We must be in wine country. Even the Gatorade is purple!

Jeeves and I had just a splendid time yesterday on the Highlander Cycle Tour. And I’m so glad we did that hilly 70-miler last weekend. Otherwise I think I wouldn’t have made it.

We did the 70-mile cut of the Corkscrew Century. With a detour around a stretch of milled pavement, we finished 74.23 miles in 4:47:27 of ride time, for a 15.49 MPH average, with 5,910 feet of climbing.

The motor’s numbers were very, very good. Despite miles of climbing at slower cadences and miles of coasting , I turned in an average of 86 RPM cadence on the day, with a peak of 111 RPM.

Both my average and maximum heart rates were lower than I typically hit on my commute, at 139 BPM average (Zone 3), and 164 BPM max (Zone 4). Only 45 minutes or so of the entire ride were spent in zone 4.

I’m just tickled with those numbers.

Bikerjohn picked me up at 5:45 AM for the drive out to the start at Bristol Mountain Ski Resort. You know you’re in for some climbing when the ride starts at a chair lift.

Unloading our bikes, a van pulled in next us. Two Litespeeds got out accompanied by their riders. One was a Vortex, and the other an Arenberg. Both of early aughts vintage—the ABG era. Their riders described them as “old”.

Then I introduced Jeeves. “Mine’s a ‘96 Classic,” I told them, “Lynskey era, but with mainly 2011 running gear.” I didn’t mention the 2012 crankset. Or the 2006 levers.

“You’re the winner!” they declared.

John and I pinned on our numbers, checked the board for detours, I lifted my leg, and we set off at 7:20.

The first few miles seemed less smooth than I expected. It felt like the brakes were dragging, although the weren’t and I hadn’t done anything but clean the chain and pump up the tires since last Sunday’s ride.

Later I learned we were on a false flat, climbing at 1% or so. Plus I needed a warm-up. Especially this year I’m finding it takes me a few miles to get going. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention before, or maybe something’s changing.

Either way, but the time we’d climbed CR 34 and made the turn on to West Hollow Road, I was finding my groove.

The first fast descent of the day, in fact my fastest descent ever, came on Gulick Road approaching the first rest stop. Jeeves and I clocked 48.9 MPH—and I was riding the brakes. If the climbs don’t get your heart rate up there, the descents will.

Jeeves was rock steady despite the cracked pavement and bumps. Given better pavement, who knows what velocity we could achieve.

John and I missed our connection at the first rest stop. There’s a pretty big spread between our average speeds, and I’m a better climber, so we agreed to ride our own rides, but meet up at the rest stops.

I must have been in the potty when John came by. He didn’t need to stop, so not seeing me, he continued on. Meanwhile I waited, and waited.

Finally I asked some riders, “Did you pass a guy on a Bianchi with red tires and black fenders?”

“Nope.”

Shit.

I hopped on Jeeves and hit the road. I’d lost my warm-up waiting. The map showed I had maybe a half-mile before French Hill Road. I’d be doing serious climbing cold.

And serious it was. French Hill was the steepest climb on the Corkscrew Century route. I saw 12% a couple of times when I dared to look down at the cyclometer. This was where I hit my max heart rate too. It was long too, besides steep. We made it over the top, but I understand many riders walked it.

A couple of miles later, there was puke in the road. French Hill was a lot of hill for the “Highlander for Wimps” class.

Though Atlanta and Cohocton, we came up on Hndlebar. Mike helped me train for the 2008 BikeJournal Reunion in Colorado. We chatted a while before I sped off ahead trying to catch John. I caught him a few miles before the second rest top on NY 21 just south of Loon Lake.

Bladder drained, bottle filled, and refueled with oranges and cookies, I hadn’t fully cooled down before we set off again, southbound.

This is where I really began to enjoy the ride. Somewhere after the turn east—it could have been Neils Creek Road, the pavement was so well-marked I’m using the map only in retrospect—the road really reminded me of Colorado.

Along in through there, the road follows a little stream—something they’d call a river in Colorado—through a valley barely wide enough to contain the two. There was just a little more green than out west. And pines were substituting for firs, poplars and birch standing-in for aspens.

A turn around one particular rocky outcropping was startlingly reminiscent of South St. Vrain Canyon. Walled in on both sides by steep walls of rock, it was a great stretch of road to snuggle a bike through.

Further along, a Colorado-like climb took us to the highest point on the route, before dropping into the third rest stop at Prattsburg.

It was here that I discovered that in wine country, even the Gatorade is purple. Strangely, though, the PB&Js are made with strawberry jam. Whatever. Even with the wrong fruit, a PB&J is great bike fuel.

The Corkscrew was billed as having four “big” climbs. French Hill was the first, West Creek Road before the descent to Prattsburg was the second. On the 70-mile cut, the climb back out of Prattsburg is the third.

Finger Lakes climbs differ from Colorado climbs by length and gradient. Rollers punctuated by steep climbs are characteristic of the Finger Lakes. Colorado’s mountain climbs are all engineered grades at 6% average. And they go on for miles and miles.

It was sort of a hybrid between a Finger Lakes and Colorado climb to get out of Prattsburg heading north on NY 53 for Naples. And again, it was on a cold start.

And “cold” refers to the engine, not the day. It was perfect, perfect weather for a challenging ride. We had started at about 60°F and the forecast high was for only 72°F. The sky was as cloudless as can be expected for Upstate and the winds were from the northeast at 5–10 MPH. It wasn’t until that climb before the descent to Prattsburg that I stripped off my armwarmers.

It took me a good while on the climb to get warmed up. My cadence dropped to the 50s at one point. Then, suddenly, my legs woke up, and I could spin the 80s again, even after upshifting. Shortly after, the road tipped over into the long descent to Naples.

It was cut short by a detour around a section of milled pavement. The detour was wonderful. We were routed on to a descent that, for the Quads Hilla route riders, was a climb at about their halfway point. It was confusing at first, but we all got it sorted out and enjoyed waving to the riders going in the “wrong” direction.

At the bottom of Strong Hill Road there’s a stop sign. I did my best Yosemite Sam “Whoa, camel!” impression coming to that stop. It earned a few laughs. I tooled through Naples with a small group I’d caught on the descent.

In Naples, BTW, even the fire hydrants are purple.

Out the other side, I was both warmed-up and recovered and ready for the final big climb of the day.

I’d ridden down the CR 12 hill in 2008 with Hndlebar. Ever since then, I dreaded the climb back up it, and I knew I’d have to do it yesterday.

I said so the the guys I was with, and they told me, “Dude, go for it.” And we did.

The road pitched up, I let traffic go by and swung Jeeves out to pass the group. The cyclometer said 6% and got stuck there. Just like Colorado, I thought. And the Dugway too, for that matter. I can climb like that in my sleep.

Locked in to my groove, still a gear to go down on the cassette, it was steady as she goes. Gradient steady at 6%, heart rate steady at 155 BPM, cadence steady at 80 RPM and speed steady between 8½ and 9 MPH.

Jeeves and I just motored up the hill. It was awesome. I was able to boogie on up, while I enjoyed both the scenery and the smells of the grapes, growing so close to the road I was tempted to reach out and snag a few.

It’s been a long time since I felt quite so good about a climb while still doing it.

It tops out high above Canandaigua Lake, then tips down a little heading for the final rest stop. I popped up into the big ring, lowered myself into the drops and cranked. I wanted to arrive at the rest stop in the big ring.

Along there, Griesa Hill Road comes in from the right. It gains the same altitude, but in a considerably shorter distance—it’s a Finger Lakes style climb. Two guys in Xerox International Cycling Team kit had just done that climb, and pulled out in front of me, as I sailed by in the drops and the big ring.

At the rest stop, they seemed demoralized. They looked over Jeeves, still in its big ring, then read my jersey. I could see them mentally going, Well that explains it.

Yup. I’d spent the day in my lucky Club Hypoxia jersey, the jersey I earned climbing in Colorado.

Scenic Ooverlook of Canadaigua Lake at the last rest stop.

While I waited for John to catch up—he later said he was climbing at 3–4 MPH—I got to chat with riders from all three of the day’s routes.

One guy had a Ritchey Breakaway. Its claim to fame is that it’s a full-sized road bike that can be disassembled to fit in a non-oversized bag for flying. When I told him I was thinking about buying one for my next frame, he offered to let me ride his around the parking lot. I declined saying, “Thanks, but it wouldn’t be right, riding your bike in front of Jeeves.”

Another rider came in wearing a Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour jersey. The RLCT runs right through Westport Ontario, the town nearest to where I spend my July vacations at my family’s cottage. The guy lives in Kingston and came for the weekend.

As he got back on his bike, a guy behind me asked, “Did I hear you say Westport?”

Turns out, the the guy running the rest stop vacation on the same lake as my parent’s cottage. Only he rents. And has been gong there since 1967 compared to our 1962. We spent a good, long time sharing memories of Wolfe Lake summers.

Shortly after, John arrived and we headed out for the last six miles to the finish.

It was along though here that I figured out why I thought the brakes were dragging in the morning. It’s a false flat. A very gentle uphill in the morning, was a very gentle downhill in the afternoon, and Jeeves and I raced along in the big ring, all the back to the finish.

I had time to pee, and to put Jeeves in the truck, and start changing before John arrived back.

Shortly after, the two Litespeeds arrived back. We’d all done the same ride, yet Jeeves and I left after them, and arrived back before them, even after waiting for John at the rest stops.

“Don’t ever complain about your motor,” I told Jeeves. “Feel sorry for those two poor ABG Litespeeds.”

Choosing the 70-mile cut of the Corkscrew was exactly the right choice for me. A the last rest stop I though it over and decided that I could have done the full century. But I was concerned that would have left me unable to lead the club ride on Sunday.

Meanwhile, I was quite well joyed—not overjoyed, but well joyed—on the way to pick up our goodie bags and meal.

Stopping at the Rent-a-Restroom trailer, I was awestruck by the marvel of 21st Century defecation and urination technology. It had separate men’s and women’s ends. The men’s section had two thrones, three urinals and two sinks—with real soap and water. And one of those electric paper towel dispensers with the infrared sensor.

Standing at the urinal, I read the sign, “Hands free automatic flushing. Good God! It’s a Bluetooth urinal!” The guy next to me just about peed on the wall laughing.

Bristol Mountain is undergoing renovation. The Event Center is a temporary building, up a short flight of stairs form the parking lot. “Damn. Yet another climb,” I remarked, to the amusement of those climbing it with me.

Inside, I bought an event jersey, and got my goodie big. Mainly, it was a propaganda bag. The only goodies in it were a pair of event socks and a bottle of sparkling grape juice. The kid behind the counter checked and rechecked with me, thoroughly confused that I didn’t want the wine.

A salad, pulled pork, pasta and sauce completed the day. And I knew it was too rich, but I couldn’t leave without having some grape pie, so I begged a piece form John’s. It was too rich, but tasty all the same.

I’ve actively avoided the Highlander in the past. Next year I’ll sign up again, and again for the whatever the wimpy version is, and take the cut. It was just right for me.

One Response to “We must be in wine country. Even the Gatorade is purple!”

  1. bikerjohn Says:

    The Highlander ride is well worth the experience -any version.
    It was the 6th time in 7 years I was able to do a version of the Highlander.

    Bruce, I’m glad you finally found enough confidence to get out there. It was pure fun -unless there was some sort of standard one was trying to measure themselves to…

    What I enjoyed best beside the scenery and the weather, is the camaraderie with just about everyone along the ride. A number of times I would get passed by a group and catch their draft. I’d fade and the group would pull away. Later the same group would be resting/refueling, meanwhile my engine just purred along without much need for refueling. Steady was my method and I felt accomplished. I enjoyed seeing you shine in your environment. Good one Bruce!