Sunday, May 29, 2011

The [Rockwell Relay et al] Gang's all here

So the original plan was to gather a crew of riders and attempt to conquer the Mount Nebo loop, arguably the toughest road bike challenge in the state of Utah. Twenty four miles of climb, the first 17 all category 1 (only unclassified climbs, not classified because who in their right mind would attempt them I suppose, are more difficult than category 1). The road tops out at about 9800 feet:

It would have been difficult for everybody, perhaps impossible for some but I was willing to try and excited for the challenge, but Mother Nature, who seems unnaturally enamored of winter this year, said no:
A snowy approach towards Mount Nebo from the Nebo Scenic Loop driveMount &<span class=lt;span class=" id="SPELLING_ERROR_5" src="">Nebo Scenic Loop drive" border="0" height="499" width="665">

As a consolation ride we planned a Suncrest ascent, meet the ladies on the back side and climb Alpine loop until snow pack forced us to go back. Sounded fun but not the same as the ride I had envisioned. Then something magical happened:

The legend of Ivan showed up. It occurs to me he's not like the Sasquatch at all, but more like a Leprechaun.

Still legendary but carefree and mischievous, like a woodland sprite rather than physically overbearing and visually intimidating (actually that second description is Rodzilla to a 'T'. So Team Sons of Perdition has a Leprechaun and the Sasquatch, I don't see how we lose this race). Back to the legend. Everything I was told about him personality-wise is true: happy, optimistic, gracious ... an all around fun guy to be with. Nobody got a flat tire (noteworthy since every ride of greater than 10 miles that I've done with Swedish Matt has featured multiple flats) so I didn't get to see if he would offer to fix it (my guess is he would have) but at one point (65 miles into our ride when I was feeling particularly beat up) he un-ironically broke into song and belted out several Broadway show tunes, pitch perfect while riding up the hill in front of the Oquirrh Mountian Temple; a sort of musical pot-of-gold at the end of our long ride. I told him I usually have to get pretty dehydrated and semi-conscious before I break out the Great American Songbook to which he responded, with a legend of Ivan grin (think Lou Diamond Phillips playing Ritchie Valens in La Bamba, only shorter, rounder and 20 years older),


"I'm already there brother!" and kept singing, barely missing a note.

Before we took off we snapped a few team photos

This first one we took on Swedish Matt's steep driveway, hoping the inclined grade would keep it from looking like a graphic depicting size discrepancies in genus homo sapien, it sorta worked ... sorta.

Lots & lots of team photos (watch for upcoming blog: Team Sons of Perdition) taken by a very patient Swedish wife who comments, "I feel like it's prom night. Who's gets to wear the boutonniere and who wears the corsage?"

(silly question, if there's a corsage it goes to Rodzilla).

I include this one not for the manly bike lift (the bikes weigh about as much as well fed dachshund):

but rather to show that after my $80 tubular tire* repair (didn't include the cost of a new tubular tire which Swedish Matt purchased for me from and then gifted to me, thanks again Swedish Matt) I have purchased new (used) tires & wheels on Ebay. Ksyrium SSCs with bladed spokes. I'm no longer in riding deep dish carbon fiber wheels, Swedish MAtt is disappointed**, but I like the clean look of the Ksyrium (kestrums per Rodzilla's brand of autism vs dyslexia, he's not sure which it is that makes mispronounce things) wheels and the new Continental Grand Prix tires but the ride really is nowhere near as smooth and comfortable as the carbon fiber wheels that I will soon be selling on Ebay but life has its trade offs and I've made my peace with this one.

*tubular tires are great if you're a pro rider with a chase car and replacement wheels. They take the jounce out of potholes and make even the roughest chip seal road feel buttery smooth, but they are glued to the wheel (generally by a professional bike mechanic and only by one who knows what he's doing) which means roadside flat repair is not an option. Too much liability for the recreational rider. Au revoir carbon fiber tubulars, I kinda wish I had never tasted your sweetness.

