Tag Archives: Welch Creek

Stupid Steep Holy Sh*t Climbing Day

My first double of the year is coming up in a couple of weeks, and I figure another century is in store to prepare for it.  I did a 50 miler yesterday on my fixie, so that gave me some base mileage, but I wanted something to kick my butt today.  I originally called this climb climb climb to ring in Daylight Savings Time … nice rhyme, eh?  Climb mentioned 3 times for each of the climbs we were to do.

I posted this on Meetup, and much to my surprise, I got some takers.  The first climb of the day was Sierra.  I warned everyone that the when you look up, the road just goes into the heavens.  Even with that, the first reaction was “Holy Sh*t”.  Yet, those same riders were the first to the summit.

The weather was perfect for this ride … a little chill in the morning, but as soon as we started climbing, it warmed up really nicely.  Arm warmers were all that was needed (vest would come out on the descent).

We all survived that ok.  We then descended Felton with a quick water stop at the park on Calaveras (there is no water between here and Welch Creek, the 2nd climb).  After that, it’s on to climb the Calaveras wall, followed by some rolling hills before getting to Welch Creek.  I was describing how Welch Creek is harder than Sierra, and how the steep grades continue on, relentless, without too much relief.  As we approached, we see where we go, and the thought was, that’s not too bad.  At the base, it still didn’t look that bad.

As we start climbing, we see the first steep stretch, and the same guys let out a “Holy Sh*t”.  Time to grunt it out, and if it’s even possible, relax … uh, yeah, right, relax, on this hill?

The strava segment says it’s 3.9 miles, and 1871 feet climbing.  Those numbers don’t even begin to describe the difficulty of this climb.  As Ramon would say, it’s stupid steep.  A lot of this road is narrow, where only one car can really pass on this road.  Good thing this is an isolated road, and there weren’t too many cars we had to contend with.

The last 1/2 mile or so got even tougher, pitches were steep.  We already had a lot of climbing in our legs, and it all accumulated to fatigued legs.  This one 16% stretch was just a bit much for a lot of us.  I had to walk a stretch of this till the pitch leveled out to about 5% … level …. hehe.

Finally at the top and a much deserved rest, and getting our heart rate down.  This is one of the toughest (if not the toughest) climbs in the Bay Area.  The only one that may trump it is Mix Canyon, but I haven’t had the pleasure of trying that yet.

After this, everyone just wanted this thing to end, so down to downtown Sunol, and we’re only doing 2 climbs … Welch Creek took its toll on the group.  We then took to quickest, most direct way back home … and I mean quick.  It’s like two different rides … morning climbs, afternoon all out sprint.  In the end, it was a great ride, great weather, and great company.


Welch Creek LKHC … Brutal, as advertised


I signed up, came, and conquered Welch Creek …. well, maybe not conquered, but it sure was a fun ride.  I guess I’d have to define what fun is, shouldn’t I?

I parked at Fremont Bart and rode over to the registration area.  This gives me a good 8 mile warmup (in addition to the 5 extra miles from the registration area to the real start).  Of course, riding with Bogdan and Ramon, that just meant one thing … brisk riding, with a fast pace.  But at least it loosened me up for the climb.

This was a mass start, so I decided to move towards the back.  I’m not going to make the same mistake as on Portola State Park, where I was in the front, and having people pass me left and right.  It’s pretty amazing to see such a large mass of riders, climbing this road that gets pretty narrow in spots.

This was a tough climb the beat up just about everyone who rode it.  It starts out with a brutal 16% climb, then levels off to a mere 10% for a while.  The grade then fluctuates for a while, varying between 14% to 18%.  During this time, I know I am stuck in the back.  There were only 3 or 4 people close to me, but I did take a few glances, and I did see there were a couple of people also behind me.  I just wanted to get the 3 or 4 people ahead of me within sight, so that we providing me with motivation.

I did get to one point, where the pitch was so steep, and had to tack the hill.  However, when I was doing that, my toe got in the way of the tire, and I lost balance and had to dismount.  This was all right in the middle of climbing the 18-22% section of the climb.  It’s not easy to get back on the bike at such a steep grade, but I continued on.

Approaching the finish line

It’s a good thing I rode this about a month ago.   This way, I knew when the tough part was over, and when to exert more energy.  I didn’t have the painful expression on my face like the last time, so I have a normal picture this time around.  I knew the top was a bit flatter, so I can upshift at 200 paces to go.  The strava time was 42:35, while the LKHC timer had it at 42:50.  Either way, it was still a personal best for me, by about 5 minutes.  There is just something about LKHC, that gives you that extra adrenaline.  It’s that target that you have in front of you, and the concentration of not letting the guy behind you overtake you.

