Category: climbing

L’Etape California – A Good Yet Hard Day on the Bike

A few of us California Alps Cycling members had signed up but we lost a couple, one to injury and one because he became a new daddy last year and so has not been able to put in the miles.

So, it was just Scott Keno and I representing C.A.C. a week ago Sunday (the ride/race took place on October 28th). I made the trek east from Markleeville and Scott made the trip north from Clovis. We met up Saturday at the Expo where we picked up our bib numbers, timing chips, t-shirts and schwag bag. John and Diana Velez, two hard-core local riders, and friends of Scott’s (and now friends of mine) also came by the Expo, along with their standard poodle, Studly (what a cool dog).

An image of Mark with a dog licking his ear.
Studly introducing himself to me, while his Mom, Diana, looks on approvingly.

We spent a bit of time checking out the gear at the Assos truck where John, and the Assos boyz, turned me on to some cool bibs (I bought the Equipe and wore them on the ride the next day – man were they commmmffffyyyy).  The five (5) of us then bailed from the festival, but not before checking out some TDF history at the Expo’s museum (mouse over the images and the captions will pop-up. Dig that wool jersey!),

and headed out for some pub grub and a few cervezas. Later that night, we met up with a couple more friends for some good eats at the Corner Tavern and Grill.

After dinner it was time to get the gear ready, put the chips and numbers on the bikes and our jerseys and get some rest.

The day of the ride started well. Nice weather – not too cold – and so we didn’t have to wear “the warmers.” I did, though, add a light base under my jersey and wore a neck thingy too. You’d think that since I live in the Sierra that I wouldn’t be such a cold-whimp, but alas, that’s not the case.

A couple pix from the start – That’s Scott doing “the Kilroy” and me chatting with another rider in that image on the right.

We took off with an escort (always cool) about 8:00 a.m. and after just a short bit of flat roads, the climbing started. For those of us doing the 90 mile ride, we had about 8000′ of climbing to look forward to and we did about 7000′ of that in the first 50 miles! As is the usual for L’Etape, the course was a difficult and challenging one but hey, as we’ve all heard, if it was easy, anyone could do it!

Three riders smiling for the camera.

This was my third L’Etape and I had a goal of placing in the top 200 riders, a ride time of 6 (six) hours and an elapsed time of under 8 (eight) hours. I felt pretty good about hitting those goals since I was peaking fitness-wise and I had a really strong rider to pull me (and push me, if you get my drift) around the course. And John met us early on and rode with us for part of the course too (that’s him in the middle of the above pic.).

Rider pointing to his location on the elevation profile of L'Etape California.
Yup, I was there.

For those of you who haven’t done a L’Etape before then you’re probably not aware that the TDF organization does a bit of timing on certain sections (KOMs) and on this particular ride there were three (3). Now this big boy is never in the top of those standings but it’s always fun to compare myself to others. Scott is a big boy too (not as big as I but not your “typical” rider) but we climb fairly well and always enjoy the looks we get when we pass smaller riders while climbing.

Anyway, as it turns out I was 221st out of 394th on the climbs (cumulatively), 27th (out of 38) in my age group (55-59) and for the “classic challenge” (.3 miles at 12% average but let me tell you there were some 18-20% pitches in there!) I came in 99th out of 207 riders! Overall, I finished 165th so really stoked about that! There were 295 participants on the 90 mile course so I’m pretty happy with that. Time on the bike = 6:14:20 (almost hit my 6 hour goal) and elapsed time was 7:08:01.  Click here to see my official results, and click here to see Scott’s. Note: he would have had some much better results if he wasn’t letting me suck his wheel all day long. Well, I did do one good pull towards the end of the ride. Thanks Scott for taking care of me. You are the man!

L'Etape Course Map and Profiles
The course map and my elevation, speed and HR profiles for the day.

Hopefully I didn’t bore you with too many stats and such. I was just trying to give all of you, especially those of you who haven’t participated in such an event, a good sense of the day. I’ll leave you with one last picture…

Me and Scott after finishing the 2018 L'Etape.
All smiles now that we have our finisher’s medals, which (GOOD IDEA) also double as bottle openers.

And bid you all a happy Monday and remind you to challenge yourself and ride safe.

