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“De Ronde” returns, even tougher than last year

Posted by on March 3rd, 2008 at 11:40 am

A Google Earth view of the Tour of West Portland route. The ride follows a 45-mile route over the region’s steepest hills and is said to be “horribly hard.”.

Last year, an anonymous organizer put on De Ronde van Oeste Portlandia (Tour of West Portland) in honor of the legendary Ronde van Vlaanderan (Tour of Flanders) race held in Belgium since 1913.

Ride flyer
Click to enlarge (94kb, jpg)

The ride was an unexpected hit, with 100+ riders showing up in rainy weather to challenge themselves against extremely steep climbs in Portland’s West Hills. The ride even inspired, Incredibly Steep, a great YouTube video recap that has been viewed nearly 12,000 times so far.

How tough were the climbs? One of them, on Brynwood Street, has a pitch of 24-28%, an incline that forced all but the toughest riders to get off and walk.

This year, the organizers have mapped out an even tougher route (if you can believe it). Here’s what one of the organizers wrote to me in an email with the route announcement:

“As far as last year, we were astounded that a ride intended for just a few riding buddies garnered so much attention through word of mouth. We want to keep things organic, low-key, non-commercial, fun and challenging. A non-event, really… just a bunch of friends riding together to check out some new routes.

Just make sure people know the route is horribly hard.”

The epic ride is set for April 5th, at 10:00am. Try it if you dare.

Check out the full route map on MayMyRide.

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  • Ashley March 3, 2008 at 11:44 am

    I just looked at the elevation grid and died a little inside. Holy wickers baskets….good luck to you ye\’ few and strong, may you make the journey well.

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  • tonyt March 3, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Hoo ya!

    You in JeffTB?

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  • tonyt March 3, 2008 at 11:54 am

    Oh yeah, JeffTB is having wrist surgery today (fell down on and went boom on his bike) so he\’s probably NOT in.

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  • a.O March 3, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    I shall prove myself this year! Or die trying.

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  • Torfinn March 3, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    The challenge is alluring. I may be there.

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  • Donald March 3, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Hopefully there will be another thrilling YouTube recap. It\’s still on brainwash rotation with my two toddlers in our house.

    My 4-year-old does a perfect Brad impersonation.

    And, DanR, if you\’re reading, he still thinks that\’s you turtling…

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  • Ron March 3, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    I missed last years (ok, I am a wuss) — I have tried both college and brynwood multiple times without full success (60% for the former, 50% for the latter).

    I hope to give it a try this year.

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  • erikv March 3, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    I did it last year. It nearly gave me a hernia. I will will doing it again, too.

    Thanks, anonymous organizer(s). Thank you very much.

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  • KIng March 3, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    This is too much fun! I have a compact transmission this year so I am gonna make it up Brynwood. I can\’t wait and I hope it rains!

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  • KIng March 3, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    Will the Voldnago SS see action, ErikV? That way you\’ll get dual, matching hernias.

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  • Frank March 3, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    The perfect ride – not to be missed! But I\’m still nursing a pulled tendon from making it up Brynwood last year, so I may not be able to do the ride. Get small gears or walk \’cause there are too many fun rides to hurt yourself for 100 ft of glory.

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  • ggw March 3, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    I\’d love to attempt this ride but I will actually be watching the Tour of Flanders with some friends in Belgium! And Gent-Wevelgem!
    Good luck brave souls.

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  • dave March 3, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Looks like a lot of fun – too bad it\’s the same weekend as the Willamette Valley Stage Race. Any chance of a date change?

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  • Brad Ross March 3, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    You gotta do the actual Ronde bike ride on Saturday before the Tour de Flanders. That\’s what inspired this one. Those climbs are sweet. If you can ride the Koppenberg, I\’ll buy you a beer.

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  • Gram March 3, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    everyone who does this ride should try the zoobomb badass challenge next year…and count me in for this shebang…hills are the best!

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  • burning shame March 3, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    I vote for a date change as well, I\’m out of town for work on the 5th. I don\’t want to miss it again, I was sick last year… honest!

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  • peder horner March 3, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    Did anyone do that climb (Brynwood) on a 39-23? That\’s my lowest gear, and I can\’t get all the way up Brynwood with it. I make it almost to the old Camaro on the right before I nearly fall over as I push with all my might and go nowhere.

