Strava tells me my Suffer Score of 286 qualifies this ride as EPIC. And it was. 143.2km over the course of 5 hours and 12 minutes of riding.
We started from the same spot as our ride on Monday (at an elevation of 905 metres) and descended for roughly an hour. It was slower today as the roads were wet in many areas, and there were a few dumptrucks and other construction vehicles on the road. I was a bit disappointed as I wanted to really hammer it now that I had a bit of a feel for the road.
As we hit the end of the first descent the road went from perfect pavement to the exact opposite. The “road” was more patches than pavement. And it was CRAZY rough. My hands were sore from trying to hold on to the bars. Our instructions prior to setting out on this stretch were to keep it in a big gear and keep pedalling. Yeah right! With 17% climbs stretching for 500 metres there was no way to stay in the big ring!
The road circumnavigates the eastern side of Maui, crossing through farmland, coastal fields, and lush tropical rain forests. The road itself goes from perfect pavement, to the worst road in the world, to a red dirt road, to a skinny lane way, to patchy pavement, before returning to a super smooth newly paved highway.
As we cleared the really rough stretch the rains came down – which was to be expected as we were making the turn to the east side of the mountain and into the rainforest. It actually rains almost all the time in the rainforest! The rain coupled with the dramatic changes in elevation made the roads all the more treacherous. Thankfully we only had one crash; a rider slid out at the bottom of a turn on a steel road plate made super slick from the rain and dirt.
The dirt roads were a welcome respite from the previous patchwork road, but challenging nonetheless. It was the first time I’d ridden so hard, in such conditions, on dirt roads and am happy to report that both bike and rider exceeded expectations!
The challenging dirt roads gave way to an awe inspiring oceanside road that we followed for 10k or so. The sights an sounds along this stretch of roadway were phenomenal. The salty air of the ocean crossed with the hot, humid, and sweet smells of the forest every time we ducked under the cover of the trees, made for a sensory experience I won’t soon forget.
It should be noted that turing this stretch at any point where the road turned inland, it also turned upward. Quickly. The short, steep climbs were a real workout and quickly spread the riders out along the route. On multiple occasions my rear wheel spun out as I tried to pedal hard on the slick surfaces. Perfect balance on the bike was required to keep moving.
Slowly but surely the roads got wider, and drier, and smoother. Thankfully. We stopped for a quick refuelling – sucking back gels, replenishing bottles, etc – and then set a course for the beach – roughly 90km out. And we still had 1500 metres of climbing to go! We pulled out of the rest stop and the road immediately turned uphill. And continued uphill for the next 24km. Through this climb and the corresponding descent we passed dozens of waterfalls, each one with it’s own swimming hole at the bottom – calling my name and asking my why I was choosing to suffer rather than swim. I was hurting by this point and the lack of long training rides was starting to show.
We stopped once more for a quick refuel. Thankfully. I don’t know if it was the knowledge that there was only 50km to go, or the handfuls of peanut butter filled pretzels that I devoured, but my strength was back and I was ready to ride with the pros. I had been told that there was a big climb to start so it would be wise to get a head start as the pros would hammer this climb. I took the advice and headed out early. They caught me close to the peak. I hung with them for a while but slowly fell off the pack. Over the next 45km or so I was solo, in no man’s land between the leaders and the chasers. I picked off all of the riders that fell of the pros group, and ended up finishing only a couple minutes behind the leaders. It’s not a race by any means but it felt good to finish strong and only be a couple minutes back of the pack.
The ride finished in Pa’ia – Maui’s Coolest Little Town. Also home to Maui Cyclery – the support shop for the camp. We had a homemade meal on the beachside pavilion – sandwiches, salads, chips, chocolate, beer – everything I wanted post-ride.
So far this week I’ve ridden 464.6km with 6247 meters of climbing. Thursday is scheduled to be an easy day – only a couple hours on the bike. Friday is the big day – Haleakala! 56 km with 3037 metres of climbing.