The Tour de Scottsdale, the Valley's signature fall road racing event, is now less than one month away, which means it's time to make up for any time spent slacking this summer.
The anchor event of the Scottsdale Cycling Festival is a tough course largely known for running downhill along a 9-mile road and straight shot down from Reata Pass to Rio Verde. But there is a lot of uphill on both sides of that long descent.
Nothing will get you in shape faster than a few high tempo hill climbs, interval-style. And one of the Valley's top spots for great hills with good bike lanes and moderate to low traffic is the Ahwatukee Foothills.
Ahwatukee, sometimes referred to as the "world's largest cul-de-sac," is not exactly easily accessible from other parts of the Valley, especially if approaching by bike. The best road in is up Guadalupe Road from the east, hooking into 48th Street. If you're coming from Phoenix or other parts north or west, approach behind the Arizona Grand Resort on South Pointe Parkway. If driving in, park at the South Mountain Pima Canyon trailhead, just off of 48th Street.
Head south along 48th Street to Piedmont Road and make a right, beginning the first hill climb. This is a quick and small half-mile climb that will get the legs pushing right out of the gate. Once over the top, shift down a couple gears and turn a big speed for the length of Piedmont/44th Street before coming to Elliot Road.
At Elliot, turn right to Equestrian Trail, making another right turn (warning - Equestrian is under construction right now and could be closed, but bikes are able to get through) and go right on Appaloosa Drive. Appaloosa will bank left for a short stretch and then junction into Kachina Drive.
Kachina Drive is hill number two. Stay to the right at the junction and find a gear that gives good power while maintaining a high cadence. This hill is slight and gradual for about a mile at a steady three percent grade but does ramp to a punchy six percent at the top. Work hard to keep a consistent tempo and speed along the entire length. This is a great road for repeats so feel free to circle back around and do this hill a couple times.
Kachina bends left back into Equestrian Trail, so follow it down to 36th Street and turn right to Ranch Circle. Stay right onto Ranch Circle and head south to Ray Road. At Ray, turn right and roll downhill to Thunderbird Place and turn right again.
The right turn at Thunderbird can be a little tricky because of the blacktop bulging from the heat so be sure to control the speed. But, once onto Thunderbird, the road has a nice rolling feel that is great for opening up some speed so feel free to drop down and drill it for a bit. Thunderbird runs a little less than a mile before hitting Chandler Boulevard. Follow Chandler west for a mile and turn right onto Desert Foothills Parkway.
Desert Foothills is hill number three and the biggest hill of the ride and sits in the southern shadows of the South Mountain towers. The westbound direction is a shorter, punchier way over but hits a steeper grade before the top. Ride a fast, steady tempo up the three percent grade to the base of the steeper section, about a mile, and then crush it over the short steep before gliding down the other side for a cool mile-long descent back down to Chandler Boulevard.
Turn right onto Chandler and continue west for a short, flat stretch to 17th Avenue and turn left. This will roll down to the southern boundary of Ahwatukee, Pecos Road. Pecos marks what looks like the last line of civilization with just a faint outline of Riggs Road in the distance. Pecos is a great rolling stretch of tarmac with a healthy bike lane on each side.
Pecos also is totally exposed and this part of the desert is known for some wicked winds so be mindful of heat and water before hitting this stretch. Pecos ends one mile further and is a good spot to turn around. Cyclists can continue to the end of the line through the residential area, but that more for the sake of doing it than anything else.
Hill four is the climb up Pecos heading back towards Desert Foothills Parkway. This is a lumpy, rolling climb that is very gradual at first so finding a good riding rhythm is vital along this stretch, especially depending on the winds. Just settle into a good pace and work hard to keep it. Once at Desert Foothills, turn left.
Desert Foothills runs a tough little two to three percent grade before turning left onto Frye Road. Frye marks hill five and is a short but steep ramp up and over before running back down to Chandler. Turn left on Chandler and return to the base of the Desert Foothills Parkway hill for hill number six, this time from the other side.
The eastbound side is the only categorized climb of the route, coming in as a Cat. 5 climb, but it actually rides fairly easily depending on your climbing style and preference. It is a mile back up and is steepest at the bottom before leaning into a nice steady grade until the final fifty yards. Carry the speed up to this point and push for a hard out-of-the-saddle effort over the top before zipping back down to Chandler. The convenience store at the corner of Desert Foothills and Chandler makes for a great spot to water up.
Trace the rolling route back along Chandler, Thunderbird, Ray, and 36th to Equestrian, now making left turns each time. At Equestrian, turn right and head east down to the Warner-Elliot Loop, turn left and reconnect with the route turning left onto 44th Street/Piedmont.
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Forty-fourth offers the seventh and final hill of the ride (unless you are returning to a car in the Pima Canyon lot; that drive is a tough incline), but it is also the smallest and easiest of the bunch. Power over it and motor home, or turn around and run the loop again for a good 62 mile ride. Remember, that's still eight miles less than the Tour de Scottsdale route.
Trip Distance: 31 miles
Trip Duration: 2 hours if riding solo
Difficulty: Moderately challenging depending on the effort over the seven hills
Route Map: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/49503716/