Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Crank it up

I've always felt that there is a major structural flaw in the calendar. Weeks come with five weekdays and only two weekend days rather than the other way around. But not always. I spent five days last weekend at the NW Crank cycling camp sponsored by the Seattle International Randonneurs. Much better.

Around 40 cyclists participated in some or all of the camp. Many, but not all, were SIR members. Terry Zmrhal created this event a couple years ago so we could flee the west-of-the-Cascades spring rain and ride in the sunshine. I had not previously attended, but had heard great reports. They were true - I enjoyed five days of good cycling and great company.

Numerous route options were provided each day. My choices involved no monster distances, but quite a lot of steep hills. Most of the routes took us along the river, then up a valley until it ended in a steep climb to a plateau or a U-turn back down. Many of the steep pitches were unpaved, but quite rideable on my rando Serotta.

Thursday, the longest day, was up past Palisades then up a steep gravel section to meet Sagebrush Flats Road from which we followed the Cascade 1200 route in reverse to Quincy and then up river back to Wenatchee with a climbing detour up around the airport at the end. 50 miles of glorious riding followed by 50 miles of unrelenting stiff headwind. I was barely making forward progress 5 or so miles from the end when I ran into the late-arriving Piepers, who towed me in with their good cheer.

Friday we crossed the river, rode downstream, headed up a canyon for a nice supported break, turned around when the road turned to gravel, and then did a lovely tour of the orchards of the Stemilt foothills. I passed on the bonus climb up to the Mission Ridge ski area, but still managed to find 5700 feet of climbing in about 60 miles.

Saturday, I opted for the "adventure" route. Sixty miles, with 20 miles of unpaved road and over 6300 feet of climbing. With the experience of the previous two days to gauge my relative climbing ability, I headed off a half hour before the others. Turning away from the river, the route climbed the unpaved Rock Island Grade road with 3.5 miles of gravel road at an average grade of 10%. I was happy just not to have to walk, although I did have to climb seated virtually the whole way because otherwise my unweighted rear wheel with road tires would just turn fruitlessly in the gravel. I waited about 15 minutes at the top for the main pack of riders. (Picture courtesy of Jim Rupert).
I probably shouldn't have waited, for I was soon left in the dust (and gravel) as the road continued up (and up) on the plain. But the group returned the favor outside Waterville before the climb past the Badger Mountain ski area and up to the top of Badger Mountain, where volunteers had another great rest stop waiting for us. With a few short uphill exceptions, the ride finished with a nearly 20 mile paved downhill back to town. Wheee!

The adventure ride on Saturday was the riding highlight of the camp and worth the price of admission. In the evening we had a banquet at a restaurant (Garlini's) owned by a local cyclist. The white elephant gift exchange after dinner offered many useless bike items cleared from many garages, along with an unfortunate photoshop of the local RBA onto a training wheel bike.
Sunday we rode to Lake Chelan up the Navarre Coulee. An easier day - less climbing and a nice tailwind back along the river. Monday most of the remaining riders drove to Leavenworth and did the Chumstick-Plain-Lake Wenatchee loop with a nice descent (marred by two flats) through the Tumwater canyon back to town.

All in all, an excellent five day weekend.

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