Thursday, December 2, 2010

too much of a good thing

(Maybe should have published this on Tuesday when I wrote it.  Seems less interesting now in light of the UCI/USAC fiasco going on)

We got what we asked for in New England.  Lots and lots and lots of cx racing.  So much racing that people are burnt out.  Did we bring it on ourselves?  15 UCI events in New England, as many as 40 races, including a new phenomenon in New England, the midweek night race!  We talk cx 7 days a week on twitter, facebook, the blogs, and via email.  All the talk, all the action, all the options seems to have worn us down more than ever before.

Some people race a bunch during the summer, entering cx season after a brief break, or maybe without one at all.  It's not surprising to see these people pulling the plug early on cx.  But I am surprised at the die hards who've hung up the tubulars early or even reduced their racing schedule from years past.  I suspect the total number of registrants this season was higher than previous years but it also seems the total number of races was greater.

We got what we asked for, but now racers are dialing it back, being more selective in when and where we spend our racing dollars.  Big events that shelled out big dollars didn't draw enough to break even while smaller events had their greatest numbers to date (I think).  What's the formula for success?  Is it historic performance? location? timing? cost?

What needs to change, what needs to give in 2011 to sustain 40+ events?  Nationals will be in January so people are calling for a longer racing season to support those who plan on attending.  Given the current registration numbers for an event in mid December, it will be interesting to see how New England (and other regions) copes with stretching the race season through the holidays into the new year.  Will the number of races in August decrease as events push back into late December and January or will the experiment of holding nationals in January leave most racers with a 3-4 week gap in their race schedule leading up to the main event?  Will the overall attendance of Nationals drop due to the timing?

I don't know the answers.  I do know I love gluing the tubulars, pinning on a number (not shoulder numbers, those are fucking pain in the ass), and putting myself deep into the red as often as I can with 15 or 150 other racers.  Come winter time, after 20 cx races though, I love the mountain bike, long base mile rides, and not loading a bunch of gear in the car to spend an entire day for 45 minutes of racing.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

2010 cyclocross race review: Sterling Day 1


Stats: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/58494777

Score: B

Pros:
- fun course with power sections, challenging run up, tight turns, and off cambers
- reasonably accessible from CT, NH, RI, and anywhere in MA
- neutral support from Mark

Cons:
- staging by order of registration.  Tom, what do you have against using a predictable metric like crossresults.com?  It seems to work well everywhere else
- the exposed course always feels 5 degrees cooler and windier than the surrounding area, making it less than pleasant for spectators
- no kids race
- this race didn't feel like it had the same level of energy associated with the other Verge events making the high race fee (consistent with all Verge events) feel even less worthwhile

Observations
- small turnout for the elite fields despite being the NACT finale.  7 of top 10 men didn't show.  3 of top 5 women didn't show
- 83% of women finished in the money, 76% of the men finished in the money
- surprisingly few places to pass on the course

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

2010 cyclocross race review: Cheshire CX


Stats: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/57672676
         http://connect.garmin.com/activity/57672679

Score: A-

Pros:
- fun course, great use of available terrain
- challenging elevation changes
- sand pit, muddy bridge crossing, hard climb, hill people
- twisty but fast singletrack, old school feeling
- single speed race adds a second option (as long as you are not also racing cat 4 at the same time)
- fair entry fee: $25 plus $10 for second race
- enthusiastic promoters and announcers
- good spectator course with fanatical fans
- sponsor support helps provide nice prizes

- kids race
- free and inexpensive food available on-site

Cons:
- a bit far for a day trip from Boston and further northeast in New England, but well worth it for anyone in CT, RI and western MA (I-91) residents
- no neutral support, though I saw very few people having mechanical issues
- if you lose control in many of the corners, you will hit an immovable object (baseball backstops, trees, corner of a shed, etc)
- the park is not entirely closed to others so there were a few instances of dog walkers or hikers on the singletrack

I'm hoping more people make the trip to this one next year.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Breaking Away

I use Campy.  It's overpriced and it's not easy to source at the lbs.  I don't like that they moved to 11 speed for the higher end ranges but I've got enough 10 speed stuff to last me a few more years and when (if?) shifters wear out, they are rebuildable. 

