Updated: Jan 15, 2020
A Classic Climb
A smaller event doesn't always equate to an easier one. This was the second time I'd ridden the Alpe de Grand Blanc put on by my buddy & SPVC rider, Trevor Hanna. He was keen & I needed to test something out, so we added a last minute 'Classics' category into the event. I wanted to get a few events & challenges in like this before the RBC Whistler Gran Fondo as it would also be the first year that the 'Classics' category would exist with them.
This ride happens in the Okanagan Valley, known for it's 140km long lake, plethora of winery options & amazing postcard views. The route for the Alpe de Grand Blanc starts in East Kelowna & follows Hwy 33 to the turnoff to the Big White Ski Hill. Making that turn means there's still a few turns with a little grade that you're going to have to work for.
This ride, like most others on the classics, usually mirrors a similar strategy. Stay with the fastest riders that you can until you get dropped & then look for that next wheel. Keep doing this usually until your 'book of matches' is spent.
As the climbing started, like others on the road, you get into that 'easiest gear' option & then see how long you can spin it out for. In this case, that 'last gear' was about the middle of most people's cassette choices. Needless to say this was going to be a 'classic power' kinda day. Settle in, enjoy the view, look for a wheel & count down the km til the top.
One of the great things about the classics is that the geometry has a bit more of a relaxed fit to them. Now to find that nice 'left, right, left' rhythm & roll. Surprisingly I passed a few people on the way up, likely based on my smallest gear option simply propelled me by them. You can't 'spin it out' if there's nothing to spin haha. The fast riders would already be at the top as I made my way to the turn off. Hwy 33 is a fairly smooth highway, the shoulders are descent & the grades are fairly manageable.
The grind from the turn off to the top never gets easier. Knowing that it would pitch up in about 500m, I looked to gain any possible momentum I could to get up and around the first corner and try to maintain that. Now the goal was to pick 'markers' on the road. Cyclists that I could hear gaining on me propelled me forward as much as the one I could see as targets in front of me. On the old Legnano, it was a game of power. How much did I have left. Could I gain momentum on any little downhill to assist in powering my way partially up the next. Trying to stay close to a few riders created additional drive and knowing that a strong decent into the last little kick before the finish was going to make a big difference. It must have been funny for the riders I passed on that last decent, pedalling as if it was the finish. Realistically it was to slingshot my way as far up that last little climb and use that momentum to push me around the corner to the finish.
Having both my dad and girlfriend there for it was a reward in itself. Being able to sit on the patio & enjoy the view and be surrounded by people who all enjoyed the pain that their legs endured to get there was a reward in itself. A refreshing beverage never hurts either ;)
Trevor had allowed us to sponsor the 'oldest bike' category for the climb which was won by Deon Nel (who often takes amazing photographers (before, during & after the event) who was on a possbily a '90's carbon frame with a sprinters cassette on the back end. Needless to say the power he put out to get up there at the speed he did was pretty remarkable.
A fantastic event overall. Amazing views, terrific support & a solid group of riders. I look forward to this one every year.