Hillier Ride Report Long
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  1. #1
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    Hillier Ride Report Long

    Opossum on Turkey Top


    I passed the opossum on Turkey Top Road for the second time and called out ‘rodent’ again. Kept the expensive Eurorubber off the not yet smelly flesh. This time, I was headed for Hackettstown Memorial Hospital after the race.

    My friend, Kevin, and I got to Camp Birney about ten after seven that morning with the temperature at 49 degrees. A little late but we had to play den mother to posse: Super, Talmonster and Kent that morning.

    We parked next to three guys from Brooklyn who had their bikes on a trailer hitch rack. Len in the AC/DC jersey borrowed my utility knife to cut his computer, which had been damaged, off his bike.

    When we rolled down to the start area, I said to Bonz that it looked like a bigger crowd than last year and he agreed. The total was 230 riders, 30 more than the next highest year.

    I also told Special Ed to stop kissing Erin and pay attention. I wanted to tell him that the descents on Hillier were dangerous because they were narrow, steep and twisted. He had biffed big time on Ackerman Drive in an accidental descent a couple of months ago and wanted to play in the big leagues now.

    Then we started the slow, cold roll out in the shade down about 500 vertical feet to the base of Mt. Lebanon Rd. As we pick up speed, I hid in the back and wished I had followed Super Dave’s advice to stuff paper in my jersey or got soma those *****in’ arm warmers like the Talmonster.

    Mt. Lebanon might be a better start to the Hillier Than Thou Time Trial Century than Stephensburg. While the climb is not much higher, it is quite a bit steeper with more nasty, narrow parts. Fortunately, on a Sunday morning at 8:45am there isn’t much traffic as we ascend three and four across. Tony, who was one of the ten guys we brought, was up toward the top of the hill with his Jay’s jersey on. I was bringing up the rear of our group but passing quite a few people. As usual, Kevin was quite a bit ahead of everyone else. But, Kent’s nephew who “was 20 years old” and “this will be his first century” ( I thinking a week before the time trial that I don’t want to wait for some little kid) turned out to be a 145lb. ex football player who races for Lehigh University and Andy was keeping almost up with Kevin.

    The cruel thing about Hillier is that every time you finish a difficult climb, there is another difficult climb in your near future. After 440 vertical feet of Lebanon you turn left and climb 160 vf of Pleasant Grove. How Pleasant!!!

    We turned left on Airport Rd and I had to call out ‘Airplane right.’ A Cessna passed about 25 feet overhead in one of the days most startling moments. No one had believed me when I called it out.

    At the corner of Liberty Rd. Special Ed failed to unclip and ended his run after 19 miles with a might be a broken wrist. We had already climbed 350 vf of Snyder and now 420 vf of Quemby Rd., which is unrelenting. There were an unusually high number of flat tires on the road this year. Maybe because there were so many riders, or are these guys using cotton candy weight tubulars? Advertisement here for Conti 4000-no flats in two years and 8,000 miles.

    We wanted to move quickly through the rest areas because it is the easiest way to pick up time. I hadn’t counted on the complete inability of some of our posse to pass a portapotty without using it.

    We softpedaled out to give them a chance to regroup. Then we turned right, fast and a bit downhill, on Shades of Death Road. A few hundred yards further I called out ‘rock’ and swerved around a fist sized chunk. The next two riders called and swerved also but Kevin hit it head on and endoed. His carbon bike crash sounded more muted than the jangle of aluminum against the macadam.

    I pedaled back the 200 yards and told people to get off the road. Kevin was clearly hurt bad. Someone had called sag already but looking back we should have called 911.

    Then I walked back to flag cars off the site. On the way back to the bend I kicked about 10 fist sized rocks off the road, under the steel guardrail and down the hill. About 100 riders went by in packs. The metric course that Tony and Bill were riding had left our track two miles earlier so we didn’t see that group of riders. As we waited for the sag to take Kevin to Hackettstown Memorial Hospital, a red tailed hawk circled over the trees. Kevin wound up with a displaced broken clavicle and five cracked ribs. Our strongest rider was horizontal.

    This put a damper on the rest of the ride, to put it mildly. The five of us continued north more nervously on Shades of Death then turned left to begin climbing State Park Rd (550 vf) in Jenny Jump. We passed the Atlantic Bicycling Club, all 15 of them there. Then we took a longer break at the Four Sisters’ Winery rest area. Our time was blown anyway.

    Six miles later, we turned right onto Foul Rift, the warning sign less than five miles from the base of Fiddlers Elbow. We passed a couple on a tandem after we made the turn.
    Sometime after the race the NYT ran an article about how the town of Foul Rift was condemned due to repeated damage of their sanitary sewers in floods from the adjacent Delaware flooding. Beautiful view of the river there, though.

    The highlight of the approach is a climb where you are looking directly at the top halves of two giant power plant cooling towers across the Delaware River in Pennsylvania. Someone said they are cement plants or whatever.

