Every five years the Vasconi family heads to the islands of Hawaii. All together there are eleven of us including my family, my brother’s family and our parents – yes, a bunch of crazy Italian Americans! There are a couple of places in the world I consider my second home and Maui is definitely one of them.
Maui has some of the best cycling in the world and is home to the iconic ‘bucket list’ climb of the Haleakala volcano - well known as the longest paved climb in the world at 36 miles with 10,000ft. of elevation gain. This was our 3rd ascent of the volcano. My brother and I had plenty of miles in us this year but you never how your legs will respond during such a long climb. We had ridden the prior five days on Maui with one recon day up to Grandma’s Coffee House with Donnie Arnoult of Maui Cyclery.
The pre-ride meal is always an important part of the Vasconi ritual. We opted for Ferraro’s Bar e Ristorante in Wailea and feasted on salumi and formaggi as our antipasti and then onto black truffle risotto with local mushrooms as the secondi, all of which paired well with our Tignanello vino.
The alarm didn’t need to go off at 4:30am as I was already up at 4:07am and trying not to wake everyone up in the hotel room! We were out the door before 5am and in front of Maui Cyclery in Pa’ia shortly thereafter. Donnie rolled up just before 5:30am and we headed up Baldwin under the beautiful sunrise of East Maui and some light showers.
The first 3rd of the climb is an average of 5% for 14.3 miles to Sunrise Market which is the last place to get food. The three of us rode this section together at a fair tempo (1:36). This portion of the climb is my favorite riding through the sugar cane fields, small churches, cemeteries, ranches, eucalyptus trees and rodeo. After topping off our bottles we headed out of Sunrise Market and turned left onto State Hwy 377 then another left on Hwy 378. This is where the fun starts and what I would consider the 2nd segment of the climb and by far the toughest. Twenty-two switchbacks over 14.4 miles at an average of 7% will test you both physically and mentally. There is typically a second micro climate during this section with some rain or cloud cover which can quickly bring your core temperature down.
After turning the corner at the last switchback you get a little reprieve up to the pay gate at 7,000ft. Now is the time to focus and complete the task at hand. After filling our bottles for the third time (six times in total) and devouring the last of my food you embark on the final 10 miles and 3,000ft. to the summit. The views and terrain above 7,000ft. change dramatically to a lunar landscape and if the skies open up the view of the islands is truly breathtaking. The temperature began to rise into the upper 80’s which was welcome but with this change came the wind which made the final nine switchbacks that much more challenging. When I saw the 9,000ft. sign I got a second wind – only two miles to go. But if you ridden the volcano before you know the last 1,000ft. can be a real grind! With the final push to the top my brother and I had reached the famous Haleakala sign for the 3rd time – 10,023ft!
The decent of Haleakala requires a separate journal entry because it’s another ride in itself!