Velo course: The Inverness Loop...

Back at the Claremont Cyclist I used to do a periodic posting called My Favorite Routes which covered many of my regular routes, mostly local to Claremont. I will continue that at the CLR Effect with a series called Velo course, but also throw out some older routes that I used to do around the So Cal region.

The Inverness Loop, in the Pasadena and La Canada area, is an old standby, and was a regular weekly ride (sometimes twice a week) over a period of years when I lived / worked closer to that locale. I would sandwich it in between the Tuesday and Thursday training races at the Rose Bowl, giving me a good fast day followed by a day of climbing, and a second day for speed. It packed quite a bit into that mid-week gap. For old times sake, I decided to do this loop as warm up prior to this past Tuesday's trip to the Bowl. It's a little different (slower) riding solo and trying to take photos; in the past I had some great battles up on those heights against various training mates. Best of all though, were the ones against Super Dave [Ward] which always ended with a beer or two at the Brookside clubhouse afterward.

views of the San Gabes and the campus of JPL

the over-reaching canopy provides some welcome shade

pedestrian bridge at Sacred Heart

The loop as I have drawn it out here is really a two-parter, comprised of the hilly Inverness part, and a more flat Rose Bowl circuit. Combined, the loop is only nine miles, so to get a proper ride out of it you are probably doing it multiple times. Or, like I did last week, ride this loop and then jump in with the peloton circling the Bowl.

the combined loop - upper and lower sections

the upper, hillier section

The loop is pretty straight forward, but if you have never ridden the area you might have to pay attention to the street signs once you start to climb. The many twists and turns, streets coming in to Inverness and branching off, might have you wondering if you are on the right route, or if, like poor little lambs, you have lost your way (I am not sure why Ba Ba Black Sheep came to mind right then). Many of the streets twist around and come back into Inverness further along, so as long as you are pointing uphill, things will likely work out.

The slopes of Inverness and St. Katherine reach grades of 12% but they are relatively short and mixed together with easier sections allowing you to recover. Attack the steeps and recover, or just go all out and wait for the descent to recover; unless you're racing it is all up to you. The street by street call:

Start at the parking areas at the south end of the Bowl and ride north on West Drive until reaching the obvious climb of Salvia Canyon on your left. No dawdling up Salvia, punch it, it's part of the game. Take a right on Linda Vista and follow its straight path until the street curves to the right - at that point, and on the left, is the bottom of Inverness, turn there. For the most part the path along Inverness is clear, but there are two places to watch - the switchback where Normandy branches off, and then a second junction at Edgehill. Once you clear Edgehill you circle around the spur of a hill above the 210 freeway with views of the San Gabriel Mountains, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory campus. Take in the views, but pay attention for the next important junction - Inverness heads back down, but you don't. Instead, check carefully left for cars coming down, and then climb on what is now St. Katherine. One of those 12% sections, some twists and turns, and a nice mostly flat section shaded by oaks, brings you to the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy at the top of the climb. Watch for the pedestrian bridge over the road; when it comes into view make your final push and sprint for the KOM which is just a short distance beyond the bridge. The descent to Chevy Chase is similar to the climb with many twists and turns, steeps and relatively flat sections, but in the opposite vertical orientation. Watch the one tight turn near the bottom (just before Monarch) as it is very easy to carry too much speed, taking you across the centerline. Apparently it works the other way as well, as I had a driver with car coming up the hill, drift over into my lane on the blind (downhill) side of the turn. I did not appreciate seeing him there, I can tell you. Keep yourself focused - there are many blind driveways on these twisting streets as well. Make a right at the stop at the bottom of St. Katherine, and then another right on Chevy Chase (straight actually) which is marked by another stop sign. A fast descent brings you to Highland, and a third stop sign. Highland is a relatively gentle grade, but you can fly along it with only little concern for local law enforcement, because the road (until near the end) is stop sign free. Even so, watch for cars, and walkers, and little kids throwing the remains of their dinner out the back window while their mom drives on oblivious. Yes, there is a story there. I am not saying you should but, if you blow a couple stops signs you can get back to the Rose Bowl super fast - watch for the left turn onto Yocum and descend Washington back to the bottom of the Arroyo Seco. Circle the Bowl back to the start and you have finished one circuit.

I would hardly call Inverness difficult, but if you apply yourself, it you attack,  there is just enough to it to make it a challenge. Looking back through the logs of years past, I can pick out a few moments on the hill: My form was taking its time to come around in May of 1998, "when worse comes to worst and all the cards are down I can at least still beat Enrique on a climb ... not much more sad [horrible grammar, I know] than two unfit racers .... I did have a minute + gap, though." In June, "... rode most of the night with Alan ... I can remember when I used to be better than him ... it has not exactly been a great year for ego." In July, "Ever see a hippo climb, or a Cipo for that matter, neither had anything on me tonight."

At nine miles in length, you would be hard pressed to find one that packs as much into it, as many different conditions within the confines of the city, as does the Inverness Loop.