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Catskills Hill Fest, Woodstock, New York

 

Ride Stats:

         132.6 mile route, 7 significant climbs plus two moderate climbs totaling 14,100 feet of climbing (per TopoUSA)

         7:42 fastest riding time, about 9 hrs total time

         Four riders, all doing the Everest Challenge 2-day stage race at end of month

         Ideal weather, temp around 60F starting out, 70ís mid-day

         No flats, mechanicals, or mishaps

 

This ride was completed on September 1, 2007.There were four riders in our group, Bill, Dave, Brett, and myself.The ride did not go exactly to plan, but it entailed nearly all of the planned climbing.The Catskill Mountains are not technically mountains (they are a dissected plateau), but they sure look like other mountains in the northeast like the Green Mountains of Vermont or White Mountains of New Hampshire.We had planned to ride about 135 miles with over 15,000ft of climbing this day.We had no idea where food stops would be, what the auto traffic would be like, road surface quality, etc.Be I did get many pointers from a local rider Mendel who was not able to join us for the ride.This proved valuable on which ways to loop some of the climbs.With Topo, I knew the profile of each climb, but not all the other things needed to make a ride safe, successful, and enjoyable.

 

Each of the significant climbs on this ride is briefly discussed below.The elevation numbers given are min to max, from low point since last climb to high point.Total climbing may be much more, as there may be down hills along the way up.Also, given elevation numbers may not match what locals give for a climb, again because I take since last climb to maximum of each climb, not just the steep part.

 

Ride Profile

 

 

Platte Cove Rd (aka Devilís Kitchen, 1650ft)

 

We rolled out of Woodstock at 9:15am.Temps were chilly, but just warm enough to not need wind shell or arm warmers.The route had a nice 8 mile, slightly down hill section before hitting the first, and possibly hardest climb of the ride: Platte Cove.Platte Cove road is a seasonal road, not maintained in the winter months.It starts nasty steep, and sections get even steeper.There are brief lulls in the grade that offer recovery if you need it.But some sections must be sustained 20% grade.I was in my 34x32 gear many times going up this climb.With fresh legs, I wanted to get a good interval out of it, riding at near Mt Ascutney hillclimb race pace.It is rumored that in the Tour de Trump race years ago, some pro/1/2ís were seen walking the steepest portion of this climb.I think I know where that would have been.I had trouble keeping my front wheel on the ground.The steep climbing lasts less than 2 miles, but averages over 12% grade.I was hoping for a nice view from the rim of the cove, but none opened up through the canopy of trees.There were a few brief openings on the way up, but I did not want to interrupt my climb to snap photos.This was a training ride after all.A jogger up top asked me ďYou didnít ride up that big hill, did you?!ĒI said ďAbsolutely!ĒHe shuddered and said ďYouíre an animal!ĒHe had no idea we were going to do climbs just like that many times over throughout the day.After regrouping at the top, we were off to a mini-gap of sorts.

 

Stony Clove Notch (441ft)

 

Not much of a climb, but it does get a little steep just before the end.This is really the high point of the Devilís Kitchen climb, but you roll through more or less flat terrain with a descent before you get to this notch.It is very scenic when you first turn on Rt 214.Once you crest the top, you get a wonderful descent.Not much of a shoulder here, but traffic wasnít too bad either.You get to descend monotonically for 10 miles to Phoenicia, then another 7 miles before turning off Rt 28 to begin next climb.Most of the descent is very gradual, but we were able to maintain very nice speed on it.We stopped in Phoenicia for our first food stop, about 34 miles into the ride, but I think I saw a gas station on Rt 28 several miles later too.Being first time riding in the Catskills, we did not know where food would be so we took advantage of it when finding it.Once on Rt 42 towards Grahamsville, thereís no food/water, or so we thought.

 

 

Heading up to Stony Clove Notch.Climbing starts just around bend to left.

 

Main Street Phoenicia.We followed base of these hills to next climb.

