Mt. Hamilton Challenge in Reverse

| March 22, 2009 8:22 pm

by Franz Kelsch

One of the annual events is the Mt. Hamilton Challenge that goes up Mt. Hamilton, down to the junction, over to Livermore and then back through Calevaras. There was a long distance training club ride yesterday, led by Jon, that did this route in reverse, which has some tougher climbs. The ride started at 7:30 am and initially I was going to suggest to Gary that we start later, as we often do, and try to catch the rest of the group. The forecast was for rain later in the day so it seemed better to start with the rest of the riders and finish earlier

It was still dark when I stopped at Gary’s house to pick him up. After a drive up to San Jose, we arrived just in time. It was getting light now and the temperature was not too bad, warmer than last Saturday.

Vince getting ready to ride

Vince getting ready to ride

We had enjoyed wonderful weather on Friday but I knew this day would be much cooler. Ann was not able to join so I was on my single bike, which was too bad because there were two other tandems, Russ & Sheila and Barley & Susan.

Most of the group was together as we started to climb up Calaveras.

Russ and Sheila

Russ and Sheila

It was not long before five of us went ahead of the rest of the riders and the two tandems. After climbing the “wall” we started through the rollers along the Calaveras Canyon. Our group now was down to four including myself, Gary, Brian and Vince. Brian was taking pictures of us from the back while riding which was amazing considering we were moving rather quickly.

Vince, Franz, Gary on Calaveras

Vince, Franz, Gary on Calaveras

Then Brian went ahead, to get a front shot! Not sure how he did it because I thought we were cruising right along.


Franz and Gary

At least I thought we were moving along and was surprised that we were suddenly passed by Barley and Susan, who were making a very fast pace through the rollers.

Barley and Susan

Barley and Susan

I raced to jump on their wheel thinking I should be able to hold on with all these curves. I know I have to slow down when cornering on the tandem, but Barley has a lot more courage than I do. I was starting to slip off the back. Gary went around me and was able to connect with the tandem. By now Brian had dropped off the back and we were soon joined by Guy. The three of us were trying to connect with the tandem before the descent but that last climb was just not long enough so they were over the top and headed down fast. Three of us, myself, Vince and Guy, worked together as we were headed to Sunol, trying to close the gap but never seeming to make any progress. Gary was riding in the tandem draft, RESTING!

It was not until we finally hit some traffic lights that we joined up. We road together through Livermore and before heading to Mines Road three riders stopped to get water. I was afraid to stop so I was the only one that followed Barley and Susan as they continued on. On the way up Mines Road, Gary and Vince finally caught us but we did not see Guy again that day. I was so glad to be climbing up Mines road because my heart rate was now much lower than it was on those flat sections and rollers.

We all stopped at the Junction Cafe for maybe 10 minutes, just enough time to eat something small and get water, then it was off toward Mt. Hamilton. I was feeling fatigued at this point but was able to keep reasonably close to the rest of the group. I saw some of the riders going the other way out to the junction from Cheeseburgers at the Junction ride.  Except for Gary, I caught everyone on the last climb before the descent down to Isabel Creek. I was so happy we had finally hit the backside of Mt. Hamilton. I know that sounds strange, but for me I like climbing and it is much easier for me to keep with the fast riders when we are climbing, especially that wickedly fast tandem of Barley and Susan.

I decided to time myself up the backside, although I knew it would not be that fast since it was well into a long ride and I was not going to be racing up. At the top I did a split and found my time was 46:30 minutes. I waited there for awhile, wondering how far the others were behind, but no one was coming up. It was a chance to put on my jacket and eat some more food. It was cold so I decided to head back down the hill about a quarter of a mile to see where everyone was and then I saw Barley and Susan down below coming around a corner. I waited for them and climbed up to the summit and along the flat to the Observatory where Gary was waiting. The tandem didn’t stop but headed straight down, even though Susan was in short sleeves and it was now 48 degrees!

Gary and I started down the hill but I never descend as fast as he does, so soon he was out of sight. About 3 miles down the hill I suddenly got a massive cramp in my right leg and had to stop for a short while. I was wondering if I was going to be able to get out of the pedal with the cramp, but managed somehow. I was surprised to get cramping in such cool weather and when I was going down the hill. After a couple of minutes I was feeling good enough to go on and was okay the rest of the ride. Gary was waiting at the bottom of Mt. Hamilton and Barley and Susan had already gone on. The weather was starting to look more threatening so we headed the 7 miles to the car. At 2:30 pm, it started to rain. Gee why could it not wait until 3:00 pm like the forecast. We got wet enough but were glad it was at the end of the ride and only for 20 minutes. I was glad when we finally reached the car and got the bike inside my minivan. Gary and I headed into Erik’s Cafe and Gary bought me a sandwich. That sure tasted great.

When I got home I went to the King of the Mountain Page to see how fast I climbed up the backside of Mt. Hamilton before and found my best time last year of 46:53, 23 seconds slower than I just did on this long ride.  See the KOM times for the backside of Mt. Hamilton.

3 Responses to “Mt. Hamilton Challenge in Reverse”

Brian Chun wrote a comment on March 22, 2009

Dear Franz,

Kudos for your great pace on this classic Mt. Ham Challenge (in reverse).
You make sprint-climbing sound like a piece of cake, which it should be,
however young we happen to be.

And Happy “Sweet 16” (in reverse).
May you enjoy many more birthday cakes, frosted like Sunday’s snow-covered peak,
with an extra dome on top (Lick Observatory).

6 to 1 on Mt. Ham’s backside?
Now that’s something to celebrate, rather than simply blowing out a bunch of candles!

Velo Love,

Brian C.

vince Cummings wrote a comment on March 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Franz. I was hoping for a better climb but the 15.1 mph riding time avg.for the wholr ride is something that I am satisfied with. Good job making it up the climb without the problems I had. I think I am one for four on that climb now for that ride. Only once have I been able to climb it with a respectable pace. Saturday I looked down at my computer and it said 4mph that’s a bad sign. Then I noticed the bike zig zagging up the hill. I knew I had to stop and eat. Not only did I do that but I rested as well with the last little bit of sunshine for awhile. I was able to slowly finish the climb and had a good descent on MH. I didn’t have a problem with Quimby East but the rain made the traffic on Tully even worse than ever.

Gary Franck wrote a comment on March 23, 2009

It was great riding with you guys. Since I spend so much of my time riding alone, it’s a pleasure to ride with old friends. Ride and smile. Oh-Happy B-day Franz!

Care to comment?