South Baldy Hill Climb Race report

Thus beginnests the 2007 mountain style bicycling series.

Race number one of the new mexico off road series was the "Tour of Socorro" omnium. Consisting of the South Baldy Hill Climb on Saturday 4/21/07 and the Cerillos de Coyote xc race on Sunday.

Socorro is a mere three hours from Los Alamos via the coche and about as far as one likes to travel the day of the race. As such, I have a special relationship with the socorro races having done their very memorable fall race in 2004 and having done the triple flatted wind and fireroad suckfest last year. In two races and 60+ miles of racing in socorro I have flatted four times and had some sort of horrible stomach bug inducing a very memorable night in the socorro motel 6 . However something compelling keeps bringing me back there. I suspect it is the excellent brew pub in town, but I am not sure...

Anyhow, Saturday's hillclimb starts at noon, so Elena and I leave Los Alamos around 7 so we have plenty of time to get there. The drive goes pretty smoothly for the first couple hours until somewhere just south of albuquerque I hear some horrible noise coming from the car and pull over to see the best Socorro related flat yet:

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Yeah thats a 100+ dollar car tire with less than 3000 miles on it. I think I hit some debris in albuquerque that started a slow leak culminating in the tire riding the sidewalls at 70mph resulting in this multiple puncture flat:

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Anyhow. I suck at car things. I hate working on cars, I am not a huge fan of driving. Elena is a pretty sharp car mechanic. BUT, I am proud to say, I am damn near NASCAR proficient in changing flats due to persistent rotten car flat luck. I estimate I am averaging a flat per 9000 miles driving, which is probably about what I get on my road bike...

After 15 minutes or so, we were on our way, me in a decidedly sour mood. We got to the race site in Water Canyon just outside Socorro with plenty of time, I registered, changed and got ready to rumble.

The race today would involve some 8.3 miles climbing with just under 4000 feet elevation change, topping out at 10,600 feet. The race details are here, including course profile
. As a bonus the course ended up above the new Magdelena Ridge Observatory and they were offering tours after the race. Being a big race and science geek I was becoming happier. Also happier was that the road that we were racing up is well graded and Elena was able to drive up to the top in our Golf so she could see the race ending and the observatory as well.

I will intersperse photos I took while we were driving down, I noticed very little on the way up as I was deep in the pain cave, but it was quite pleasant to see the route and views.

about 5 miles from race start on the way to water canyon. We climbed up to the left
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The race started in waves about 5 minutes apart. Pros-experts-women-sports and singlespeeds- and finally beginners. There were about 110 racers on the line, which is a pretty great turnout for a NM event. There were 12 singlespeeders at the start as well, also pretty great. The course is a fireroad that, due to the new observatory, seems to be graded weekly as it was completely free of braking stutter bumps. It had an average 9% grade. The weather is really cool for Socorro, say high 40's low 50's, overcast and very windy.

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Here is a mile by mile summary of my race.

Mile 0-1:
Hard start, got away in a front group of 10 or so including a couple single speeders, a couple of guys on cross bikes and a few mountain bikers. There are a few attacks by the cross bikers, with chase downs and regroupings. I am running a 34-20 on 26 inch wheels. It is pretty good. I am working pretty hard but feeling good and able to follow the attacks.

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Mile 1-2:
The group is winnowed a bit. Two cross bikers (jamie ryanwhite and ??), one Mtber (aaron), and 2 single speeders (Me and Ray). Ray is a strong rider with a bigger gear than me. Jamie pulls a look around and roadie attack from the back and blows us all apart. He disappears up the road followed by aaron. Cross biker #2 (I think he is actually on a Tomassini road bike with cross tires) and I are grinding along. Ray implodes and is not seen again. We start to catch the end of the womens field by mile marker two.

Miles 2-3:

Crossbiker number two is gapping me, but I look back and see NOOOOOO one. I feel good. I am winning the single speed catagory. By alot. I am slowing a bit, but still moving along steadily. So I am feeling really good. I ride along a bit and then I hear talking. Two guys on single speed 29'ers ride by me, side by side. They gap me slightly and then a bit more and settle in 100meters up the road, just out of reach.

You can see the course way way below on the left
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Miles 3-4:

Ouch. Pain. Ouch. The grade is steeper, the road a bit looser, the winds higher. No one is near me. The two other singlespeeders are just up the road, appearing and hiding around the switchbacks. I am hurting. My speed starts dropping below 5 mph, which is dropping me below 40 rpm. I walk when I hit 4mph. I cross back on. Ouch ouch ouch. Then it starts to snow.

