If you’re like me and you love to suffer but at the same time enjoy spending some downtime in a small beach town, this route is for you.
Last week my boy John, my friend Jeongwon (last week’s first place female finisher at the Seorak Gran Fondo), and I headed to Gangneung on the east coast in order to get some riding in. We were there specifically for Daegwallyeong, which is a famous climb heading west immediately outside the city. But because I enjoy a little hill hunting generally and am writing a book about the best hill climbs in Korea, I threw in a repeat of Jingogae toward the end of the ride.
We started out of Gangeung from the bus terminal at 10:00 a.m. which gave us a 10km warmup before starting onto Daegwallyeong, an 11.6km climb at an average gradient of 6%. As far as climbs go, it is long but not difficult if you’re a regular climber, as the steepest pitches are momentary and only on a couple occasions near the top hit double digits. We took the ascent quite easy since we there just to enjoy it and photograph it, but someday soon I hope to get back in order to really attack it.
After cresting the ascent the route was mostly at a slow descent for about 20km before starting an 8km drag to the segment for the south slope of Jingogae, a rather benign 3.5km climb to the highest altitude of the day at 976m. Unfortunately for us, we got blasted with an insane headwind the entire way.
After descending Jingogae we turned around and rode back up the north slope. By the time we started into the ascent we were 60km into the ride, had already done 1,300 meters of elevation gain, and had contended with strong headwinds from the moment we started out of Gangneung. So at that point the 7.4km Jingogae north slope climb at a 9% average was pretty tough. John almost cracked on the ascent and Jeongwon simply didn’t do it, but went back to Gangneung to the beach. As for me, well I enjoyed it thoroughly, because it’s my kind of climb: fairly long, fairly steep, and absolutely gorgeous.
And at this point I have to say something about the Jingogae descent, because what an incredible run back to the coast. The north slope has 12-14 switchbacks at the top, one of which turns more than 180 degrees, so it’s super technical. But once clearing those hairpins the road drops almost straight for the remainder of the descent. Without a single pedal stroke after passing the final switchback, my speed topped out at 85kph. So yeah, it’s a fast descent. But even better, after turning back east toward the coast the road continues to lose altitude at shallow gradient, making for an incredible run. John and I did 25km in just 27 minutes. And at that point we went the rest of the way back to the Gangeung along the East Coast Trail and got some lunch.
This ride was one of the best I’ve done recently. It is decently long with a great mix of long and short, easy and hard climbs. The roads were in excellent condition and there was very little traffic. The scenery was beautiful. And as an additional benefit, it’s easy to skip the second ascent of Jingogae if you’re not feeling it, so the route is quite malleable.