The final ride of the camp is a climb up (and of course, a blazing fast descent back down) Haleakala – the dormant volcano that dominates the island of Maui. The route from Paia to the summit runs 56km and climbs 3000m. It’s known as the longest, steepest paved road in the world. And it’s one of the most challenging bicycle climbs. It starts in Paia at sea level. Sunny and warm with locals and tourists wandering the main street. We unloaded at Maui Cyclery and were met by another pro cyclist, Juan Antonio Flecha!

Me and Flecha at Maui Cyclery

He finished the pro season and headed straight for Maui for some riding, surfing and relaxing. On this morning he was going to ride up to 6000 feet with us. Sure – just your average everyday ride up a volcano… that’s what all the pros do on their vacation. Thankfully Tyler and Ryder were riding over from the hotel – adding an extra 90 minutes to their ride. At breakfast Tyler told me that their plan was to catch us right at 6500 feet. I wanted to do everything I could to be well ahead of them!

Rolling Up Baldwin With Flecha

The first part of the ride was pretty easy – riding along in the group at a steady 17 km/h. Once we got to a steep section in Makawao I decided to make a surge and try to breakaway from the group. At first I thought my move was in vain but by the top of the section myself and another rider were clear of the group. We continued together for a kilometre or so before he lost my wheel on a technical section just before we joined the Old Haleakala Highway.

Old Haleakala Highway

It’s at this point of the climb that my mind started to wander… and I had a hard time determining whether the road was going uphill, downhill or if it’s flat? It’s crazy how it (Haleakala) plays tricks on your mind. The simple answer is that the road is always uphill. For the next 40 minutes or so I pedalled along by myself. I caught a couple of our other group riders who had started early to get ahead. That felt good and encouraged me to keep going.

Nearing The End of Baldwin

As I neared 5000 feet the group of former pros caught me. I stuck on their wheels for a bit but had to drop off to avoid driving my heart through my chest and out onto the road! I continued along by myself in a silent race against the clock and one other rider in our group. I don’t think he knew I was using him as a target. Or maybe he did as he seemed to speed up every time he was able to see me on one of the switchbacks!

Turn On Headlights In Clouds

As we closed in on the 6500 foot stopping point I was happy that Tyler and Ryder had not caught me. And I pointed this out to Ed, one of our support drivers, as I pulled off the road. Ed quickly corrected me and said, “they caught you. Look over your shoulder.” Doh! They were right behind me, catching me almost exactly at 6500 feet as planned. Pro. (Side note: Tyler and Ryder finished the climb in 3:03 and it was an easy ride, with a stop of at least five minutes with me to have a Coke and some food. The winner of Cycle To The Sun this year did it in 2:54.)

The upper reaches of HaleakalaFrom 6500 up the road gets steeper and you enter the National Park, requiring a payment of $5 at the gate. The lower part of the road through the park is really nice. Terrific pavement, nice views, etc. As you climb higher the road surface deteriorates a bit, and the landscape quickly changes from lush and green to something resembling the surface of the moon. It’s at this point that I started thinking about the magnitude of the explosion that created this mountain of debris. It’s mind-blowing.

Somewhere close to 8000 feet – where the thinner air starts to noticeably impact performance – Greg (a former pro racer) dropped back to ride with me to the summit. It’s amazing what a difference it makes having someone there with you. We rode the final few switchbacks together and made a final push for the top. Greg’s once-a-week-ride-to-the-top training really pays off on the final ramp up to the summit. It’s the steepest section of the climb, and at just about 10,000 feet it’s the most difficult section too. I was cooked and could barely turn over the pedals, while Greg steadily pulled away from me. A slightly disappointing end to an otherwise terrific climb.

Success! At The Summit

Recovery ride

A recovery ride from the hotel in Wailea to the Iao Valley. Last year I did not do this ride as I took the day off to be with my family. I was excited about a new route, and to just ride in recovery mode instead of nearly full-gas as we’ve been every day so far. The pros might disagree that we were full-gas but such is the life of a pro. The East Maui Loop was a terrific experience and an awesome challenge for my legs. I needed an easy day.

Iao Valley State MonumentThe Iao Valley is beautiful. And just about the only road that actually goes into the West Maui mountains. The road itself is also very nice – new pavement with great flowing turns. It’s a steady climb from Wailuku (one of the only ‘cities’ on Maui) but nothing thigh-busting. Averaging just 4% over 4.5km. The first stretch feels steeper but from then on it’s a fun road to ride. I rode with the group for the first 1.5km and then took off to chase down one of our riders that went on a flyer. I ride much faster when I have a target.