    As you cross County Road 519, you begin ascending Roxburg Hill Rd. This is a steep bit of 15% or so that I usually stand on the pedals toward the top just to keep my front wheel on the road. As we turned left on Ridge Rd., I was behind the other four riders who I was with. When we turned uphill onto Fiddlers Elbow, I drank half a bottle and ate my fifth gu of the day.

    The bottom of Fiddlers is 12-15% and is a good test by itself. I had done plenty of climbing in the last two months and kept sitting in the 34x25 for this ‘approach’. About halfway up this early part of the climb I saw a rider doing wide traverses. My thought was that this wouldn’t translate well when the steep part started.

    When you get to the bottom of the steep part of Fiddlers Elbow, you see lots of people walking their bikes up the hill in front of you. Two of the walkers were Super Dave and Talmonster who was walking up the grass on the side of the road. Kent had walked for a bit but was now remounted. (How do you do THAT on a 20%+ grade?) This was the first time that I thought I could compete with the group of our toughest climbers that I had brought with me.

    At the top of Fiddlers we turned left and waited for Super and Talmonster. Fat Mike had his Serotta upside down in the grass. His freewheel was jammed in what he characterized as a cascading drive train failure, his ride was over and he would be going home with Steve Madden, his driver and former editor of Bicycling Mag.

    I had run into Fat (we are on a first name basis) at the Oldwick General Store while on a training ride for Hillier about a month earlier. We got to talking about climbing. He asked me if I liked to climb and I said yes. Then he asked me if I REALLY liked to climb and I said sure. So he took me out to Parsonage Lot Road which ascends north from Hill and Dale Rd. It is an excellent, steady climb somewhat like Warrenville Rd without cars in the sense that it turns up hard and doesn’t stop.

    Next we went west and I showed him my favorite climb in the area which is Longview. Where else can you find a climb named after a Green Day song? It ascends the same 300+ vertical feet as Parsonage Lot but has varying pitch with the very steep section at the top and is a narrow, twisty road. I thought that this was more the type of climb we would see on Hillier Than Thou. Fat and I exchanged digits when he turned for home and I had emailed him some information on Hillier the next week.

    Before Hillier I had had a mixed training season. July had only just over 200 miles outside due to work. I had done a lot of climbing in the six weeks before the time trial and some long distance as well. This year I did most of my hill repeats on Valley Drive on the advice of Ken Roberts. I had sets of 5, 6 and 12 repeats there in that period and always climbed Johnston Drive to get to the top first. Super Dave and Kent and I had climbed Ackerman Drive seven times in a row about 10 days before Hillier. The day that I met Mike, I rode to Califon and Chester and covered 88 miles. That’s the kind of workout you can do when your wife is at a craft fair.

    I also did my share of cold, early season rides in 30 degree temperatures with 20mph winds in my teeth and spent some hours on the trainer in the basement at 11pm after work. I ran once a week or so and did some SPIN classes at the YMCA just to get one more workout in during the weeks before Hillier. Pinning the resistance to the right on the spin bike is good hill work. When Sunday dawned rainy the week after Hillier, Kent and Talmonster showed up at 8am for the regular weekly ride. They were the only ones out.

    We were getting into a groove with five strong riders taking turns at the front. We moved fast into the third rest area and were ahead of most of the crowd. One couple that were there were pros: they had their bikes, one of which was a Colnago carbon frame, leaning standing up against each other. I had a banana to fight cramps, grabbed a gu and filled both bottles then hustled everyone out.

    A few climbs later we got to the foot of Ironbridge Road which is the second key climb in the time trial. Talmonster cramped immediately and started to walk the half mile long hill. Just short of halfway up I passed the athletic girl with the Marty’s Reliable Jersey walking as well. I asked her about Hector and Jesse with whom I had ridden the last 30 miles last year. Hector was in front and Jesse had a collarbone injury this year. A short while later, I passed Super Dave who was having some mechanicals and was walking as well. About the same time, I passed Kent and realized that I had an advantage on the really steep (over 15%) climbs. We left the walkers there to fend for themselves with the athletic Marty’s girl for protection.

    Meanwhile on the metric loop, Bonz and Tony were climbing some nameless, steep monster and they saw two bikers on the right pulled over. After Tony asked them if they were OK, they said yes, they had just pulled over for a cigarette break.

    Andy was up front and we missed the fourth rest area near the beginning of the climb up Henderson and Blackbrook. Most of the way up the climb, we passed a five year old on a scooter going the other way on a flat section with his mom next to him on a bike. One of the riders asked the kid if he “wanted to race for money?” The mom cracked up.

    Just then we passed a girl making good time on the back of the hill and caught up with a rider in a Stelvio jersey. He told me that he had actually climbed the Stelvio a couple of years ago. If you don’t know the mountain in Italy you should check it out. The switchbacks look much steeper and way scarier than Alpe d’ Huez for example. There are also about twice as many of them.