Those who use SRAM seem to be blowing through shifters at an alarming rate this fall.  I thought it'd be fun (laughing at you, not with you) to try and count how many have broken their SRAM shifters this fall.  Leave a comment with your experience.  Are you sticking with SRAM in the future?  I know their warranty is great/fast, but it's not instantaneous so you're out at least a few hours/days if you need to rely on it.  So far I've got:

Colin Reuter: 4 shifters
PVB: 2 shifters
Ryan White: 1 shifter
Joy Stark: 1 shifter
Jordan Winkler: 1 shifter
David Montes: 1 shifter
SBZ: 1 shifter
Drew: 1 shifter
Greg Whitney: 2 shifter
Curtis B: 1 shifter
Gary David: 1 shifter
Ryan Kelly: 2 shifters
Mike Wissell: 2 shifters

who else?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

2010 cyclocross race review: Cycle Smart International GP of CX, day 1


Stats: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/56348585

Score: A-

Pros:
- Fun course that is modified a little bit each year. Good mixture of power sections, fast sweeping turns, and then a technical section in the upper wooded area
- Big, competitive amateur fields
- Close enough to NY and NJ to draw some different competitors than usual
- Northampton is a fun town if you want to stay for the weekend
- Typical, tight Verge series organization keeping events on time
- Races were staged by series points and then crossresults.com ranking (except UCI races)
- There were kids races on both days
- There was a specified area for vendors so it was easy to find food or product options to buy

Cons:
- It's 2 hours from Boston so it's a lot of driving to do one day only (NoHo is fun for staying overnight though)
- Look Park charges $7 for one day access (last year was $5, years prior was $3 I think) or $10 for 2 day access which isn't the race promoters fault
- The course layout on Day 1 was such that very few spectators ventured to the upper part of the course even though it is the more technical, exciting area. This may have been exacerbated by the introduction of tent row and the vendor area, giving people less reason to spread around the course. In years past, NoHo has had great cheering sections spread all over but not as much this year

Did I miss anything?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

2010 cyclocross race review: Granogue Day 1 and 2

Day 1
Day 2

Stats: Day 1: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/53732685
Stats: Day 2: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/53732677

Score: B+ (would be an A if the race was closer)

Pros:
- Fantastic courses in a scenic, private estate
- Wicked off camber turns and challenging course design without being ridiculous
- Fun to race against a whole new group of people
- Fun to cheer for the few other New Englanders in attendance
- Fair price: $30
- All attendees got a reusable Granogue bag
- Some seriously fun swooping turns that felt better and better with each lap

Cons:
- Horrible drive from Boston: Hartford, New Haven, Stamford, New York, Philly, ugh
- Local accommodations are not great if you're traveling from far away and want to be social at night (I was lucky enough to stay only 3 miles away with friend of friend)
- Charged for parking ($3)
- Staged racers by series standings (fair) then by registration order (crossresults.com anyone?)
- On-site PA was horrible, causing many many people to miss the staging
- Registration people mixed up my number causing me to stage in the last row instead of mid field (100+, it makes a difference)
- This place would be horrible in the rain/wet due to the amount of off camber
- The MAC seems to be dominated by 3 or 4 teams yet the teams did not have cohesive social gatherings. Quite a shame given what we accomplish socially in New England at our events and look at the huge start/finish area, perfect for tent space!

2010 Cyclocross race review: Providence Day 1


Stats: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/53732694

Score: B+

Pros:
- great course, using the available terrain perfectly
- good venue for spectating
- fun infield area with vendors and side show to entertain spectators
- getting to ride the 2005-2006 cx national championship course
- reasonably close to Boston, Hartford, New Haven
- course would be fun in the dry or the wet

Cons:
- staging a non Verge series event by Verge series points hardly seems fair (lazy maybe?)
- no neutral support
- conflicting info about parking and reserved area for teams
- poor signage in the park to direct people to the course (not an issue if you've been before)
- took a long time to get results posted for participants
- a lot of people suffered flats from glass and broken pavement on the course (lack of neutral support was salt in the wound for some)
- would be nice if this race re-entered a major UCI series (Verge, USGP, NACT) to draw more top caliber riders or stopped trying to be a UCI (more expensive) event and focused on the expo and amateur riders

