4 hours, about 63 miles.
Today I made my first ascent of Mt.Lemmon, a legendary place in American cycling lore. Rising over 9000feet from Tucson (which is about 2700ft), the climb is 25 miles long, with a constant 5% grade the entire way. The rain last night had us worried that the road to the top would close at the 14 mile mark. (If there is snow on the road, they'll block the road off to anyone without chains and 4wd....no bikes allowed) As of about 7am this was sadly the case, but thankfully by the time we started up the mountain it had warmed up enough that the road was open. No more time for excuses, it was time to HTFU(See rule #5 - http://www.velominati.com/blog/the-rules/)
After about 2 miles a group of 3 of us settled into a rhythm. Several miles later Bob, a 140lb Masters racer with a history of climbing well, decided he wanted to push himself a bit so he slowly edged ahead...and then, shortly afterward, disappeared from view. (I wonder what it would be like to only weigh 140, but I'm fairly certain that would require amputation of either a leg or both arms, rendering me unable to even ride a bike and thus making this entire hypothesis pointless) This wasn't a race, and is day 1 of 6 long days, so I stayed in my endurance range and kept a steady pace all the way up. I felt great, and the numbers didn't lie either. All the miles on the trainer and in the cold this winter are clearly paying off.
I rode the climb (which took us about 2 hours and 18minutes) with Kyle Wolfe. Kyle has been racing bikes, coaching cyclists and directing cycling teams for longer than I have been alive. In just one ride with him I've already learned tremendous amounts of information, all of which are going to make me a better, faster rider and help me win races and support my NCVC/UnitedHealthcare teammates. I look forward to more miles on the road with him so I can soak up more knowledge.
The road up Mt.Lemmon dead ends at the top, so you ride back down on the same road. Yup, that's a 25 mile descent and it is AWESOME. While it takes 2+ hours to ride up, you can make it down in under 1 hour. Kyle and I rode cautiously due to strong crosswinds and several icy patches that remained because they were in the shade all day. Still, we were doing 30mph easy most of the time. I tried to enjoy the view from time to time as we screamed down the mountain, but was typically more concerned with staying upright, and on the road.
Ya see, the state of Arizona has some interesting theories on guardrails. The guardrails all along Mt.Lemmon are about 2 feet high, which is just high enough to stop your bike, and subsequently turn you into a human cannonball. No parachute = No tomorrow. I can't imagine they would even do much to stop a car that is careening out of control at high speeds. They probably got the guardrails on sale at Costco (did you know the Tucson Costco is the 10th busiest Costco in the US?? Yea, I didn't either...and no, I didn't really care either) I suppose that on the up-side the authorities will know where to look for the body since your bicycle will have marked the spot....depressing, I know.
One thing that has become clearly evident to me is that people in Tucson are both used to cyclists, and are much FRIENDLIER to cyclists than anyone back east. Cars give us tons of room when passing, they patiently wait behind you if it's unsafe to pass, and they even wave and honk to let you know they are passing. Hell, today a Border Patrol truck drove past us as we were climbing the mountain and announced over his loudspeaker, "Lookin good guys!" Back in the Mid-Atlantic if you hear sirens or a cop comes over his loudspeaker it's to chastise you for riding 2-abreast or to give you a ticket for rolling a stop sign (which of course I have neeeever done because I'm a responsible, law-abiding cyclist. . .)
Tomorrow we head to Bisbee by way of Tombstone, for a solid 100 miles in the saddle. The forecast looks great, with temps in the high 60's and the sun shining brightly. The route is fairly tame except for one climb that's about 5 miles long and relatively steep. Word on the street is that Wyatt Earp is in town, which could spell trouble....because "on a steel horse I ride, and I'm wanted, dead or alive".
Sorry, no pics of today's climb since there were only 3 of us. The fact we didn't have a camera was also somewhat of an issue. I do however have a picture of me rocking the Pedal Power Training Solutions team kit and one of the group heading to the base of Mt.Lemmon. Real men wear pink.