The Spoke December 19, 2014

Cycle Oregon 2014 - 'Two rides to the top'

These accounts of this year’s Cycle Oregon have been written in no particular order. This experience I am about to share happened after lunch on Day Two, specifically on the extended loop to Rowena Crest and then on to the small town of Dufur (pronounced Doo-fer). This is when this year’s ride really got going and the hills started to bite…….

Scene Setting

Day One had been challenging for two reasons, one self-induced, the other, weather related. As was absolutely predictable, we got carried away on the night before Day One. This involved way too much wheat beer, then falling asleep in a tent that resembled an oven. As a consequence of being cooked on gas mark 6 for 6 hours, I was accompanied by an all-day hangover – a cracking way to start a week’s cycle adventure. This was all well and good until it got to just after lunch when the gradient started to kick in as did the sun. It was absolutely baking. Dehydrated and toiling in the sun, the last 15 miles became a war of attrition. It also meant that the first half of Day Two – Glenwood to Dufur – was going to be pretty steady since the first 40 miles or so were either flat or downhill, thus helping considerably. Enter lunchtime and the ‘additional’ loop……

Rowena Crest

The description of the ‘additional’ loop is wholly misleading since it infers there was a choice regarding the extra mileage. Instead, we all know there was zero chance of us not riding every single available mile Cycle Oregon had to offer. In one phrase – ‘value for money’. Immediately after a surprisingly mediocre lunch we rode through (the town of) The Dalles and headed up the gorge towards Rowena Crest. It was pretty windy and against us the whole way.  We settled into a reasonable pace with myself, Allie (Californian Craig’s 21 year old daughter) and Lukey in tow. Frank was busy calling home and would catch us up at the top later. The climb looked very similar to those in Mallorca; plenty of switch backs with a gradient of between 5%-6%. Should be fairly straight forward I thought to myself……

Allie was sticking to me like glue. It wasn’t that I was trying to drop her (note, not very chivalrous), but I wanted to give her a little test, just to see what she was made of. Crunching a ridiculously high gear, her cadence looked painfully slow to me. That said, as we continued, it was evident she was making better progress than the man in his early 40s, pinging round in the granny gear. As we rode through each bend I was becoming progressively more out of breath. Allie, however, appeared to be in total control. Slowly, she inched away. ¾ of the way up Allie was consistently ahead of me. I could have dug in and gotten level again but I decided not to. I now had one eye and half a brain on the impending climb to Dufur…..

By the time I rolled over the summit, Allie was about a corner ahead. It didn’t even look like she was trying. I put a brave face on it, but clearly it was going to be a long week. Lukey soon joined us and Frank was only a couple of minutes behind having successfully managed to contact home. It was windy ‘up top’ but the view was spectacular. Craig and Carson arrived 5 minutes later and we chatted for a while with the CO volunteers who were happy to feed us yet more San Pellegrino. Then it was time to go. It was important we enjoyed the descent because from here on it was going to be mainly up hill. We made terrific progress (downhill) and back through town with the wind behind us. Then we saw the signpost for Dufur. Turn right, destination up. The top was nowhere to be seen.

The ‘High Rollers’

We were travelling as a group of 5, but the incline soon put paid to that. Craig and Carson dropped off the back, Frank and Allie went slightly ahead and Lukey and I continued upwards at our own pace. Within a mile or so, Frank and Allie had put 200 meters or so between themselves and ourselves so I took it upon myself to bridge the gap. I did so, but as soon as I settled back into the saddle they started to inch away. We were still climbing and it was evident I didn’t have the staying power required to ride with them. ‘I let them get away’ doesn’t accurately describe the situation but there was little point in riding up to their rear wheel only to immediately drop off the back again. So now I was on my own and so was Lukey – a genuine loose/loose situation.

The gradient was ever increasing. We were now some way out of town and the road continued to steadily rise. Riders were very spread out and no one was making spectacular progress. I guessed most people had opted not to do the loop, so we were most likely towards the back of today’s field. The road snaked its way to the top in a long drawn out gradient sapping kind of way. My climbing had little conviction, it was more a case of retaining what little momentum I could muster. There was a cruel right/left complex of bends that resulted in a false summit. I was unhappy about that. I eventually reached the top and with that I was rewarded with an out of this world descent. Great surface, the road twisted its way all the way back down to the bottom of the next valley. Caution was required since the drop was sheer if you misjudged the line. It was a fall you would not step away from. That said, much to my surprise, I managed to catch up with Frank and Allie just at the bottom before, yes, you guessed it, they started to pull away up hill. I am not even sure they realised I was behind them.

Moments later it was a familiar scene; sweat was streaming from my brow and progress was slow. I was bushed. My legs groaned as I clawed my way up hill once again. I dropped off the back like a lead weight. It was not long before I was semi zig-zagging my way up the road. There were a couple of other cyclists I could see, but I paid scant regard to them. I just focussed on hauling the pedals round each revolution. These hills had been described as ‘rollers’ and that’s exactly what they were. Like the South Downs only much tougher; longer and steeper. This is only Day 2 I thought to myself. I could be in trouble if this is the shape of things to come……..

Again I reached the top and the road flattened out, indeed gently descended into town. Local people were ringing bells and clapping us through the finish. They (as in, the local communities) are an integral part of the whole ‘off bike’ experience during Cycle Oregon. Frank and Allie were stood around waiting for me. They seemed quite cheery. Frank, in his usual disarming manner, thought it had been “Quite tough.” I’ll say. A few moments later Lukey rode in, like me, glad the day on the bike had ended. That was enough cycling for one day; the only tasks left were to pitch camp and start exploring Dufur.

Having a beer sounded like an excellent idea…..  

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