Friday, September 10, 2010

St Olaf hill loop.

I've been off of the bike for over a month now due to a rather painful wrist injury. It has largely healed, which means it's time to put some serious riding in to try and salvage the fall season. On of my favorite short workout rides is to ride hills at St Olaf College in Northfield. It's close to my house, the climbs are brutal and regular, and I can pretty much shred my legs in less than two hours.

I have become accustomed to riding a particular loop around the college grounds. On each loop you hit five of the best hills on campus. These hills are connected by fun little descents and even some small bit of single track trail. There are slow tech sections, washy, sandy corners, and a lot of energy sapping grass. I do enjoy riding it, but it is pretty much a pure workout loop. Riders who have done our Back to School Cross race will undoubtedly recognize the first hill. Thorsten hill is one of the hardest on campus. It has several pitch variations, and being full sun the grass is almost always long. I start the loop with this hill. Once on the top you follow the woods around the back side of the adjacent dorm to a really fun little descent. There is a nice little place to air out half way down, and it ends in a nice S curve with a big sand trap at the bottom.

From there you pass along the baseball fields up a small hill to the soccer bowl. You can just see the small trail behind the scoreboard leading up and to the left out of frame. This is a hugely washed out technical climb. there is usually only one line that is ride able, and there is no run up to carry momentum into it. It's a slow grind picking your way up it. If you stop at all you're done, start walking. After this hill there is an easy hill up to a parking lot on tar. This leads to a little rocky, rutted, tight trail through the trees back down the hill to the side entrance of the athletic center. Once there you head back up the grass bowl shaped hill adjacent to the large path down from campus. There is a nice little steep lip right up the center of the bowl that I like to head for. It's a increasing pitch hill right up the the top. The grass is also usually pretty long here. The finish is the St Olaf ring road, just in front of the building you can just see top center of the frame. From here you make your way down the road leading to the athletic center parking lot to the cross country running trails. Heading towards the main entrance to the college you ride through the frisbee golf course towards the center of campus again. Here's your hill. I usually head up the center of the bowl shape to get the most out of it. Up the hill you proceed towards the woods and hit some nice single track around the city water towers. There are some nice dead fallen logs to run over, and on the major downhill there are some fun erosion boards to navigate. Watch out for the really low bridge around the last corner or you'll be feeling it!Those trails empty out below the new science center into this parking lot. You can carry quite a bit of speed into the last steep hill up to the left. This is the hill running up to Old Main and the traditional sledding hill. From here you descend back across campus past the running track to the bottom of the first hill. Do as many laps as you can and there you go.

St Olaf is about 2 miles from my house, so I have a really nice warm up/cool down ride to get home. The first two laps are usually the worst. After that I tend to settle down into a pretty steady rhythm. I'll be doing a lot of these loops interspersed with some nice long gravel miles to get ready for the Rawland Gravel Tour coming up in three weeks now. Let me know if you'd like to check out my little loop. I'd be glad to show anyone around that would like to come.

Happy Friday all.

4 comments:

Jerry said...

I love riding around Olaf. I try to hit it once a week. I agree, it's a great short workout.

I'll be over there this morning if you want to join me.

Cody Larson said...

watch out for all those college kids!

Jerry said...

wise advice Cody. I was riding down Old Main hill one morning and surprised a young couple playing beach blanket bingo at sunrise.

Ben said...

Sorry I missed you Jerry, we'll have to ride there soon.

I didn't hit any kids. I did go there purposely wearing my Carleton Jersey on the first day of Olaf's classes. It was like going into cowboy territory dressed like an indian! I had a lot of fun with that. The comments were pretty good!

On my arrival to the top of the first loop on Thorsten hill, I was politely informed by a female student that I was going the wrong direction. Ha! A nicely timed witty comment, it was appreciated and returned with a sly smile.