempt at riding in the pace line and it was obvious to me that I slowed down too much. I kept visual contact for a while and even witnessed one of the early pace leaders get dropped too.
I thought I would catch them at the one rest break and reached for my cell phone which was beeping me with a waiting message. After listening to the call, I reached for my cue sheet and discovered it was gone. I had no clue where I was or where I was going.
Well, that’s not entirely true. Give me the sun and I can pretty much figure out my way back. I saw the sun and knew to follow the roads north. I did very little backtracking until I got close to the start. I had ridden about 15 miles with the group and would solo home for what was going to be almost 25 more. I would have been better off just turning around.
What was amazing was that as I got close I remembered the turns but none of the scenery. I was even doubting if I had been on the same roads. The focus in the pace line is the wheel in front and not the houses or farms along the route.
I later contacted the race leader and he apologized for the ride coming off way too fast. He said shortly after I was dropped it actually splintered into four separate small rides. Maybe that was to make me feel better. It didn’t.
EDIT/EPILOGUE – New to these group rides, I would learn that no one contacts the group leader. And that it is rare any of these rides stay together. They usually end up with small groups and solo riders. I also see that I ramped up the pace when I was at the front and made it too hard for me to jump back on. Live and learn.
IDAHO SPRINGS, COLORADO
It was difficult finding a place to rent a good road bike in Denver but I settled on 240 Ski and Bike in Idaho Springs. They didn’t have a true road bike but they basically had road bikes with straight, not drop-down, handlebars. I drove out I-70 to Exit 240 at Idaho Springs and was there by 8:15 a.m.
It was a beautiful morning and just a little cool. A great day for riding. The temperature was maybe around 60°. I wore a long-sleeve Under Armour base layer (cold) then my Mt Washington/Newton’s Revenge jersey. Bike shorts.
We had to agree on terms for the bike. A decent time to the summit, according to Bicycling magazine was 3.5 hours. Of course there’s the ride back too. The salesman at the shop looked at me and said “you look like you’re in good shape so you should be able to do it in decent time. I’ll put you down for five hours and call it four.”
I left Idaho Springs for what was to be a straight shot to Mt. Evans. I wasn’t sure how far it was and stupidly, was afraid to ask. I had read 28 miles but wasn’t sure if that was one way or round trip. I also read it was 14 miles. Of course it’s both, depending on whether you start at Idaho Springs or at Echo Lake.
As soon as I left Idaho Springs I crossed I-70 and immediately began climbing. I saw a sign for Mt Evans Fee Area – 14 Miles and hoped that it was 14 miles to the top of Mt. Evans. I pictured a plateau and even thought that perhaps the road continued down the other side. I was so ignorant.
The road up started pretty easy especially the first six miles. Unfortunately, there are no elevation markers except at the major mileposts. I think I would have liked to know every time I went through another 1000 feet. There were no flats for the next 14 miles.
The route was through Arapaho National Forest and was absolutely gorgeous. I thought many times about dismounting to take photos. But wanting to make good time and the absence of a good camera made me soldier on. I had just two bottles of water with me and every mile when I saw the mile marker I took a drink as I tried to ration the water I had with me. I wasn’t sure if I was climbing 14 or 28 miles and that affected how, and when, I drank.
Mostly when I ride I catch other cyclists and the few times I am passed it can be demoralizing. Around the seven-mile marker I was passed by a cyclist. Then around Mile 10 I was passed by two more guys. This was getting old. They were seemingly telling me how old I was.
I didn’t have a computer on the bike but had started my watch. I had started at a 5-minute/mile pace (12 mph) but did not expect to maintain that as the grade increased and the air got thinner. The elevation at the start in Idaho Springs was 7,524 feet (2,293 meters).
At Mile 14 one reaches Echo Lake. Here the road parallels the lake for a quarter-mile and is dead flat. The flat pedaling was a welcome relief. It was an accomplishment to reach Echo Lake and the entrance to Mt Evans. Here also was Echo Lake Lodge. And store.
I caught the two cyclists who passed me as they had stopped for a rest. I borrowed a bike tool to lower my seat. It had been too high which prevented me from getting into a good cycling rhythm. I also learned that they were with a group and were the only two who could go off the front. The rest couldn’t keep up with them so at least the group didn’t pass me.
