Sunday, September 12, 2010

Highlander 2010 Ride Report

Rode the Highlander Cycle Tour, once again, in upstate New York's Finger Lakes region. For the last few incarnations, they have been changing the route each year. For 2010, they turned the ride into a double metric century and visited two of the Finger Lakes, Canandaigua and Keuka. Still 10,000 ft. of climbing though (although one rider I met on the route said it was more like 11,000 ft., according to his GPS).

Great weather this year, a chilly start at 45F, but it gradually warmed up to 72F by the afternoon. Last year we missed out on some of the great views in the area due to heavy mist that hung around for most of the day. This time, lots and lots of sunshine. Hardly any wind, so just about ideal conditions. Two benefits of the dry roads: first, no flats this year (I also put fresh Gatorskins on the bike a couple of weeks ago), second, I could really bomb down the descents, over 50 MPH in two sections!

After a pre-ride breakfast of oatmeal and coffee, I left Corning at about 5:30 AM for the ride to Bristol Mountain. I picked up my ride number and joined the other riders in the chilly pre-dawn to put the bike together and get kitted up.

The weather was great and as the sun rose over the hills (and we starting climbing over the hills) things warmed up nicely!

We started climbing right away and within the first 20 miles or so we had already hit three testing climbs, the third being Gannett Hill. Here is a photo of some riders cresting Gannett.

As a bonus, there happened to also be a rest stop on top of the hill.

The Highlander is a challenging ride, but the payoff is riding through some magnificent scenery and breathtaking views. Photos cannot possibly do it justice, but here are a few examples:

As I got to Hammondsport and started climbing around Keuka Lake, the air was sweet with the smell of grapes ready for harvest.

After a steep climb to Bully Hill Vinyards at mile 64, I met up with my family who were spending the day in the area buying local wine, picking apples, sampling grape pie, and getting ice cream. Here I am with my nephew Brian and my daughter Tina.

Cruising around Keuka!

Another meetup at mile 80, just before heading out to the bluff:

From mile 90, after the climb to Skyline Drive at the end of the bluff, the miles and the climbing began to tell on the legs a bit and I really began to focus on conserving enough energy to get through to the finish. Climbing in really low gears, keeping the legs spinning. After a much needed final rest stop at mile 110, and a final long climb up Greisha Rd. I made a fast descent to the finish back at Bristol Mountain Ski Resort.

Again, I met my family there and they kept me company while I picked up my swag bag (including a bottle of local wine!), changed into civies, and had the included post ride meal and slice of grape pie. We sat outside and listed to a blues band for a while, enjoying the beautiful day.

No question, it was a hard ride, but I really like the new route. We'll see what they have in store for next year.

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