It’s starting to warm up in Boulder and that means my attempt on Super Flag is getting closer. Having ridden the climb a few times in recent weeks, I can say without a doubt, this is going to be difficult! Thanks to some pretty solid weather in recent weeks, I’ve been doing most of my riding on the road and as it’s been illuminating to see how much more effective a focused training plan is. When you compare a program, such as the one I’ve been using from TrainerRoad, to logging hours and hours of unfocused, albeit fun, riding on the road, there really is no contest.
Now that I’ve gotten the wanderlust out of my system, I am gearing up for a new eight week block on the KICKR. Somewhere along the way, I am going to start the tedious task of weight management, but I am not quite there yet. After all, the second part of watts/kg is weight… I will be using the ELEMNT Bike Computer to track the climb data and Strava Live Segments to compare my effort to my PR and those that have gone before me. Anyway, I thought it might be fun to walk you all through the elements of the climb, so here goes!
The approach. There is no real way to get to this climb without doing some climbing ahead of it. You either have to climb from Baseline to Chautauqua park, or climb town up 6th/9th. Either way you’re adding a fair bit to an already daunting climb.
The first punch(es). As soon as you make the turn at Gregory Canyon, the road tilts up to meet your face. From asking around, it seems everyone has a different approach here. Historically, I’ve tried to power over this initial punch and recover on the next segment. Some say that’s the beginning of the end to a successful Super Flag attempt. Neal Rogers, editor for Cycling Tips, approaches this in a more reserved way. Keep the power right on the number and don’t allow temptation to pull you into the red. I think I’ll try it both ways to see what works best for me, but I am leaning towards Neal’s philosophy.
Steady as she goes. This is where a rider can usually get a sense of how hard the rest of the climb is. Make it through that first steep bit feeling okay? Great! Feeling like your heart is in your mouth? Uh-oh! Being more well suited to the rouleur life, this is where I normally try to get into the groove. The gradient suits me well and I can push to make up the ground lost to the more gravity affected bits of the climb. There are steep switchbacks along the way, but they can usually be punch over and don’t cause the heart rate to elevate much.
Ramp to the Amp. This last little kicker to the Amphitheater is tricky. If you’re just riding up to the parking lot, sure, go ahead and get crazy. Going all the way to the mail boxes? You’ll want to moderate your effort here, as there is a good reason I am calling the next bit “then all Hell breaks loose”.
Then all Hell breaks loose. By now, you’re really feeling the weight of the miles and feet you’ve already traversed. In a kinder world, things would start to let up. This isn’t a kinder world. This bit of road taunts you as it’s one of the few stretches that you can actually see a fair bit of the climb ahead of you. I haven’t really figured out how to best handle this stretch. It’s not terribly long or steep but it’s enough of both and it heads into the hardest part of the climb.
Strava Segment: Segment 1
S-turn into the Wall of Pain. Okay, here is where things really get interesting. And by interesting, I mean super difficult. Even on a good day, it’s easy to find yourself paperboying this bit. The S-turn smacks you in the face just before the Wall of Pain steals your legs.
Attack the flat(ter). Again, thanks to my aversion to gravity, this is the spot where I really start to make up ground on my lighter friends. The mellowing of the gradient is exactly what the doctor ordered but be careful not to go too deep here. There is still one stinging section left to conquer. The “Hello engine room, anything left?” name of the segment sums it up well.
Strava segment: Segment 1
Last switchback then empty the tank up to the mailboxes! One last kick to test the limits of your digestive system. Everything you’ve got needs to be left on the road here. Dig DEEEEEEP!
Congrats, you just climbed a Boulder Classic! I will be dropping in with another update soon. We’ve got some really exciting things on the horizon with Wahoo that I can’t share quite yet. Stay tuned!
Words and images by Kevin Scott Batchelor a Boulder based photographer who has set out to train through the winter to tackle the Super Flagstaff climb this summer. Kevin writes for us regularly about the climb and what the training entails. See more here.