After refuelling at the top of the climb we retraced our route back towards the hotel. Again we cruised along at a nice speed, riding as a group and chatting the whole time. It’s funny how quickly the beach scenes start to all look the same while you’re riding past at 35km/h. I tried to take in as much as I could but don’t have many memories of it now…

We rolled past the hotel and continued along the coast heading for Makena. There are some folks with mega-money living in these parts! 10,000 square foot homes on the ocean – nice. Very nice.

The view from Makena

As we neared the end of the road we stopped for some photos and conversation. It was clear that everyone enjoyed the recovery ride, and that we all needed it.

Ryder, me and Tyler in Makena


Starting the descent on our way around East Maui.

The East Maui Loop. Epic. From start to finish today was awesome. We loaded into the camp vehicles and made the half hour drive into the Upcountry (a few thousand feet up the side of Haleakala along the Kula Highway). From there we loaded up our bikes, put on our shoes and started the ride. We headed south and downhill for roughly an hour. The road surface is perfect – dry, fast, flowing. Much like a roller coaster ride. At what most folks would consider the end of the road we stopped for a refuel. This is when Donnie suggested that we only go with one water bottle until the road turns back to pavement. The road is too rough and the bottles will rattle out of the cages. He’s right. This is the beginning of the Hawaiian cobbles.

Barely a road

Ten miles or so of the worst road I’ve ever ridden. Seriously at what point do they decide that it makes more sense to just tear up the pavement and leave it as a gravel road? The potholes and the filled in spots are far more common than the actual paved sections. The road was so rough that my cleats shook loose from my shoe! And another rider had his DI2 connectors come loose inside his hoods. He was stuck in a really big gear for a stretch. Not pleasant on a flat road; terrible on this “road”.

The smoothest part of the road for 10 km.

Not only is the road rough it is hilly. A number of twisty steep climbs – 18% steep – made it a real challenge. And the downhill sections are no easier. Bouncing over the road surface while trying to avoid the unpatched potholes, and keep your eyeballs from bouncing out of your head is a unique challenge to say the least. But it’s one that I enjoyed much more this year than last.

A cow joined the camp

Eventually the “paved” road ends and becomes a very nicely paved road… for about 500 metres. It’s at this point that a large black cow joins our peloton. Yes – a cow. He (or she) sprinted along with us for 100 metres or so before turning back to where she came from. It was surreal.

After the nice pavement stretch the road turns to a loose gravel and dirt single lane roadway. In most cases folks riding skinny-tire bikes avoid this type of road at all costs. Having ridden this route a couple of times now there really isn’t any reason to avoid it. Skinny Tires Need Not FearAnd if you get to Maui, ride this road. (But make sure you have a support person or team with you as you are a long way from civilization. Or better yet, get Donnie and the team from Maui Cyclery.) The scenery is incredible, and the route that the road follows along the coast is amazing for cycling. We continue as a loose group through the backside of Haleakala National Park and eventually arrive in Hana. From here we follow the Hana Highway back to Paia – awesome. I felt terrific today – back on my Vitess and it made a huge difference. I rode with the pros until they dropped the hammer at the 110km mark. We had a 10 minute descent that blew my mind; I did it last year but it was raining so the experience was more one of survival than excitement. Today the roads were dry and Ryder and Tyler were lighting it up. Carving lines through the corners I didn’t think possible – but I followed anyway. Speaking with Tyler after the ride he said they were holding back because the roads are open to traffic and they are riding clinchers instead of tubulars. Pros.

East Maui beautyHugging the coastlineEast Maui beautyPools at Ohe'oPools at Ohe'o without my head in the way!Team Garnin!Post-ride relaxation in PaiaAnother dusty ride!

Beach day! After three solid days of riding we took today off to go to the beach and work on our Stand Up Paddleboarding skills with Dave Kalama. It was an awesome day at the beach. Great weather and great waves. Ewan discovered his love of “surfing” and Leah unearthed her inner beach-babe/surfer girl. Ewan spent hours with a boogie board out in the waves by himself. Leah rode the stand up paddle board and did something I never thought I’d see – she surfed on the ama of the outrigger race canoe. (The ama is the float on an outrigger canoe.)

Surfing On The Ama. A godfather of surfing shows me how to surf the ama.
Surfing On The Ama. A godfather of surfing shows me how to surf the ama.


