An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
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Monday, July 15, 2013

Trofeo Strada Bianca -- Hampsten's awesome ride!

Climbs, dirt roads and trails, good riders, awesome food, nice weather... For what more could one ask?

That sums up the Trofeo Strada Bianca, a 60-mile (I had 61.5 all-told) ride from North Bend, WA, over the summit of Snoqualmie Pass to the Hyak Park-n-Ride via dirt roads and Denny Creek, then back via the Iron Horse trail and through the 2-mile tunnel at the top.

Strada Bianca is Italian, literally translated to "white road". But the meaning is a little different, because in Italy, most gravel roads are made with crushed limestone, and so are white. Thus: Gravel road. Trofeo means "trophy" or "prize". On this day, the ride itself was the prize.

Clear skies and nicely warm temperatures greeted us at the North Bend city parking lot. Under the banner of Hampsten, custom bike maker out of Seattle, we gathered some 35-strong, the first group leaving at about 9:10. Within three miles, we were off pavement and on smooth rail-trail conversions.

After some time we turned off the smooth trail, had a short paved section, then found ourselves on a fairly chuck-holed dirt road for several miles. Between the dust from the riders in front of me and the intermittent sun/shade, I had a difficult time seeing the holes and had to ditch the sunglasses (helmet manufacturers take note -- make the holes in the helmet coincide with temple width please!).
Another short stint on pavement (this time along Interstate 90), then taking the Tinkham Road exit and following the road up from Denny Creek to the summit.

This, like the Leavenworth Gran Fondo, was not a race, but that doesn't mean the lead pack wasn't going at a good pace. I kept with them until the final pitch up to the summit, which was mercifully paved. Over the top of the pass, then a short downhill by the highway... Arriving at the Park-n-Ride below the Hyak ski area (which is now dubbed "Snoqualmie Summit East") we were greeted by the van toting our lights and jackets (for the trip through the tunnel on the way back) and a spread of food that would make a king proud.
For me, the highlight of the offerings were these rice/date/pecan/honey cakes. Delicious! Not too sweet, full of carbs.

And VINO! A first for me at any ride food stop.

Heading back down, the tunnel greeted us almost immediately. I put on my arm warmers and a vest, turned on the light, and eased my way through. There's something about tunnels that plays tricks on my sense of balance. With absolutely ZERO ambient light (this tunnel is two miles long), there's a very real sense of tunnel vision (haha). My light was initially pointed too high, and it was just swallowed whole. Pointing it downward helped a great deal, and within a few minutes my eyes finally adjusted and I could build some speed. I was very surprised at the number of people walking and even riding (with CHILDREN!) through the tunnel without lights...

Coming out, the warm air hit. Doff the arm warmers and vest, snap a pic, and we were off to the gentle downhill all the way back to North Bend on the Ironhorse Trail.

We were watching the count-up of the marathon mile markers, and JUST at their 26 mile mark, my rear tire blew. Fortunately the hole was just small enough that I could boot it and get finished with the ride (which was mostly on pavement from that point).

Some burgers and drinks at The Pour House afterwards, some congratulatory conversation among the cyclists, unanimous sentiments of "great ride" and "I can't wait to do this again next year", and we were back on the road to home.

Trofeo Strada Bianca. Look for it on Facebook. Awesome ride.

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