Crown Jules

July 22, 2012 § 6 Comments

All year I’ve been hearing about Jules. It usually goes like this.

Wanker: Some little kid showed up on the Donut and kicked everyone’s ass.

WM: Huh?

Wanker: Yeah. Little 12 or 13 year-old kid. Rode everyone off his wheel.

WM: Yeah, right.

Wanker: I’m serious.

WM: Twelve years old? No way.

Wanker: That’s what we thought. No way a little kid would have the lungs for that kind of sustained effort.

WM: Not possible.

Wanker: Why don’t you come out and see for yourself?

WM: I’m busy that week.

The overture

I rolled out this morning flanked by Charon Smith and Tony Sells. The sunny weather and beautiful skies meant a huge turnout for the world famous South Bay Donut Ride, although some of the key assassins such as Miles Jr. and Tink were cavorting up the slopes of the Santa Monica mountains with Jeff Konsmo and his merry band of pain merchants. Dan Cobley, John Hall, Paul Che, Derek Brauch, and a couple of other hard hitters were there, though, so it was going to be hard.

“Hey Charon, see that kid?”

“What kid?”

Jules is so short that he was almost invisible off on the edge of the peloton. “That one up there with the national champion shorts.”

“Yeah. What about him? What’s he doing here?”

“He’s going to ride away from everyone in this hundred-man group on the Switchbacks with the exception of about seven dudes. Everyone else will be put to the sword. You, Tony, me; we’re all going to go home today and say ‘I got my ass handed to me by a 13 year-old.'”

Charon gave me that look as if to say, “You ain’t fooling me with your foolishness.”

“I know it sounds crazy, Charon. Just watch. He’s gonna run a hot poker up the middle of every tender, middle-aged ego out here. You’ll see.”

Up, down, and around the bend

I watched Jules for a couple of minutes, marveling. He navigated the pack with ease and skill. Giant men on giant bikes bounded by him, around him, and in front of him with all the kookish, wankerish bike moves that infest the Donut at every turn of the pedal once you get more than about ten wheels back. Jules expertly avoided the freds and then hit the edge of the road, rocketing up into a solid position as we climbed out of Malaga Cove.

I wondered why no one was talking to him. Here’s a kid with the confidence, skills, and proven ability to go out on a big boy’s ride and smash people’s heads in. This isn’t just precocious, it’s pre-precocious. Maybe you wankers should talk to him and get to know him now, before he starts peering out at you from magazine covers.

“Hey, man, what’s your name?” I asked.

“Jules,” he said. Totally cool. Totally grown up.

“I’m Seth. Nice to meet you.”

Brief smile. “Yeah.”

He told me about his recent trip to Trexlertown, where he scored some impressive results on the track. That explained his great bike handling. A bit of later research showed that Jules is an omnivorous cyclist: he races track, crits, road, time trials, and ‘cross…and is good in every single discipline. His long string of firsts and seconds from 2011 have been depressed as he’s moved up into the next age bracket, but his winning trajectory being what it is, that should take care of itself in the next year or two

Calm before the storm

No one wanted a hard run-up to the Switchbacks this morning, so it was one big, lummoxing group as we rolled up Lunada Bay and on to Portuguese Bend. At the beach club, where the pace is often single file, the ride continued its leisurely pace. I heard chatting behind me, a giveaway for the difficulty of the ride.

Of course, an easy run-up to the Switchbacks just means that the actual climb will be exponentially faster, as people will have fresh legs when the climb starts. A couple of attacks went just past the beach club, but it wasn’t until Paul Che opened up the throttle that the ride began in earnest.

Paul dragged a small contingent of seven riders all the way to the base of the climb, then swung over. The pack was a tiny speck. Just before cresting the first level spot, shortly after beginning the climb, I blew. The six riders in the break rolled off. As I dropped back into a rhythm, I heard the sound of an approaching bike.

It was Jules.

Do you have an ego? Are you a grown man? Do you consider yourself fit? Have you ever thought that “but for” you’d have been a pro? Is your weekly slugfest a validation of your ability and strength? If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, then the realization that you’re hanging for dear life onto the wheel of a barely-turned-thirteen-year-old child will devastate you.

Though he provided precious little draft, it was enough to latch on, and this kid proceeded to take out his bullwhip, inspect the tip to make sure the knot was properly tied, and beat the shit out of me with it. He had his eyes glued on the break, and would periodically get out of the saddle to jam it even harder. I know that my exhalations, both the sound waves and the bursts of air, were pushing him on somewhat. So, as Knoll would say, “There’s that.”

We overtook a dude from Big Orange, who jumped on my wheel. I blew after the first hairpin as Jules got out the saddle again and just lit it up. The other grown man and experienced racer hunkered down and let Jules pull him for quite a way until he could recover, then he attacked the kid and dropped him. Nice.

I kept Jules in sight until the final turn, and then he was just flat out gone. By the time I rounded it, he had already reached the top of the hill and I never saw him again. Of course the short tow I’d gotten from this dynamo had put me so far ahead of the chasing peloton that I’d overhauled my bottom bracket by the time the next shattered group rolled up.

So if, a few years from now, you hear the name “Jules,” and it’s spoken with a trembling voice, in fear and awe, don’t say you weren’t warned.

And for those of you who think I’m blowing smoke, here’s the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quvjpPVv1zY

Top 10 climbs in Palos Verdes

May 13, 2012 § 14 Comments

The South Bay produces lots of riders who can absolutely smoke it on the uphills. This is due in part to the excellent climbing available on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Below is my ranking of the ten best climbs. Route descriptions are referenced according to Strava.