West Maui Loop
West Maui Loop

West Maui. Up. Down. Left. Right. Repeat for 40km. After a quick drive around the bay we started our ride in Maalaea. The first 40km or so is along the shoreline on a nicely paved highway with a paved shoulder. We cooked along in a double pace line letting Tyler and Ryder set the pace and break the wind for most of the ride. I rode directly behind them until we turned off at Lahaina. I think a few of our campers are new to group riding, and being in the back didn’t feel safe. I was wearing my team Garmin shorts and ECC jersey – and as a gap opened up between the three of us at the front and the rest of the group I felt like a real pro. When the pack caught up Donnie said it looked like a team ride, with me in a national champions jersey being protected by the others! Here’s a video from the ride.

West Maui Loop
West Maui Loop

As the highway turned into a country road our group took a final rest stop to fuel up and fill our bottles. The next hour of riding was incredible and challenging. The road follows the gnarly coastline in and out, up and down, and never flat or straight. It’s a real thrill to ride.

Lorraine's Shave Ice
Lorraine’s Shave Ice

Three quarters of the way around we descended into a little village where we had shave ice, banana bread and a Coke. Just what we needed to tackle the 15 minute climb out of town. The road surface for the next 10km is awful. Potholes, cracks, stones and other debris, etc. it’s a challenging stretch but you rewarded with a terrifically fun descent back into civilization. We regrouped at this point and pacelined it south across the island. Tyler and Ryder battled with a few sprints – leaving the rest of us gasping for air. And me lamenting the compact crank and climbers cassette on my rental. The group reformed and the kilometers passed quickly on the way back to Wailea. Seamus paced us in at a steady 37km/h until the final climb and hotel were in sight. You could feel the tension as riders started jockeying for position at the front. We’re not here to race but the competitive streak is strong. I didn’t want to get caught in the sprint so I dropped to the back. At this point one rider took off from the front prompting some jeers from the pack. He got a sizable gap and looked set to take the “win”. And then the paced quickened. The pros can amp it up fast. At this point I joked with Andreas that I should take a shot for the win. After all I was wearing my ECC jersey and established on day one that I was a breakaway rider. So I geared down and gave it all I had… Forgetting that there was one more climb before the finish. I bridged to the first guy and passed him as he looked over the wrong shoulder to see me coming. As I rounded the final bend I saw the hill and looked back. Ryder was in full flight. Uh oh. Had there been 5 more metres of road he would have caught me – but today was my day.

At lunch I sat with Ryder and Tyler and had a really great discussion a out life as a pro, things we’ve seen in the news about them, planning for next season, Vaughters, Tom Boonen, speaking Flemish, and more. It was a great way to finish the day. As an aside… I mentioned to the pros that there is a segment of cyclists who think wearing team kits is ridiculous unless you are a paid pro. Tyler’s reply was, “No one thinks it’s wrong for a Seahawks fan to wear their jersey. Why is cycling different?” He also talked about training in Belgium where almost every amateur rider is out in a full-on Quickstep kit on every ride. It’s their home team. Tomorrow I’m rockin’ my full Garmin kit. And will get a team pic.

Day 2 - the planThis is how the plan for the day is presented. It really needs to be more detailed – in the way that explains that the downhill portion of the ride is tons and tons of fun. The uphill portion, in the searing 40 Celsius heat is not. Other than riding directly on the surface of the sun, I cannot imagine it being any hotter. The first 32.5km were amazing. Flying downhill chasing Tyler Farrar was a real thrill. The next 32.5km were gruelling. 40 Celsius. Uphill. Ugh. My adventure in a solo breakaway yesterday came back to haunt me today as I really did not have the legs to climb. So it goes… (Here’s my ride profile on Strava and Garmin Connect.)

The End Of The RoadAnd I had to ride a rental bike because the derailleur hanger on mine somehow broke last night. (I think it must have gotten damaged during at some point in the last month, and the hard ride I did yesterday, with a few hard shifts, pushed it to the limit. The club mechanic noticed it wasn’t aligned and attempted to fix it – but it snapped off in his hand.) In many cases this is a minor issue and the local shop can fix it or order one in for the next day. Since we’re on an island in the middle of the ocean the ordering process is a bit different – the cost to get a single piece here overnight is crazy high… So today I rode a Felt with DI2. A nice bike but it didn’t fit very well and as a result I’m suffering from some chafing.