** I give Swedish Matt grief, pretty much on a regular basis on this blog. He earns most of it but I should point out that we love Swedish Matt just the way he is, outlandish statements, OCD idiosyncrasies, split brain repetition of ideas ... as well as his generosity, willingness to help out in a pinch, all of it. We (or at least I) wouldn't change a thing. He's a good friend, if he wasn't I wouldn't bother giving him a hard time.

After far more pre-ride hype/delay/preparation than normal we're underway. 'Zilla is feeling the collective energy of the complete Team SoP roster:

and can't contain his excitement. That or he's riding the dual high of lungs that are finally efficiently exchanging O2 for CO2 and the side effects of the Truck stop ephedrine that is making it possible:

&<span class=lt;span class=" class="three_by_two" error="" id="SPELLING_ERROR_28" src="">ephedra1.jpg">

Certainly he's got some energy to burn. We've discussed Rodzilla's asthma and its proper treatment. Sounds like we will have to re-visit that topic in the future before his heart explodes on one of our canyon rides:

but that will be a conversation for another day. Today we will sit back and enjoy the ride.

We reach the base of the Suncrest climb and I make my habitual, now nervous, bladder stop at the Draper Walgreen's while the rest of the crew keeps riding. Matt tells me he's planning on taking it slow up the Suncrest Hill to which I respond there is no other way to take it. When I finally do start up the hill I'm about 90 seconds behind the crew. I catch Rodzilla just after the overpass on Bangerter Parkway. I've seen (and heard tell) of cycling teammates giving slower riders a push from behind on particularly steep climbs. As I come up on 'Zilla I give it a try ... and it's like trying to push a '58 Buick with two flat tires. He makes no extra progress up the hill that I can tell and, in fact, I come very close to pushing myself backward instead. Once again the sheer mass that is Rodzilla is brought home to me. The fact that he's moving that much weight/size up a hill that steep under his own power is truly awe inspiring. I give him grief, pretty much constantly, for his lack of hill climbing prowess and I will continue to do so, but on this occasion I will give his propers; the man's accomplishments are proof that no laws, even those governing the physics of the Universe, are set in stone.

A few hundred yards further on I catch Swedish Matt and the legend of Ivan

Matt appears unfazed by one of the steeper hills I've climbed on a bike, he has trail experience, the hills there are much steeper albeit shorter. The legend of Ivan tells me he's being beat up thoroughly, but as I will later find out, he's a bit of a sand-bagger with regards to his stamina (in the best cycling tradition). Regardless of how each of them is actually feeling about it, this is just the hors d'ouveres; main course is still to come.

Despite the rougher ride, the new/used wheels are performing admirably on our first ride together but the cassette (that came with them), a 12/25 like the one they replaced, doesn't seem to have a granny gear. That is, the lowest three gears all seem to require the same amount of effort. The result is me out of the saddle far more than I normally would be on this hill and eventually a personal best time to the top of 33:07; almost two minutes faster than any previous attempt:

I double back and finish the last 1/4 mile with Swedish Matt who takes the hill in about 38 minutes, pretty remarkable for a first attempt. He tells me if he hadn't paced himself (or had actually done the hill before to know how to pace himself, knowledge is power on hill climbs) he could have shaved 3 minutes off his time. I've stopped doubting it. Swedish wife says he has legs of steele. Count me among the believers. We both go back for the legend and as Matt tucks in behind him I can hear the legend start to belt out chords from Eye of the Tiger with Swedish Matt chiming in with the rhythm section. Apparently it's a tradition they picked up from past Mtn bike rides, a way to conquer particularly daunting hills. Whatever it is it makes me chuckle.

I can't muster the energy to drop down a third time to accompany Rodzilla to the top so I pull off and get some film of his (fourth) non-stop pedal to the top:

Even after spending 45 minutes 'in the red', exertion-wise he can't keep from hamming it up ... for a bit anyway.