I went in the store and bought another bottle of water for the next 14 miles — to the summit of Mt. Evans. This would be the only stop I would make and I wouldn’t call it a rest stop. It was necessary to fix my seat and get more water. Total time off the bike was only three minutes. Riding time to the lodge had been 99 minutes.
I left the lodge and started towards Mt. Evans and immediately came to the main entrance. I was prepared to beg my way out of the three dollar entrance fee for having “suffered enough already.” Indeed, I had told the other cyclists that I read one could beg their way out of the fee by stating that you were only riding to the summit then turning around and coming right back. I didn’t have to. The ranger said he could waive the fee if I told him I was going to ride the summit then immediately come back down. I assured him I was.
Almost immediately the road turns up. There are two quick switchbacks then another two in about one mile. But then the road straightens out quite a bit until the final ascent.
Ahead on the first switchback, I saw two riders. By the time I rounded the switchback I saw just one remaining with a rider much further up the road. I finally caught someone! I slowed as I passed trying to make conversation. This gentleman was from Evergreen, Colorado and it was clear he was going too slow for my pace. I was on pace for a three and half hour climb and didn’t want it to take longer. Plus I knew the road would turn up in anger later.
In a few more minutes I caught the second rider. And we began to ride together for a while. At a certain grade, we seemed to have the same pace. But on a lesser grade, maybe 3-4%, he seemed to be a little stronger. When the road turned up I would pass him. We didn’t discuss it but we took turns leading each other. And it worked.
Somewhere about four miles into this road we passed the tree line and entered a treeless alpine environment. For those miles, we stayed with one another. Around Mile 10 (24 total) we reached Summit Lake (12,830′ or 3,911 meters) and here the road turned down. It was paved but very rough. My new friend knew the road and took off down it. I struggled to keep up. It wasn’t steep but a gentle downgrade although the road was rough. Winter freezing plus spring thawing and refreezing had buckled the road in many places and left potholes in others. I didn’t want to crash out being stupid.
After passing Summit Lake we started climbing the final section of the day. Only 1400 more feet (427 meters) of climbing. By my calculations, the grade kicked up to 9-10%. Here the switchbacks start in earnest. I think there were 14 of them. I went ahead of my new cycling friend. I saw him as we turned the next couple of switchbacks but after a while lost contact. I don’t believe that either he or his friend made it to the top.
I kept climbing higher. The switchbacks kept getting closer, maybe 200 yards or so between each turn and the grade seemed to increase with each one. I was trying to keep a steady rhythm as I pedaled but the legs were burning and sometimes it felt better to switch to a bigger gear and stand. But as I did I noticed that I no longer could stand long without getting light-headed or dizzy. Best to sit on the seat and tap away.
It was painful but always a good pain. Physically. Mentally it was tough because it was easy enough to turn around. I tried to focus no more than 100 yards ahead. Once above the tree line you can see that road climbing forever. If you allow yourself to look too far ahead surely you will want to quit.
I did frequently look back at the road just traveled. When I looked next to see if I could find my cycling partner I saw another cyclist. And he was slowly gaining on me. Except when he caught me, he was a she and she pedaled right by me. That was enough to defeat me. But it didn’t. I figured that I would do this ride once in my life and may as well dig deep to find the energy to continue.
I kept banging through the switchbacks, and getting close to the summit, saw a mountain goat. I wasn’t about to stop and take a picture because I don’t know if I would have got going again. But a car was about 25 yards behind me and I pointed to the goat. They stopped to take pictures.
I had a hard time determining where the climb ended. It just seemed to climb forever. Each time I made a turn I hoped I could see the top but when I looked up, always a bad idea, there seemed to be more road as far as I could see. But when I looked again I could see more switchbacks but this time they were crowded with people walking. No cars. No bikes.
I was there. I rounded one more switchback and could see the small parking lot. I found the energy for a sprint if you could call it that. Out of the saddle, I pedaled hard for the last 50 yards. Then I coasted home in the parking lot.
I pulled in and talked with the young lady who passed me a few minutes earlier. She is from Colorado and rides for Whitman College (Washington). I think living at altitude helps and so does being young. She said it doesn’t help but she will understand in about 30 years. It helps.
(Note: Upon returning home I Googled Whitman College only to discover that Whitman women won the NCAA Div. II national title in 2005 and 2006 and finished third in 2007. No wonder I got smoked although it wasn’t that bad. One of their riders, Mara Abbott, just won the USA Cycling National Road Championship at Seven Springs.)
