The Big Unit crushed Mount Lemmon

On Wednesday Sam Long crushed the Mount Lemmon Strava segment in 1:15:40, well ahead of the previous 1:16:27 record of Lionel Sanders, and likely this is not the end of this KOM battle. Sanders who recently won a big Zwift race against stellar competition was again in action on Zwift today, but his Zwift race was cut short when his iPad ran out of storage space. But back now to Sam Long.

The 24-year old Long who usually resides in Boulder, CO has spent the last few weeks in Tucson, AZ to train. But with all races on hold, the man known as the Big Unit has looked for other challenges to test his fitness and the Mount Lemmon KOM became a new target. This Strava segment has been a coveted prize for professional road cyclists, but now with Long and Sanders there are 2 triathletes at the very top spot. Long had given this KOM another go just recently and came up short, but this time he had his legs and his Argon 18 Gallium pro Disc ready, with a 53 chain ring up front and a 11-28 cassette. "I kept it in the big ring the whole time," said Long, the 2019 IRONMAN Chattanooga champion.

ST: Why this climb and why now?

Sam: Why I decided to make getting a KOM on Mount Lemmon is a bit of a story. It started 3 years ago when I started coming to Tucson for training camps. It is really the only climb around town so everyone does it. With Strava I couldn't help but notice just how fast the KOM to the top of it was. After climbing it many times I started thinking to myself that it would be rad to get that KOM. But alas, there was never a good time for it. With races on the schedule doing an all-out effort up Mt. Lemmon just didn't make a lot of sense.

ST: But now Covid 19.

Sam: With Covid-19 all races for the foreseeable future were cancelled. At first, this struck me hard. What do I do with myself? I'm fit and for what? After a few days, I tried to find light out of the dark and my coach and I decided to make a bit of a project out of Mt. Lemmon. After all, at the ripe age of 24, it's important to develop my chronic physiology.

ST: So how did you go about this attempt?

Sam: I targeted it with three attempts. The first one being just the top third on a regular training day. This gave me the belief I can do the top part in the time needed. The next attempt was with Tyler Stites - a pro cyclist in Tucson. We took turns pulling each other up and got close. I came 20 seconds off the KOM and Tyler was 6 seconds off, and knew if I hit it on a good day I would be golden for it. In the third attempt, I properly rested and did a NP of 406 watts for the climb. Ultimately it's been a project for me to stay motivated in this time as well as providing inspiration and a source of strength to others. I figure it's the only opportunity I'll have for a while to do things like this. It had to be the Mt. Lemmon KOM as this is one of the most storied and historic KOMs there is. It also helped that Lionel had just broken Phil Gaimon's record and they were having a bit of a battle. I figured I'd toss my hat in the ring.

For the KOM attempt Long relied on his trusted Enve Composites SES 5.6 wheels and 25 mm Continental tires, but removed the bottle cages and saddle bags from his Argon 18 Gallium pro Disc.