Climb to Kaiser is one week away from today. If all goes to plan, I’ll be on Big Creek Road climbing 2,000 feet in 4 miles before Huntington Lake and a short break. From there, it’s up to Kaiser Pass and its 9,700-foot summit, then a massive descent and flat passage through hell. The ride is an annual way to remind myself how lucky I am to pedal. To be in the mountains is to witness beauty, to share in the struggle. To come back to civilization is to have convenience. As we dig to make the goal to the top, we’re all insignificant on the mountain. The mountain doesn’t move for anyone. And each year, it seems bigger than we remembered it. Climbing high mountains on a bike is a high calling. I hear it in the distance. And I’m drawn to it.
It’s been awhile since I ventured up above 6,000+ feet on two wheels. On Saturday, I go where the air is thinner. Onyx Summit is a bit over 8,000 feet in Southern California, and part of a century ride called Breathless Agony.
Climbing is as pure as it gets.
You, your bike, and the mountains.
It’s where you go deep inside yourself and learn about commitment. It’s where you see if your training measures up. Drafting is pointless. Explosive attacks are only for the 10% who can pull them off. “Dancing on the pedals”? Sure, if you weigh 140 pounds or less and race professionally.
Real mountains and elevation help you make real friends. Suffering equalizes everything from socio-economics to education. No one cares if you have a custom-built bike when they can barely remember their own beneath them as they trundle upward. Lack of oxygen and 190 beats per minute forces all but the fundamental instincts out of the brain.
Cadence, power, and measured effort. We try to get comfortable. We we try to dose the wattage. We try not to bonk.
When we are digging deep, dangling off the back, and secretly begging for help, we are humbled.
No words need to be said. The sounds alone of breathing tell us everything: We are alive, we are outside and we are among friends.
Flatting right at twilight before damp offshore clouds roll in is never good for you. One minute, you’re warm, working and mobile, the next you’re wet, chilly and stuck.
Rather than change the tube and pedal home among headlights and high risks, I called home for a ride. Just 15 minutes of waiting can do you in.
Four hearty sneezes this morning are a clear message: be careful and stay healthy.
And for goodness sakes, try to flat under a warm midday sun.
Damn construction staples. Impossible to see. Always trouble.
I’ve always hated taping voice mail greetings. Just plain don’t like it. Despise it.
Hearing the sound of my voice. I’m never comfortable when faced with it. I suppose that’s why I went into print journalism out of college and not into television or radio. The keyboard has never once recorded my voice, its inflection, or any cracking. It just takes down what my fingertips say. Tap. Tap. Tap.
Recent videos I shot for the Tour of California were exhilirating for me. If I came off a bit crazed, well, to that I plead guilty. Being atop a mountain to which pro bike racers compared to July in France is a reason for any cycling fan to ignite a fire within — and be passionate.
Isn’t that what life is all about? Find something you truly love and cherish it? You know, your spouse? Your children? Friends? Your camera? Your keyboard? Books? Surfboard? Car? Garden?
What’s your passion?
For one week in February, mine surely was a race called Amgen Tour of California.
I hope you are finding and celebrating yours.
Photos courtesy of John Thess of Mother’s Kitchen at the summit of Palomar Mountain. Thanks, John!
Top photo is just over 200 feet from the mountain’s summit. The second photo is what riders will see before they summit. The third photo is what you’d see if you turned left at summit (riders will be turning right). The fourth photo (lowest down) is looking at the summit from parking lot of Mother’s Kitchen. Riders will be coming up South Grade (from the right side). My plan? Cruise down a few hundred feet from summit and run up the road with leaders. I won’t be wearing a Buffalo bills helmet with horns — or carrying a huge American flag 🙂 since we’re not in France.
Final short video commentary on KOM Stage 8 Amgen Tour of California, Highland Valley Road.
In a few days, I’ll mix in Lake Wohlford Road (another Stage 8 KOM points opportunity) in my training to give you a mini taste at bicycle level of what awaits the pro peloton there. Then the big one, Palomar, followed by Cole Grade Road.
Little more (less than 40 seconds) video commentary on first KOM of Stage 8 Amgen Tour of California.
Here is some video of the base of the climb on Highland Valley Road for the first KOM points in the final of the Amgen Tour of California.
Riders will have a leisurely spin out of Rancho Bernardo, then wind through the flat of Highland Valley Road past the 2007 wildfire burn area before being greeted with a stout little climb. These switchbacks will provide some entertainment if there is a tight race for KOM points.
54 seconds worth here.
When I saw Lance Armstrong “tweet” that he was flying down to San Diego from Santa Rosa today, I thought I’d give it a go.
My wife Therese and I are fans. We’ve ridden in the Ride for the Roses in Austin, Texas. We donate to Livestrong. We love cycling.
Lance coming to San Diego on a rainy, windy Saturday gave me a longshot chance to meet him and get his signature for two personal keepsakes:
- The February 2009 Outside magazine featuring him on the cover
- A 2004 Ride for the Roses jersey
If you’re mellow and keep a respectful distance, I figured I might just have a chance. It would be for my wife. It would go up on the wall in our house as a daily reminder about the preciousness of life.
Liz Kreutz, Lance’s photographer who has a beautiful portfolio of work here, lent me a hand on the Outside magazine cover effort. As Lance worked his BlackBerry in the backseat of a rented Chevy Suburban before his wind tunnel testing, she asked him on my behalf, handing him the Sharpie and magazine.
All of sudden, there it was. The cover signed to “TB”, my pet nickname for Therese. Liz was smiling. I was stunned.
Later, after taking an afternoon break and chatting up the Cervelo technicians assembling bikes for testing in the same wind tunnel facility this coming week, I gave it one more go. Lance was finished with his work for the day. His bikes were being packed up by the crew, including two Belgiun Astana soigneurs with great rapport. People suddenly got quiet and serious.
This time, I would ask personally. You only live once.
As Lance bounded toward the caravan, including Johan Bruyneel, Steve Hed, Liz and Trek folks, I showed him the Ride for the Roses jersey and asked if he might be able to take a moment and sign it for Therese.
Lance didn’t hesitate. Every second counts.
You might wonder how a grown man becomes a fanboy. Silly, right? Wrong. It’s simple. I’m a cycling nut. I’m an enthusiast of the human species.
But I’m also the husband of a cancer survivor, a person of incredible courage and heart who has taught me much about how to Livestrong.
Thank you, Therese, from the bottom of my heart. I’m so happy you’ve been able to move with a clean bill of health beyond the difficulties you had to experience in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
And Lance, I know you may never read this, but I have to let you know that you made her day. I just want to say to you, and to Liz, many, many thanks.
Got a tip from Lance Armstrong. Yep. Seriously.
OK, not just me.
So did his other 39,635 followers on Twitter.
It’s a nicely done video preview (with rider) of the key climbing sections in the stages for the Tour of California, America’s premiere pro cycling race. Kudos to Williams Cycling for producing this.
Of course, if you’ve been to this blog (and sometimes cycling obsession), you know my favorite is Stage 8, which includes great local San Diego climbs, and one mountain in particular. If things look a little barren roadside on some of the KOM such as Highland Valley, it’s because of the October 2007 Wildfires that ripped through here.
A winter storm could provide some additional drama on race day in February.
Countdown to ToC: just outside two weeks. Keep pedaling.