It’s nice, no, nice doesn’t cut it... it’s great to be back training once more. After the two weekshttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif setback I’m taking things slowly, planning to build up until the end of the month, then absolute rest to get through the long trip to Europe in one piece. I’m riding hills, from challenging to serious, twice a week. Wednesdays I ride the classic Old San Marcos Pass, pretty much the official Goleta climbing gym. Right around the corner, the old stagecoach road is always there to challenge anyone with two wheels and a desire for quick intense workout. I always feel bad for the poor horses that had to pull people up there: the climb to the pass is short but intense, 3.45 miles, 1253 feet or about 7% average, with a couple of steeper points. If that is not enough, just crossing the 154 offers many more miles of ascent, to Painted Cave first, then following the aptly named Camino Cielo all the way to La Cumbre Peak, the highest point in the Santa Barbara area.
So yesterday I went for the full monty: climbing up from the other side, Gibraltar Road, our mini Tourmalet. The real climbing starts right after the Santa Barbara Mission, but Gibraltar proper is an amazing (and amazingly poorly paved) stretch of road that gives access to the backcountry, hand-glider diving spots and even what looks like a still populated hippy commune from the days gone by. The climb is best performed with cooler weather, but it is doable year round. I measured 8.54 miles for 3067 feet of ascent, with an average 6.8% slope. Riding Camino Cielo was amazingly refreshing, ocean breezes blowing all the way to the top of the mountains, steep slopes on both sides of the road definitely inspiring the empowering feeling of riding on top of the world. And once the adrenaline rush of the 40mph descent is over, one would like no better than going back for more.