review of the gauntlet II: this time it’s personal!
May 6, 2007
A while ago (okay, a loooong time ago) Elden wrote about a ride that he dramatically named “The Gauntlet!” (I added the exclamation point. It just feels right.) You can read about his little Gauntlet! Ride here.
Last week my friend Joe (the only friend I’ve introduced to mountain biking NOT to have been seriously injured) asked me about doing the Gauntlet! But, well, with a little twist—When Elden did it, he rode up Provo Canyon, did Squaw Peak and South Fork, rode up the Sundance side of the Alpine Loop, then down to Cascade Springs and back, and down the American Fork side, doing the Tibble Fork spur on his way down.
Joe contends that’s cheating, since Elden didn’t go back UP the American Fork side. And he proposed that this was like Sir Edmund Hillary only getting to the Hillary Step, but not all the way up. I think that’s airtight logic.
And thus 7.5 hours of intense suffering was born. This morning, Joe Jensen, my brother-in-law Rick Sunderlage, and I did the Gauntlet! II—This Time It’s Personal!
A bunch of others came along, but since they had no intention of completing the entire ride, well, they don’t get a mention. Even though some of them are famous, and most of them can kick my ass up the hill.
I will review the Gauntlet! II—This Time It’s Personal! one climb at a time, along with a general score. In other words, my review shall contain scores. That’s how I roll.
Tibble Fork, American Fork Canyon (cat 2—3 miles, but only the last mile is steep)
We met at the mouth of American Fork Canyon at 5am, and were rolling by 5:15 (still AM). It was not as light as I would have hoped. In fact, it was downright dark.
We felt good, we rolled fast, and made it past Tibble Fork reservoir to Granite Flat in about 10 minutes.* Total climbing to Granite Flat was about maybe a couple hundred feet.* The descent was very cold, but jolly.
* Perceived time and distance
Score: 3 out of 4. I’d like to rate it higher or lower, but jeez, it was the first climb of the day. Kind of like when you skate first in figure skating. The judges have to save the good scores for later. And no, I’m not French, effete, and I don’t wear fur.
American Fork Canyon, Main Climb to Summit (hors category—11 miles, and mostly very steep)
We still had about 6 miles and 2,000 feet to get to the main summit of the Alpine Loop. Not to mention that we then had 4 major climbs after that. So I thought it imprudent of Rick to just fly off the front and pretty much get all Lance Armstrong on Joe and me on this climb. Turns out I was riding with Spiderman and Batman (Joe and Rick). Which brings up an important point—who would win a fight to the death between Spiderman and Batman? I say Batman. He’s older, more experienced, wily, and has unlimited resources. My kids disagree. Well, except for Maddy—she’s a daddy’s girl.
Anyway, I took it easy up this climb (as easy as you can ride on an average 9% grade), and rejoined Rick and Joe at the top, where they began their ritual of saying, “Hey, nice going, we’ve only been here for about a minute,” which was just mean.
I think we climbed this in about 20 minutes. (I’m totally pulling your leg. This is a little known measurement I like to call “perceived time and distance—so from now on, * means “perceived time and distance.” I think it will catch on.) The elevation gain might have been about 500 feet.*
Score: 5 out of 6. I love this climb, it’s my favoritist in the whole world. But, still early in the ride, so I can’t go overboard.
American Fork Canyon, Cascade Springs (hors category—7 miles and wicked steep)
From the summit, we headed down the backside to Cascade Springs, a 7 mile descent, losing about 2000 feet. Justin was with us for this descent, and took off fast, showing us what he’s got. The road was a bit gravelly and sketchy, but since I was climbing so slowly, I felt it important to show the one road biking skill I have. I believe Justin’s exact comment to Rick at the bottom was “your bro-in-law is F#$%ING NUTS!” So, I’ve got that going for me. Which is nice.
The climb back out of Cascade Springs fills me with a sense of dread. It’s long and steep, and I was with fast guys. Luckily, I also had Mr iPod with me. You may have read the Fat Cyclist rail on riding with iPods in groups over on his obese site. The Fat Cyclist is a ninny and a Quaker. Riding with iPods is the bomb, and may have saved my life today. I’m thinking of writing a letter to Steve Jobs.
This climb took a little longer, maybe 40 minutes, and gained more like 8,000 feet in 7 miles.*
Score: 3 out of 7. This is a good climb, but by the top, I was feeling a bit spent, and started worrying in a big way about the 3 climbs to come. On the other hand, I got to listen to Fergie sing My Humps 3 times on this climb, so maybe I’m being a bit harsh.