The ladies (in Rodzilla's truck) catch us at the top on the hill and we snap a few team photos and then prepare for the descent down the back side. I try to explain to everybody where we are meeting our better halves and then I charge down first to get some video of the downhill (because even though it never, ever looks as fast on film as it feels on your bike:

[me on Wasatch Blvd]

I keep hoping it will)

Rodzilla leads the charge and, as I suspected/planned, he's out in front far enough that I can film him and his two trailers separately. At times like these I'm reminded that every hill you go up you eventually come down and it's the coming down that's Rodzilla's spe-c-i-al-it-y.

I join the crew and 'Zilla & I bomb the rest of the descent. I know this hill, it's potholes, rough patches and turns. When there's a cross wind it can be absolutely treacherous, but the conditions are perfect today and I tuck fully and stay off the brakes. Descents used to be a weakness but sometime between last fall and this cycling season I've reached a new level of comfort and this particular downhill run feels textbook. 'Zilla pulls alongside me, asks a question about our rendezvous point with the ladies and passes me like I've just opened a parachute. I feel a little deflated, but only a little.

We meet up with the ladies and after too much conversation about what the words 'left' and 'first' mean, we get on our bikes and ride toward picturesque American Fork Canyon. Before we get to Timpanogos highway we hit a huge down & up section of road. Rodzilla rides the rollercoaster-like drop with both arms up in victory formation. It looks equal parts unwise and unsafe and when I catch up with him I tell him he needs to do it again on the return trip so I can film get it on film.

Timpanogos highway is slightly uphill

and slow enough to get an introduction to the cast & crew video:

Once we actually hit the canyon, Swedish wife throttles up the engine, shifts transmission into climb and she's gone. There's really no telling if she's aware this is still a group ride, she's in a canyon, the road is getting steep and she's got to climb. I drop back to be with La Canadienne, Rodzilla and Red Rider but soon find myself in a no-man's land between two loose groups of riders. I soon give up and decide to see if I can catch the Swedes and the legend who have opened up a 1/2 mile gap. It takes some effort and time but I overtake the Swedish couple but the legend of Ivan is adding canyon climber to his resume (which already includes lounge singer and guardian of pots o' gold) he's a good 200 yards ahead and stretching the lead rather than slowing down. As I step up my pace and effort I'm reminded of the proverbial quixotic attempt to reach the end of the rainbow; the legend of Ivan will not be taken down easily, the more I push the fu.rther he seems to get ahead. As the day progresses I'm feeling better and better about our Rockwell Relay crew. This is one Peruvian cyclist that can pedal ... and sing. The latter fact is bound to come in handy during the 9 hour lulls between legs. I wonder if he takes requests?

Eventually we all make it to the Timpanogos cave parking lot

and some folks who worked nowhere near as hard as we did to get there walk into the photo-op. If I knew how to photoshop I would remove them, but I don't, so there they will stay.

We leave the Timpanogos cave parking lot and Red Rider (brimming with confidence on this her first ever canyon ascent) takes the point for the first mile:

She is soon caught (and passed) by Rodzilla who is still riding his methamphetamine precursor, ephedra high and tearing into these canyon miles like a pit bull into a T-bone steak:

We hit the fork in the road which will take us north (to the reservoir) instead of south to the summit, and Rodzilla tucks his head and runs. We wait a few minutes for the ladies to join us and then we give chase. We're on a steady incline with occasional steep stretches and I keep waiting to see the hulking figure of Rodzilla slumped over his handlebars and gasping for breath (the usual result of him pushing up a hill for more than 10 minutes) but it never happens. The final 1/4 mile of the climb pitches to 10% and still, no sign of our XXL friend. Turns out he's at the top, crowing about polka dot jerseys and stage wins. It's the most dubious victory since I won the Pony Express Race (ride) one year earlier. A victory I've been unabashedly celebrating for that same length of time, so I'll step aside and let this dog have his day.

In less time than I would have expected (today is the day for strong outings from everybody it seems) the ladies join us.

