Among his numerous accomplishments, Eric Heiden's record of sub 15' up Old La Honda Rd. must rank as his greatest. Tour de France rider, US Pro Road Champion, five-time gold medal winner, promoter of Slurpee's and burritos in a bag, and, oh yes, Stanford Medical School graduate and acclaimed doctor of orthopedic surgery, Heiden's relentless ascent of this local mur is legend.
What is rarely mentioned when bay area locals contemplate the enormity of this athletic accomplishment is that Heiden routinely posted sub 15' climbs on his commute to and from Stanford because he lived at the top of the road in a small hut made of Belgian cobblestones he built himself, carrying the stones on his back along with 48lbs of medical reference books, and his supply of raw potatoes that Jim Ochowicz allowed as a diet. His times would grow slightly if a coed was riding on his handlebars for one of his infamous all night tutoring sessions. I can almost hear him humming along to Mr. Mister on his Walkman!
Like most road cyclists of the Golden Era, and "student-racers" in particular, Heiden employed some common hill-climbing equipment adjustments on his campus Huffy: removing the inner chain ring and front derailleur being the most practical as the 55 proved to be adequate with a straight block for his massive 52" thighs, carrying only one lead-filled bidon, and of course, Specialized Turbo-S clincher tires with latex tubes mounted to 36 hole 3X (tied and soldered) Mavic MA2s. Heiden's achievement is focused when its remembered that Old La Honda Rd. wasn't paved until 2002, and he had to carry a shotgun for protection from the numerous Grizzly Bears and Portola Valley Pumas that inhabited the area. On campus he was known as Eric Stouffer and Grizzly Heiden for the beard and skins he preferred to wool and lycra.
I once witnessed Heiden lap a collegiate criterium field on his way to the campus library while captaining a tandem beach cruiser... the Stanford Tree laying back, trunk on handlebar, in the stokers seat!
Sure, George Hincapie can climb OLH close to Heiden's mark while talking on his cellphone, but George's bike wasn't cast from wrought iron like Eric's, and it should be pointed out that Eric Heiden had to ride into a head wind his entire career and that he preferred a measure of brake block rub to settle his frame upon corner exit under power (that's a free tip for uphill cornering Mr. Menchov). All cyclists can learn from the achievements of our fellow warriors, and I for one have taken Eric Heiden's to heart:
Go to a hospital!