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  • jake rosenfeld March 3, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    woo hooooo! the day has finally arrived!
    the whole reason I initially pinned the blog into my favorites was so I got the 411 on this ride before it happened. So really, It\’s like a double bonus, I get a outstanding daily read AND a date with destiny, see you all on the 5th !

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  • George W Bush March 3, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Want some wood?

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  • Robin March 3, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    Holy mole, I\’m kind of afraid to tell my boyfriend about this.

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  • Zaphod March 3, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    This ride is awesome. I transferred my cross triple chainring drivetrain to my road bike so while I\’m sure roadies sneer when they see my triple, when I point the bike up on Brynwood it\’s not unruly to make the summit. I have huge respect for anyone riding that section with typical road gearing. There was one guy on a fixie with legs like tree stumps.

    Don\’t let the few meters of steep pitches cause you not to give it a go. And c\’mon… you\’ve got a solid month to get your legs and head in the right place. You know you want to.

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  • Craig March 3, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    well, I\’m not doing it that\’s for sure.
    Who knows of a good watching spot?

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  • KIng March 3, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    Spectator encouragement/trash talk on Brynwood and/or College would go over well. I hope somebody does a video again! Helmet cam?

    And a date change? They can\’t change the date of De Ronde. That just wouldn\’t be right. People, get your priorities straight.

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  • Cecil March 3, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    That is also the same day as the Oregon Randonneur\’s Birkie Brevet, which I am helping run. Fewer hills, but far better baked goods (that\’s my department . . .)

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  • sh March 3, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    omg! Bring it on! But where does it start? Maybe I\’m crazy, but I\’m not sure which is the start and which is the end on that map

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  • Stripes March 3, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    Three times I tried to click the link to load the route here, and three times my laptop crashed on me.

    If that\’s what this ride does to my computer, I dread to think what it might do to my bicycle!

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  • Schrauf March 4, 2008 at 6:07 am

    Will I get a backhand smackdown if I show up on my mountain bike? Seriously – all I have is a mountain bike. I promise I won\’t make fun of others when I easily climb up Brynwood.

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  • pdxrocket March 4, 2008 at 8:07 am

    Maybe I\’m just not insane enough to ride my bike down Burnside, I know how crazy cars can be on that stretch.

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  • Dabby March 4, 2008 at 9:42 am

    I have been training in the hills of NE Vancouver……On my single speed mt. bike actually. Trying to get enough stamina built up to ride the higher trails, after the long climb up

    It is during rides like this that i ask myself \”What would Dr. Doom Do?\”

    Lucky for my ego, the trails are still covered by too much ice.

    For now.

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  • Brian C March 4, 2008 at 11:06 am

    OMG. That ride looks very tempting. Like another guy said will anyone care if I show up on my mt bike? I\’m building up a commuter road bike .. but it won\’t be done in time. I guess I better start tryin those hills.

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  • Paolo March 4, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    On the calendar, see you there.

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  • Jeb Stewart March 4, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    I have to say that this was, by far, one of the funnest, and most epic rides I was fortunate to do last year. Whether it was the insane amount of crazy-steep climbs, the rain or the fact that I was still fit enough to have a decent ride (and you better be if you plan on doing this ride and getting home before dark).


    Here are a few tips I will share w/ you all in an attempt to help make it much more enjoyable and successful for you all.

    1) Don\’t try to go straight up Brynwood or College like I did last year. It\’s much more satisfying to make it all the way up on your bike, and not off. Weave it like a drunk paper boy and make it up it without stopping. YOU CAN DO IT!

    2) Ride a 27 cog if at all possible!!!! \’Nuff said!

    3) Remember to take in gel every 30-45 minutes. You burn so many carbs since you\’re doing so much anaerobic work on the climbs that keeping your energy stores up really makes a big difference.

