Tuesday, July 26, 2016

2016 Tour de Burg - episode 2

Track and Fault

The 1st road day of the Tour was ready to start. Joe, Mike, and I headed out towards downtown, ready for a long day on the road. 100 miles or so with some big climbs. I had learned my lessons from last year and packed some rain gear and spring time arm warmers, and a vest. Just in case, because the forecast looked like some rain.

I took us on a side road towards downtown to avoid having to cross the interstate on and off ramps on Rt. 33. Little did I know that on this road awaited a train crossing that was nowhere near perpendicular. I bunny hopped each rail of the train tracks that lazily crossed the road. I called out the tracks to Joe and Mike. Then I heard the unmistakable sound of road bike wreckage behind me. I looked back. Joe was rodeo riding a big slide, and Mike was on the ground.

Shit. I felt bad about the wrecks. I chose the route, and my crew was surfing ash fault. The tour must go on.

We rolled into town square and I wondered where everyone was? Hopefully there had not been an early start. Mike’s leg had a proper amount of blood on it. The peloton lazily collected itself.

Photo by Pl assman

We party paced the back roads to the Stokesville Church. There was a KOM mixed in and I watched the chase commence while shifting into my small chain ring. Compared to last year, the peloton was huge. Tim from SBC was helping to shepherd us on a classic moto. Braapp!

Photo by Pl assman

Breastworks and Gator Skins

 After a short regroup, the 1st road stage for the day started and we headed out FR95 with punchy climbs and then gravel. I was glad to be running my 28c Gator Skins converted to proper ghetto tubeless, 70psi. I felt slow on the first set of road and gravel sections, falling off the back of a paceline. At least there were no flats for me, and I soon joined another pace group on Rt. 250. We climbed up towards the breastworks and I mused how the descent would be on a road bike compared to the motorcycles I used to tear through this section on. The breastworks descent did not disappoint. Lots of great corners with good sight lines, and a very clean surface. Then another short climb transitioned to a fast descent into the aid stop.

Samiches and beer were great fuel as well as some cheese sticks and a wide array of snacking goodness. A couple in a side by side ATV stopped by and Carp worked his magic to broker peace with the natives. As long as the lady who owned the property on the river side of the road did not show up, we were golden.

Photo by Pl assman

A lengthy party pace section had the peloton moving like a lazy slinky. Speeding up and slowing down to it’s own slummy rhythm. I really enjoyed all the awesome valley views and chatting it up with good company. We made our way to the next waypoint to regroup, before starting the second stage for the day. The weather was getting rainier and a bit chilly here and there.

Hey, were movin' on up... movin' on up

A fairly constant grade of maybe 10% on gravel greeted us on the climb back up to the Virginia border. I attacked a bit better on this climb and hammered my way to the next part of the climb that’s in the SM100. I think people call it the death climb, but at that point for me it felt like resurrection as I gained back some important GC time on the way up. So much easier on a light cross bike! I powered up the gravel the same way I had the previous climb, out of the saddle, mostly because it felt the best on my knees and lower back. Also, because I was going faster with this strategy.

Photo by Tomi McMillar

Finally got a piece of the pie

We finally crested at the stage finish on Reddish Knob. It was wet and chilly up there. Unfortunately the splendid views were mostly shrouded in haze. All that was left now was to descend the long and very fast paved descent to the aid stop at Briery Branch damn. Stang said he wanted to follow me. I think he believed I would bomb the road descent. I did not. The road coming off the knob was damp, and there were several tight turns with potholed pavement sections. I braked in preparation for the 1st tight turn, and the brakes barely worked. I puckered, popped a foot out, and tried not to crash. Much scaries. The next series of tight turns presented the same problem and I almost ran too wide in a couple. My cross bike has frikin disk brakes. WTF? I adjusted the cable slack and that helped some. Next time, hydros.

The rest of the road descent was a balancing act of maintaining speed and over braking for turns to make sure I did not run off the mountain with my levers to the bars. Fear is a powerful thing… So is recovery with a fine pilsner. The tour goes on.

Dinner at Carp’s was excellent and I had a great time catching up with everyone after a long day on the road.


Joe was sheltering under the rear hatch of Charlie’s minivan. I finished up prepping my hydration and kit choice. Then the crucial move for the day. I attached a fork crown mounted SKS front fender that actually blocks spray. West Virginia riding buddies clued me into the crucial difference between a real fender and the fashionable muck gards that are so enduro right now. A real fender works. Muck guards? They look nice, and you get sprayed in the face.

