In honour of our weekly team ride (aka The Scalo World Championships) and in reverence to the awesome climb that is La Luz, Scalo Veloce will be running several installments of “La Luz – Repeats”. Entries for this series are from various team members of Scalo Veloce, attesting to their experience of this climb. This column will run the next several weeks. If anyone who is not part of Scalo would like to submit an entry, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll run non-team member entries in one of the final weeks of the column.
Thanks for reading,
Scalo Veloce Team
WEEK3: Nathan, Michael, Nick, JBV
La Luz is a climb that will never get easy for me. Almost every time I go up it I think about that first time. After recently moving to Albuquerque I had dusted off my old road bike with a massive chainring and a corncob cassette. I was out riding and ran into a cyclist on a Cervelo that weighed less than my wheelset. He soon talked me into checking out a local climb instead of sticking to the bike path.
By the time we reached the base of La Luz I was cooked. We rode the whole thing together. The entire time, the rider crawled along with me, giving a few encouraging words. As I remember it, my cadence never got above 50. La Luz reaches a point where after a brief flat, the road swings right and the grade kicks up. You can’t see where it finishes, just winding pavement ascending into nowhere. I was done. Ready to quit. “Don’t look up, just pedal.” Those were the words the rider said that got me up La Luz that day, and the reason I still keep climbing.
Inevitably, when I go up that climb there comes a point when my entire world is compressed into a single thought, “just pedal.” Everything else disappears except that one all consuming thought. There is no room for life’s bullshit. I’m not thinking about that car that almost hit me yesterday or next weekend’s race. I’m not thinking about my fitness, my teammates fitness, TSS, CTL, work, family, friends, failure, pride. It all goes away. For that moment you’re free and see the shadows on the wall for what they are, just shadows.
Pronounced “La Poozed”
The other day I was invited to go on a training ride with my teammate Nathan Rediske. The workout was 8 x 45seconds all out followed by a lap of Tramway Road plus La Luz. Reluctantly I accepted, as I hate hard workouts. The 8 x 45s went better than expected except that during my recovery intervals I had to stop and shake my front tire to get a flat to seal. I did this multiple times and decided I would finish my set and ride to the gas station at the bottom to deal with it afterwards. Once we finished part one, we turned back downhill and I thought, “I’m going to use the bathroom down there.” But then I forgot…
After I had changed my flat, Nathan and I started back up the hill. His goal was to ride threshold to the top, mine was to stay on his wheel. After a few minutes, I was really hurting, then I realized I had forgotten to use the bathroom at the gas station.
I decided to back off on the watts a little bit and go my own pace, but shortly thereafter, I realized just how serious my problem was. I thought I just had to pee, but it was much MUCH more than that. I started to fear I would not be able to make it to the top, possibly even the La Luz Road turn-off before something had to happen. I dropped it down to tempo and concentrated on the Metallica “Ride the Lightning” in my ears. I began looking for rocks/bushes to hide behind and paper products to wipe with. As I neared the La Luz turn-off, I knew I could make it to a good spot to unload.
I turned at the first picnic area off La Luz road and found a nice private rock and some napkins. Of course I was wearing a ton of layers and had to peel all of them off before I could get to work. Luckily, I made it in time and had a relaxing movement with a great sunset view.
Afterwards, I got dressed, saddled up, and started up La Luz. I saw Nathan on his way back down the climb. I told him my story and asked if he had time to finish the climb with me. Conveniently, he did.
Every Wednesday, for 7/12ths of the year, we train on this climb. No, not train, but race. We race each other. There’s nothing like racing teammates. Until a German from Alamogordo comes and crushes all of us. Anyhow, this climb is a bitch. I rode it the other day, after 4 weeks off, and remembered how brutally hard it was. I also remembered how, on that rare magical night, a few times per year, I can fly up it. When I don’t even touch the 39/28.
Ranging from 4-14% or thereabouts, this climb doesn’t go to the top, but it goes far enough. Far enough to be perfect for midweek training rides, to top off a long day in the saddle (hard man style), or even, occasionally, for repeats. Yet, every time I think I know it, every time I think I have each gradient memorized, something changes: the wind direction, the temperature, my tire pressure, my fitness. It manages to be a unique beast every time. The racing, the challenge, the Wednesday night worlds; the view, the solitude, the pain, – that is why I love La Luz.
For the first 4 years I lived in New Mexico I was in Santa Fe. I would occasionally meet some of my Albuquerque friends and ride with them, but that was only on occasion – so I never really knew the lay of the land. When I finally moved to Albuquerque in 2008, I quickly found La Luz thanks to my friends Rob & Josh. When I first rode it I was alone, so I just guessed and took the turn near the top that leads to the steepest pitches. Despite being a terrible climber, La Luz quickly became a favorite route that I would ride at least weekly. It’s always a challenge to get up it. About 1/3 of the way up, where it just starts to get steep, I’ve rarely not had the thought of turning around. To date though, I have not.