 

Peekamoose (from Olive, 1112ft)

 

The Peekamoose pass has a profile a lot like Smugglers Notch in Vermont.Starts out very gradual and progressively gets steeper and steeper as you approach the crest.The last mile is 11% average grade, with 0.2mi of 17% near the top.But Peekamoose does not gain nearly as much vertical as Smugglers.We hit this climb pretty hard too.The descent towards the Grahamsville group of climbs was nice.Pavement was a little choppy in spots, but with a little work, you could keep nice speed going.

 

Brett and Bill finishing up Peekamoose climb from Rt 28a.

 

Yaegerville (from Sundown to Yaegerville, 1064ft)

 

We hit the community of Sundown in no time, way too fast it seemed.This meant we were into our next steep climb before we knew it. Yaegerville from Sundown may average only 5%, but there is about a half mile section at 9%.In correspondence with local rider Mendel, he said to be sure to ride it in this direction.Now we know why.Many of the roads in this area have chip-and-seal cover on them.This is stop-gap, cheap means to seal an asphalt road that is crumbling apart.It makes a miserable surface to ride on.At best, a lot of vibration comes through.Worst case, the chip (finely crushed stone) is still loose on the road.We had mix of loose stones and old, badly rutted out chip-and-seal surface on the way up.Didnít bother me too much climbing, but had we come down this way, it would have been a miserable experience.There is a nice switchback going up where you can look straight down on road below.

 

Just after cresting the high point and beginning descent on Yaegerville Rd, an expansive view opens up.Had to catch a few photos of this grand view.The descent was chip-and-seal surface to, but in excellent shape.The descent was spectacular.Not too steep, no sharp curves, so you could just let your speed run out.But if you happened to go down on chip-and-seal, you would grind skin and muscle off in first 0.5 seconds, then leave chunks of bone in the razor sharp chip-and-seal surface.You donít even want to think about it.

 

After descending Yaegerville to the Rondout Reservoir (NYC water supply), we took a right and followed the reservoir to Grahamsville.We ran into our first problem of the ride.There was nothing there.No food, no water, and we were depleted.This was about the half way point of the ride.The planned route had us taking a right on Rt 153 to pick up the Sugar Loaf climb next, but there was no way we were going into that having already been out of water.We had no choice but to ride three miles into Grahamsville and hope there was something there.There was.It was a nice deli/mini food mart.I was so hungry I got a hefty turkey and swiss sandwich, a large cinnamon roll, and a Godiva dark chocolate milk drink.We planned to recover from this deviation of route by going up gentle Moore Hill Rd and coming down the much steeper Glade Hill Rd.Original plan was to go up Glade, not down it.But as we were about to leave, I ran into Larry Watson, a formidable climber I know from hillclimb races.He lives in the area and knows all the hills well.He said we had to ride UP Glade, as it was THE climb in the area.So to preserve time, we decided to backtrack the 3 miles to bottom of Glade instead of taking Moore Hill up right from town and do Glade just as an out and back.

 

View from top of Yaegerville.This descent was among the best of the ride.

 

Glade Hill (1336 ft)

 

We made it to the base of Glade Hill with no time for large food intake to settle.Glade starts off with a bang, never lets up, and throws many punches at you along the way.Scenery is very nice, but in an anaerobic induced haze, you canít fully appreciate it until you come back down.Dave totally dominated this climb, possibly because he didnít engorge himself in Grahamsville.But that sandwich and monster roll I had would serve me well later in the ride.Glade averages about 13% for 1.8 miles, gaining over 1200ft in that distance.There are sections that must be 20% grade, where you have trouble keeping front wheel on ground.Larry commented that he rides a 39x23 up this at 50rpm.No wonder he is so strong.I was in my 34x32 and kept trying to shift to an easier gear that wasnít there.

 

The descent was pretty scary with sharp switchbacks much of the way down.I stopped a couple times to snap photos and let rims cool.They got very hot.Larry said he usually takes Moore Hill Rd back down, which was the way we originally planned this route.But we had to minimize back tracking to stay on schedule and not run out of daylight.