Photo by Tomi McMillar

“Go under the bridge across the stream.” Carp explained. The fast was to get across the stream to the trail climbing up Lookout mountain. I was pretty familiar with climbing Lookout this way, and mentally prepped for the steep rocky ascent. The climb is tough in the dry, more so when damp and wet.

I stumbled a bit here and there on the climb, trying to wake the dead in my legs. So, I hunkered down and focused on staying smooth while negotiating the rest of the ascent. I managed to rally a bit at the first summit and charged with more earnest intent on the undulating rocky trail flanking the rest of Lookout. Then, the rain really set in. A small river was streaming down the single track as I finished the climb and started rolling the fire road on top of Hankey. The final push up towards the top of Dowels Draft is always steep. Water cooling from the rain made it a touch easier.

The magic’s in the moss

The new top of Dowels is hella fun with lots of pump and flow. However, you need to watch it, as you can overdo it and jump off the mountain if you misread the lines. I rode conservative, the climb had taken a lot, and I had blurry fogged up muddy waters vision through my half useless glasses (prescription). Then a hard right on what I only know as Magic Moss trail. Essentially this was my first time descending “the moss” and it was plenty tight and off camber in some places, ripping fun in others. Chris caught me quick so I let him by and followed the best I could. I went all outriggers when I slipped the rear on the very narrow trail and was relieved when we got to the newly built section on Dividing Ridge. More fun than a barrel of monkeys once it really started descending into sweet new bench cut rolling and flowy jumpy smile stuff. I heard a whistle and let Carp and Skids blow by when they caught me.

Photo by Tomi McMillar

All that was left after the descent was pounding out the last section of gravel to the stage finish and recovery aid station. The standard amount of sandwiches and beer did me well. It was really raining at the aid station, we were all getting cold. I found a corner of the pop up cover to refuel and rally.

Next, a nice long party pace over to the North River climb. Soon we regrouped and started the second timed stage for the day. Bobbles and stumbles on the little water bar at the trail head elicited the appropriate heckles. North River climb was nice and mellow compared to Lookout. Several fun stream crossings, and some real techy bits at the top before popping out onto the fire road heading to Buck Mountain.

Welcome to the Jungle

Buck mountain was beautifully brushed by the director and crew. The mountain was riding very well. But, lots of grass hidden rocks and moderate uphill sections made the riding a little tricky. So did my sea legs from the previous lookout stage and climb up north river.

Descending was interesting with the wet conditions. It was not raining anymore, but everything was a little slick and I soon got used to the front wheel glancing off slipper rocky bits. Skids passed me and I watched him slip away into the steeps. Buck Mountain gets pretty steep, but there was a sweet loamy line getting burned in by all the racers in front of me. I was riding a bit cautious and just barely reeled in Matt towards the bottom. Then, I charged the first rocky creek crossing and made it almost all the way out. I slipped my front tire on a rock and fell flat on my ass. Ouch.

I collected myself, started riding, and realized my right hand controls were now pointing upwards a bit. Oh bother. I just used a little body English and got them back in position. The slippery and often smooth rock littered trail we were riding was keeping me on my toes. Nate and Buck passed me and I felt slow. At least all of the knee high stinging nettle had been wacked down by the excellent course prep. The second aid stop was a welcome sight indeed.

Photo by Tomi McMillar

The Secret to Secret South

All that remained for the day was a non-timed segment up Tillman West and then the fun and technical ridge line on Secret South. Lee and I chatted it up as we climbed to the ridge line. There was a bit of a bottle neck on some classic Cookie trail rocks. We passed the cell tower and headed over to Secret South.

I love Secret South.

Years ago, I discovered it for myself after riding the classic Cookie trail backwards. I really enjoyed all the tricky rock sections and tough moves in between narrow passages created by trees . The ride pace started going agonizingly slow for me and probably for some others too. It’s not that I wanted to race Secret South. Keeping your momentum going on this trail is key. It takes some committed riding and just plain old punching it out in a few spots. However, once you start backing off, the trail starts kicking back. I gave it the business when I could, and then slowed down and complained when I got held up. Not my best moment of patience and trail etiquette. Sorry.

I rode over the big rock feature near the descent and dropped in with a smile. Almost immediately I felt the rear getting all goosey and pulled over with a flat. Karma I guess. Soon the flat was fixed and the ride came to a close back at the Stokesville Church. What a day!

The evening was filled with bike cleaning and another great tour dinner. I had almost forgotten that it was the 4th of July. For me it was Tour day 3. I didn’t even recollect what day of the week it was.

1 comment:

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