    We turned and started up Dutch Hill Rd. which begins gently with a 15% pitch for several hundred feet. Just wanted to make sure you were warmed up with 80 miles in your legs, I guess. I attacked Kent again.

    Five miles later, we got to Mountain Top Rd. which has two hellacious switchbacks at the beginning. Based on my research, I would guess steeper than the Stelvio. I was able to make my biggest gap of the day over Kent here, but he got back on my wheel near the top and passed me again. As usual, on the descent my 35 extra pounds carried me back up to his wheel as we got to the last rest area.

    Andy, Kent and I got to the base of Point Mountain Road together five miles later. As we began the ascent which is 540 vertical feet over a mile, I attacked standing up. Didn’t matter much: Andy disappeared almost immediately. I stayed up for the entire climb which averages just over 10%. Halfway up, we passed our attorney who was making steady progress.

    Just before the finish line, Andy was waiting for me. He motioned for me to take the line but I said to him that he had done all the work and kicked it back to him. Kyle told us to stop, took our times and we waited for the others to join us.

    We rode the 10 minutes back to Camp Birney slowly. I don’t attack post race climbs. The post ride food was excellent. The organizers were serving venison, ice cream and everything in between. In the picnic area, maps of the routes by Dustin K. Farnum, webmaster of NJbikemap.com were on display.

    We bought a Hillier jersey for Kevin and drove up to the hospital to visit him. He said it would make a good replacement for the one that they had to cut off him in the ER. His wife appeared less than delighted.

    All of the riders agreed that they would like to try Hillier next year again.

    Here is last years ride report: http://forums.roadbikereview.com/sho...hlight=hillier
    U gne n'e' par niseun'

    CAAD 10 Black, Di2 Ultegra 10 speed, Ksyrium ES, two tail lights

    Colnago Superissimo steel 1992, 9 speed Chorus, Ksyrium Equipe, dented top tube

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  2. #2
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    Thanks for such an interesting and exciting (and sobering) report about the big event.

    Quote Originally Posted by thegock
    I had run into Fat (we are on a first name basis) at the Oldwick General Store while on a training ride for Hillier about a month earlier . . .
    he took me out to Parsonage Lot Road which ascends north from Hill and Dale Rd . . .
    Next we went west and I showed him my favorite climb in the area which is Longview.
    Those look like very challenging steep climbs -- which I never heard of before. Hope to get to check them out soon. In the mean time just because thegock thinks they're worth mentioning in his report, I've added them to my list of Hunterdon country climbs. I'd guess that after I check them out further at least one of them show up on my statewide list, but for now I'm yet not sure how high up on the list they should go.

    The highlight of the approach is a climb where you are looking directly at the top halves of two giant power plant cooling towers across the Delaware River in Pennsylvania. Someone said they are cement plants or whatever.
    According to this page they're cooling towers from a PPL coal-fired power plant which was just shut down last year after about fifty years of operation.

    When you get to the bottom of the steep part of Fiddlers Elbow, you see lots of people walking their bikes up the hill in front of you.
    I didn't realize that so many people in the Hiller event walked up that. I think that's a smart idea for most riders -- given the hill-climbs after Fiddlers which must be survived in order to finish the event.

    He told me that he had actually climbed the Stelvio a couple of years ago. If you don’t know the mountain in Italy you should check it out. The switchbacks look much steeper and way scarier than Alpe d’ Huez for example. There are also about twice as many of them.
    Stelvio is another one of those over-rated Euro climbs -- though very spectacular on a good day - (photos from June). From a climbing perspective riding up the east side is basically just a very long "slog" of fairly steady steepness once the switchbacks start. Actually according to my research (and experience) the first three switchbacks of l'Alpe d'Huez are steeper than most of Stelvio, but overall Stelvio is harder.
    I bet most riders who can finish the Hillier Than Thou 100 (even with walking up the steep part of Fiddlers) could climb Stelvio. My friend Tony from Manhattan, who's a good rider but no kind of racer, had very little training time beforehand, almost no time on serious steep hills -- he just got off the airplane, assembled his bike (with no third chainring), and the next morning we drove down and he climbed the famous east side of Passo dello Stelvio no problem.
    Anyway the really steep climbs on paved roads in northeast Italy are Passo Mortirolo from Mazzo di Valtellina (which some racer with initials L.A. has been quoted as saying was the hardest climb of his life) and Monte Zoncolan from Ovaro (even harder) -- both have been in the Giro d'Italia. By my research Monte Zoncolan is the steepest 3000 vertical ft on a paved public road in Europe or North America. I climbed Zoncolan on my touring bike with very low gearing, but I thought Mortirolo was more scenic and interesting (and not all that far from Stelvio -- both (also Gavia) could be reached from a hotel or camping base near Bormio [see on map].
    I've heard there's a shorter climb near Bozen / Bolzano which is even steeper, like ridiculous, but I don't know if it's fully paved or what.
    Ken
    Last edited by Ken Roberts; 10-19-2008 at 07:39 PM.

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