(Almost) twin peaks

22 08 2010

I’m sure the rider ahead of me didn’t intend his choice of jersey to be a challenge to other cyclists when he got dressed Sunday morning. But the words “Mont Ventoux: 1912m” bore into my brain nonetheless as I tagged on his wheel around English Bay.

Catching up to Mont Ventoux guy.

We chatted a bit as we headed for Stanley Park; he’d climbed the “giant of Provence” last summer, twice in the same day, once with friends up the easier route from Sault and then the famous 7.43% average gradient route from Bédoin. I told him of my conquests of Col d’Aspin and Luz Ardiden.

When we parted at the causeway I suddenly felt the need to climb.

Alas, there’s no Ventoux in the Lower Mainland.

So I headed over the Lions Gate Bridge and then up Capilano Road to Grouse Mountain.

The road doesn’t go to the summit; it ends at the gondola station at the base of the actual mountain.  It’s not overly long, nor particularly steep; but when we drive to the Grouse Grind, we always have to gear the car down to second in some sections, especially as we approach the parking lots, so there was a bit of a challenge to be answered.

The ride to Grouse Mountain is actually pretty easy, until there's a sting in the tail in the last km.

After a speedy descent back down Capilano Road, I decided to make my first ever traverse of the North Shore to the dreaded Second Narrows Bridge crossing.

North Vancouver is like a foreign land to me; we rarely go there, so I’m pretty unfamiliar with the roads and traffic patterns. It’s got an image as an affluent suburb, yet I rode past a number of dilapidated shacks and rundown walk-up apartment building.

The Lonsdale area, which is supposed to be its downtown, seemed mostly deserted as the clock approached noon. I saw maybe one other cyclist. It’s like some sort of weird suburban plague had taken all the people; or maybe they were just hiding inside, awaiting a Hitchcokian invasion of birds.

As always, crossing the Second Narrows was heart-stopping. I then headed for good ole’ Burnaby Mountain. And like Ventoux, it has an easy approach, and a more arduous one. The climb from the north is the former, about half as long as the 5 km climb up Gagliardi.

But as I hit the first gradient, I could suddenly feel every pebble on the road surface in my butt; my rear tire was practically flat! And, just my luck, I’d forgotten to pack a spare inner tube, although I had my tire levers and CO2 canisters.

I pipped the valve with a fresh canister; the tire hardened and stayed that way. I headed up, although my uncertainty about whether my tire could hold its air long enough for me to get home caused me to veer off down Gagliardi rather than head up to Simon Fraser University; another summit denied.

In fact, the tire held almost all the way home; I pipped it again with about 3 kms to go. By the time I carried the bike up to the condo, the tire went completely flat. Total climbing for the day, 1217 meters over 99.6 kms; not quite Ventoux, but not a bad day’s work.