Posted by: wheelywonka | July 25, 2010

Man vs. Hill

Just returned from a short blast of MBing in the ‘hood.   I was unable to do the team Velo Valero ride this morning from Helotes ’cause I was helping my son and some of his fellow scouts on his Eagle project, so I wanted to get some wheel time in.  I rode around 6 pm when it had cooled down a bit.   I saw the most amazing thing on the winding, elevated walkway that connects Walker Ranch Park to one of its parking lots.  There was this stately hawk sitting on the ledge of the walkway, his head spinning left and right looking for prey.  I stopped, and rushed to get my iPhone out to snap a photo, but by the time I had it cued up, he had flown away…  

My last blog was titled “Man vs. Stump”, and it chronicled my encounter with a stump a McAllister Park.  This blog is entitled “Man vs. Hill”, and it’s really all about deep and mysterious urge that dwells in certain riders that impels them to climb as many hills as they can.    One of the guys I’ve ridden with forever is my buddy John Tenison.  JT has been a ride leader for Velo Valero for many years.  A while back we nicknamed him “The Punisher”, because he would always schedule training rides for us that were 90% uphill (or more).   He’s one of those guys who doesn’t consider it a real ride unless your heart rate shoots up and your pulse pounds while grinding your way up to the crest of yet another hill.    We are very fortunate in San Antonio to live on the edge of the Texas Hill Country, which gives us quick access to some very challenging ascents – including  Crabapple Road,   Rt 16  north of Medina, all those hills north of Boerne, and (closer to home) Kyle Sealy.  I’ve been riding with John and friends on Wednesday nights for years on a little route we call the Hillfest – start from the school on Chase Hill, go north on Babcock, turn right on Scenic Loop, go to the Valero station on I-10 for a quick break, take Old Fred back, cut across on Dos Cerros, and throw in Cross Mountain or Kyle Sealy for grins.     On a hot summer night when you ride this and you slow down to sweaty single digits on the climbs, you feel a pain and an exhilaration as you near the crests that is unbelievable.   I joined the guys on the Hillfest last Wednesday for the first time in a few months.  This is a no mercy ride (as opposed to a no drop),  and I was quickly dropped by the crew so I had to do the route on my own.  I averaged 15 mph for 34 miles, which was really weak – I’ll pick it up the pace as we get deeper into the training schedule for the Ride to the River

With PJ, JT, and the Chuckster in Waring a few years ago

…Speaking of hills, let’s spend a little time talking about what the big boys do. As a cycling enthusiast, I am overwhelmed the epic, heroic, and incomparable battle to the top of the Tourmalet by Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador during stage 17 of the Tour de France.  I recorded it on my DVR in glorious HD, and have watched the final 8 miles 3 times already.    (Click here to launch the video which will play as you read this.)  

These two gladiators were separated by only 8 seconds after  two weeks and two thousand miles of this year’s Tour.     The younger of the two, Schleck, had to win by more than 8 seconds to regain the lead position and the yellow jersey that he lost to Contador when the evil Spaniard raced past him during an earlier stage when he had dropped his chain on a climb. (This, of couse, is a horrible breach of Tour etiquette – you should never take the yellow jersey from someone who is experiencing mechanical problems).      Andy and Alberto where in the breakaway racing against one another mano a mano.  The fog on the mountain was thick, making it difficult to see the two riders.  Andy was setting the tempo, and occasionally he’d look back at Alberto and stare him down.  Alberto stayed on his wheel and matched every acceleration.  The crowd that lined course was dressed in garish costumes (and sometimes, nothing at all) and cheered the riders on, often running beside them, yelling at them, patting them for encouragement.  At one point, Alberto attacked, trying to take the lead, but Andy reacted quickly and regained his position at the front.    As the approached the top, you could see the pain and anguish on Andy’s face, his mouth open wide, trying to draw in as much oxygen as possible since they were almost at 8,000 feet.   The two could not even see the finish line because the fog was so dense.  In the end, Alberto backed down and let Andy take the lead, realizing that he was indeed king of the mountain that day.   Andy crossed the line first, his arms raised in triumph, with Alberto only a half a bike length behind him…  I still get goosebumps thinking about that finish! 


…Contador may indeed win the Tour this year, his third in the last 4 years, but Schleck is the winner in my book.   He’s not just the best young rider in the world – he’s the best, period.

See you on the road!



  1. […] also has a great post up on hill training that, I can attest, is true for running as well as cycling. He also includes a useful route that he […]

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