Pikes Peak Hill Climb

2016 and 2017 National HC Championships

Promoter: Colorado Springs Sports Corporation

Course Description: A 12 mile, point to point mass start hill climb. It follows the same course as the annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Expect your time to be somewhat slower than the cars, some of whom average over 100 mph!

The start is at 9,000′ above sea level at Crystal Resevoir. Think about that for a second. The START of this climb is as high as the top of the Stelvio in Italy, one of the highest passes in Europe. The finish is at 14,114′.

Distances: 12.0 miles for everybody

Road Surface: Good pavement.

Gearing: Bring something like a 34×32 or live to regret your machismo. I’m serious. 10% at 13,000′ above sea level after an hour of racing is serious business. Look at the average speeds of the top of the leaderboard of this segment and decide for yourself.  And remember, you can always choose to not use your smallest gear, but you can’t shift into a gear that is sitting in your garage at home and not on your bike.

Facilities: Porta cans at registration start area. That is all. There are bathrooms, a souvenir store with food and I think a small restaurant at the top. For the race, they will bring a bag of warm clothes to the top. Don’t skimp in that bag. Expect temperatures in the low to mid 30’s when you finish.

This is where you start, that is where you finish!

Weather: Pikes Peak Weather. With an early (the first group goes before 7am!) start it’s going to be really cold. Here is what I wore in 2016: Shorts, sleeveless undershirt, short sleeve jersey, army warmers, knee warmers, shoe covers, wind vest with a wind jacket over it, long finger gloves and a thin skull cap under my helmet. I tied my wind jacket to the fencing just before the start. I took off my wind vest probably about half way up. I also pulled my skull cap out from under my helmet at some point. I would have worn a cycling cap instead but I forgot to pack one. That’s it though. I still had my knee and arm warmers and long gloves on at the finish.

Here is my full packing list and what I recommend you bring to this race.

Feeding: N/A

Rules Specific to this race: N/A

Race Advice: Be patient. Especially if you’re not familiar with racing at extreme altitudes. If you’re strong enough to rip everybody’s legs off at the bottom, you’ll be strong enough to do it later too. There is nothing to be gained and MUCH to be lost by going hard early.

When I did this race in 2016 my plan was to sit in, take pulls as necessary and do nothing else until I was up to at least 12,000′. Do what I had to do and nothing more. We started really slow, then after a while one of the strong local Colorado guys set a pretty fierce tempo that shredded the group down to 5 of us. It was pretty hard. Hard enough to know that I couldn’t do that for another hour. After serveral minutes though, he pulled off and was huffing and puffing fairly hard. I believe that he dug himself a hole that he was unable to recover from. He was one of the first to go when I started upping the tempo at about 12,500′. This is very important when racing at altitude. Your normal ability to go hard and recovery is hindered. You can easily put yourself into a hole that you can’t recover from.

Be prepared for the last mile. The climb isn’t too terribly steep up through about 13,000′. Then there is a wonderful spot where it flattens and even slightly descends. But that last 1,000′ of elevation comes hard. You’ve been climbing for around an hour. You’re tired, at 13,000′ your threshold power is down about 30% from sea level and now you’ve got 1.9 miles at 10% average.

Misc: The views from the top are spectacular. They offer rides down if you want, but that seems crazy. Unless it’s snowing I guess…