Monday, June 23, 2008

Tour De Blast 2008!

I signed up at the last minute for the Tour De Blast on Friday - my bud Jessie offered a ride down there I couldn't resist. All I knew about it was lots of climbing and lots of great views - sounds like my favorite kind of Northwest riding!

The ride is 135 km/82 mi long, with 6,500 feet of ascension. Oh, and did I mention Mt. St. Helens?! We were riding up to a great view of it, and along the way we could even see glimpses of it & the carnage it dealt to the area. I'd never seen it in real life, only heard about it in school and whatnot - amazing is all I can say.
Here you can see the elevation profile for the route - looks like fun to me!

Below are some great photos taken by Steve, who graciously allowed me to re-post them here. A view of the route we took to get out to Johnston Ridge, the viewpoint of the blast crater. More of his great photos here.
Start of the Ride

The weather was great, and the roads were awesome too - starting in Toutle Lake we went east on a two-lane highway with rolling hills. I led out the paceline for the first 10 minutes, probably pushing a little too hard too hard for a warm up - but what else is new?

We (Jessie, his buddies Dave & Art, and an HPC guy that joined us) rolled out at about 7:30 A.M. and set a good pace, passing lots of people, including one guy with a trailer carrying a weiner dog! The dog barked at all the passing riders, it was great.

After the first 10 miles of rolling hills, the first sustained (9-mile) climb started. I tried to hold about 20 km/h (~12 mph) the whole time, and eventually caught up to some racer-types that had passed us earlier. The HPC guy was living up the "High Performance" part of his jersey and easily dropped all of us. I could see his red jersey way up the road, and his legs spinning faster than everyone else's, including mine.

A map of the route:

Getting up there..

After the first big cimb we regrouped at the rest stop, and I talked to a fellow randonneur, John V. for a bit. Also ran into Steve from BikeForums - always great to put a face to a name! After enjoying some free food & water, we were off for a 5 mile descent. Riders were already streaming back down the other direction, but we still had a ways to go. After the 5 miles of down, there were 5 or so of up.

On the last climb I was saying something about how recumbents don't seem to climb all that well, and not two minutes later a gent laid back on his 'bent passed us as if we were going backwards! So much for my cycling theories.. Although I do have to admit that towards the top I geared up, stood, and made sure to pass him before the apex. Guess I just had to "win" that one, even if the poor sap had no idea I was out to beat him.
One great thing about this ride was that you could see what you were working for - better and better views of Mt. St. Helens!

Getting up towards the top, elevation about 4,000 feet. The grade steepened to about 8-10% in this section I heard.

Johnston Ridge

We got up to the blast-zone viewpoint at about 11:30 A.M. The view was beyond amazing, and was well worth the effort to get there!

A view of the blast zone from Johnston Ridge - wow.

Now heading back down - just around this bend is where I hit my new max-speed record of 87 km/h! (54 mph) Luckily the winds were at my back at that point; had there been a nasty side-wind I might have eaten pavement.

We regrouped at the rest-stop atop the 5-mile climb, and after a good 30-40 minutes of kickin it we decided to enjoy the 9-mile descent. Jessie's friend Art & I led out the pack, and Art's famous descending skills meant it was all I could do just to hold his wheel at 60+ km/h. He eventually dropped me on the descent, but I caught up and passed him later.
The rolling hills seemed to mostly go down on the way back, and I held a good 32-40 km/h (20-25 mph) pace most of the way back. Pacelined briefly with a guy wearing a Vodka jersey, but couldn't hold on after a while. Passed two dudes that had passed me earlier, and felt strong.

But not 3 km from the finish, I ran out of gas! And whaddya know, here comes Jessie and a paceline of 5-6 other riders blasting past me.. I tried to sprint up to their speed and latch on, but eventually I had to let them go.
Finishing at about 3 PM, I rolled into the High School parking lot a few minutes after the rest of the group. We enjoyed free juice, food, and ice cream, and recounted our day of glorious riding.


I heard today that there was a bad crash, and one rider had to be medivac'd out! I bet it was the winds, they must have been gusting up to 40-50 mph at some points. Apparently he's a friend of a friend of a friend, and this was his first big ride after a long break due to a car accident. Damn, talk about bad luck - I hope he can get back on the bike at some point in the future though.

It was a great ride, highly recommended by this cyclist who loves to go up! (Going down is fun too..)


Jim said...

Thanks for posting this (and letting me live vicariously) - I was slated to do it this year, but had to cancel due to a business trip.

matt m said...

my pleasure, jim! hopefully you can give it a go next year, assuming no eruptions between now and then.

as a side-note, i made it into someone else's shot! (green hat)

matt m said...

err, here's a better link: click eet!

Anonymous said...

Hey Joe P here. I was about an hour behind you all day. I was sporting my SIR colors, so I connected with fellow rando newbie Pat for the ride back. I really enjoy this ride, but every year it is WAY harder than I expect it to be. I spent a ton of time cramped up on the second climb, but I was OK on the way home. Pat was riding strong all day. I thought to look at your blog because I caught a glimpse of you storming down from the top. Rock on.

Sara said...

Great report! I am so looking forward to this ride...doing the 54-miler. Maybe I'll get to Johnston Ridge next year. :)