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Report: Mount Hamilton Road

Thanks to Rob Schott for posting the following report, which has been recklessly reproduced here, without his expressed written permission, or the permission of Alto Velo, for which he rides. His team won this time, but TNT will be back....:)

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Low-Key Hill Climb
Installment 9: Mount Hamilton Road

Ride Report: fin-de-si�cle Thanksgiving 1996, Mt. Hamilton

The turnout for the last of the Low-Key rides was robust, despite the promise of miserable weather. It was an appropriate setting for the Armageddon of the 96 hill climb series, with Team TNT and Alto Velo set to engage in the final battle for team dominance on the ascent. Several Alto Velo vertical heavyweights made an appearance, including John and Linda Elgart and the recently recruited Michael DiNardi. The Alto Velo apostate, Kevin Winterfield, has found his form but is riding for team "Low Key". The QOM, Liz Beneshin didn't make it, so it appeared to be a dogfight for those precious points to the 1 and 2 climbers from each team and the outcome was in doubt as I milled around the start with many of the other riders, thinking "I'm too cold to warm-up".

Everyone massed at the intersection of Armageddon and Olympus Rock roads and after brief speechifying, videotaping, and a few stills, we bolted into action like a herd of rabid buffalo in a western revival. Within a mile or two from the start we were in the clouds and experiencing an ominous drop in the temperature. Pheromones, I suppose drifting back from the climb leaders, seduced many of us to excessive efforts on the front climb where a number of riders flirted with a bonk, and others consummated the affair. I'm sure it was Dan Connelly I came across by the side of the road, smoking a cigarette and asking no one in particular, "Was it good for you, too?"

My own personal drama unfolded a few townships back of the main action, where I clung like a piece of dry lint to Mark Anderson's wheel once I caught up with him at the top of the front climb. I recognized the symptoms of "Went out too fast" syndrome, somewhat similar to my own, which include heavy legs and heavy breathing. I kept thinking, "When's the descent start?" as we motored along through the mist. We finally crested the arc, and with the road wet and Grant Park enveloped in a patchy cloud bank, I got a taste of the chill that would grow Arctic in magnitude by the observatory (aggravated by a spasm of machismo I had stripped to just a jersey and shorts, dumping jacket, warmers and other expedition accessories into the TNT car).

I was pleased to start the second set of climbs, just for the warmth of it. It was a steady progression of cat and mouse with a few other riders. I was trying to catch teammate Pete Heller, who managed to find this week's ride prior to the start. Some distance up the final climb, Kevin Merritt passed me on his descent from a earlier climb. He grinned at me, "Are you gonna let the guy with the funny bike beat you?". I was, at that moment behind the fellow with the funny yellow bike, thinking, "Beat him? I'm going to catch him and steal his shirt."

Our relative positions now ossified, we continued threading the endless switch backs, looking for some sign of the top. The last section along the front face of the observatory mount offered up a penetrating headwind, and despite the fact I had been climbing steadily for 7 miles, I was quite cold. I sprinted through the finish giving my best effort to find the TNT car for a few layers of clothing. We chilled out, waiting for the accumulation of enough finishers to begin the award ceremony. Kevin herded us into the open room at the far end of the Observatory which quickly accumulated its own internal weather system from the humid vapors of the attendees. Various category winners were awarded their certificates and medals, and it appeared that Alto Velo had taken team honors, on the efforts of Michael DiNardi and either John Elgart or Gordon Good. This was coupled with the misfortune of Mike Podgorsky of TNT who jigged when e should have jagged and was apparently overtaken by a chase vehicle on his descent toward Livermore. He was rerouted and finished with an honorable time (Note: Mike's time was later revised to where he likely would have finished without the incorrect turn). In a moment of high drama, Dan Connelly burst through the greenhouse doors and contested the team award to AV. Kevin, whose next posting should be in the former Yugoslavia, proceeded to award both first and second place finishes to both AV and TNT pending the final tabulation. He had covered all the bases. I was allowed to keep the cycling medallion for team effort, hastily awarded to AV prior to Dan's arrival, although I did offer to return it pending the final tabulations. However, it looks like it's ours for the AV trophy case.

The rolling award ceremony still in progress, I lurched out the door on legs now seized up like a pair of unoiled pistons, presumably from the extremes of temperature and sudden cessation of activity. I could barely rotate the cranks, and such efforts were accompanied by attention-grabbing pain in the quads. I rolled off the top, satisfied that I wouldn't need to pedal for the next 7 miles and therefore the pain in my legs would not distract me from the frostnip in my hands and feet.

Despite the hardships and toil, it's a letdown that the Low-Key season is over. Much credit is due Kevin Winterfield and Dan Connelly who have nurtured this into a seminal event. New talent has been drawn into the sport on the strength of their enthusiasm and efforts. Many thanks. And stay tuned, the racing season is just around the corner.


San Jose, CA 95125