I dismounted and immediately became dizzy and looked for a place to sit. I can say that climbing at altitude was no problem for the lungs. Can’t say that they were burning nor that I was gasping for breath. I think I held something back from my effort all day as I wasn’t about to give 100% effort (sprint) then not have anything left. I didn’t know how much to ration so I kept the steady pace going during the climb. But I never felt sick or out of breath. Cramping was never an issue so my hydration plan was at least adequate. But I was very lightheaded once I was walking.
I saw down and took in the view. Probably could see for 50 miles although that view lasted about three minutes. Out of nowhere a cloud moved in and all of a sudden one could see about 50 feet and that was it. And the temperature dropped as well. The temperature was in the low 40s when I arrived at the summit but quickly dropped when the clouds move in.
Most cyclists had jackets on as they descended and I had brought my warm weather gear. I was surprised that my jersey was wet with sweat since I never felt sweat dripping off my face or arms. But I hard worked hard and knew it was time to put my jacket on. And after no more than five minutes resting it was time to descend.
While I had started my stopwatch and looked at it climbing to Echo Lake, I forgot to look at it again to measure total time to the summit. I thought it was about 3:45 but I reset it to zero to clock the time back to Idaho Springs.
I looked forward to what could be a 28.5 mile descent coasting all the way. But my body was tired and aching from the climb and the thought of throwing my bike in the back of someone’s pickup truck was even more inviting. But there were no offers.
I headed down 50 yards to the first switchback, turned then went another 100 yards and knew it was cold. Temperatures may have been in the high 30s. I pulled over and pulled on my leg warmers and went to the full finger gloves. When I restarted I quickly started following a car descending and had to brake for him as he was cautious. For a lightheaded cyclist, which I still was, it was much safer to follow someone who was being reasonable. When the body is tired is when one loses focus and makes stupid decisions, sometimes tragic.
The drops off Mt. Evans were huge. There are no guard rails the entire way and in some sections, even the roadway had buckled and dropped off. If one were to ride too close to the side of the road, despite pleas from ignorant drivers to do just that, it would be too easy to hit a section of road that simply disappeared. And so would the cyclist. My focus was 100% on the road and I never looked down at the large drops I was riding next to. To look down would make me dizzier.
And I was cold. My legs were shivering uncontrollably and so were my arms. My chest was tight as I was fending off the cold. I knew this was the beginning of hypothermia. I wanted to go faster to get off the mountain as quickly as I could but also knew the faster I went the colder it was.
I followed the car to Summit Lake where the road becomes somewhat straight for one mile. Even if one could coast through this section one had to be very diligent in watching the road hazards. But passing Summit Lake this road has a rise to it for about a mile. I reached down for energy to pedal some more and it was very difficult. But I knew that I would only have to get past this section before beginning my descent the rest of the way.
I think there was yet another section to climb, not difficult mind you, just a pain in the butt and legs after all the earlier climbs. But once I passed it I was out of most of the switchbacks and on better road. I switched into a bigger gear and started pedaling. I had shaken the extreme cold and wanted to go fast — as fast as I safely could that is.
While I was pedaling I allowed myself to be caught by two guys descending. Whether or not they were the two that passed me going up, I don’t know. I didn’t see them at the top. I didn’t have a road bike with 23cc tires and couldn’t descend quite as fast. I was descending about 40 mph and they were going a couple of mph faster. As they passed I picked up my pace and followed their line. I figured they knew the road and how fast they could safely take the turns. It helped following them. My total time descending back to Echo Lake was 42 minutes which included the slow sections at the top and the climb by Summit Lake.
My pacers pulled off and went into the lodge. I started the descent past Echo Lake then down to Idaho Springs. This truly was downhill and while one could presumably never turn a pedal the entire way the speed couldn’t have been that great either. There were technical turns that I had to slow down for but I was still moving at a 30 mph pace. How do I know that? I was timing the miles as they were ticking away at two minutes every mile.
It hurt to pedal but I wanted to get off the bike as soon as I could. I missed my Trek Pilot carbon bike and could feel every bump this aluminum Scott bike hit. I kept the pace up celebrating every time I passed another mile marker sign. There was another reason to hurry back. It was raining too. Lightly, but still raining.