Friday, October 8, 2010

2010 cyclocross race review: Grand Prix of Gloucester Day 2



Stats: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/51686098

Score: A-

Pros:
- Day 2 was back to the uphill start
- Day 2 was reminiscent of Gloucester courses from years past: fast, open, and fun
- The seawall runup (I like it, others hate it)
- It's Gloucester, it's the biggest race in New England. Great turnout, great vendors, electric environment
- Big fields means racing some of the best in your category
- The venue has plenty to entertain (or overwhelm) the non-racers
- Course was well marshaled by friendly volunteers
- The pre-ride opportunities were plenty
- Day 2's course was not quite as long as day 1 which meant one extra lap for all (most?) fields
- I knew about the gigantic bag of Haribo gummy bears at the Pedros lounge at the beginning of the day
- Gigantic "sample" of Bob's Red Mill oatmeal
- "Tent row" along the start/finish stretch

Cons:
- Why exactly did they not make use of the sandbox? We rode right around it!!!
- Pricey entry, though you get more for your money than you do at the typical Verge event (same prices)
- I had to split immediately after my race (not the promoters fault, though I did beat the traffic)
- I got beat by Chandler Delink

Monday, October 4, 2010

2010 cyclocross race review: Grand Prix of Gloucester Day 1

Grand Prix of Gloucester in Gloucester, MA October 2nd


Stats: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/51686110

Score: B+

Pros:
- It's Gloucester, it's the biggest race in New England. Great turnout, great vendors, electric environment
- Big fields means racing some of the best in your category
- The venue has plenty to entertain (or overwhelm) the non-racers
- Course was well marshaled by friendly volunteers
- The pre-ride opportunities were plenty
- Long course gives slower riders a better chance of not getting lapped/pulled
- The course incorporated every technical element from years past, minus the sea wall run up

Cons:
- The course incorporated every technical element from years past, minus the sea wall run up
- Downhill start into a technical off camber dirt section or into a 90 degree left turn (for the UCI races)? Um, no thank you
- The course was wide spread and it seemed harder than usual to "learn it" and remember where you were
- The long course would have been really long if weather was bad. I prefer more laps on a shorter course but I understand the need for a long course with such big fields
- Not as spectator friendly of a layout as years past, though still above average
- Pricey entry, though you get more for your money than you do at the typical Verge event (same prices)
- I didn't find the gigantic bag of Haribo gummy bears at the Pedros lounge until the end of the day

Lots of people out there on both days. What did you think? Highlights and low lights.

Friday, October 1, 2010

2010 cyclocross race review: Suckerbrook Auburn, NH

Suckerbrook in Auburn, NH September 26th
Stats: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/51258719

Score: B+

Pros:
- reasonable distance from Boston (60 miles)
- great turn out of New England cx faithful
- parking and spectating is easy to manage
- laid back, fun atmosphere for racers and non-racers
- the promoters LOVE promoting this race and it shows
- every year, there are enhancements to the course. they do a great job with the terrain they have
- the race is fairly priced and second races are only $10. plenty of opportunity to get your money's worth and your day's fill of cx racing
- the race is run in support of a chosen area resident who is fighting cancer. yeah, that's right, the money goes to charity, not the promoters. AWESOME!
- dick ring on the mic
- results were up, online within 24 hours

Cons:
- it was super dusty this year. that's not the race's fault, but if you are not a fan of dusty courses, you'd want to avoid Suckerbrook if it has been dry.
- pre-race staging is a free for all (like Quad Cross). it would be a HUGE improvement if the promoters used crossresults or even pre-reg order to line people up. as races grow in size every year, the "race" to the start line gets wackier and wackier
- due to a crowded schedule, pre-riding the course was not allowed between some of the races. this makes it hard for people to get familiar with the course before they race
- maybe we could see a single speed category here next year? i'd do 3 races if they add a single speed.

Suckerbrook has achieved "must do" status on many New England cx racer's calendars. Do it next year if you missed it this year.

Monday, September 20, 2010

2010 cyclocross race review: Catamount Cross, VT day 2

Catamount Cross Race in Williston, VT September 19th


Stats: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/49811051

Score: B

The same pros and cons as Day 1 generally apply. I will add a few specific notes though

Pros:
- day 2 was a more enjoyable course
* almost the same amount of climbing but not in the same all at once manner
* I am a big fan of the log ride/run up
* nice use of off camber, but fast turns

Cons:
- staying to watch the elite field (or racing in the elite field) means getting back to Boston/RI at 7pm or later


What did you think? Was day 2 better or worse than day 1?

