Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tour Das Hugel 09

I finished!! I don't think I need to ever worry about going on a harder ride than this in the Central Texas area. Really. I mean it. Really.

The Tour Das Hugel was held on November 14th. This time of year the weather is rather unpredictable, but it was one of the good days, high 50s in the morning and topping out about 80 late in the afternoon. I wore several layers, but was down to just the jersey by the end. It was quite a nice sunrise to start the day.

I wore my Alaska jersey (that's me facing away from the camera at rest stop #3, another one) which usually gets a comment or two from fellow riders. One of the folks I rode with for a while (the guy on the right) did the Texas 4000, a ride from Texas to Alaska to raise money to fight cancer.

The Hugel ride strings a large number of the worst hills in Austin into a long 110 mile route. Your reward for finishing? A Hugel T-shirt. It is a prized possession as this is a very difficult route. Depending on who you believe, the elevation gain is somewhere between 11,000 and 14,000 feet. Yea, that's alot, either way. I do most of my riding east of Austin, where there are rolling hills, none of them approaching the severity of hills in Hugel. That was a bit of a concern for me.

The ride is divided into two loops, loop 1 which stays south of Lake Austin, and loop 2 that goes north. The south loop is shorter and is considered easier, it's about 1/3 of the total distance. For me, the worst hill on the first loop was the High Road, I had to stop and walk a tiny bit of it at the end (*more on this later*). Just before that is Toro Canyon which is not as steep, but I had left myself in the big chain ring, that made it alot harder than it needed to be -- lesson learned. Rest stop #1 was served out of the back of some SUVs, a good number of people stopped. The remainder of loop 1 was not overly difficult, the climb back up Lost Creek was quite long though. Rest stop #2 was at a Catholic school, and almost everyone stopped. It was near the intersection of Barton Creek and Lost Creek. I was happy we got to ride down Barton Creek and not up.

After returning to the Start/Finish, I intended to change from my commuting sandals into my regular road shoes but somehow just forgot. That probably made it harder on myself, but more of a challenge.

After starting loop 2, I came upon a group of riders wearing Trek U-23 and Mellow Johnny kits, it was Lance Armstrong with his buddies. I passed them..... ok, ok, they were going the opposite direction :-) Lance made a 'how you doing?' comment as we passed.

In loop 2, the 1st unmanageable hill for me was Smokey Valley, I nearly reached the top without stopping but lost my balance and had to stop. I was close to the top and walked up the rest. Ladera Norte is just after that, rather evil to place the hills so close, but I managed to crest LN without incident.

My next challenge came at Beauford, just a horrible road as it's textured for traction, quite awful for bike riding. I stopped maybe 1/2 way for a rest, and proceeded up the remainder of the hill. The only good thing about climbing Beauford is you get to descend Jester, where you go scary fast. I thought I had triggered my camera to record the descent but I must not have pressed the button.

After returning to Loop 360, the next hill was Courtyard, which has several tiers, each steeper than the prior. I had to dismount on the last one and walk the rest of the way up. With very little relief after that you end up on City Park Road starting immediately on a steep climb. I rested once on the way up once, but rode the whole distance. The trio of Beauford / Courtyard / City Park makes for the difficult section of the course.

The route proceeds out to River Place, which is a relatively long climb, and reaches rest stop #4 adjacent to a small park. This is also rest stop #5 as you return to it once you take 620 down to Mansfield Dam. It's not so steep returning from the Dam but it's the longest sustained climb of the ride. The route out to the lake takes a loop past the Oasis restaurant, which has a stunning view of Lake Travis. The loop returns via Bullick Hollow Road, which visually, given the approach to it, looks incredibly steep. It's one of the shorter climbs as it turns out, but on a fairly busy road, so no weaving left & right to get up the hill.

Here's some video from around River place, the song title is somewhat appropriate....

After rest stop #5, there's a long descent down Big View, what I did not realize until I reached the bottom is you pull a U-turn and immediately start back up the hill - that's a real thrill (ouch!).

Once back up Big View, you retrace the route back towards Austin, eventually taking City Park Road back to 2222, and then to Jester. At the bottom of Jester, the ride distance is 94 miles. I suppose they place Jester last just to test your mettle - it works.... But given you've gone this far, who would really not continue? I stopped twice on the way up but rode the whole distance. The final rest stop, #6, is at the top. I took a well deserved rest.

I hung with a group wearing TdH jerseys pretty much to the end, all that was left was taking Loop 360 south back to finish. There's no real severe hills after Jester but you are pretty depleted at this point. What little wind there was, was a headwind for that final set of miles.

I finished with a ride time of 7:48, and a distance of 110.4 miles. The folks at the finish wanted to know if I planned on doing the ride again next year. It was perhaps was not the best time to ask that particular question! ;-)

I mentioned the hills I stopped on, but there were some I conquered!
  • Toro Canyon
  • Terrace Mountain
  • River Hills
  • Barton Creek
  • Lost Creek
  • Mt. Bonnell
  • Mesa
  • Ladera Norte
  • Bluegrass
  • River Place
  • Bullick Hollow
  • 620 return
  • Big View
Some reasons I needed to stop on the climbs?
  • I left my rack on the bike. I should remove my rack I use for commuting, do I need to pull another pound of metal up all those hills?
  • I should not wear my commuting sandals. You cannot really pull on the pedals in the sandals vs normal shoes. However, I find the sandals to be quite comfortable, which is important for long rides.
  • Maybe the most important - make sure I can shift into the low gears. The chain would not stay in the biggest cog on the back, a 26T (I thought it was a 25T, that's the spec for the bike), it would shift back to the 23T cog when power was applied, I need to check the high limit screw. I could tell during some climbs the cadence of folks near me was quicker. With everyone going the same speed, they were definitely in a lower gear. I know the lower gearing would help getting up those hills.
  • The are really, really, really steep hills! ;-)
I found this staple in my back tire the next morning, I wonder how long it was stuck there?!? I'm not sure I want to know, given how fast some of the descents were. Yikes! I also saw that the back brake quick release lever was open, but I do not know if I did that Sunday morning just prior to changing the tube or whether I rode with it open. I normally always check it prior to riding but cannot be sure.

I'll reserve judgement on whether I'll do this ride again. I have lots of time to decide. Maybe I'll forget the pain ;-)

The remainder of the pictures are here. A nice article about the Hugel ride can be found here. Another writeup is here.

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