“Within my first week riding, I found a local club (Big Orange) that taught me how to ride and encouraged me to start racing.” —Krista Doebel-Hickok, Women’s Hill Climb USA National Champion 2016, on how she made the transition from running to cycling
I raced the inaugural USA Cycling Hill Climb National Championships August 13th on Pikes Peak west of Colorado Springs. The course begins at 9,400′ and ends above 14,100′ over 12.4 miles. It’s an incredible ride. I raced up Pikes Peak in 2013. That year we raced up Mt. Evans, Colorado’s other paved mountain road summiting above 14,000′, on Saturday, and we raced Pikes Peak the next day on Sunday. That was hard! Knowing the course helped me relax and enjoy all the rest and recovery I could get after the drive up from New Mexico. We toured Garden of the Gods and saw Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep grazing, A tranquil scene.
Bicycle events are like conferences, festivals, and meetings all rolled into one. It’s invigorating connecting with so many diverse people passionate about cycling, and inspiring to see people doing their thing. This trip turned out to be full of serendipitous connections beginning with the hotel we stayed in. The Buffalo Lodge at the base of Garden of the Gods in Manitou Springs is in the process of repurposing the historic motor lodge into a cycling adventure base. Great!
Buffalo Lodge hosted the 12th annual Roll Bike Art festival the night before the race so we were surrounded by a rolling party. Leagues of cyclists pedaled in throughout Friday evening. An absolutely stellar vibe. Cycling is not just about pedaling circles. The whole experience counts.
I was blown away by the culture, sports and art. A creative and inclusive community, where people are comfortable and don’t feel like they have to act tough or prove themselves. I was especially touched by this piece of art made from recycled bike parts including chains and sprockets. I’ve never seen hard metal and sharp edges flow in such organic and riverine form.
On race day I was up early to eat and stretch. My race started at 7:10am. It was a joint event, coupling a USA Cycling sanctioned race with a citizen’s ride in the Italian gran fondo tradition. Some of my favorite events are like this, Iron Horse for instance, because you get a wider range of participation and more people riding for different reasons. They started riders in waves and my group, Masters Men 40-49, started in the 8th wave after all the gran fondo riders. We had 30 some riders in my group and over the first mile of the course I worked my way to the front of the pack from the back. One rider went off the front with clear enthusiasm. I spooled up and followed. We worked together for a half mile and when the road pitched up in earnest, I was alone. I rode my fastest tempo and metered it out to hold on to the top. With a time of 1:14:34 I won my race by over two minutes, and was faster than my time in 2013 which was 1:15:33. I had the 8th fastest time on the day behind pro/amateur elite racers. Next year I plan to go for the top overall, but this year I’m glad I raced Masters. It was the right choice to keep a healthy balance and meet life’s demands. Life is more than cycling, but cycling helps with everything.
On the way home we visited Salida and they were holding the inaugural Salida Water Festival. There’s a growing movement in Colorado to conserve water and change public values and behaviors. The strategy involves developing technologies to keep water pure and use it more efficiently, and incentivizing smarter behaviors. Transportation innovation is happening similarly, coupling advances in technology with programs to shift behaviors and support values, attitudes and lifestyles that can make the legacy of our era more of a positive one, preserving our natural heritage so a healthful abundance flows downstream in time to future generations.
On the way home we stopped in the San Luis Valley at Great Sand Dunes Hot Springs. We immersed our bodies in the waters on Sunday morning after camping out beneath the enormous sky and open space that is our heritage in the American West. Cycling teaches me to be vulnerable, to be open, and reach out to something greater than myself. The world of cycling is truly driven from the heart. A cycling experience based in patience and love is just the beginning, not the end. Poetry in motion. Thanks to my team and sponsors for their support, all the club cyclists who teach me how to ride, and the greater community involved in cycling, who make it richer and make events like this possible. Grateful we made the trip!
Race home and Photos http://coloradospringssports.org/index.php/events/pikes-peak-cycling-hill-climb-main
list of participants https://www.usacycling.org/register/2016-30
buffalo lodge bicycle resort in Manitou Springs http://bicycleresort.com/
roll bike art festival in Colorado Springs http://www.rollbikeart.com/roll-2016.html
Ideas for the last paragraph are adapted from Weston Noble
cycling, like music, ‘allows us to have feelings we never knew we could have’