On the way back, Ramon and I hooked up with Laura from Western Wheelers, who now rides with San Jose Bike Racing club.  She’s consistently near the top on the LKHC results, so she’s gotten really strong.  On the way back, we did an extra climb up Palomares, and that was fun.  Got to catch up on old times.  Not many times where I would be chatting while climbing.  It’s always great to hook up with someone you haven’t seen in a while, and have them complement you on how strong you have become.  Nice way to pat myself on the back.

Bogdan actually had a video camera strapped under the saddle of his bike, and got a video up the climb facing backwards.  Of course, he was much faster than me, but at least you get a sense of the climb.

Finally Did Welch Creek … Damn, what a tough climb

In honor of all the DMD riders, we decided to ride Sierra Road, which they will all be climbing after already riding 150+ miles.  Ooooh boy.  Anyhow, it was just Donald and me, and I knew right away that he would be waiting for me at the top.  I felt a little guilty about having him wait, but he was perfectly fine … gives him a rest while waiting for my slow butt to make it up the Category 1 hill climb.  Funny, I thought it should be more of an HC … but that’s my personal opinion.

As I’m climbing this, I kept thinking of something Donald said … Sierra is just a warm up for Welch Creek.  Oh lovely … and here I am struggling up Sierra.  As tough as Sierra is, it’s actually pretty enjoyable, just because of the scenic views as you are climbing, overlooking all of San Jose.

Another observation is how few riders I see coming up here.  All the locals here, who are into cycling, know about Sierra, and how much of a great climb this is … and yet I hardly ever see a large contingent of cyclists up here.  But hey, at least I didn’t get passed by anyone.

Finally got up to the top of Sierra, and who knows how long Donald was waiting.  But hey, I made it.

Now for the screaming downhill, then sharp right, and up Calaveras, before doing some rollies before hitting Welch Creek.  There were a lot of cyclists out there on Calaveras, but most of them going in the opposite direction from us (we were going northbound, but everyone was going southbound).  As far as we can tell, it was probably because of a club ride.  Anyhow, I digress.  As I mentioned with Sierra, all the locals know about Welch Creek, and eventhough there are a ton of cyclists riding on Calaveras, you can just make a right on Welch Creek, and start this epic climb.  Donald and I were the only cyclists making this climb today.

Welch Creek is also pretty scenic, but doesn’t have the views that Sierra Road has.  The climbing doesn’t start for about a 1/2 mile, then it starts to kick your butt.  Now there are breaks in the climbing, so it is not one continuous climb.  However, when the climbing continues, the grades are really tough.  There were some stretches where it kicks up to 22%.  I kept trying to stay on my bike, but the only way I could do that, without falling over, was to tack the hill.  However, some stretches of Welch Creek is pretty narrow, so there is not much room to tack there.

About 3 miles up the climb, I am soooo ready to have the climb be over with.  I was going so slow, I was thinking I might fall over … but my speed kept registering 3-4 mph, so that was good.  At least I still have the leg strength to still turn the crank.  Finally, I see Donald sitting on the hill, but not at the summit.  About a 1/4 mile later and I reach the top, where the road dead ends.  Kind of anti-climactic, after all the pain and suffrage climbing this friggin hill.

This really took a lot out of me, and hopefully with the long downhill descent, my legs can recover.

We stopped off at a cafe in Sunol for a quick bite to eat.  The bearclaw felt good, but it wasn’t really something that was going to wake my senses to another level.  The only bad thing is the cafe didn’t have any energy drinks, like Gatorade, or anything like that.  We had to resort to coke.  That kind of left Donald light headed, and gave me a little woozy tummy.  Oh well … that’s the carbonation getting to us.  I guess it might have been better just to have coffee.

Next up is head north on Foothill, over to Dublin Canyon, then to Palomares.  What sucked here … no pun intended … was the headwind.  This easily had me distanced, as Donald was much better at slicing through the headwinds than I am.  It seemed like no matter where we went, the headwinds followed us.  My legs were already a little lifeless, so adding the headwinds is just more punishment.  I guess I’d just have to suffer, and try to survive till we get to Palomares.

The climb on Palomares is really not that bad.  I think southbound, is actually a little easier than going northbound.  I say this now … one of these days, I’m going to eat those words.

All in all, not a bad ride.  At least I finally did Welch Creek.  I still think Sierra Road is a little tougher, but I would guess the two of them are very close in difficulty.  But then again, you’re talking about a guy who is not a natural hill climber.

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Total stats: 76 miles, 6580 feet climbing

For those Strava enthusiasts, I did upload my data to Strava.  You can see that at http://www.strava.com/rides/93396