Approaching Mt Vaca
We're getting close to the end game in the 2010 Low-Key Hillclimbs and the mind naturally turns to the 2011 schedule. And there's one climb which I've wanted to visit ever since it was first suggested to me three years ago.
That's Mix Canyon Road out of Vacaville. From Vacaville, you follow Pleasants Valley Road to the north until Mix goes off to the left.
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The usual response is it's sort of far afield. Sure, from San Jose it's 91 miles and it's 86 from Palo Alto but from San Francisco, where I live, it's closer than three of the climbs on the 2010 schedule. I'm not too worried about the distance. It's worth a bit of travel for a very special climb.
After the turn the road climbs gradually but it gets steeper the further you go. Approaching the summit is a will-cracking 15% sustained, which means sections at 20% with "recovery" at around 10%. The combination of altitude gained, the duration of the steep portion, and the location of the steep segment within the overall climb is a combination which is really hard to resist.
The profile tells a big story, but I also like grade histograms. My favorite representation is in total climb at or above each particular grade after applying a smoothing function representing the general ability of a rider to "power up" short steep sections. Here's how Mix Canyon fares in this analysis, compared to Old La Honda road, the unit reference for cycling climbs:
There's some serious action there in the ≥ 15% range. Mix gives up nothing to Welch Creek or Bohlman-Norton up here. And Mix delivers its maximum grades in a bigger chunk, with more climbing already in the legs.
And the numbers back this up. The climb's rating is 245. That compares to 235 for Alba and 231 for Bohlman-Norton. Mix is rated higher than any climb Low-Key has done.
Anyway, it's definitely on my to-do list, one way or another.