2010 cyclocross race review: Schoolhouse Cross, VT day 1

Schoolhouse UCI Cross in Williston, VT September 18th

Stats: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/49811060

Score: B

Pros:
- Scenic venue
- Efficiently run event
* quick results
* quick awards and payout
- Using the same race number for both days (or for the whole series, hint hint) just makes good sense
- Later than usual start time makes driving up the morning of a realistic option
- Appropriate number of categories
- Good excuse to visit Burlington, VT
- Aerobically challenging course with a lot of elevation gain
- Despite the elevation, the course is pretty fast in good conditions
- If weather is nice, camping at the venue is a nice option
- Smaller than average turnout means scoring the coveted Verge points for future event staging is probably easiest here

Cons:
- Wicked fah from Bahston (even worse from RI), making a day trip very hard to justify
- Most expensive race series in the USA (excluding Nationals) as far as I can tell
- Really long course means fewer laps
* fewer chances to get comfortable during pre-ride
* smaller fields become very spread out (less "action")
- Three race numbers? Really? My racing clothes suffer enough from being pinned 15+ times a season, no need to add insult with the shoulder numbers too.
- Not a great spectator venue (see previous point), even though it is scenic
- No pavement (isn't there a UCI rule about this?), though I'm not sure that really matters with this one
- UCI event means dealing with uptight officials and imaginary rules (silly French Canadian official)
- Gloucester and Providence are no longer Verge races, so earning Verge points in VT is less important (at least to me) than previous years
- If the weather is bad, lap times easily exceed 10 or 15 minutes and that's no fun for anyone


What did you think of VT day 1?

2010 cyclocross race review: Quadcross

Here goes. I'm going to recap each cyclocross race I do this year. Simple bullet point style with pros and cons of each event. We'll see if it's possible for me to keep up with this all season.

Quadcross in Bedford, MA September 12th
Stats: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/49811103

Score: B+

Pros:
- close to Boston
- very reasonably priced ($20)
- nice, challenging course
* plenty of twisty, off camber turns to remind you that driving a cx bike should be hard
* enough pavement for the roadies and for recovery
* fairly spectator friendly
* good use of the terrain available
- indoor, clean services
- efficient registration
- laid back attitude of officials, participants, and sponsors (not a cut-throat UCI atmosphere)
- could definitely be considered the appropriate "start" of the cx season for the Boston area crowd
- lively "infield" full of spectators, sponsors, and announcers
- great turnout of Quad Cycles racers to support and participate in their event

Cons:
- staging is a free for all. It would be great/easy to make use of crossresults.com, or even online reg order. Something to avoid the 20 minute, pre-start line up
- races did not start on time (not sure if there was a good reason for this)
- apparently scoring was slow and not entirely accurate
- took a long time to get results posted online (though they were posted at the venue, so this isn't a strong reason to diss on Quadcross)
- too many fields for the number of participants (reduce the fields, combine start times, and make it easier on the scorers)
- Cat 3 race should be 45 minutes, not 40
- barriers were not "secure" (this is nit picking, I know). I saw people stumble on the barriers and knock them over. They should be more firmly mounted if possible.

If you have other observations, please add them to the comments.

Friday, September 17, 2010

it's getting serious

I try to make sure the Wednesday morning "practice" isn't too serious. The turnouts have been great and the course is exactly what I want it to be. This past week we must have had 30 people even though we start at 6:30am.

Now that it is September and people are getting out to race twice (or more) per weekend, these midweek practice sessions can be a great opportunity to really focus on specific skills. People have been asking about targeting specific skills during these sessions, and I say go for it! Need to practice your barriers? Go for it, as many times as you like. Need to practice your turning? There are a lot of varied turns in the course but there is also plenty of open space and a pile of leftover cones to set up your own practice area.

Weather permitting, this coming week I'll show up even earlier (aiming for 6am) so people can practice more than just the 6 (yes, next week is 6!) hot laps. I'm also thinking that some friendly/competitive barrel racing could be fun. Maybe a game of catch the rider in front of you.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

It's almost here

D2R2, 2010 is coming. Get your dirt fix.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Morning CX

I like morning cx. Especially when there are more than just two of us. Eight brave souls endured the August temperatures and early wake up call to hit the new and improved Lars Anderson course.

Robert Hale outdid himself with the new additions. Many of the elements from last year are still in play but we've eliminated some of the leg bursting climbs and boring straights and replaced them with leg bursting run ups and extreme staircase dropoffs (which some folks managed just fine in road shoes).

6-7 minute laps, enough turns to keep you on your toes and greatly improve your driving skills, and a morning view that will replace your need for morning coffee (unless you are PVB who went to 7-11 for coffee before the ride...seriously).

