Up with the sun. What better way to begin the new year and this new journal than with a climb up Mt. Hamilton – a perennial celebration of form and commitment for cyclists in the South Bay. I’d planned to take on the mountain with my good friend Brendan and his Soulcraft, but an ill-timed cold dictated a solo effort. Brendan was missed of course, but as it turned out I was given the rare gift of a truly magical ride.
The dawn chill of the past few weeks was noticeably absent as I started from the Eastern end of McKee Rd., crossed over to Alum Rock and turned my Cervelo right onto Mt. Hamilton Road.
7:22 am – no wind, and no other cyclists on the road yet. I climbed easily up the first few pitches as the sun started to crest the foothills bathing me and the ascending ribbon of road in majestic gold. I hadn’t slept particularly well in anticipation of an early start, but I was surprised to see my heart rate settle in at a comfortable 145 and stay there past the Grand View. Typically rides that begin climbing immediately spike my heart rate. Not today, another good sign. Somewhere below me a rooster sounded a half-hearted reveille before deciding that he and the local residents deserved another hour of sleep. I rode on in blissful silence.
Good legs and no traffic is an intoxicating combination – it’s a shame they rarely coincide.
The air got warmer and the miles ticked off as I dropped into the valley and passed Grant Ranch. I’d made the perfect kit decision too – tights over bibs on the bottom, Craft Pro Warm long sleeve baselayer topped with a Pro Zero sleeveless baselayer and Rapha’s new Winter Jersey on top – so I was toasty but not hot. I’d stuffed a Rapha Gilet in my jersey back pocket for the long descent, knowing it would come in handy. It did.
Well into the final 7-mile climb, at the point where I was starting to believe I was Will Smith in I am Legend, a rider flicked round the corner above bombing the descent. I wouldn’t be the first to the top in 2008. Ten minutes later a second balaclavad rider making his way down more deliberately passed me, a sensible approach given how much loose sand covered the last few hairpins in the climb.
I reached the Lick Observatory at 9:42 am, accepted my unexpected bronze medal from the guy emptying the garbages and enjoyed the amazing view. Even at the summit there was almost no wind. I stood in a patch of golden sunlight peering back down the mountain and off into space above the valley far below. Resolved in 2008: get Brendan and TJ out more; get down to 170; shoot for 7200 miles and ride regularly with my wife Juli.
My daydreaming ended when I spotted the first bicycle climbing. Normally, arriving among other cyclists I’d be happy for company and banter. Selfishly, alone at the top, I didn’t want to share this perfect day with anyone. I filled my bottles, downed a GU and two Cup of Golds, slipped on the Gilet and started down. By the time I’d reached the lower slopes, there were 30 riders on the mountain, by Grant Ranch they numbered almost 100. Some waved, some grimaced, some raced… while I smiled quietly to myself. What a great first ride. It’s going to be a good year.