Miles 4-5:
The course settles in. The switchbacks still suck, but not as steep. I am carrying one waterbottle in my back pocket and it is about 1/4 full. I ride almost the whole mile. I feel like I can do this and am closing in a bit on the two guys up front. Still riding side by side. Snow patches appear on the side of the road. i am approaching 9000 feet. I am catching some of the experts that started 10 minutes a head. Perhaps one of the sport guys I started with has caught me and we are yo-yoing.

view down to switchbacks way below
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Miles 5-6:

Uh, more pain. I walk a bit in this mile, but I am moving pretty solidly and feeling better. No more snow from the sky, but it is getting pretty damn cold and windy. I am yo-yoing madly with two geared guys.

odd snow curl formations on the side of the road
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Miles 6-7:
I feel pretty good and am hauling the two guys up front in. This is a pretty easy mile in the middle with some false flats, I am cruising. It kicks up toward mile 7 but I pour it on trying to get back into it. I am at the edge of vomiting and bonking and almnost completely out of water but still hauling along.

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Mile 7-8:

As we start to come out of the trees to the bald of South Baldy there are spectators at the sied of the road, with a cooler and are holding lred cans of tecate. Want some beer? Why yes, yes I do thanks. I grab a can, take a long pull and hand it back to the kind soul. Best tasting beer consumed mid race, beating the previous record of the rainy year I did sea otter. I feel mildly refreshed am up above 10,000 feet and heading toward the finish. Unfortunately the two single speed guys up front seem to have noticed me closing and they have taken off. The last mile is one big sweeping left hand turn that is free of trees and visible the whole way. It is very cold. I am not feeling great, but I clean the last mile handily as the end is near.

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Mile 8.

Ah sweet relief, there is the observatory, I am done... Whats this? Another switchback and up a gravelly snowy steep bit for another half mile? Why? There is no one near me. I am near no one. Surely the results won't change.

Me embarking on somewhat gratuitous push to the summit
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I am pooped and can't ride it. It is loose rocky and snowy. So I power hikeabike up to the top, and hop on for the last 200m and ride up to the very tip top of baldy. It is cold as crap and very very windy. I quickly put on my vest and head down to the observatory. On the way down, my hands and fore arms cramp and I am shivering. It is blowing hard. I find out it is 28F with gusts up to 60 mph and wind chill of 7-12F. Right on!

Frozen Tarik returns from his successful summit bid
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Windspeed and temperature at the observatory at the end of the race
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I finally get to the observatory and Elena is there with the car and warm clothes. There is hot tea, chocolate and food. All the racers are crowded in. Some of the skinnier females are hovering on the edge of hypothermic. The race organizers hand out garbage bags and dry shirts for those who missed the clothes drop. The observatory has a three bedroom two bath living area with a nice operation room and lounge.

Bag enshrouded frozen racers warming in the ops center
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Lounging post race in the lounge
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We get the tour of the MRO. Good stuff. The dome can rotate at 17 degrees/minute which is much faster than the typical 1 degree/minute that observatories have. This is so it can track asteroids, satellites, missles and aliens. It has a Hubble telescope "reject" mirror 2.4 meters in diameter which actually was better than the one that is on the Hubble. The mirror, being made for zero G use had an elaborate system of strain gauges and air pocket that can help it keep its shape as its orientation changes.

Me and the mirror up in the dome
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Elena and me in the dome
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Elena braving the wind at the top, 50-60mph gusts
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Loading the bike for the drive down
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A "view" toward the mountains on the way back down
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After the race, we headed back to the motel 6, got some food and drink at the brewing company and then headed to the coffee shop on the square for the awards. I over heard Issac, the guy who won the single speed division discussing whether he would be attending the prom tomorrow. Prom? Turns out he is 16. Damn! I finished in 22nd overall in the men out of 91 finishers. results here

Issac and I getting our medals
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The real deal:

Thats about it for the epic lengthed hill climb report. Stay tuned for a shorter report of the XC race on sunday. Sheesh...


Scott Clark said...

Good job, you maniac--hard to imagine racing up a hill that hard.

Very scenic out there...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the race report, mile by mile even! Looks like a great event