Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Rapha Rising Challenge: A Great Day for Up!

Like most endurance cyclists, I respond well to a challenge. An organized challenge says to me, “other people are crazy enough to do this, what’s wrong with you?” It's hard not to take the bait, especially when the competition between participants is minimal and the main emphasis is on completion of the task itself, which on a good challenge is just a little bit harder than is comfortably easy to execute. In this way, I find the Rapha Festive 500 (winter) and Rapha Rising (summer) challenges a lot like randonneuring in general. Complete the challenge, get a free patch (and maybe some modest bragging rights). What could be better?

As Dr. Suess has written, it's a "great day today! Great day for Up!"

This is my second year participating in the Rapha Rising Challenge (RRC), which is scheduled to coincide with a week of major climbing on the Tour De France. This year, we have nine days to climb 8800 meters (28,871 feet), which is roughly the amount of climbing the pros will encounter on three major Tour stages this week. The rules are simple: Ride your bike and upload your GPS tracks to Strava. Unfortunately, the exchange rate between Garmin and Strava is currently not running in my favor, so it looks like I will need to climb an extra 5% to meet the minimum, but I guess I'm the one who benefits, right?

As any realtor will tell you, finding a good home involves three important variables: location, location and location. I would argue that more than school district, tax levy and proximity to shopping, serious cyclists should calculate exactly how long it will take them to be riding on fine roads after clipping in right outside their back door. While we live on a major road, which is great for my wife’s business and safe travel during the snows of winter, I can reach a network of delicious low-traffic hilly roads that stretch on into infinity within 200 feet of my driveway. As a result, I am never further than 5 minutes from an amazing ride and never need to drive to the start.

When I say these roads are quiet, I mean QUIET. It is not uncommon for me to ride for hours without being passed by a soul. On yesterday’s ride, for instance, I rode without seeing a car for the first hour and fifteen minutes at which point I was passed by a flotilla of tree-pruning vehicles on their way to an important assignment. After that, all was still and quiet again for another hour. Here's a rundown of the week so far:

Day One: Rapha Rising Prologue. This particular Saturday was a busy day in our household with my son heading off for a week of camp in the early afternoon. As a result, I was only able to steal away for fewer than two hours to ride so I clipped in and sought out the closest hills to my back door. (19 miles; 2627 ft.)

Day Two: On day two, I crossed both the Shaupeneak and Shawangunk Ridges for a total of six noticeable climbs. If I didn't have a pile of household chores to do I would have ridden all day, but this was a good start. (42 miles; 4021 ft.)

Day Three: Tight on time again, I simply traversed the Shaupeneak Ridge four times in what I refer to as the Popletown Quadruple Bipass hitting each of the major hills four times. Luckily the terrain is varied enough on this short ride that I did not get bored. (27 miles; 3776 ft.)

Staying away from my bike for a full week after LOL provided me with just the rest I needed to return to cycling with renewed vigor and enthusiasm. As a result, the first several days of the RRC have been quite enjoyable. We'll see how these legs hold up as the week continues. More soon.

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