I woke up at 5:10am, ten minutes before my alarm was set to break the silence of the dark room. I gently slid out of bed so as not to wake up Edward, grabbed my cycling kit and made a bowl of bananas and raw oats using only my cell phone for light. I turned on the Tour of Flanders and watched without sound as I ate my breakfast and the breakaway of seven riders headed towards the Koppenberg.
I was headed to another climb that morning: Glendora Mountain Road. Edward was in the midst of racing the San Dimas Stage Race which had used the bottom of the climb for the individual time trial just the day before. I had watched in intermittent jealously as 200+ riders raced up the first seven kilometres. Just days earlier, Edward and I had also come to check the stage out and after making it to the top, I saw that Glendora Mountain Road was actually just the beginning.
The road was pretty flat for the first 500m from the dirt parking lot and then, just past the Angeles National Forest sign, was the first hairpin. “Yesssss,” I sighed to myself. Triathletes tend to like flat and fast but on top of my fat carbon aero tubes beats the heart of a climber. This was the best climb I had been on since moving to the USA. This was already the best ride I had been on since moving to the USA.
The gradient wasn’t steep, a moderate 4-5%, but it was enough to warrant the little ring and abandon my aero bars. Groups of GoPro-ing long boarders raced down the road while I was happy going up, not seeing any sign of a summit.
Eventually, I did reach the top. I stopped to take in the view, picking out the vein-like roads that linked every part of the wrinkly earth within eyesight. Soon after, I started the decent down the other side but, to my delight, there was a fork in the road. Up or down?
I continued upward towards Mount Badly. The road was more undulating as I traversed along the ridge of the mountain but, as my legs reminded me, I was still gaining elevation. It was blissfully quiet and secluded. I could hear the wind channel through the valley and small rocks sliding down from forrest above the road. The sun became warmer and warmer as the morning continued but every so often I would round a shaded corner and feel a true mountain cold from a piece of land that never seemed to catch the sun.
I had been climbing for almost two hours. By my calculations, it was time to turn around. I had to be back down the mountain in time to drive home, shower, eat, pack up our Air BnB, and drive to the stage venue in time for Edward’s race. But just ten more minutes…
Luckily, I reached the natural top of the ridge and made the short descent into Mount Baldy Village. It was really strange to be in a ski village with various cactus plants lining the roads. After a quick selfie with Smokey the Bear, I climbed the short distance back up to the ridge, put in the big ring, nestled into my aero bars to head back to Glendora.
The descent wasn’t too technical and I easily swooped around corners, pulling brakes for only a few hairpins, a few photo ops, and a deer that shockingly crossed my path a few corners before the bottom. I fishtailed and abruptly came to a complete halt. The deer had hopped over the low banking and had stopped too. In complete stillness, we looked at each other, both knowing how close we had come to a bad situation. I watched the doe breathing. I blinked and she was gone. I moved to the side of the road to peer into the brush but there was no sign of her. I stayed there for a moment, taking in the situation. It was close but it was a blessing I had stopped. One more look at the view. One more moment on the mountain.
Our route recon of Glendora Mountain Road for the San Dimas Time Trial