Now Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses!™

Climbing. It’s What We Do in the California Alps

My newphew Ryan, who lives in the Santa Cruz mountains, says something like: “I’m climbing as soon as I leave my house.” For those of us who live in the mountains, including the “real mountains” of the Sierra (sorry Ryan), climbing is indeed what we do, and I, like Ryan, start climbing pretty much right out my front door.

Now, if you’ve met me you know that I am not the typical climber. At 6’2″ and 225 pounds (1.88 meters and 102.06 kilograms for you euro-purists, and for my own edification) I guess I’m more a sprinter than a climber. But I’ve always been a big boy and I’ve prided myself in not conforming to that stereotype. So, I relish the climbing (most of the time) and I’m trying to get better at it. Sometimes I prefer the climbs to the descents (sometimes) because I could be a better descender too and up here in Markeeville, 50 mph (80.47 kph) descents are pretty common.

Looking up the road to blue skies and dappled sunlight on the road - Hwy. 4 Ebbett's Pass at Chalmer's Mansion
Looking up hill (southwest) on Hwy. 4 (Ebbett’s Pass) at Chalmer’s Mansion

Our local pride & joy, the Deathride (July 13, 2019), climbs five (5) mountain passes (so 5 descents too) over about 125 miles, including both sides of Monitor Pass, Ebbett’s Pass (the entire northwest side and the other side to/from Hermit Valley) and the eastern side of Carson Pass. Add the many bumps and rollers in between and it presents a daunting challenge of approximaltey 15,000 feet of climbing. I’ll let you euro junkies do the km and meter conversions this time. 

“It’s not just Markleeville, though, right?” You ask. You’d be correct. The California Alps cover more area than that but Alpine County is really the heart of our Alps, hence the county name. Check out this recent article by the Sacramento Bee for more info. and here’s a link to an even more recent Los Angeles Times article. No shortage of things to do here in M’Ville and surrounds…

Okay, back to my point: climbing. While I may not have as many flat choices as others might, I do have some. Even those (Diamond Valley, for example) have some decent elevation gain, though.

So, how does one become a better climber? Okay, full disclosure, I’m no expert but after years of athletic endeavors (California’s Aids Ride back in 1998, Black Belt, Kenpo Karate in 1999, Deathride finisher in 2017 to name several) I’ve learned some basic tenets:

  1. Eat less
  2. Drink (beer) less
  3. Weigh less
  4. Climb more
  5. Work the core
  6. Lift weights.

Those last two bullets, while they may seem counterintuitive, have really made the difference for me, especially the core work. Fit balls and Bosu balls have become my friends. Try doing some dumbell work on the former (use the ball as a bench) and some squats on the latter (stand on the flat side). Takes practice but after awhile you’ll lose the wobble. My balance is better, I’m a better climber and I’ve increased my average power and my stamina. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Mark coming up the hill to the finish of the Medio version of the Mammoth Gran Fondo. Flashing the hang loose sign with tongue hanging.
Finishing the Medio (70 miles, 3500′ of climbing) on Sept. 8, 2018

After the Mammoth event I decided I needed to do more. I need to lose more weight so I can get my power to weight ratio up and I need to get even stronger. How do I do that? Well, I just started reading it but so far Bicycling’s “Climb!” is encouraging. Chapter 3, “Goats and Grinders” has some great information (you guessed it, I’m a grinder) and I especially love this quote from author Selene Yeager: “It’s not just the size of the rider but the power in the pedal stroke.” And, no, in case you’re wondering, I’m not getting any kind of stipend or the like from Bicycling. I’m just a knowledge junky and now that I live in the heart of the CA Alps I figured I better get REALLY serious about my climbing prowess. Not sure, have I earned the right to use “prowess” yet? What the heck, it’s my blog after all!

Got some advice you’d like to pass on? We’d love to hear from you.

In the meantime, Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses!™

 

 

 

 

My lawyer told me I need to tell you this too: Please check to make sure that any trails, roads, hikes etc. that you use are suited to your skill set. CAC is not responsible for any injuries whether you are riding, lifting weights or doing anything physical. Know yourself and what you are capable of.  Any information provided on this website is subject to change and CAC is not responsible for the accuracy of that information.