A Love/Hate Thing With A Hill

video and text by Shannon Thompson

Midcoast bike riders have a love/hate thing with Barnestown Road.  While for some cyclists the hill in Camden and Hope barely merits a mention—just another pull up yet another bump on our rolling rural roads— for others the climb is either anathema or the best ride around .  It’s a 1.5 mile climb with a 450 foot elevation gain, a couple of steep sections, a false flat, and a few long slow slogs. The pavement is cracked and heaved by frost. There are no shoulders, and morning and evening car commuters drive fast, texting and smoking.

For serious cyclists accustomed to serious mountains, this isn’t much of a big hill. But it’s our big hill, and for those of us who spent the winter riding the bike trainer through both seasons of Downton Abbey, it’s a hell of a first real ride come spring.

It’s also our favorite feature of the Hope Triathlon, a great little sprint-distance race in July. Local racers believe we have a home field advantage against summer visitors because we spend our spring weeks grinding up the beast, and we know when to stand up and pump hard, where to conserve our energy, how far over the top of that next hill we’ll still have to climb. We spend chilly April days spitting invective onto its pockmarked pavement, and by the time summer rolls around, our quads and lungs are stronger, and our relationship with “Barnestown Hell” has changed. We may not be friends, but any hatred for the monster has morphed into something more like appreciation for the strength it’s given us.

It’s also got a killer downhill run, a long and speedy curve through a dairy farm, that takes riders almost to the finish line of the race.

The Hope Tri is July 7th this year. Registration is now open.