The Hincapie ride could not have come at a worse time of year for me. I was recovering from a long season, recovering from a nagging injury, and trying to re-boot my training for another long season that would end in France. There were also some logistical and pocketbook issues, so I didn’t ride.
Fortunately through my own past experiences in the area, and from friends, readers, and other bloggers, I’m able to get a pretty good feel for how the day went. So this is a first (and probably a last). I am recapping an event where I was not present.
The general consensus from everyone I know who rode (which was a lot of people), was that it was a painful, grueling, quad-busting, yet exhilarating experience.
A number of pros showed up, including Tejay Van Garderen, Cadel Evans, who were #5 and #7 respectively in the 2012 Tour de France. There were plenty of others, including Christian Vande Velde, and of course, Big George himself. From what I hear, the riders were extremely pleasant, mixed in with the crowd, took pictures before and after, and helped create a festive atmosphere. According to the results, they finished with a large crowd at around the 4:53 mark.
As for the course, it was every bit as brutal as expected. Jonathan at Low Cadence claimed to have been ‘fondoed,’ likening himself to a melting pot of cheese. He hung on with a big crowd, took it easy on the Skyuka Mountain Road climb, and then struggled mightily on Howard Gap. After recovering and improving over Green River, he experienced some cramps at the very end. It was a tough day for him, as it was for a lot of people.
I corresponded with Wade, a friend and blog reader. He sent me many of the pictures in this entry. To my surprise, he found Howard Gap a lot tougher than Skyuka Mountain. Skyuka may not be as steep (although it isn’t far behind), but it is longer. Howard Gap may be a lengthy slog to the top, but it is short. He actually enjoyed the switchbacks of Skyuka, yet loathed Howard because it kept going and going. It certainly has a way of getting inside one’s head.
One thing that probably makes Howard Gap a lot tougher is that it comes right after Skyuka. Jonathan, and probably many others, suffered because they had not yet recovered from the first major climb. I have not ridden them back-to-back (yet), but they are close in proximity to each other, which doesn’t give much of a rest.
Kevin from Ram Cycling found the same. He conquered Skyuka without incident, then could not muster enough energy to keep pedaling all the way up Howard Gap. He stopped, could not re-mount on the climb, and had to walk a little bit. It is humbling, but a lot of people walked up part of Howard Gap. There’s no shame in that.
Green River Cove is just a beautiful climb this time year. Jonathan noted that he was able to recover by riding easy and enjoying the sights. I had a similar experience a couple weeks ago. Usually Green River is considered to be a difficult climb, but coming after the two behemoths beforehand, I heard no complaints.
And of course, everyone loves descending the Watershed. Not only is a nice, gradual descent, but it also meant that the majority of the climbing was finished. There were only a few bumps left along the way to La Bastide, the starting and celebration point.
Even though I enjoyed my alternative ride, I have some regrets for not spending the day with George and the 1,000+ riders. Wait for me, George. I’ll be there next year.
Strava Link (Alex Bernstein)
Thanks to Mike, the other Mike, Wade, Alex, Steve, Wes, Jonathan, Kevin, and everyone else who shared their experiences with me.