Add an extra day (or two), breathing room to find riding space somewhere special. Or simply somewhere simple. Get up, kit on, ride out kind of trips. Cycling for the soul.
Wikipedia says a donut contains 452 calories and 38% of your recommended daily fat intake. In 16 fluid ounces of beer on average you get 204 calories. But that's ok if you're about to ride the Figueroa Mountain Loop.
A long weekend in Los Angeles. So much to do, but so little time to do it; we have two days to ride. Meeting up with friends who call this place home, and explaining our predicament, they take about five seconds to decide where we'll be going.
'Baldy and Figueroa.' Sold. Who are we to question the experts?
Mount Baldy is the biggest cycling celebrity in the county, due to it's annual time to shine during the Tour of California. At just over 20km and with over 1,300 metres of climbing at an average gradient of 7%, it's quite a daunting prospect, and here's the kicker (literally) : some of that average is made up of 22% gradients. Regular, it ain't. Fortunately we're not here to set KOMs, it's simply about sharing the road amongst friends.
The ride out from town is not entirely straightforward. LA certainly lives up to its reputation in terms of traffic and why some may be fooled into thinking the city sucks for cycling. However once you hit Glendora, the traffic, the noise and underlying stress fade away. Motivation for the task ahead seems to come largely from chat about where we'll find the best beer and tacos. Then, the climb to Mount Baldy Village reminds everyone that it's work first, reward second and suddenly everyone quietens down a touch.
Sometimes it's easy to think you've seen it all, or at least ridden it all. You could be trapped into thinking that the world's roads are ultimately the same, it's only the scenery which changes, but somehow they always conspire to surprise you. From the Col de Braus to the High Atlas, you'd think we know how to read the contours of the road as it traverses the slopes towards the summit. Maybe it's the jetlag or the surprisingly high temperatures or the excitement of a new world; but we are less aware of what's around the next corner.
And so the final part of Mount Baldy smacks us in the face like the heavyweight hitter it is. Whether you're trying to set a PB or just there to spin your pedals, unless you are at WorldTour level the steep gradients demand effort. Remember that feeling that you're in the wrong gear only to look down and discover there are no sprockets left? A series of 10 switchbacks, which somehow crescendo with gradients from 13% to 22%, lead to the ski lift at the top. Should have taken the lift.
The descent back down from Mount Baldy is perhaps one of the best in the world. Glendora Mountain Road offers views for miles, and somehow has an air of Provence about it - aside from the 'bears crossing' sign of course. It's a landscape that appears dry and rocky, but when you actually look around it's covered in trees and fauna and we're told that in summer you can even hear the sound of cicadas singing.
And so to the aforementioned rewards. On this occasion the eating took on a whole new dimension. Wikipedia says a donut contains 452 calories and 38% of your recommended daily fat intake. In 16 fluid ounces of beer on average you get 204 calories. Needless to say at The Donut Man's beautifully American street-side kiosk, there are no calorie listing. We suspect it's maybe above the global average, and all the better for it.
Once the dust (or icing sugar) has settled, we head back into town to rehydrate, debrief and plan day two. The word 'beast' gets used a lot when describing Figueroa Mountain, but it's decided that one more beer can't do any harm. We'll burnt it off tomorrow right?
Situated in Santa Barbara county to the north of LA, the Figueroa Mountain loop consists of almost 1,500 metres of climbing. That should put the Donut Man in his place and it's also enough to know that it won't be a simple amble through rolling Californian back country.
A striking feature of riding Figueroa Mountain is how quickly you feel isolated. There is almost no traffic to speak of, and as you climb and look out over the endless landscapes, civilisation feels like a very long way away. Empty roads and endorphins sometimes result in sprints. LA lesson number two - never take on a state champ. America is big and the pool of talent is deep.
As we approach the summit the views begin to disappear behind trees, and by the time we're at the top there is nothing to see other than the trees in front of us - shades of our own Turini. And just like Turini, within minutes of descending the views return, stretching out for miles.
Once we reach the bottom The Donut Man is a long way from Figueroa Mountain, but it turns out the local brewery is an award-winning beer craft beer heaven. Like the gear-choice on Mount Baldy, it's obligatory.
Sixteen fluid ounzes isn't enough. The debrief continues. Who did actually win that sprint? Can a bear really run at 35mph? Were those the best donuts in the world? Is riding in LA as good as the Côte d'Azur? Well, we can't be expected to disloyal, but for sure we can confirm that it doesn't suck.
Footnotes: Photography : Christophe Rousseau