|The Lion of Flanders marks the way.|
This past Saturday was the latest edition of what has become something of an institution for Portland roadies. In it's sixth installment the Ronde, or more formerly De Ronde Van West Portlandia promised to send us up some of the West Hills steepest climbs.
|The scene at the start. This is maybe half of the starters.|
|Dik-Dik Tracy, the Hymanator and an unnamed accomplice waiting to start.|
The first leg of the route took us up Highway 30 to Saltzman Road and the first climb of the day. Saltzman starts off paved, but the upper 3 or so miles are gravel. At this point, we were still in a pretty big group and while Saltzman isn't a super steep climb, it is 1,100 feet of elevation gain over almost 4 miles, so the group started to stretch out a bit. At the top we took a hard left onto Skyline, bypassing the gaggle of riders taking a break at the roadside. I didn't realize it at the time, but the 6 miles that followed were probably the easiest (not counting descents) and most peaceful of the day. A sharp right at the Skyline Restaurant dropped us down into position for the first brutal climb of the day, the infamous Brynwood Road.
|Riders about halfway up Brynwood. To the left you can see people in a driveway resting for the next leg.|
1) It's narrow. This isn't a big deal if you're by yourself, but when there are 500 other people on the road with you, a little extra space is helpful.
2) It's slippery. Being narrow and tree lined, it doesn't get a lot of sun and the resulting moss can be a deal breaker if it causes your rear wheel to spin out.
3) It's not straight, but roughly s shaped, and from the bottom you only see the first 1/3rd. The problem with this is you think that first turn is the summit, but once you reach it, you are confronted with another 100 yards of punishing steepness.
The only thing in your favor are the driveways. Clever riders know they can use the half dozen driveways on the upper stretch to catch a quick breath before lurching off for the next toe hold up the line. Therefore, you'll see 2 or 3 riders in each driveway describing tight circles on their bikes, breathing like a blown race horse before surging off once again.
|Brad Ross, delighting in the carnage he has created.|
I personally only made it about halfway, even in my 34/32 low gear. But hey, at least I didn't fall over like the poor bastard on the time trial bike that toppled into me as I was trying to dismount in disgrace.
|The final push. Literally.|
We regrouped at the top where Brynwood rejoins Skyline, and wolfed down some food in preparation for the descent down Cornell where we would assault the next climb up to the Pittock Mansion. This one was much more manageable, and would set the tone for most of the rest of the day. Climb for 10-20 minutes then rest at the summit, drink some water and snack, then move on to the next one. We repeated this pattern 3 or 4 more times, interspersed with a high speed run down West Burnside, culminating in a lengthy break at Plaid Pantry for refueling. I was surprised at how many calories I was burning through. I had brought what seemed like an adequate amount of food for a ride of this length, but I clearly underestimated.
After stocking up on junk food, we crossed over Highway 26 for the next phase of torment, which consisted of multiple runs up and down the slope between Council Crest and PSU. Finally, we came to the second of the day's brutal monuments: the infamous and feared College Street.
|College. Photos don't do it justice.|
|D-Bone at the midpoint.|
|The view from College.|
|Into the woods. Photo taken 2/23.|
|A little rough, but doable on a road bike. Photo taken 2/23.|
|Still 3 climbs to go. Photo taken 2/23|
|The ultimate goal. Photo 2/23.|
|The view from Council Crest.|
|The finishers circle, high atop the city.|
|D-Bone takes a load off.|
The route is easy to follow, you can find numerous maps online, and the turns are marked with the Lion of Flanders in yellow
Bring plenty of food. There are places to resupply en route, but you will need more fuel than you think.
Unless you are positive you can ride 100% of the route, consider trading your road pedals and cleats for the mountain variety. It's much easier to walk, especially up a steep grade.
Definitely bring at least 2 bottles. I probably went through at least 5 large bottles of fluid, and it wasn't even hot.
There are also a few short stretches of unpaved singletrack. Though not very technical, they're pretty rough for a road bike.