Only 6 brave descenders met at the Pine Valley meeting spot this morning: Geoff, Neil, Tony, Len, Larry and Oleg.
Last weekend we had belgian weather (rainy and cold), and today it was Dutch weather (super-windy). The forecast called for 15mph wind, with 30mph gusts.
Pine/Kitchen creek combo is arguably the most brutal, most challenging and also the most scenic ride we do on regular basis.
The only reason I can think of to explain relatively low turnout today is because most descenders know just how brutal those climbs, especially Pine creek, can be, and that this ride involved some driving. This was the first drive-to weekend descenders ride of 2014, the last one being Julian Fall ride back in October.
For the future, we should start this ride from Pine Valley (plenty of parking), ride Pine Creek first, and finish with Kitchen creek, for a change.
Two people in the group never did Pine Creek before – Larry and Tony (it was also the first time up Kitchen Creek for Larry). Larry opened up a bit of a gap as we started climbing Kitchen creek – into stiff headwind too, but with some coordinated effort we brought him back a few miles later. I was quickly getting tired. After we passed through the gate Geoff, Tony and I let Neil and Larry ride off at a faster pace, while the three of us rode nice and steady tempo to the top. Geoff’s seatpost clamp cracked and it was loose, but he kept on riding.
At the top we waited for poor Len who was left to bravely face the stiff headwinds solo and then we all descended down Sunrise Hwy with a strong tailwind this time.
Carried by the winds Larry set a strava KOM on Sunrise Hwy descent section by averaging 45 mph or so for 3 mile stretch – without pedaling once! However, strong cross-wind gusts were also quite dangerous – imagine invisible cannonballs randomly fired at the front wheel of your bike as you are descending at 45mph – this is what it feels like to ride through the gusty winds that whip the bikes around. I watched Larry from behind, as he saved it a few times from sudden front wheel wobble caused by the strong and random wind gusts. Unfortunately there was little one can do to fight off (or even anticipate) the gusts, but we were lucky to avoid any problems. Neil was riding deep dish carbon rims and he was whipped around by the wind even worse than the rest of us riding aluminum boxed rims – he was the fastest of the group climbing today but was deliberately slow descending (we were worried if something happened to him as he was good 3-4 minutes back at the bottom).
While riding towards Pine Valley we saw a female rider who was riding in the opposite direction – the wind blew her into the ditch and she fell off the bike. She appeared Ok and tried to remount her bike but got blown off the bike again.
At the same time the gusts threw us from the bike lane on the far right, about 10 feet to the left, right in the middle of the road. Luckily there was no traffic.
We quickly refueled at Pine Valley store and set off to climb Pine Creek. Pine creek has several long sections of about 16%, sometimes briefly reaching 20% gradients. With 20+ mph headwind gusts it felt like a slap in the face, equivalent to 25% or more. Larry and I were climbing full-out at about 4mph, watching Neil distance from us at a rapid speed of… about 5mph. We saw several riders descending down beaten road of Pine creek – not the wisest choice considering the road quality, but I suspect they climbed half way and decided to turn around. Or perhaps they wanted to avoid winds on Sunrise Hwy.
We regroupped at the top of Pine Creek and rode a nice paceline into the wind to the store, and then descended Sunrise Hwy again. Tony descended at “regular” (=fast) pace while the rest of us rode gingerly and deliberately slowly, after seeing what the nasty gusts can do to bikes. This time it seemed the winds were not as bad (at least not at 30mph instead of 45-50mph). We all made it safely to the cars. 50 miles with 7,000 ft of climbing and a lot of extra wind resistance.
Fun times and an epic memorable ride for sure – you should have come. Selected photos are attached, and more photos are here:
I will leave you with a youtube video of dutch junior cycling team training in ridiculous cross-winds in Netherlands. It wasn’t nearly as bad today, of course, but gives you some idea of basic physics involved in riding in strong winds, enjoy: