AKA: The rolling hills from hell ride!

I try to ride the Portland Century each year if I can because it is generally a well supported and nicely designed route. It usually follows a different course each year and takes in new scenery around the Portland area. This years event held little similarity to previous years however!

If you follow this blog you may remember that last years event was cancelled just a week out from the date. Organizers got the last minute jitters from the eclipse that was going to happen the day after the ride. Eclipse mania was a real thing and the organizers knowing how crazy Portlanders can be decided to bail.

This year the ride started well away from downtown Portland at Mt Hood Community College in Gresham. The college grounds themselves were nice enough but Gresham is not regarded as a nice neighborhood. Still the route headed out of town and into the hills to the east and south and I expected it to be fine. My riding partner Craig and I signed up to do the 70 mile loop and we set off about a quarter after 7:00 am. The first part of the route was familiar and we headed up the historic Columbia River Hwy. All was well early on and we were enjoying a lovely day, but at some point we started to realize that this day was going to be different!

Elevation profiles are a great tool for determining what to expect on any ride and I looked at this one before the event. They can also be a little deceiving as I was going to discover! The profile above doesn’t look too intimidating and we realized a little too late that the total elevation gain for the 70 mile route would be over 6000 ft! We actually measured over 6500 feet of climbing but it wouldn’t be hard to convince us that it was more!

Before the ride we poo-poo’ed the fact that there were rest stops about every 12 miles or so. After the ride we weren’t so arrogant, since we stopped at all of them! Also, our estimate of a 5 hour finish time went out the window (along with our confidence) as we took over 6 and a half hours to complete the ride.

The hills were relentless! Short and steep pitches with almost no flat sections all day. The RWGPS metrics for this ride indicate a max grade of about 12%, but there were clearly several short sections in excess of 20%, perhaps approaching a 25% grade. I have ridden 23% before and I know what that feels like and there was definitely some of that here! All day long, up then down, never ending hills. I don’t believe the the elevation profile shows every little 50 foot climb but they were there!

We also had some shade from early in the ride on through to lunch. After lunch it started to get a little hot as we rode away from the trees and the sun began beating down on us. Temps reached a high of 80 degrees or so and the winds were generally light, though always seemingly in our face.

The rest stops this year were not as good as in the past but lunch was pretty agreeable. The best part of this ride is always the post ride support which includes music food and BEER! After a tough day on the bike a cold beer goes a long way towards recovery!

The bike I rode that day was my 1998 De Bernardi, one of my favorites for a century ride. With a mixed Campy 10 speed drive it has a bottom gear of 34 x 29 which is enough for any ride (usually!)

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