1. Forrestal-Ganado-Domes: 3.4 miles, average grade 6.3%. The toughest climb on the peninsula. It begins on Forrestal when you turn off of PV Drive South, connects with Ganado, then takes Crest all the way to the radar domes. If you do “Segment Search” in Strava for “The Big One, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA,” you’ll find it. It’s a solid 20-minute climb. The first part of Forrestal is deceptively steep, and the rest of the climb to Crest is not deceptive at all. It goes up, and up, and up. The wall before Ganado is horrific, and Ganado itself is beyond horrific. This is as close to a pro climb as we have in the South Bay. Long, leg breaking, steep, lung busting, relentless, and ridden rarely because it hurts so much.

2. Anchovy-Friendship Park-Domes: 4.0 miles, 7% (est). This would be harder than Forrestal except that after you complete the climb above Friendship Park there is a substantial respite before you hit Crest and climb to the domes. Otherwise, it’s an absolute killer. It starts off as an 8.2% wall, climbs for half a mile, then finishes at 11.6% for another five hundred yards before briefly leveling out. You enter the park’s parking lot, pedal to the back, lift your bike over the barricade, and continue up the paved road for another .5 mile, averaging a solid 15% along the steepest part. Then you get another breather from Calle Aventura to PV East until you turn right on Crest and grind the final 1.6 miles at 5.3% to the radar domes.

3. The Switchbacks: The Strava segment is called “RPV Switchbacks.” This is the gold standard climb in the South Bay. 1.9 miles, 5.1%, and a mere 508 feet of climbing, it’s hardly a tough or challenging climb. You can big ring it or spin it…as you wish. However, if you want to crack the top three times, get ready to leave something on the road. This is the most popular climb in the South Bay; everyone’s done it, it’s drilled every single week on the Donut Ride, and although there are many harder climbs, there’s none that’s tougher if you’re out hunting a legit Strava KOM. Which I know you’re not. But just in case…

4. Calle de Suenos-Crest-Whitley Collins: 3.3 miles, 4.5% (est.) this is a harder, more interesting, and less common route than Hawthorne-Crest, which I’ve left off the list because it’s so ugly, boring, and such a wretched slog compared to Calle de Suenos. Hawthorne is slightly longer and slightly steeper, but this is my list. Sorry. The section on Crest after crossing Hawthorne is not steep but kind of a grind. The kicker is the back side of Whitley-Collins, which rips up at 7.8% and is gnarliest at the end…as it should be.

5. Paseo de la Playa-Via del Monte-Granvira Altamira-Whitley Collins: This is an amalgamation of several climbs, beginning at Paseo de la Playa in RAT Beach, connecting with Palos Verdes Drive Boulevard, doglegging through Malaga Cove to the Strava segment called Via del Monte Full, straight across Hawthorne to Ridgegate, right on Highridge, and then finishing with the front side of Whitley-Collins and its .2 miles at 9.9%. The entire climb is like a billion miles long, has one traffic signal and four hundred stop signs. You’ll have to decide for yourself what to do about them. This is a killer climb to do early in the morning, shortly after or just before the PV cops park their dummy patrol car with the blacked-out windows somewhere on Via del Monte. This climb has everything. Steep sections, 180-degree turn, flat spots, false flats, slight and brief downhill, long grinds…and it finishes with a leg-breaker. As it should.

6. Eastvale-Sunnyridge: This is a little-ridden extremely noxious climb that will completely crush you. It’s only about a mile long, but averages a solid 9%. The key is to bear right when Eastvale meets Sunnyridge. From there it kicks up and up and up. Take care descending Sunnyridge. It’s a residential street. This is certainly one of the nastiest climbs on the hill, and gets bypassed for that very reason. You pick it up on PV Drive North just past Crenshaw.

7. Crenshaw-Crest-Whitley Collins: In the spirit of miserable, dangerous, grinding, unpleasant rides with nothing to recommend them except length and dreadfulness, I bring you Crenshaw. If you begin it at PCH, it’s about 4 miles at 7%. The traffic is dense and fast and dangerous on the lower slope. The traffic is not as dense, but faster after you cross PV Drive North. However, the width of the lane makes it relatively safe. Relatively. After the light at Silver Spur, the road jacks up considerably and really sucks. You get a brief respite on Crest, and then pounded in the face with a brick when you hit the final .3 miles on Whitley-Collins. This climb is so miserable and awful that you’ll never, ever do it more than once.

8. Reservoir-Homes & Domes: This is the climb up Palos Verdes Drive East to Miraleste, down Miraleste, and up through the neighborhood back to PV Drive East, then up to the radar domes. It’s a terrible, dangerous climb up from the reservoir due to the traffic, narrow lanes, angry drivers on their way to church, and bad pavement. The climb is neither challenging nor particularly scenic. The Better Homes Section up Via Colinita is about .7 miles, fairly steep, pretty, but not otherwise notable. So why do this climb? Because it’s a standard.

9. Zumaya-Coronel: This is actually the name of the Strava segment; it’s 2.9 miles at 4.4%. It has a couple of steep sections and only two brief sections where you can catch your breath before it kicks up again. It includes the sweeping uphill grind on Coronel and finishes at a nice little grassy park. It’s often included at the end of the Donut Ride for those who haven’t left everything on the Glass Church sprint and The Rollers.

10. You tell me.

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