Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ronde redux

One day in April
De Ronde Portlandia
Hell of the Northwest

For the fourth year in a row I've joined a growing group of local riders for the word-of-mouth "unofficial" De Ronde Porlandia. I wrote about the ride two years ago here. The appeal is hard to explain unless you're the kind of person - like me - who finds a certain joy in climbing hills. If you know the meditative feeling of slowly gaining altitude, you get it. And for me it doesn't matter much whether it's on foot or on a bike. I remember a couple long days on my Nepal trek back in 1980, switchbacking with a full pack up out of valleys for 5000' to reach some ridge top campsite or village. The rhythm of breath and step, the burn in the thighs and salt in the eyes - it's all a reminder of how well the body knows its work. I've climbed lot sof mountains with lots of wonderful people. As a Mazama climb leader I had the pleasure of helping lots of folks make their first real "climb." It seems to me climbers can be divided into two types; the "dashers" who just want to get to the top, and the "plodders" who enjoy moving up the mountain. I'm in the latter camp, and I prefer the company of those who aren't feverish for the summit.

Not many would call "De Ronde" a fun ride, but if you like to go up, there is a joy in sharing the burn with six-hundred other grimpeurs.

The build-up starts in early April when someone forwards the announcement that once again, there will not be an official Ronde on the Sunday following the Tour of Flanders (the inspiration for de Ronde and source of the kitty mascot.) This year the UCI didn't coordinate their schedule with the unorganizers, so the date fell on the weekend of the Amstel Gold, which was perhaps more appropriate for reasons which have to do with certain teams and their malted beverage sponsors. In short, de Ronde is about climbing, but it's also about beer. The day of the ride was mostly clear and windless, with highs forecast for the upper low 50's - perfect. I rode from home, and by the time I hit the NW industrial area, it was like a gathering of the clans, with kitted-out riders converging from all corners of the city. 
I chatted a bit the last few blocks with a long-legged rider on a single-speed Bianchi. He'd never done the ride before. No fooling? De Ronde has been done fixed, but I hear the guy left his knees on Council Crest under a rock somewhere. On this ride, the derailleur is your friend.

College Place
The last three years I rode the Nishiki tourer - it's got fenders and is my only road bike with a front triple. That 26x28 combo comes in handy on this ride. But I also felt like I needed the lower gears to push a heavier bike uphill, and lots of guys ride it all on a compact double. Which I don't have. But I thought maybe the Trek 560 might be fun to ride. It was, but 38x26 was my lowest gear. I was able to ride Brynwood and College, but not without pulling into a couple driveways and spinning short recovery laps gasping like a fish. Still, I was happy to be on something a little more sporty. Besides, steep hills have been tackled on steel for decades.

I heard rumors of a keg at the top (unfounded), but with the team affiliation of the person definitely not responsible for this ride, beer was obviously on a lot of riders' minds.

The person definitely not responsible for organizing this ride


More Beer
Like years past, finishing time was about four hours, and the party on top all smiles.