I am scheduled to race the Koppenberg next weekend so my coach thought it would be a good idea to go and scout out the course. I couldn’t agree more since I’d never even seen the course but had heard stories about “the hill” situated about half way through the course. The Koppenberg is a 5.5 mile mixed dirt and pavement course and the SW4 and SW 55+ categories race three laps of the course. So, that means, we have to climb “the hill” three times! The hill, of course, is on the dirt portion of the course and with the recent moisture you can imagine what it looks like.
Well, you don’t have to imagine it, I have several photos of it. This one was posted on Facebook a couple of nights ago. When I saw this, I had second thoughts about today’s training assignment. Even after I decided I would head down and give it a whirl, I was undecided as to which bike I should ride. The hill did not look like it would be friendly to a road bike, perhaps my cross bike, or better yet — my mountain bike!!
The hill is really the most captivating, and steepest, feature of the course, but the ruts and rumbles of the rest of the dirt section are certainly worthy of mentioning. The paved portion is very nice – especially in comparison with the dirt stretches!
The start of the course is behind the Super Target in Superior, Colorado. That is only a few minutes from where I work. I’m a bit surprised that I haven’t found this jewel of a course before. I’ve certainly ridden many road rides from work at lunch and this is well within that range. There is a small town park near the shopping area and that’s where I decided to park. I had expected to be able to pick out the course easily once I got near the Super Target but that was not the case! I road around the perimeter of the park and asked a couple of cyclists who rode up along side me — but they had never heard of the Koppenberg. So I kept riding until I found some more folks on bikes and eventually found two cyclists who themselves were preparing to pre-ride the course. They kindly pointed me in the right direction, assured me that I couldn’t miss it and even offered to escort me as they were heading that way in a few minutes. I declined the escort, thanked them for their help and started down the road they had indicated. It quickly turned to a hard packed dirt road. I had envisioned something narrow and maybe even single-track, but this was a real, rural, county dirt road. It did not look like it had been recently graded and in the first quarter mile I distinctly remember feeling like I was navigating a mine field. There were pot holes EVERYWHERE. And if that wasn’t bad enough, if there wasn’t a pot hole, there was an extended strip of rumble bars or loose gravel. It took my full attention to keep the bike out of harm’s way and up right! I also concentrated on staying loose, very loose – even my jaw so that I did not crack any teeth as I bumped along the road. The road continued winding its way gently uphill until it took an abrupt right-hand turn at about mile 1.75. That’s when the road also went up ‘the hill’. My training plan called for me to focus on ‘the hill’. I was to approach it at “LT” (Lactate Threshold) effort — four times, from a mile out, climb the hill and sprint for 10 seconds once I got to the top (assuming I had not died on the way up the hill!) Then I was to turn around, ride back down the hill and back to where I had started my approach and do it all over again.
The first time around though, I was going to use it as a warm-up — except for ‘the hill’. I didn’t think there was any easy way up that thing so I’d have to give 110% for that tenth of a mile. And, since this was my warm-up lap, I wouldn’t count my first climb up the hill against my total of four.
Now, I love a challenge and this hill was a super challenge! The first time I attacked it with a vengeance and got up it pretty quickly. I stayed in the saddle with my weight back in order to keep my rear wheel in contact with the dirt. It would have been very easy to spin out if I stood and move my weight over the handle bars at all. I was sucking air pretty good when I crested the top of the hill. I kept going and gave it my all for another 10 seconds. About this time, I was questioning whether I’d be able to repeat this feat ONCE, let alone four more times. Luckily, after ‘the hill’, the course has a nice downhill section where I was able to catch my breath and return to my warm-up pace. The course is paved the rest of the way back to the Super Target. Even the uphill portions seemed pleasant after having dealt with the rough dirt and ‘the hill’.
I looped back around to the starting place and headed back out for my second lap. This time, I would not finish the lap until I’d gone up the hill four more times! I followed my coach’s instructions for the approach, I rode in at just shy of 200 watts (my ‘LT’) and roared up the hill. Then, gasping for breath, I turned around and descended the same. Believe it or not, in a lot of ways, going DOWN the hill was more difficult that going up the hill because it was steep, rutted and loose. Not something that you want to pick up speed on. Again, I had my weight all the way back off the rear of my saddle and I had to use both my front and rear brakes in order to control my descent. Once down, the mile ride back to the start was a nice, although short, recovery stretch. No stopping though. As soon as I got back to my “start” point, I turned around and headed back at ‘LT’ effort towards ‘the hill’. By this time, I’m sure you’ve got the picture. The second and third ascents resembled the first although each one, no doubt, was a tad slower than the one before. By the time I was heading back for my final climb, my legs were getting pretty tired. I knew that this last climb was not going to be pretty, and I just hoped I wouldn’t stall out completely and topple over. As I started up the last time, toppling was a very real possibility! I dug deep and could feel my speed dropping. In the end, I was pushing with every pedal stroke and pulling on the handlebars — no smooth pedaling motion on this one! I made it to the top with nothing left in the tank. Well, that’s not quite true because I did sprint (for what it was worth) for 10 more seconds. After the fourth repeat, I continued on and finished the loop back to the Super Target.
I hadn’t put all that many miles on my bike today — but I sure got a great workout and today’s effort should serve me well next weekend when I race the course. Wish me luck!