Archive for July, 2014

Pink Street Cycling Camp Recap

PSC-DeRosaHow do I feel about climbing hills on a road bike? Well, I used to say I hate it, but no more. Pink Street Cycling has given me a whole new attitude about hills. Make no mistake, I’m more of a sprinter than a climber, but I can’t do the rides I most enjoy if I don’t appreciate the challenge of the hills. And get a little better at climbing them as well.

Pink Street Cycling (PSC) isn’t just hills, but it is undoubtedly a focus. One of it’s leaders is simply obsessed with climbing (and his Strava KOM’s speak to the result.) Beyond the hills, PSC is about taking enthusiasts to the next level – building basic skills into expert skills in just a few days. Well, OK, we didn’t all walk away experts in three days, but we were given the foundation and the tools to truly be experts. Personally, I learned so many simple yet important handling skills in those three days that I can’t imagine how I’d been riding without them. Sure, I could bunny-hop before, but James taught me how to go further and maintain better control when landing. Other skills like descending, bumping and double pace-lining; all crucial in group riding. PSC never missed a moment on the road to highlight some important skill.

2014-06-13 10.27.45-2All of this in an incredibly beautiful setting (The Catskills) and with such a fun and friendly group – who could ask for more? We rode through gorgeous countryside, saw wild animals and old, rustic scenes and then ended each day with great food and a few drinks. A perfect “adult” summer camp! Our first day was abbreviated due to rain, but the group made the most of what we could ride and had the chance to talk about skills and tactics for difficult road conditions.

However, day two was relentless. Dubbed as the “Steep Hills” day (versus the “Long Hills” on the final day) some of the climbs were hard to imagine. Tower Mountain, for example, has two pitches that are well over 20%. Strava does not do justice to this climb, probably because most riders are going so slow that their Garmin will auto-pause resulting in no measurements for the steepest sections. Most of us climbed the hardest sections by “delivering the paper” – zig-zagging from shoulder to shoulder creating virtual switchbacks to smooth out the climb. Of course this makes the grade a little less, but it results in a longer climb. I think I just need to get stronger and muscle through!

-Money Shot-One of the climbs after Tower Mountain presented the most amazing vista at a small gap in the trees. I was lucky to find Hayden waiting at that precise spot to capture a photo of me on the climb with that vista over my shoulder (seen here). Photos don’t do it justice, and city slickers like me just don’t get enough time in the country to appreciate these views.

I completed each and every climb thinking I could never get there, but I did. And I never got off the bike (although I was soooooo tempted a few times!) On one climb when I was near the back and riding alone, each turn appeared to be the top, but was not. Then, as I approached the fourth(?) turn, I said to myself, “top or not, I’m done after this turn!” As I came around the bend, there was the group cheering me on. “You made it,” said one rider. Little did he know how close I was to giving up.

PSC Day Two - Steep Hills-140I strongly encourage riders at the intermediate level to challenge themselves with one of the PSC camps. The struggle is rewarded by immediate improvements both mentally and physically. I went back to Bear Mountain two weeks after this camp and set a PR on the full climb – beating my previous time by over a minute. I also set PR’s on a few of my regular climbs, and none of them were all the difficult. In fact, I’d like to get back to Stateline and crush that time soon! While you will undoubtedly end the camp feeling like Gavin in this photo, it’s absolutely worth it.

Every penny, every minute spent on PSC was a reward for me and the other riders at this camp. Do it. Seriously, just do it.

Gallery of additional photos

Pink Street Cycling Gallery – June 2014