I got to Storyland just before 11:00 and was on the road by 11. There was more wind than I expected and I was going straight into it as I headed north on route 16. I prefer to ride with the wind to start if possible as it takes me a while to get into a rhythm but this was the situation today and I was against the wind all the way to Gorham. The Pinkham Notch climb is not particularly hard but I was exposed to the non-stop wind so it was a tougher slog than usual. I did enjoy the beautiful views of the Presidential Range to my left. I noticed there were still some snow fields on Washington.
Route 16 had been recently repaved from Dolly Copp to Gorham. I made my one stop to refuel at the Cumberland Farms there. It was only about 22 miles into the route so I was able to get away with just one bottle up to that point. I got Powerade, water and a protein bar. I resumed my ride now on route 2. This is not a pleasant road for cycling as there is a small shoulder and trucks pass frequently. I was only on it for about four miles though until I got to the left for North Road. I now had the wind more behind me and did not see a single car until I came out back on route 2 about 11 miles down the road. I do not use a GPS but rely on printed maps still. I took a wrong turn on Meadow but soon corrected my error. I really started to enjoy the ride more on North road as it passes through idyllic settings with zero cars.
I popped out on route 2 very briefly and then took 113 heading to Evans Notch. There was only one car that passed me on the whole ascent. With the wind behind me, I was riding close to 19MPH until the final steeper part leading to the notch itself. I stopped briefly there. The view is beautiful and very peaceful. I ate a Cliff gel there and readied myself for the descent. I had only climbed Evans Notch from the other direction before so this would be my first time doing the descent in this direction. All I can say is that it’s a descent that begs to be ripped! First, the surroundings are kind of unique. There’s a thick canopy of forest that makes it feel like you’re in a tunnel of sorts. Add in the perfect pavement and total absence of cars and just the right about of turns. Still, since it was my first time from this direction, I did brake some and only maxed out at 47MPH.
I had a nice adrenaline buzz at the bottom and continued still with the wind behind me on 113 (Stow Road). Again, this stretch of road was almost totally devoid of cars. Only one passed me in the stretch all the way to South Chatham Road. This road connects to Green Hill Road which eventually leads to the right onto Hurricane Mountain Road. I ate my last gel shortly before this. This ascent of Hurricane Mountain Road would be the big challenge of this ride. I had done the ascent from the other direction once before and had to stop twice because it was so hard. I HATED that and was determined to not let it happen from this side. The climb is rated a category 2 according to Strava. I approached it conservatively as I think part of the problem last time was doing too much standing early and my heart-rate went through the roof. This time I only stood when I had to due to its insane steepness. There were sections where you’d look ahead and just gasp at what appeared to be a wall in front of you (the sign says the climb is 17% grade). I’m happy to say I cleaned it this time with no stopping. I didn’t stop at the summit either but proceeded with the descent of the other side. Unlike the Evans Notch descent, this one did not beg to be ripped at all! The pavement is full of bumps and heaves. It addition to the steep grade the road twists constantly. I only let my speed run out to 30MPH and tried to give my rims even just seconds to cool down. I have to say, it was still a fun descent requiring constant attention to handling the bike as the corners are even sharper on this side.
I made to the bottom and came out on route 16. But did I continue on it using the quickest route back to Storyland? NO! I took the right onto 16A which leads to Thorn Hill Road. This was new territory for me. My legs were pummeled from the Hurricane ascent but I was ready for more punishment. This hill is 13% grade and I had to do a few more linked track stands at times again. I had also run out of water. But as Doug Jansen points out, no epic ride is truly great until it crosses over into death march territory. I finally made it to the top of Thorn Hill. The descent was okay but since it was my first time on the road, I had to hold it to 42MPH (speed limit was 25). I came to the end, took the left and went through a covered bridge before getting back on route 16. I emptied the tank on this last section back to Storyland. Now with the wind behind me, I topped out at 44MPH on the descent approaching the parking lot.
I got back to the car and grabbed the gallon of spring water. Water at 85 degrees never tasted so good. I took many gulps before I did anything else.
Average Speed: 16.38
Max Speed: 47MPH
Elevation Gain: 5479 feet = 71.28 feet per mile
This was my slowest mountain ride ever. Not sure what to say except that the 22 mile stretch into a strong wind to start was hard to overcome. I was at 17.6 before the Hurricane ascent. That really did a number on things. I’m still pleased with the ride and especially feel accomplished to have cleaned the toughest ascent in my cycling career.