Mile Marker One went whizzing by and I could see Idaho Springs ahead. It was easy to find the last remaining energy to pedal across I-70 and into the parking lot at the bike/ski rental store. I had rented the bike for four hours and although I was outside the four hours the manager graciously told me I didn’t owe him a thing more.
I thought about what I had accomplished. Mt. Evans. For some, one of the holy grails in cycling, at least in the U.S. The highest paved road in the country. Very high altitude. Although I was passed on the climb by some cyclists, the only people who succeeded at this climb are incredibly fit and are true cyclists. And I think everyone was younger than me. While there may have been four that passed me on the way up, that was four in 28 miles and all were in great shape. And did I mention young?
I immediately said to myself “never again.” I accomplished it and don’t need to try it again. However, I wouldn’t rule it out either. I don’t think I would plan a trip to Denver to ride Mt. Evans but if I was in the area again, who knows?
The USA Cycling National Championships were held over a two-week period at Seven Springs Ski Resort. I saw an article in the Somerset (Pa.) Daily American looking for volunteers. I contacted Rachel Shaffer, the Seven Springs volunteer coordinator, three weeks before the event. She gladly accepted my offer and told me she would use me Saturday and half-day Sunday as a course marshal.
One week before the event, I hadn’t heard anything from her so I contacted her midweek to simply ask when and where we meet. She emailed me and said that we would meet at the Center Lobby at Seven Springs Saturday at 7:00 a.m.
I left my parents’ place in Friedens shortly before 6:00 a.m. for the 35-40 minute drive to the ski resort. I arrived around 6:40 a.m. but did not see a volunteer check-in, something I expected. I did see some folks with orange vests on and figured I should have one as well. A Seven Springs bus was leaving and a couple of cars followed. I jumped in my car and followed as well. The bus drove out to Trent and then at certain intersections of country roads either stopped to let someone off or the people inside waved to a volunteer already in place.
At one point the bus pulled over and a woman, Rachel I discovered, got out to talk to the people in the car behind the bus. Then I pulled up beside her and introduced myself. She replied that I was late and that she already filled all the positions.
I started to do a slow burn. I had driven from Northern Va. to volunteer. I didn’t have a second car and rented a car just to volunteer for this event. Rachel backed off the “you’re late excuse” after I pointed out to her that I was at the Springs by 6:45 then stated that she simply used the same volunteers she has been using all week. She said she didn’t need me.
But she said she would give me a t-shirt. Big effing deal.
I pulled out a copy of the email she sent me in which she wrote my reporting time was 7:00 a.m. She looked at that, realized that she had been caught in her lie, and then stated that she could use me back at Swiss Mountain (Seven Springs) so that I would “at least get to see the course.” I figured that was a “nothing” assignment and indeed when we reached Seven Springs, after dropping off all the real volunteers, we stopped by some condos about 50 yards off the main road. The condos weren’t even on course. I wasn’t needed.
Further, there were no cars at the condos. No one was parked there. I was to guard an intersection of an empty parking lot that wasn’t even on course. What a bogus assignment. I immediately went out to the main road and told the policeman I would help him. I put on my orange vest and we waited for the first activity.
The policeman had both police and race radio and I was glad I wasn’t stuck on the course out in the country with no information. Throughout the day I would have updates on where the riders were.
The 17-18 Men started at 7:30 a.m. from the ski resort. It took perhaps 6-7 minutes for the peloton to leave the resort and climb the hill by the golf course. A State Trooper led the procession over the hill followed by 7-8 motorcycles. As they crested the hill, all but five or six of the riders were still in the peloton, which started with 175 riders.
As they descended the mountain road it was foggy and cool but visibility should have been no problem. There was some moisture on the road from the morning fog. The peloton flew by sounding like a swarm of bees. Just as quick as they crested they were gone.
The 15-16 Men group should have passed 10 minutes later (scheduled start 7:40 a.m.). But they didn’t. We waited some more and still no group.
They were to race on a “lollipop” course. The stem, about 8 miles, would go out to a loop, of about eight miles. The 17-18 Men would go first, followed 10 minutes later by the 15-16 men. The older group would do three loops on the course before returning while the younger guys would do two laps. Once out on the loop, there would be numerous riders, of both age groups, circling.
Still, the 15-16 men didn’t come by. The first indication of a problem was around that time a fire truck from Seven Springs went screaming down the hill. Soon a number of ambulances and police cars raced down the hill, just out of sight of our vantage point. We started to hear bits and pieces coming from race radio and knew something was bad. Later we saw two life-flight helicopters circling above.