I think we are on track for regular Wednesday morning sessions. The new course is even less dependent on cones so setup and tear down is a breeze and you all can get out there and ride without me (not that you would want to, but you could).
Time to toughen up the hands for cx season.

We had some new faces this week and I hope we have even more new faces as the fall approaches. CX!!!!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Working Man's Stage Race recap

Before taking off for vacation, I decided to sample the Working Man's Stage Race. Here are some miscellaneous thoughts.

1. You definitely need to leave Boston by 3:30 each day to make it in time for the 5:30 sign-ins.

2. The group running the event (mostly Armand but also a group of well organized volunteers) are quite friendly and accommodating. Perhaps because the attitudes of the participants was more relaxed and friendly compared to your typical weekend road race with 80+ participant fields.

3. The first stage was the TT. It's a lot of effort to get up to Amesbury for what ends up being a 15-17 minute effort but the course is fun and definitely rewards people with TT equipment. A few people missed turns or were even directed incorrectly by the nonchalant police officers directing traffic but in Armand's defense, he did mark the course with green blazes that I was able to follow (it would have been nice if they mentioned this, as well as the final right turn to the finish line in the rider's meeting though).

4. Having clip on aero bars and exactly one other TT ride with said equipment this year is not enough to actually do well. I was satisfied with my 10th place but I think I could have been in the top 6 if I practiced my TT more.

5. The road race uses much of the same route as the TT, slightly extending the route to make for 8.5 mile laps. Again, I liked the course and with the smaller than average field (40) it felt safe despite the narrow roads.

6. The ECV boys had 4 or 5 in the top 10 after the TT so they tried to control the road race. They failed, lost the leader's jersey and had a few riders rightfully relegated for blatant disregard of the yellow line rule. There was also a CCB rider who seemed oblivious to the yellow line rule (maybe because he didn't speak English?). I don't understand why that one is so hard to follow.

7. I know I am never going to win a sprint finish so I decided to go for some KOM points. The climb suited me well and I picked up enough points for 3rd place (shoulda contested the first lap) and a whopping $10.

8. I tried to stay away a few times after the KOM but the field pretty easily gobbled me up on the fast descent so I resigned myself to finishing with the group, taking home 12th place and avoiding the almost-crash caused by an ECV rider making a diagonal sprint from left to right of the field in the last 100m. That was good enough to move me into 8th place with just the points race left.

9. The points race was a comedy of errors. My wife and mother-in-law picked me up at work so we could all go together. I had just installed my father's old roof rack that morning and it was not looking good.

10. Fast forward about 45 miles and I'm zipping up 95, fearing a late arrival when the rack lets go and flies off the roof with the bike! Slam on my brakes while watching cars avoid it in my rear view. I run down the left lane of the highway and scramble to pick up the pieces, most of which were still attached, including the bike. Since we had a car load already with baby seat, 3 passengers, and stroller, I had to shove parts all over the place to make it fit. The bike seemed fine except for a torn seat, brake hood, and tire/tube.

11. Once everything was packed in the car, I floored it, knowing I had some repair work to do. We got to the race track about 30 minutes before our start. I happened to have a spare tire with me and the wheel was only a little out of true. I fixed both and taped the hood back together enough to ride. The bike seemed fine (thanks aluminum handlebars!) and I did some hard efforts to make sure nothing was cracked.

12. The points race was a blur. I told myself I needed 8-10 total points to move up on the GC into the top 5. My strategy was to go for every other sprint (once every 10 laps out of 60). I pretty quickly realized it was mayhem and I had no clear wheel to follow so I repeatedly pulled up in 5th or 6th. I managed to score 1 point (4th place) before the half way sprint.

13. Almost immediately after the half way sprint I felt my rear tire going soft. Of course I was towards the front, on the inside of the track and could not easily get out of the way so I stuck my hand up and yelled out FLAT and hoped people would come around me safely which they did.

14. The Threshold crew had pit wheels and told me to grab one which was very nice of them (side bar: have you noticed the Threshold squad is the nicest group at the races? Seriously, they may want to crush you but they also want to be your friend and help you out in unfortunate situations). In my frantic state, while trying to change the wheel I noticed it was rubbing but figured I could make it work and at least hang in the field.

