Thin Air & A Beautiful View: A View from The Top of Sherman Pass

Photo Credit: Danny MunsonAuthor Brian McCulloch Photo Credit: Danny Munson

At 53 miles, the Sherman Pass Road Race that starts just outside of Pearsonville near Ridgecrest, CA. This is by far not the longest race that I have competed in this season. However, with 8,700 vertical feet of climbing that begins with a 16 mile climb, this is without a doubt, one of the most difficult races I will compete in this season.

As the promoter of the event, Steve Barnes does not mince words and aptly calls his company, Anti-Gravity Cycling… it’s an appropriate name, and I can tell you that for 3.5hrs of my Saturday I was fighting with gravity to make the vertical ascent of Sherman Pass as quickly as possible!

With most of my teammates rocking the Cascade Cycling Classic, I was the sole participant for our team at Sherman Pass. Now, I may not be known for my climbing prowess, but I do love riding my bike hard, and this race definitely allowed me to do that. When I arrived at the start line just before 6am on Saturday morning I was temporarily taken back by the view of the road ahead. The race starts on a frontage road off Rte. 395 and quickly scurries up the mountain on Nine Mile Canyon Rd and tucks back into the mountains out of sight. It was an ominous sight and I should remind you that the first climb is sixteen miles, not nine like the name of the road indicates… What gives!?

The race starts in the heat of the desert/valley and climbs through the pine tree lined passes of the Kennedy Meadows Camping/OHV area before finishing at the top of Sherman Pass, some 9,200’ above sea level. Because the race is mostly climbing and the speeds are low, I had plenty of time to take in the scenery and enjoy the mountain air. Certainly, I was suffering a lot so I did not get to enjoy the scenery properly, but I still proclaim there is no better way to explore a mountain road than by bike, but I might suggest not doing so at race pace.

The group started fast and only got faster. We started out of the gate hard in an effort to create a select group of climbers that would vie for the race win. Unfortunately, after suffering like a dog to hang on to the ‘back step of the bus’ I was just off the back of the front group. I was in the second group of riders and although I was a capable climber in that company there were guys that simply wore me out. I gave them hell on the rollers, hitting the few short descents at break-neck speed hoping to claw back some time on the lead group, but it was all for not. The time lost to the first group was not coming back. I guess that is what happens when the first climb is sixteen miles long!

Although my sixth place result was not the result I was hoping for, I am not discouraged. First, the participants (including their support crews) and the race organizers all had a great attitude that made this feel more like a ‘cyclocross’ race than a SoCal crit. When everyone is suffering, and suffering for multiples of hours, it brings out the best in people. Everyone was throwing out high-fives at the end of the day and sharing stories of their climbing madness, no matter how good or bad they perceived their ride to be.

Myself, I got the good fortune of having a number of local folks that I ride with during the week joining in on the race. We had a blast recounting stories of the various climbs, our bad moments, times when we felt good, and of particular note was one downhill corner that although a little sandy, had made its way into most peoples stories as ‘fun’ because it felt like you were riding a roller coaster.

Photo Credit: Danny MunsonPhoto Credit: Danny Munson

Before I forget, I have to talk about equipment for an event like this, and a shameless Shimano endorsement. Whoever came up with the great idea of being able to swap chain rings on the new Dura-Ace crank is a genius! It took about fifteen minutes to swap my 53/39t front chain rings for a 50/34t front set that allowed me to conquer the climbs of Sherman Pass (some areas were beyond 15% for longer than I care to admit). If it were not for the compact chain rings on my KHS bike I am sure I would not have had such a positive experience. I was able to keep a reasonable cadence on each of the toughest portions of the climb, which kept my legs fresh and made it so I did not blow up. This is just another reason I love our Shimano parts. Thank you Shimano for making parts that allow for adaptability this interchangeability allowed me to race a criterium on standard gears on Sunday after a ridiculous road race on Saturday, all with only a few minutes of my day working on bikes.

All in all, this event has inspired me to look at competing in future Anti-Gravity Cycling events. I have yet to find my ‘inner climber’ but I can tell you that suffering builds character and I’m good with that! As with every event I enter, I will show-up with the intention of giving my absolute best and the drive to find a way to impact the outcome of the race.

Thank you to all of our wonderful sponsors who make the KHS-Maxxis pb JAKROO cycling team possible. I appreciate the support of each of our sponsors as well as the many individuals that make our team a family atmosphere. Even if I could not attend the Cascade Classic, I was still able to fly the colors of KHS-Maxxis pb JAKROO on our SoCal roads.

Thank you to everyone!

Until next time be safe, ride hard, and have fun,

BMc

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