Editor’s note: This post was written by Tucson Velo’s newest contributor, Mary Reynolds. Reynolds is a mountain and road cyclist who also writes about endurance sports for Examiner.com. You can follow her personal outdoor adventures on her blog.
Ever wonder how your Tucson training ride stacks up against Tour de France stages?
UA graduate and 18MilesPerHour cycling blogger Brian Miller wondered too.
“Like a lot of cyclists, when we were out on our favorite local climbs, we’d imagined ourselves on the legendary climbs in the Tour, Vuelta and Giro,” says Miller about how he and artist Rhys Newman came up with the idea.
“Often, with the sound of Phil Liggett in our heads, telling the world how we were dominating the peloton,” he says. “The cycling world would have you think that no climbs anywhere compare to the famous ones — Alpe D’Huez, Tourmalet, etc.”
In the Tour, climbs are rated by combining length and gradient, 1 to 4, with 1 being almost the hardest. Hors Categorie (HC-above category) is the most difficult climb. This week, the Alps will determine the overall winner of the maillot jaune, with leg-busting Category 1 and 2 climbs during the stages, and soul-crushing HC finishes.
Now, cyclists everywhere can use the Southern Californians’ Climb Category Stickers to mark local climbs. Miller uses his blog to promote the stickers that Newman designed.
“Our southern California climbs are pretty difficult. So we set out to see just how they stacked up against the legends,” he says.
He encourages cyclists to map rides on mapmyride.com, which shows elevation gain, and rates the climb based on international categories.
Then cyclists can mark the climbs for other riders to see “in a way that doesn’t deface private property, of course,” he says about placing the stickers on nearby poles or guard rails. “And not in a way that endangers safety or will violate the rules of the local governing body, right?”
For example, the climb to the top of Tucson’s Mt. Lemmon is HC according to mapmyride.com, so difficult that it is beyond ranking.
Artist and graphic designer Newman says his favorite climbs in southern California are “steep climbs that don’t fight against the hills. I prefer the climbs that twist and wind, and follow contour lines, then suddenly tip-up, jump to the next contour and follow it until you jump again.”
In southern California he likes Fernwood Pacific, Latigo and Mullholland for road climbs.
Newman competed this year at 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, so he enjoys off-road climbs too: “As for off-road, Bulldog, Sullivan Canyon and Backbone from Newton Canyon to Boney Mountain are lovely California dirt climbs.”
He races single speed and plans to return to Tucson for his first 24 hour solo attempt at the 2012 Old Pueblo.
Other single speeders watch out, Rhys won California’s Southridge XC series last autumn.
“I also do the 24 hour thing, in various incarnations, 5-man, 2-man, and now more recently 2-man with my 9-year-old son for some races,” he says.
Miller says, “I’m a lover, not a racer,” but back in his Arizona Wildcat days, he accidentally “won” El Tour de Tucson.
“There was one time back in the mid-80s when I was out on a training ride he said. “I’d forgotten that the El Tour was on that day and stumbled into the route with about 20 miles to go. As I got closer to the finish line I was being cheered madly and waved through intersections – turns out they thought I was the race leader! I put my head down and hammered to the finish line, only to pull up and slide out through the crowd about a hundred yards from the finish.”
Miller officially completed El Tour de Tucson last year.
“I used to love climbing over Gates Pass, just beautiful,” says Miller.
Mapmyride.com ranks Gates Pass as a relatively tame Category 4 climb from both the east and west sides.
Miller and Newman both look forward to Friday’s Tour stage that finishes on Alpe D’Huez.
“Rhys just did a local climb, Mount Baldy, used in the Tour of California, that matches the challenge of Alpe D’Huez. He said it was brutal,” says Miller.
In the Tour, the rider with the most mountain points is awarded the prestigious polka dot “King of the Mountains” jersey each day. The climbs of the Tour are beautiful, but sometimes the red and white polka dot jersey is not.
Miller says the combination of polka dot jersey with the Euskatel team’s orange shorts hurts his eyes. But the artist Newman enjoys orange.
“I’m Welsh, but those Basque boys sure do love orange. Apparently they are all Buddhists,” he says.