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The foothills of Sugarloaf are easy going, belying the seriousness of the four miles and 3,800 feet of climbing to the summit. The road snakes over the occasional rise, through woods that grow increasingly thinner and browner the higher we get. Again, those in the know sit and settle while the rest of us pony-up to the front and attack the easy inclines until we hit the first wall of the real climb. Ouch. Everyone under 165 pounds moves to the their rightful place in the front where they quickly disappear into the distance behind the occasional house or dry-docked snowmobile. The rest of us tack or “deliver the mail” - ride from the left to the right edge of the road like rural postmen in their jeeps zigzagging across the road from mailbox to mailbox.
The climb is long and so steep it hurts my legs on a cellular level. At one point I confuse a road spurring off to the left with the top and it’s then I realize I’ve lost track of the number of false flats. It’s hot. And we’re well into mid-day so it’s only getting hotter, a fact the audibly gurgling fresh water running down the hills side drove home again and again. The trees are thin and we pass maybe three or four houses, rural backwoods homes in various states of disrepair at the end of driveways lined with cars on blocks and retired appliances.
At the top everyone is exchanging high-fives and manic conversation. On the side of the road bikes lean on trees and the ground. Dry, bar-filled, mouths pant and choke while bottles are greedily filled and even more greedily emptied. Sweaty hats and helmets are rung-out in the dirt. Brand new stories are told and compared. We are finished with our first major climb and fast becoming friends, and a team.
This climb was murder and thoughts of stopping and dismounting were percolating. I somehow managed to ignore them and this in spite of my cassette situation. I was running a 12-26 and really counting on that 26, but the chain was popping and skipping and I was relegated to the 25. I knew the extra tooth would really ease my pain so I keep trying to sneak the chain up, if even for just a couple of strokes. But POP-POP-POP CHIKA-CHIKA-CHIKA wasn’t having it. I resented that 26 the whole way up and every now and then I would look down and catch it, I swear, taunting me – smiling it’s little dead-weight smile.
By mid-climb I had a good view of Kansas in front of me, and Daniel a short way in front of him. Having these two guys dangling ahead served to exacerbate the mental torture of Sugarloaf; any hope of a respite in the grade was easily dashed by simply looking at these two guys struggling just above me, tacking at times as the grade shot up, sending a clear message to me behind: I would be withdrawing all my funds from my Leg Bank account today.
- Richard Bravo
Dan, Jeremy, Pierre and I try to keep Sam close, but he is too strong and superb. At the top of the climb he is smiling and greets us with friendly nod - hola, KOM.
The climb feels like a protracted track stand or an uphill tai chi exercise. It’s like I’m not moving. I see water falls on my left and a stream flowing below me to the right, the mountain must know my bottle is empty. The louder the gurgle and splash the dryer my mouth gets.
The road is steep and it’s hot, my legs are searing against this climb. Whenever I pass rushing water - clean, clear, cold water – I’m tempted to swallow it, grab it, submerge in it. Then I get distracted by the shoddy cabins, junked cars, stacks of firewood and all the many broken-down snow-mobiles. Oh, and the one empty, lonely, dry bathtub on someone’s lawn.
What's the story with Sugarloaf mountains as a catagory, as go-to name. There's even one in Florida.
- Dan L