    Take it from me. I cracked like a piece of fine china about 1/2 a kilometer from the top w/ the lead group. It was painful to watch them pull away from me like I had just dropped a boat anchor. I couldn\’t believe I was even still there at that point to begin with! Boy, have thing changed quickly! 🙂

    4) Last but not least, don\’t get caught up in the hype of the hammer fest up Saltzman. 1/2 the folks that were drilling it at the front were no where to be seen after that insanity (I was at Threshold all the way up it only 20 min into the ride and was thinking to myself that if this pace keeps up, that there\’s no way that I am going to finish this ride respectfully). I think that many just showed up to make everyone miserable up that climb and then bail (Gentle Lovers???). 🙂

    It really slows a lot after that madness cools off and it\’s probably a heck of a lot more fun riding it with a friend for fun than alone like a race. Trust me!

    That\’s all folks!
    The Ronde was, by far, one of the best rides around and I wish you all great weather, safe rides and awesome times. I\’ll be sitting this one out due to being badly out of shape and likely shooting some photos on one of the climbs while handing out beers in a gorilla suit! You\’ve gotta love that! 😉

    That\’s more than enough out of me for now. Go for it and have a blast y\’all!



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  • Todd March 4, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    I don\’t know if any of you have heard of the dirty dozen in pittsburgh but this ride sounds similar. the pittsburgh ride though boasts the steepest street in the world at 37% grade and the ordeal is run as a points race. 10 points are on the line at the top of each climb. hopefully ill see everyone there and wont get anywhere near 37%

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  • MIN March 5, 2008 at 11:48 am

    I will destroy the early season slackers. But Brynewood might destroy me.

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  • suburb rocket (formerly SH since someone just took that) March 5, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    I can hardly wait

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  • suburb rocket (formerly SH since someone just took that) March 6, 2008 at 8:04 am

    err, \”ride a 27 cog\”? I have 23 or 25 to choose from, how screwed am I?

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  • KIng March 6, 2008 at 8:15 am

    rocket, I did it with a low of 39X25 last year. It hurt and I had to walk the last 150\’ of Brynwood. So, it can be done… but this year I\’ve got a compact 50/34.

    I\’ll probably still end up walking!

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  • Drew March 11, 2008 at 8:13 am

    Very nice ride. I mapped it out and rode it yesterday. The climbs are on quiet low traffic roads and the descents tend to be on arterials, which is perfect. Was a bit confusing finding my way in places, but marks on the road should fix that on ride day. There is a big house you ride by that is perched on, and supported by the huge wooden mast of a ship! I will be riding the Birkie brevet that day, otherwise would be joining the group on the walk up Byrnwood. My hat is off to the person who designed this route!

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  • Brownfeesh March 17, 2008 at 11:58 am

    Gear report … I tried Brynwood on a 39×25. I made it just past the old Camaro near the top. I\’m no climber but I\’ve made it in the past, probably on a 27. Many can do this on a 27, some on a 25, and if you do it on a bigger gear you\’re a certified animal!

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  • » Blog Archive » More Ronde Press March 21, 2008 at 8:09 am

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  • Eric D. March 23, 2008 at 7:53 am

    It is good to see this event back. I walked both Brynwod and College about halfway up last year! 🙁

    Happy to say tough that on dry pavement and a year later these two can be ridden!! 🙂 (39X27)

    Anybody know if there are any tougher hills than Brynwood & College in the revised route?

    Thank you to the organizers.

    Eric D.

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  • king March 24, 2008 at 9:11 am

    Eric, there is a revised map that is circulating… two more climbs have been added; one adds a little cobbled stretch off of Lovejoy at the base of the climb to Pittock. The other is over by the Zoo. Not as steep as college or Brynwood. But the new one by the Zoo (Upland, I think) will add to the toll. 🙁

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  • king March 27, 2008 at 6:34 am

    Hoy! And now, prizes!

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  • Murray March 30, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Have never ridden up Saltzman. Is it going to destroy my tires and/or bike? How long is this stretch of the ride? Thanks.

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  • rider March 31, 2008 at 6:38 am

    Murray, I wouldn\’t take your fanciest bike, but the road is in ok shape, just gravel. The climb is a few miles I think from 30 to Skyline. Skinny tires will do just fine.

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  • Murray March 31, 2008 at 7:40 pm


    My least fancy bike is a single speed. That will not work on Saturday. I think that\’s the only gravel section so I will take it easy. Thanks for the feedback.

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  • jrz April 2, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    Will road tires suffice or do I need to run something heavier? (cross tires, etc) Iwas told there would be some gravel/fire road terrain.

