Last Monday through Wednesday I went out to Walla Walla to visit a few friends and help the local cycling community get all situated for this upcoming season. It was great to spin around with some of my old collegiate teammates on Monday and then get out and crush some tarmac on Tuesday and Wednesday. Of course in my usual Walla Walla fashion, as soon as I arrived I started to try to do many things at once. Unfortunately my camera stopped working recently so I wasn't able to capture any shots of the trip. You'll just have to use your imagination.
The first highlight of the trip was a huge potluck breakfast on Monday morning with friends. Gathered inside the living space of an off-campus house constructed in the 1950's, stocked with arched doorways, wooden flooring and finished with newly painted and very nicely chosen light-lime walls, the large wooden dining table hosted a plethora of day-breaking delicacies. The kitchen, although spacious and well-stocked earlier in the day, turned into a fury of bodies as the 10+ guests shifted in and out between the oven, the toaster, the sink and the fridge. I felt like I was playing hockey in there, except the occasional body check was purely accidental. I was lucky enough to help prepare the Eggs Benedict...it even has my name in the title! I got a chance to work on perfecting my poached egg and as a result they tasted pretty good so I made sure that I enjoyed my fair share! Satisfied but a little groggy (the last few days of training had put me in a tired place), I rushed off to make my recovery ride.
Arriving a little late as always I made it in time. A few Allegro Cyclery riders joined us in their new 2011 kit (very flash!) so it was a mishmash of colors as we took off up Mill Creek. The Mill Creek route is a staple in the community. It's a 1-2% grade up into the mountains. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and on the drive in on Sunday night I saw stars for the first time since my trip home to Whistler a month ago. The wind was up but it was very warm, say above 50'F or 10'C. Other than sending a rider into the mountains with options to tackle Spring Creek (25min climb), Blue Creek (10min climb), Scenic Loop (6min gravel climb) and views like below, Mill Creek will also take a rider to the start of YELLOW SIGN SPRINTS!
Foggy ride with my two housemates up Mill Creek in Nov.2008
Scenic Loop + Mormon Grade (in 2010 they planted this field):
Looking west towards the setting sun, Nov.2008
The fog chased us that day!
We didn't do any yellow sign sprints on Monday but we used to use them to teach the new riders about pacelining and tactics. With 20+ yellow signs over the top 15km of the road, they are well distributed for sprint-recover-repeat workouts. Often Colin or I would sit on the front, teaching the young riders how to sprint out of a leadout train already going 25mph. It was of course important that they remember to get back on the train after going cross-eyed in the sprint! This trip we had a ferocious headwind that later turned into a wicked cross wind so it was challenging enough just to make it home...it was after all, my rest day.
This is more reminiscent of what the weather was like
On Tuesday I got a chance to ride with local strongman Shawn Ongers. Shawn has riden for the Seattle-based Lenovo squad the last five years. This year the team is called the Audi Cycling Team
. They always get lots of cool gadgets and often make everyone else in the NW peloton jealous of their nice computers. Gotta ride hard if you want the gadgets right! Anyways, Tuesday was a great ride. Shawn and I always have lots of talk about. My first meeting with Shawn was a shop 'race' ride back in September 2008 when I attacked the group up Mill Creek way too early. After establishing a small gap of 30-40 seconds and starting to crack after ten minutes, Shawn bridged up in a flash. Literally! I looked back and there was no one, then BAM! He was all..."get on", so I got on. Over the next fifteen minutes of sheer agony, I think I took two pulls totalling about 10 seconds. I rode to my maximum and realized just how strong these Cat 1 guys really are. On our ride this week we chatted about the upcoming year and revisited the finish of stage 1 of the ToWW on our way to a new gravel road. It wasn't quite as clean as my favorite Walla Walla gravel road, Bergevin Springs pictured below, but it was great to be back on the gravel anyway. Gravel riding is slower, so the wind chill is lower and you have to pick your line and think about your handling, all great things for the off-season. You can also practice riding a big gear as if you were riding a bumpy road.
Bergevin Springs (Just off Lower Waitsburg), Feb 2009
On Wednesday I got the chance to venture out to the TOP OF THE WORLD! The tip of the Touchet loop is my favorite place in Walla Walla. It is difficult to describe without a picture but I'll try. Riding out of Walla Walla to the northwest, shallow green hills fill the horizon. Although the occasional field remains in fallow, many of the fields are green with sprouting winter wheat. Only 6'-1" tall, this wavy carpet barely hints the direction of the wind, one's eye must work hard to catch the smallest of flickers of movement when blazing along the semi-smooth chip-sealed roadway. The open spaces on either side of the path ahead dwarfs the two lane road; I don't see any cars, in fact I haven't since I left town, perhaps this is just a bike path? On this day I came across an exceptional hillside which I have never before seen planted. Its green coat pronounced the shape and steepness of its slope. How on Earth does a farmer drive a combine over its slanted surface I do not know. The small, un-planted section near the top was brown in color and created the image of a breaking wave; twisting along Luckenbill road towards this crashing mountain, I remembered my first surfing experience. Which was of course a lot wetter than today's ride. In fact it was chilly and as I finished my last interval for the day, a one hour block of tempo, I could feel the affects of the temperature. So I dove back to Walla Walla, skipped the ice bath for the day and thankfully remembered where the spare key was hidden.
Any trip to Walla Walla isn't complete without a stop at the Taco Truck so I made sure to stop by on the way home!
On Tuesday I also got the chance to help my favourite PT set up the computrainer at Allegro Cyclery
's basement training area. We ran a conconi & LT test on the legendary Justin, Whitman's super chaparone. This setup should work well as both the Whitman Cycling
team, the Wheatland Wheelers
and the new-to-town FireFighter U23 Elite
Amateur cycling team readies for the 2011 season.
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