We (finally) get the 6 of 6 couples photo that was denied us two weeks ago, this time with the bonus majestic alpine backdrop:

We take advantage of the scenery to shoot some Team Sons of Perdition photos. This one was an idea Rodzilla got from a cycling magazine. Set aside for a moment that it appears as though we are all taking a 'natural' roadside break:

and focus on the legend of Ivan who protested this shot with "I don't fit that way on my bike." We took half a dozen photos like this, all with him on tip toes (not easy in cycling shoes with cleats) you can't see it but in the last couple of photos, beads of nervous sweat are breaking out on his forehead. I'm reminded of the final scene in the Good the Bad and the Ugly the one where the guy is teetering on a grave marker with a noose around his neck? It's that kind of tension. Check out the legend's calves though, no wonder he torched everyone up the canyon.

The descent goes the way they always do. Rodzilla gets separation, tucks and disappears. I hope he's got some downhill like this on at least one of his Relay legs, preferably one that doesn't follow a lot of climbing, or at least not climbing that he had to do. When we finally do catch him (because he got lost, not because he got slow) Swedish Matt & I convince him that his wife had a flat up the canyon and he needs to go back but Swedish wife blows the whistle on us before he actually starts back up the hill.

We all join up one last time and head back to the rendezvous at the truck. Rodzilla gives me the promised video moment (against Red Rider's wishes and despite her protests) and we get a bonus combo film. Rodzilla on a rollercoaster and La Canadienne in full tuck:

It's like a training video "How To Go Down Hill Fast and How To Go Down Fun." As I'm tucking the camera in my back pocket Swedish wife flies past me yelling "Come on Larsen, step it up!" I give chase but I'm putting the camera away and I'm in the wrong gear and the hill ... there are several excuses I make to ease my mind on the subject but the bottom line is she beats me to the top. We turn the corner and there's one last hill, about a block long, just before the truck. Swedish wife is 20 yards ahead and pedaling with determination. With the long-legged Scandinavian with the Swiss Miss hairdo squarely in my cross hairs, I find the right gear, jump out of the saddle and it's on! There's a lot of whooping and hollering behind me, mostly from Swedish Matt and Rodzilla. I'm pushing as hard as I possibly can, not sure how long I can keep sprinting up this hill and I just catch her but can't quite pass her when she shuts it down, about 10 yards from the top and maybe 5 seconds before I would have done the same. It was an impressive display even without considering the fact (pointed out afterward by Swedish husband, maybe that's the score now, he's Swedish husband and she's Swedish Liz?) that this was Swedish Liz's 5th or 6th ride on a road bike. The ceiling for her is extremely high, intimidatingly so. At this rate I figure by September this blog will be called 'Cycling With the Swede' and we will all be riding (and writing) for her.

We get back to the truck, the ladies rack their mounts and team SoP grinds out the last 30 miles (I agree with Swedish Matt here, the ride home is always the worst part, just like when you go on vacation) around the Cape Horn (aka Point of the Mountain) and back to West Jordan. The highlight of the return trip (besides the vocal stylings of the legend of Ivan mentioned earlier) was Swedish Liz hanging out the window of Rodzilla's truck as it drove by and yelling "You guys are so hot! Wooooh!" Which, as it turns out, is disconcerting when you're riding a bike at 20 mph, even when you know it's in jest and coming from a friendly voice.

We end the day with a rainy Memorial weekend BBQ at our house.

and I end the training week at 270 miles, 920 for the month of May with two ride days remaining and rain in the forecast for Monday. But rain or shine we had a great training ride, a great team ride and great group ride. Hope the rest of the summer sees more of the same.

Talk/blog soon,



  1. Isn't training supposed to be 99% torture? You guys are having WAY too much fun! Showtunes? And yes, you're all hot. Good thing it's been a relatively cool spring.

  2. "Almost thou persuadest me to be a cyclist"...good blog...sounds like good times!