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  • Richard S April 3, 2008 at 7:47 am

    My wife and I will be taking a run at this ride on our tandem. We\’ll skip Saltzman though – traction may be an issue going up on a non paved road. We\’ll probably just go up Cornell / Thompson instead, and rejion the route at Skyline. Less distance, probably not much difference for total climbing.

    Probably should take the aerobars off.. Not much use on this ride, and that pound and a half will feel like 100 towards the end.

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  • Janet April 3, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    Is a portion of the 2008 De Ronde gravel? The flyer states \”varied surface\”. I\’m wondering if there\’s a stretch of gravel road in the Forest Park area, not sure whether I want to take my bike on that.

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  • rider April 3, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    Saltzman is the only gravel section, but it\’s fine for a road bike. Almost everyone will be running 700 x 23s or 25s.

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  • Murray April 3, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    I second what Rider states about Saltzman. Rode it today and it was totally fine with a road bike and 23s.

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  • Anonymous April 4, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Last year there was 4 sections of Gravel.

    All doable in a 23 road tire.

    Saltzman uphill and the longest.
    then a gradual short downhill
    then almost flat
    then a downhill path.

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  • Schrauf April 4, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    #51 – that\’s good to hear. I had heard third hand that Saltzman was a muddy mess right now, but they were probably just trash talking. The gravel has always been in good shape for me, but it has been a year.

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  • Murray April 4, 2008 at 3:49 pm


    Who knows what Saltzman will be like now that it rained today. There were some muddy spots, but overall it was dry and fast on Thursday.

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  • ericbuilds April 5, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    awesome ride today. that was quite a course. humbling. hat tip to the \’organiz-ish-er(s)\’.

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  • brady April 5, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    The course was indeed sweet… anyone with a GPS have ride stats? The guy with the Gatorade saved me… I was out! (You owe me, Tony P! 🙂

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  • Kevin Wagoner April 5, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    Brilliant ride! Here are a few pics from today.

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  • king April 5, 2008 at 5:33 pm
  • dennis veatch April 5, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    AWESOME! I\’m going to be knitting myself some wool toe cozies from some old socks. I\’ve got very good ride stats from my garmin 60csx. Email me if you would like the track log gpx. dennis AT creatid DOT com

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  • king April 6, 2008 at 8:46 am

    I think a lot of people missed the Hessel climb and the climb above the Hillsdale library (Westwood, et al). There were many cars covering the lions where the right turn sent you onto the dirt track below Hessel. If you missed that turn, you missed about 500 additional feet of climbing. Still, a great ride! Is it true Ira Ryan climbed College twice?

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  • mmann April 6, 2008 at 10:23 am

    I got the full meal deal. Yes, in a couple places the lions were obscured and I found myself wishing on Westwood that I would have missed a turn or two but, alas, the course was well marked if you kept an eye out.

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  • Margi April 6, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Hey Keith Wagoner – Thanks for the great photos. You took a couple great shots of me on Brynwood and Saltzman (I\’m the woman in the red helmet and brown jacket).

    What an AWESOME ride! To me, this ride is what cycling in P-town is all about: a challenging ride full of comradere. Thanks to the organizers, and thanks to the guys who were riding near me who kept me smiling and laughing all day!

    King – I did get the impression that the crowds really thinned out in the last 10 miles, either because people got lost or dropped out. Either way, the full meal deal was awesome. The last climb took everything out of me.

    Brady – Congrats on your finish despite your cramps. Way to pull out.

    – Margi

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  • T.Boonen April 6, 2008 at 11:04 am

    Details can be easy to miss when one is deep in the pain cave. Along the ride I caught up to a number of people who were paying dearly for early ambitions…

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  • Brownfeesh April 7, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Here is the record from my Garmin Etrex Legend GPS. The 70 mph data point is an error. Also, this unit does not have an altimiter and I think the climbing was more like 7k+.

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  • Kevin Wagoner April 7, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    Brownfeesh, my friends computer read 7380 feet of climbing.

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  • It’s still summer at Race Cyclocross! August 15, 2008 at 10:38 am

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  • mr. cranky February 24, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Ok – I’ve been waitng since last April 5 to ask this question and I just can’t hold it in any longer. When is the 2009 version going to take place? April 4? There is going to be a 2009 version of this silliness, right?

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