15. I hopped back in mid pack and rode comfortably for 4 or 5 laps, noting that the rubbing brake was definitely slowing me down. After 9 or 10 laps I was drifting further and further back until finally, with about 10 to go I was one wheel, two wheel, three wheel off the back with no hope of re-attaching. From then on, I just tried to stay on the lead lap. Unfortunately with 2 to go, one of the 36 Goguens that was racing attacked off the front and slowly started reeling me in. He caught me with 1.5 to go and the rest of the field caught me with .5 to go.

16. I dropped two places in the overall (finishing 10th) and spent way more in gas than I did on the entry fee. It was a fun experience, one that I might even consider doing again if the starts align again.

Oh yeah, while on vacation this week I submitted an upgrade request and was approved for my Cat 3 license. It just goes to show that podiums and wins are not required to move up a step to Cat 3. In fact, I only have 10 road race starts in the last three years, so that doesn't matter either. Of course, I'm retiring from road racing now so that Cat 3 sticker will just be collecting dust...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rain Delay

Earlier this month I spent a long week in my favorite place, Montana. I brought my riding shoes, pedals, and clothes since my father-in-law is an avid cyclist and has a plethora of bikes in my size. The first weekend I was there, we went for a mellow mountain bike ride leaving from his house. The last time I did this loop with him was during a September visit. The temp dropped 30 degrees during the ride and it started snowing on us. The loop includes a 5 mile paved road section, then a 4 mile dirt road and singletrack climb, then a 4 mile descent from the mountain tops above his house down to the driveway. Yeah, mellow, right? The terrain was not particularly technical, which is good because I was riding his old rigid full suspension Schwinn with v-brakes, but it was a great way to welcome a relaxing week.


During the week, there is a Wednesday night mtb ride. They picked a route that included 9 miles of dirt road climbing and about 6 miles of singletrack descending. For this one, I secured a much more functional and modern full suspension Ventana 29er. The bigger wheels made the climbing a breeze. I never got comfortable on the bike on the descent, mostly because the suspension was tuned to be so stiff I think. At the end of the ride, a Weber Q grille covered in Elk steaks, homemade sausages, and steak tips was waiting for us, as were two or three coolers of ice cold beer. They do it right out there!

The real treat of the week though, came thanks to a flight cancellation on our return. We were seated, ready for takeoff when the pilot told us O'Hare was closing inbound flights for the next 3 hours. I went back to the in-law's house and dragged my father-in-law out on the road bikes to ride up to the local high point. Their house is at about 4,000ft and the high point, called Skalkaho Pass is 7,250ft. It's a simple out and back route, 26.5 miles each way.

I was given the old (like 1968) Schwinn Paramount with the 21mm tires, the downtube shifters, 36mm wide handlebars, and 53-42 gearing. A true 10 speed with Campy Super Record parts that would make an antique collector proud. I actually enjoy riding this bike when I am there. It is very humbling compared to my 16lb carbon race bike or even my more modern Zanconato. My father-in-law even rode this bike across the country when he was in his early 20s, so it holds a special place in his heart too.

Anyway, we set out for Skalkaho Pass, riding together on the paved road for about 12 miles. At that point my father-in-law turned around while I decided to charge on, past the waterfall, to the summit. It's an 11 mile climb to the summit. The road switches to gravel about 4 miles in and since it was recently graded, it was nice and soft (and dusty). About half way to the summit I realized, although I had a pump and spare tube, I did not have tire irons. Fingers crossed, I really didn't want to use his nice Campy Super Record skewers to pry an old 21mm tire off the rim.

My father-in-law had warned that since it was a Sunday, Skalkaho Highway (yeah, this road is actually called a highway!) might be busy with people coming back from the lake on the other side. Busy by Montana standards is ghost town by Boston standards. I might have seen a dozen cars the whole time.

I made the summit, enjoyed a brief rest, and some snow, before turning around for the descent. At first I took it kind of easy, not wanting to risk a flat, but eventually my hands got tired from clamping the um, less than effective, brakes so I let it rip for a while. I think the road is a pretty steady 3-5% grade so you don't get going out of control fast, just fast enough to enjoy it.

Once I made it back to the pavement, I completely let off the brakes and made quick work of the remaining 12 miles back to the house. I had been looking forward to the huckleberry pie that was left over from lunch but apparently my father-in-law was too because he had finished it already. That's alright, I'll trade huckleberry pie for Skalkaho summit any day!

In summary, if I ever disappear, come searching for me in Montana, on Skalkaho Pass because there is a good chance that's where I'll be.