At the summit again, we relaxed for a couple minutes, munching on whatever we had. While we were standing there, some kind of nexus of ride buddies occurred. Rick Maddox, who had started late, came over the hump from American Fork, and joined us. And Elden suddenly appeared out of nowhere on his mountain bike, having just climbed Tibble Fork, descended Joy, and climbed back up. He couldn’t join us, since he needed to get to work and act all impressive.
Anyway, this is an example of how cool this area is. We are at the summit and center of maybe the best riding in the universe on a Monday morning, and suddenly, 70 percent of the friends I ride with appear. Maybe it’s just me. Am I babbling? Okay, I’ll stop.
We descended the Sundance side, pushing the pace hard. The top of this descent is twisty and densely wooded, and the lower section below Sundance has sections where you can push over 55mph pretty easily. I like it. This descent gets a score: 9 out of 10. Cuz this is MY review (with scores).
Provo Canyon, Squaw Peak (cat 1, but only because it’s short—4.5 miles, and brutally steep)
Rick M rode out Provo Canyon with us, but, like the churlish dog he is, bailed on Squaw. Rick S, Joe, and I started up. Now, the fastest I’ve ever climbed Squaw, at my absolute best, is just under 30 minutes. But as we were in the middle of the Gauntlet! II—This Time It’s Personal! I figured we’d soft pedal up and save our energy for the final climb up past Sundance.
Well, I did that, but Spiderman and Batman had other ideas. I’m not even Robin or Mary Jane to these guys. I got to the top in about 38 minutes, not really a bad time, considering. Rick, of course, immediately says “we’ve only been here about a minute.” He’s obviously lying, since he had a roaring fire going, and was barbequeing the goat he had killed and skinned. I hate Rick. They climbed the sucker in about 31 minutes. Yeah, I always go for my personal best on the middle climb of a SIX climb ride.
The Squaw Peak road used to suck, with large, bus-sized potholes and lots of gravel, making every descent white knuckle. Not any more. Now it’s a recently-paved descending paradise. Still white knuckle, but for different reasons.
Score: 1 out of 10. Did I mention that I hate Rick?
Provo Canyon, South Fork (cat 3—four miles, but very gentle)
South Fork was like a vacation compared to Squaw Peak. Or at least it would have been if it weren’t climb number 5 out of 6. At least Rick and Joe weren’t setting any personal bests on this one.
I have very little recollection of the South Fork climb, maybe because it came sandwiched between Squaw and Sundance, and was fairly pleasant. Apart from the fact that my legs were starting to feel like Jello that hadn’t set yet.
Score: 0 out of 0. Since I don’t really remember it at all.
Provo Canyon, Sundance Side of Alpine Loop (hors category, 8 miles, and the first half is mind-bendingly steep, and I’m told the second half is very pleasant. I wouldn’t know, since I had already gouged my eyes out by the time I got to the second half).
As we started up the Sundance side, once again, Batman and Robin receded into the hazy distance ahead of me. Whatever, I hope they get hit by a dump truck.
Until today, I would never have imagined being able to soft pedal up the Sundance side. But given the exigencies, today was the day. I started hallucinating early, and not in a good way. Elvis (the fat Elvis) was riding on my handlebars.
After somehow muscling my way up the steep stuff to Aspen Grove, I spent the next 3 miles telling Elvis (the fat Elvis) to F#&K OFF! He kept telling me I needed to sit down, just for a minute. But I knew, if I got off my bike, even for a second, chances were good I’d never remount again. Ever. We had this same conversation 8,000 times in those 3 miles. The tunnel of pain got narrower and narrower. Do you know what got me through?
My iPod, of course. Turns out, Fergie singing My Humps is the best climbing song in the world. It’s good for other stuff too, but Fergie saved my life today. That tears it, Zinedane Zidane is out, and Fergie is IN.
Score: negative 100 out of 1,000. I will never climb the Sundance side again. And not just because I hate Sundance (which I will review at a later date, but here’s a little hint: it doesn’t reflect well on Sundance), but because climbing that side made me want to die. And that violates the greatest cliche in the world: Tomorrow Is Another Day! And I don’t even remember the descent, maybe my favorite descent in the whole world. And that’s just a crime.
On the other hand, that shower I railed on a few weeks ago? I take it all back.
The Gauntlet! This Time It’s Personal! Final Score: 6.
The Numbers: 7.5 hours (slightly less for Rick, since he dropped us hard on the final climb to get to work because he’s VERY IMPORTANT!), 87.5 miles, and about 13,000 feet of climbing.