Overall the day was terrific. Great roads, great people, great weather. Looking forward to more fun tomorrow!


I was up at 5am and ready to ride. By 9am I was still wanting to ride but my excitement was replaced with a bit of anxiety – how would my legs be? Who are the other campers and how would I compare?

As usual my anxiety was unfounded. Once on the road I felt great and had an awesome day on the bike. We drove out to a starting point east of Paia on Hana Highway. This was a new ride for me – it was not included in the camp last year, although we did ride the return stretch as part of our East Maui Loop.

The Hana Highway for me, is as close to a road built for cycling as you’ll find. dozens of hairpin turns with single lane bridges at the apexes. The bridges traverse rivers that come down off the slopes of Haleakala forming impressive waterfalls and swimming holes.

The sights, sounds and smells of the jungle take over your senses and the ride becomes much more than just a ride. Listening to the locals that ride it all the time they have the same excitement that us newbies do – it speaks to the awesomeness of the route.

Riding east was fun, we moved along at a steady pace and I pushed myself on a few of the climbs. At the turnaround point I decided to try and push harder for the entire ride. Across one of the many gorges I spied a steady climb and made my attack. Pulling away from the group felt good; last year it was the group pulling away from me! I steadily grew my lead (although they weren’t really chasing) and was working out how awesome this would look on TV – the helicopter zooming in on me and then pulling back, showing the incredible scenery, before zooming in on the chasers. The road is a seemingly never ending series of hairpin turns that provide ample opportunity to see your chasers, or the chasers to see the escapee, It was a lot of fun until I saw the only rider dressed in blue pull to the front of the group. At the point I knew my time alone was limited. Very quickly Ryder brought the group up to me. As he pulled along side I joked that I thought I could make it alone to the finish. He simply smirked, laughed, and was gone as I lamely attempted to keep up. In the pro vs joes battle, it’s pros 1, joes 0.

We rode most of the remainder of the ride together – back to Maui Cyclery in Paia. There I was met with an icy cold Longboard Lager. A great ending to a great start.

After making our way back to the hotel in the trucks – this year Ryder was the only rider with the legs to ride back – we enjoyed our massages before everyone went their separate ways for the evening.

Watching Jesse Light The Torches
Watching Jesse Light The Torches

Another day spent with family. We rented an Escalade so I could finally live my Tony Soprano dreams… Breakfast at Kihei Caffe was amazing. The best breakfast we’ve had in ages. Just awesome. After breakfast we hit the road and drove the West Maui loop counterclockwise before stopping in Lahaina for a swim at Baby Beach, shave ice at Local Boys, and pizza at Lahaina Pizza Company. Deep dish gooey goodness. Some more driving took us to Paia to check out Maui Cyclery – the shop that supports the camp. A quick drive back to Wailea with a stop at a roadside coconut stand completed our afternoon. I could write a few pages on the experience with Randy at the coconut stand. He is a real gem – great with the kids and the machete! He took us through the whole growing, harvesting and eating process of coconuts. And he shared loads of history and stories. Definitely the highlight of a great day with my family. The evening featured the welcome reception – that we missed last year because of a delayed flight. This was our chance to meet the other campers, the pros and the support team. It’s a smaller group this year but everyone seems friendly and fun. Team meeting tomorrow at 9:00am; riding starts at 9:30. I can’t hardly wait.

After more than 14 hours of travel we arrived in paradise. Our plane from Vancouver to Maui was brand new which meant it didn’t have in-seat entertainment. According to the in-flight attendants that is an after-market option!! Luckily West Jet had tablets to rent for $5 – loaded with a dozen movies and a bunch of TV shows. How did people travel before this kind of technology. What did people do to survive really long flights?

Back on topic – we were met at the airport by a couple members of the camp crew – Cody & Seamus. It was a great site to see familiar faces after our day of travel.

With our gear loaded up we made the 20 minute drive to the beautiful Four Seasons Wailea. This is a hotel that knows how to make you feel good.

As our internal clocks are set to 4:30am it’s time for bed. Tomorrow is a family day – celebrating Thanksgiving US-style!

Camp starts in two days. Bike is packed in my BikeBoxAlan from Efraim at Clothing and everything else is all packed and ready to go. The kids are more excited this year than last – they know what to expect and what kind of fun is just days away.

I’ll post daily updates here and to Strava. I’ll also try to post regular photos to Instagram but it all depends on my data connectivity via cell.