 

 

Dave half way down Glade descent.Lots of swoopy, open, but very high speed curves here.

 

Brett coming down upper portion of Glade.

 

Bill with Dave in background coming down Glade.Had to check rims here.Heavy braking was required much of the way down.

 

Looking up at farm about 1/3 way up from bottom.Look steep?Pictures canít really depict it, but it was uber steep.

 

Farms from part way down Glade.

 

Another view of farmland from Glade.

 

Sugar Loaf Rd (1647 ft)

 

After descending Glade, we take the other fork and go right into the Sugar Loaf Climb.At least it started out gradually.But this climb would entail just as much vertical as Platte Cove and was occurring much later in the ride when we were becoming very tired. The average grade is not that serious, but the climb entails about 3 miles of 9%, including 0.3 miles of 13% near the end.Our route made a lollipop loop out of this climb.After cresting the high point, we went right on Red Hill Knolls Rd, then followed a counter-clockwise loop down Red Hill Knolls/Denning until reaching the next moderate climb of the ride, Red Hill Rd.I think it was somewhere along this stretch that a deer jump out right in front of me, like slam on my brakes in front of me.We saw deer many times during the ride.We donít have that many deer in NH or eastern Mass.On way home after the ride, we saw large herds of deer at dusk, just like I used to see in Michigan.

 

By this point, we were all running out of water again.I was still ok, but I started with a full 100oz Camelbak.I think on epic rides like this, everybody should carry Camelbaks.Two small water bottles might be good for one hour on a warm afternoon.We did not plan on returning to Grahamsville again, a 6 mile out and back.Our plan was to catch somebody in their yard and ask if we could have some water.

 

Red Hill (824 ft)

 

Red Hill Rd completes the loop at the top of the Sugar Loaf climb.Itís not a major climb, but a couple of the guys grumbled that it was steeper and longer than I let on to.After riding for 5+ hours, you donít like surprises.Itís bad enough that you know you have 40+ miles and one major climb to go to finish the ride.There was a bit of a view from the top, and this nearly ties the high point of the ride on Red Hill Knolls Rd at 2580ft above sea level.

 

The descent down Red Hill and Sugar Loaf roads is pretty much wide open, no brakes.Road surface is pretty good.We were hoping weíd find water somewhere, as we did not see anything along the remote Rt 42 climb back over Peekamoose.We popped out at Rt 153, then veered left onto Rt 42 to begin the gentle climb over Peekamoose.But we picked up a local rider on the way.He was just starting out.I thought surely he would know where we could get some water.He was quite sure there was water at a campground in Sundown area.But before we even got there, we went buy this little shed, and he said ďThere, you can get your water at the store!ĒWe thought yeah, right.It looked like a little woodshed somebody would store the lawnmower and firewood in behind their house.But sign on side said open.Strangely, there were no doors or windows on side that faced road.Only on side away from the road. But the place was indeed open and had exactly what we needed: gallon jugs of water, quarts of Gatorade, and munchies.We were now good to go for the rest of the ride.

 

From near high point on Red Hill.About 1600ft descent from here, I think fully monotonic (no uphills along the way).

 

Food shed in Sundown.I think Bill was telling his wicker chair and cardboard box story.You donít want to know.

 

Peekamoose (from Sundown, 846 ft)

 

We got to go over Peekamoose from both sides.From Sundown, it is a rather anti-climatic climb.It so gradual, you can maintain paceline work most of the time.You reach the top without realizing that you gained significant vertical.Cresting the summit though, we got to go down the initial very steep part we climbed several hours earlier.This descent runs out for ever.I coasted the whole way, waiting for the others to catch back up.

 

We went right on Rt 28a.This follows the Ashokan Reservoir, but high above it and out of sight.It wasnít until we dipped down near the dam that we started to see water through the trees.We were riding away from the sun, and our shadows were getting very long on the road in front of us.Plus, both Bill and Brett were having cramping issues by this point.This not only ruled out finishing the last planned climb of the ride, Meads from Woodstock, but it also meant we were going to come close to running out of daylight just to get back to cars.