There was bad news. There was a crash at the bottom of the hill. More than three dozen cyclists were injured. The 17-18 race went on but the 15-16 race was held for a couple of hours.
The following article appeared on the KDKA website:
Dozens Hurt In Seven Springs Cycling Accident
(KDKA) SEVEN SPRINGS
Two people were flown to the hospital and dozens of others were hurt after an accident at a biking event in Somerset County. “It’s unusual to have a wreck but when you do it usually involves a lot of riders,” Steve Gottlieb, a cyclist from Alexandria, Va., said. Witnesses say two cyclists bumped into each other causing a chain reaction collision, involving approximately 37 participants. “As soon as I hit them I flipped over the handle bars and landed on top of my head,” Logan Von Bokel said. “I got some road rash on my arms, but most of the pain right now is in my back and my neck.” Emergency officials say two people were flown from the scene with serious, but non life-threatening injuries. USA Cycling declined comment accept to say there was an accident. Von Bokel says he plans to heal and ride again. “Crashing is always a possibilty in bike racing – it’s just something you have to learn to accept,” he said. (© MMVII, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)
Anxious parents soon came out the road and wanted to drive down to the crash site. We couldn’t allow the cars on the course but some walked the half-mile down to the crash. Later, a Seven Springs bus went down to bring back riders with minor injuries. Some came walking back on their own. Some had been attended to, evidenced by the bandages on their bodies. I met a couple of riders coming back. One carried two pieces of his bike. He actually thought it was pretty cool that his bike had snapped in half.
The leaders of the race had gone through and were unaware there had been a crash in the main field. The winner of the day was Ben King, of Charlottesville, Va., who simply destroyed the competition. His winning time was 2:23.05 and the next three finishers, Nick Bax, Cheyne Hoag, and Danny Summerhill, were all 7:41 behind. Coming in the 18-20 positions at 8:47 were Jose Blanco, Taylor Phinney, and Ryan Zupko.
Once the riders were safely off the course, I was able to ride a little on the course. I rode out to Trent and then on the way back met up with three women from Team Cheerwine. I chatted for a while with Chrissy Ruiter (pictured left) from Bend, Oregon. All the women seemed very nice.
On the rollers, I was keeping up fine but don’t know if I could have stayed with them all the way up the three-mile climb. But then I clunked a gear shift and it about threw me off the bike. The chain caught and just stopped. I was still pedaling. They passed on by and I circled back down the hill to shift. By then I lost 100 meters on them and never regained it. But we were soon at the top of the Seven Springs hill.
In the afternoon the 17-18 year-old women got rolling I was surprised when only 14 crested the first climb. I thought that was a breakaway but was more surprised to learn that was the group. Well, 15 of them. The winner on the day was Lauren Shirock at 2:21.22 (two loops). Sinead Miller was second at 2:00. The Mens’ 15-16 winner (also two loops) was Nathan Brown coming in at 2:03.07. The Women’s 15-16 winner was Coryn Rivera.
This was a complete screw-up by the volunteer coordinator at Seven Springs. But in the end, I made my own assignment and it was one of the better ones. And I got a t-shirt.
PINKHAM NOTCH, NEW HAMPSHIRE
It had been my dream for some time to climb mountains like the riders in the Tour de France. In researching all the great climbs and how to get to Europe to ride them I discovered something I didn’t know. In the U.S. there is a road that is often considered tougher than any on the Tour.
I had hoped to enter the Mount Washington Auto Road Hill Climb scheduled for August but the Hill Climb registration sold out in 20 minutes on February 1. That opened a second race, Newton’s Revenge, sponsored by Louis Garneau (they have some great clothes!) to be held on the “lucky” date of 07/07/07.
The climb up Mt Washington is tough. Just under eight miles, it averages 12% grade and tops out at 22%. If the road isn’t tough enough, it also features the world’s worst weather with very strong and unpredictable winds.
My daughter, Ashley, agreed to go with me, and on Thursday, July 5, I picked her up from her new in-laws where she had been spending the week in Bethany Beach, Delaware. We started the day by taking a brief walk in the ocean. We drove to Windsor Locks, Connecticut.
On Friday we continued to the tourist mountain town of North Conway, New Hampshire. After checking in to the hotel, we went out to the race start. I was the second rider to pick up a race packet at the Mount Washington Auto Road.
