This was the first time I had ridden the De Ronde Portland, though I’ve heard the legendary stories of the ride…Just under 48 miles and 7700+ feet of climbing, with a couple of climbs averaging 25% or greater for a ¼ mile or longer. The reality is the total climbing is somewhere between 4700 and 7700 feet. Mapmyride.com has it at 4700 feet, but I’ve seen GPS profiles with 7700-8000 feet of climbing. The unofficial amount is 5400 feet which I’ve seen listed on several different locations.
I’m not a climber…by any definition of the term, but wanted to at least ride it once in my life to say I had done it, so knowing the weather was supposed to be good and not a whole lot of racing leading up to the race or after the race, I thought this year was as good as any to give it a try.
I was able to get a ride with one of my teammates to the start line (about 25 miles from where I live) where we arrived early to kind of chill out a little before the ride. Slowly the area started filling up with riders from different teams as well as recreational riders. I’d say by the time we started there were at lest 300-400 riders, maybe closer to 500…but it’s always hard to tell with a group that size since there is no “Official” ride taking place and no registration to count numbers.
Some groups took off early but most left just after 10:00am with a few words from the unofficial organizer of the ride. The basic premise of the ride is to follow the “Lions” on the road until you reach the top of Council Crest.
Granted this is a “Ride” but there is an unofficial count through the first 10-20 riders to the top…kind of a bragging rights thing…so I didn’t want to take it easy, though I knew I wasn’t going to be near the front either. Mostly I wanted to push myself and see what kind of time I could put in.
The first climb was up Saltzman Road…I say road because it’s only a road in name. It’s really a gravel road/trail that goes up through Forest Park and takes us up to Skyline road. Saltzman was actually in good shape considering all of the rain we have had and we were moving out pretty good. I don’t know my time up Saltzman, but I averaged 371 watts up the climb without pushing it very hard.
After a little respite along Skyline we took a short downhill that led us to Brynwood…which is one “STEEP” climb. I turned the corner and was saying to myself WTF? Who lives up here and why? I hit the first part of the climb out of the saddle making it about a ¼ the way up when I sat down on my saddle to power up the climb. At this time I realized my cleat tension in my right cleat was too loose for this climb. Every time I would pull back on the pedal (I was pulling really hard) the cleat would push the cleat retention springs back far enough the front of the pedal would unclip and out would come my cleat. This was quite annoying and caused me to stop several times up the climb.
After that…the only other really steep climb was college st. which was equally difficult, but that didn’t come until about half way into the ride.
The rest of the climbs were normal climbs with spots getting into the 15% range, but not for very long.
I will say, the roads for this ride are not the best roads I’ve ever ridden on. In fact the Saltzman (the dirt/gravel road) was in better shape than half the roads we were on. So it was a rough ride for a large portion of it.
Overall, I completed the ride in 3 hours 30 minutes and 46 seconds…and that was with a little doubling back when I got lost a few times. Not bad for a 190+ pound sprinter/TT guy. Looking at the pictures I was in the top 40 or so crossing the line and wasn’t too far from some of my teammates that are true climbers. I would guess the fastest guys finished in around 3 hours, maybe a little faster. Most people were in the 4+ hour range and many of my teammates came in around 4.5+ hours.
As for the toughness of the ride…It’s not easy, I’ll give it that. However, if you took Brynwood and College St. out of the ride it wouldn’t be that bad…just a slower ride with a lot of climbing. It wasn’t the hardest ride I’ve ever done, but ranks up there overall especially for how short the distance was.
I will say this was the first ride I've ever completed where my upper body was more tired than my lower body. You had to use your whole body to get up some of those climbs and it took it's tool after a while.
There was great support along the route, especially considering this is not an “Organized” ride. Several families had tables set up and were giving out free food, water and other “Assorted Beverages”. There were also 5 or 6 port-a-potties located along through course to use. That really made things great, as well as people cheering us on as we hit the top of the steepest climbs.
Overall…it’s a great ride and if you haven’t done it…it’s worth giving it a shot at least once. I’m not sure I’ll do it again, but if the season has a lull at that time again, I’ll likely give it a go if the weather is OK. If it was cold and raining…it would have been miserable, but epic.
Photos courtesy of: firstname.lastname@example.org