Whiteface Mountain Biking

Whiteface Mountain, NY. Whiteface Mountain is located just outside of Lake Placid. Whiteface is second only to Mt Washington in vertical gain. The view from the top is quite spectacular.

Prior to 2012, the course started at the four-corners in Wilmington and climbed monotonically 3500ft in 8mi. Now the race starts at the Whiteface Mtn ski area and adds three miles, mostly downhill before the actual climb starts.

The climb does not deviate much from the 8% grade. This doesn’t mean it is easier than the 12% climbs reviewed here, it means you just go faster. Most riders will not need radical gearing to conquer Whiteface, but a compact crank with an up-sized cassette will still be needed for most.

The climb kicks off with about 9% grade for the first three miles. It flattens some around the toll booth area, then resumes 9% grade for the next three miles before tapering off again. Whiteface provides an exhilarating descent, but the road surface continues to deteriorate. The long straight-aways between turns draw you into adrenaline-pumping speed.

You must watch out for huge frost heaves though. You can no longer hit those at speed without consequences. Serious injuries have occurred. With state budgets the way they are, it could be some time before the summit road is repaired. Also use extreme care when overtaking slower riders, who may unexpectedly swerve to dodge frost heaves.

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Practice Climbing and Pacing Strategy

Practice Climbing

You don’t necessarily have to train on big mountains to gain climbing fitness, but it does help to practice riding big climbs. There are several reasons. First, you can’t coast going up a steep hill. Not even a few seconds.

This may not seem like a big deal, but if you are accustomed to coasting for a moment while you reach down for that water bottle, surprise – you’ll fall over if you try this on Mount Washington. This British Global Cycling Network video explains a lot:

It may not be as easy as you think. Throw in fatigue and 50mph wind, and you have a real challenge on your hands. Since you can’t coast, you can’t rest either.

You’ll be slurping that sports drink into your lungs if you don’t practice drinking when your heart is pounding out of your throat. Another reason to practice long, steep climbs is to learn what cadence you climb most efficiently at. This may be slower than your optimal or preferred cadence on flat terrain.

There are various reasons for this. One being that because you are going so slow, you have very little momentum. The force of gravity actually slows you down between pedal downstrokes. Thus your speed accelerates appreciably with each pedal stroke. This is quite different from cruising at 25 mph where your speed is very nearly constant over each pedal stroke.

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Okemo Hill Climb and Appalachian Gap TT – Vermont

Okemo Mtn, VT – Okemo Mountain in Ludlow, VT is another popular climb among cyclists. The paved summit road winds through the ski area en route to the summit. It is a state road, but not a park, so no entrance fee is required for those interested in training here. The Race for Grace is different from most other Hillclimb events in that the race does not start at the base of the climb.

It starts in Jackson Gore village and follows flat or slightly downhill Rt 103 for nearly two miles before picking up the steep summit road. This means racers need all the gears on their bike, as most will be traveling over 20mph to reach the base of the climb. The climb throws some really steep punches, but nothing like the first 2 miles of Ascutney.

Okemo offers occasional breathers. The finish line is just shy of the end of the pavement. There is minimal parking area at the summit, so most riders will be expected to ride their bikes back down. The pavement is decent for climbing, but great care must be taken on the descent. Like any New England road, old man winter eventually has its way with asphalt.

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