I carefully watched what I ate (pasta loading) and made sure to get a good night’s rest. Actually, that would be impossible and I was very anxious about the climb. Morning came too soon and we were out of the hotel by 5:45 a.m. Anticipation was in the air as we drove out to Mt. Washington.
We arrived by 6:30 a.m. — cars needed to go up the mountain by 7:00 a.m. but there was something wrong. The sun covered the valley but many people seemed to be leaving. The view of Mt Washington was gorgeous. Sun blanketed the mountain except for the clouds that covered the summit. Stunning.
One problem. Inside those clouds were 70 miles per hour winds, just 40° which translated to a wind chill of 27°, and zero visibility. There was rime ice at the summit and overnight rains made the one-mile dirt section impassable. The race was canceled. (Postponed)
It was surreal. Although there was a rain date of July 8, I had not envisioned staying. It was too far from home. Our plans were to drive back to Connecticut after the race on Saturday then continue home on Sunday. I was greatly disappointed. But Ashley said, “Dad, we have to stay and try again tomorrow.” I thought I had imposed on her enough to come with me and be my driver off the mountain but she was insistent that we find a way to stay.
We didn’t know if we could work it out with the sold-out hotel but then decided to take some time to think about it. We drove to Jackson across a covered bridge then waded in a mountain stream. We took a train ride on the Conway Scenic Railroad and were able to work out another night at the hotel.
We had met a wonderful woman at the Discovery Weather Center in North Conway who encouraged me to ride Hurricane Mountain Road — a beast of a climb. So in the afternoon I went and rode it.
I struggled for air and for legs as I crept up this mountain road. I’m not sure if the ride was to give me confidence or to break my spirit. It turns out that the average grade was a monstrous 18%. As soon as I got back to North Conway I went to a bike shop and asked if they could change my gearing. But it was too late since they would need to order a cassette and maybe change the derailleur. Doubt crept into my mind if I had low enough gearing to complete the race.
The first message we saw Sunday was at 4:45 a.m. that they were checking the condition of the auto road. Winds had calmed to 30 mph and the temperature was 45°. It looked promising.
On our drive back to the mountain we saw two cars off the road. Ashley said they must be looking at a moose. While my goal was to climb Mt Washington, her goal was to see a moose. Sure enough, the cars were pulled off because there was moose eating by the side of the road. We joined them and Ashley got out and much too close to the moose to take pictures. The trip was a success. We had our moose.
We continued on to the mountain and it started raining. I wasn’t too worried about riding in the rain since I exercise all winter long outdoors. Getting wet would not bother me. We arrived and parked by the big tent anxiously awaiting the departure of the cars to head up the mountain. Then we learned the race was canceled. This time for good.
Anticipation and adrenaline were the order of the day Saturday. When it was canceled Saturday it was like a giant balloon having all its air sucked out. Not so on Sunday. Not nearly as much air went back in that balloon and when it was canceled for good it was simply time to go home. We had 700 miles of driving ahead of us.
This venture started as my sole reason for going to Mt Washington was to test myself against the mountain. The mountain won. Twice.
But all in all, I spent four days with my daughter that I probably won’t get to again. It was not a wasted weekend. Actually, I loved it. Wish I got to ride but spending time with my daughter, meeting other riders, and seeing a moose — it was all good.
Because my anticipation wasn’t as high as Saturday the disappointment wasn’t as great either and we just headed back home in the rain. Although we left behind temperatures in the high 50s and rain, we were reminded we were close to home when we stopped at a rest area in Maryland and it was 97°.
Since the race, my registration has been rolled over to next year’s event — July 12, 2008.
BLUE DIAMOND, NEVADA
A very wide two-lane road with equally wide shoulders, it was only 10 miles from Las Vegas but could have been 100. I found McGhies Blue Diamond Bikes which rented Trek Bikes.
I asked the owner how to get to Red Rock Canyon. The bike didn’t have a computer. He simply sized me up and said ride for 30 minutes then turn left. At 8 miles or 16 miles per hour, mostly climbing, he was right.
The road turned up and my breathing labored. I was surprised to see that the scenic road within the park was almost a mile high.
It made for a nice downhill ride going back. I saw two wild burrows, or I saw the same one twice. Not sure. But it’s a great way to spend a day in Vegas.