 

My original route had us taking Rt 28a all the way to the bridge, but as we passed the dam, we saw it was open to bicycles and pedestrians.I had read that for a while after 9/11, it was closed to the public.This reservoir probably serves 10ís of millions of people.So we made abrupt turn and got to enjoy some of the most expansive scenery of the ride with the sun getting low over the water and Catskill Mountains as a backstop.Taking the dam route would save a few miles along with traffic that seemed to be fairly heavy over the bridge itself.

 

On the dam, we asked a local rider for the best way to Woodstock.He rattled off a couple of ways, one of which I think was Rt 375 (out of way).I mentioned we planned to do Ohayo Mtn Rd.He said it was steep but would work.It was the most direct way.But I was worried about guys cramping up on the flats going over one last short, but beastly steep climb, the details of which I didnít fully divulge.Yeah, Iím sadistic that way.So we pop out on Rt 28 on other side of reservoir, and too our horror, this designated bike route had a nearly unrideable shoulder with heavy traffic in narrow two lanes.Not just cars, but trucks going 65 mph too.This was just plain dangerous.We had to get off that road.Sun was getting ever lower.The deal was, we were only about 5-6 miles from our cars, but had this large ridgeline between us and cars and only limited ways to get over it.I thought we shouldíve hit Ohayo Mtn Rd sooner, but we took fork towards the ridge just to get off the nasty road.There were two fishermen there, who maybe had a few beers, and we stopped to ask best way to Woodstock.That song covered by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young comes to mind.The fisherman thought we were nuts for wanting to go over Ohayo Mtn Rd, said it was a bitch of a climb (they have no idea what we do for fun), and said we wanted to ride Boyce Rd/Wittenberg Rd instead.This brought us off my maps with daylight waning.But less steep, easier, well that was all Brett and Bill needed to hear.It turned out to be longer though.

 

The dam we rode our bikes across to get back to Woodstock.Closed to cars.Precipitous drop-off on right hand side in middle.

 

The Ashokan Reservoirwith Catskill Mountains in background.

 

Boyce Rd (506 ft)

 

The Boyce Rd climb was going to be our last climb of the ride.Meads Mtn Rd was going to have to wait for another day.The fishermen described it as just an easy quarter mile or so.Weíll, it wasnít that easy and it was a lot more than a quarter mile. It had max grade of 9% and averaged 6% for 1.1 miles.Seems like nothing, but with 130 miles in the legs, 14,000ft of climbing, deteriorating attitudes, and expectations of no more hills, it was something.This road gained nearly as much as planned Ohayo Mtn Rd, but more gently.At least from the top it was all downhill back to Woodstock.

 

Ride Wrap-up

 

By the time we got to Woodstock, we were not half a million strong.Far from it.We were four empty shells of cyclists.That is what an epic ride does to you.Some people pay good money to achieve this feeling through synthetic means.There was song and celebration going on though.Live band playing from the balcony of one of the cafťs, tie-died t-shirts everywhere, and hitch-hikers.Some of the people looked like they thought it was still 1969.Oh, and the girl in the purple outfit.I bet Bill and Brett missed that.Dave and I decided to split town and picked up Pizzeria Uno, TCBY, and Starbucks on the road to begin the refueling process.Bill and Brett stopped in town for burritos.

 

The ride was highly successful.No injuries, mechanicals, flats, etc.We all got excellent training value out of it for the Everest Challenge race in three weeks.Plus we all got to ride an area we hadnít seen before.Lots of spectacular scenery.Most of the roads had light traffic, something I was concerned about planning this ride in a vacation area on a holiday weekend.I will probably ride in the Catskills again.But I think rides here will work best by dividing it up into separate north and south loops, kind of like doing a White Mountains east or west loop.There are more climbs north of Woodstock and south of Grahamsville that we did not get to explore.We could do a few more big rides in the Catskills and still not see it all.Next year...

 

 

Compiled by Doug Jansen

3-September-2007