Continuing increased focus on the bike, it was a ride first, ski second weekend. With local heavy rain on Friday and snow at higher elevations, riding off-road locally was out of the question. A road ride didn't look very attractive either, with 40+mph winds expected, some areas potentially seeing 60mph gusts. The Cape received less rain, has no frost in the ground, and its sandy soil drains well. So on Saturday, Dave and I headed down to the Trail of Tears in West Barnstable.
I had plotted out a 30 mile loop that hit everything, including the wicked hilly 10 mile long moto loop in Sandwich and the small Otis Attwood parcel loop. Conditions were quite good. Some of the run-outs at bottoms of hills were a tad greasy under the leaves, making it very risky to let speed run out.
You have to search hard to find a flat 100 meters on this part of the Cape. My guess is the deeply corrugated land was formed by glaciers, as the gravelly ridges look a lot like eskers in other parts of New England. The moto loop in particular has many fall-line grades that are easily 30%. These require max efforts to go just fast enough to not fall over. Then it's death grip on brakes plummet to bottom, just to go up again. Repeat a couple hundred times. This is riding the ToT system. People ask how you can possible get 4000-5000ft of climbing in a 30 mile ride here. Come try it sometime. You'll swear you've done way more than that.
I came with fresh legs and didn't plan to leave anything in the tank when finished. We hit the moto loop still pretty fresh. The soil was packed and tacky, providing considerably more traction than last time I rode here with JB. I was also on my Superfly 29er hardtail this time. With the longer chain stays, that bike remains stable on crazy steep pitches. I was cleaning everything and having a blast. There was only one hill I botched on first attempt but cleaned it on a retry. I cleaned everything else on the moto loop. Never came close to that before. Dave is still running tubes with much higher pressure, so he didn't fare quite as well. He has some nice tubeless wheels on order, hopefully getting them before we head to Arizona in a couple weeks.
Bomb down fall line. Suspension bottoms out at bottom of these things.
Then grind your brains out up the other side, or...
... push your bike up if you slip traction.
It got surprisingly warm out. We both overdressed by about 30 degrees. It was almost shorts riding weather and I had AmFib tights on. A light weight base layer up top was all that was needed.
Back on the Trail of Tears, I was cruising along on a stony esker when a rock kicked loose under my front wheel, completely taking it out from under me. Without warning, I was bouncing off a bed of embedded citrus sized rocks. How I managed to not smash any bony bits on my body is beyond me. I don't think I ever crashed at ToT before. Most of the terrain is quite tame. It just requires considerable fitness and finesse to clean the climbs.
We finished with 30.7mi and 3:49hrs on the wired computer. 4200ft vert on the Garmin. Strava gives 5400ft of climbing. The Edge 500 has a barometric altimeter, which tends to under measure vertical by a lot when there are frequent grade reversals. I wonder if Strava recognizes this and adjusts for it? Regardless, nearly four hours of frequent, hard mashing left me pretty wrecked. Dave and I were both zombies on the way home. A good ride.
Waterville Valley Full Perimeter
I felt 90 years old when I got up Sunday morning. I wanted to ski. It was wicked cold and windy out. Wasn't sure if the ground refroze or not. Trail riding seemed risky still and road riding would have been a freeze fest. Then I looked up conditions for Waterville. All open? Seems they got a nice snow dump, and for the first time this season, opened up the rest of their trail system. That clinched the deal, baby!
I waxed the skies and headed up. It definitely was the most wintry looking yet as I headed up the valley. The wind was really moving snow around too. Sign off the highway said 10F.
I thought maybe I'd do a loop around the south end trails that were finally open, then see how I felt before heading over the the much bigger climbs on the north end. The snow was squeaky and abrasive. Not full-on sandpaper snow, but definitely slow. Soft in places too, since I think it was the first time some of the trails were goomed.
I went up Jennings Peak. The descent was frightful. I stopped twice to regain my composure. Ice moguls poking up, dirt, abrupt divots, not the kind of stuff a timid descender likes to see. Once on Fletchers, it was smooth climbing. I turned off on Upper Fletchers for the full treatment. Felt just like I was back on the Cape again. Grinding up at 4mph, skidding down to control speed, all fall line stuff. At least the infamous hairpin turn wasn't too terrifying. Criterion was open. That puts a good hurt into the legs too. Crazy grades up and down. By the time I finished the southern perimeter, I had over 1000ft of climbing in less than 6mi. Yep, just like the Cape.
Heading down Drakes
Cutting across the golf course wasn't too bad. Had to remove skis only once. Three of the drives had enough snow to ski right across. The extra special treatment was coming right up, skiing up Beanbender on grippy snow. And did I suffer. Snow was drifting across, as if it wasn't hard enough for shear grade alone. From the summit, I finally had 1-2km of pure descent before the next climb, Cascade. Cascade had been open part way for a while. Now the full one-way loop was open. The descent was pretty sketchy. Grooming left some pretty serious ruts around the numerous hairpin turns.
Looking back down Beanbender
I was now torn between continuing, which meant hitting the 800ft Tripoli Rd climb or heading back. I have a knack for burying myself each weekend, which takes half a week to recover from. But the conditions were just too good to quit just yet. I'd take each climb one at a time.
Tripoli was a slog. I was almost 30% slower than my PR time. I wasn't pushing the pace at all. Sometimes these things seem harder when you don't go hard. The conditions were sweet though. There was nothing sketchy at all coming down Tripoli Rd.
I figured I made it this far, I might as well head further in and hit Upper Osceola too, another few hundred foot climb. From the summit of Osceola, I figured I could manage just a bit more and head further back yet to hit Moose Run. At this point, I was so close to skiing a full perimeter, I had to do it. Had to include the Pipeline Trail climb on the way back too, of course. Not sure where the kilojoules came from, as I was past three hours moving time and running on fumes.
View from Bob's Lookout. Still can't get over that sky.
Since Lower Snows was still closed for some reason, I took connector back to the golf course, which meant a 5-10min walk on the road to close the loop. Been a long time since I did that, but there was no way I was skiing back up Snows and down Beanbender.
I finished with 43.1km, 4000ft and 3:19hrs on the Garmin. A slow day, but not unexpected with lead legs and slow snow. 7+ hours and 9000+ feet of climbing, all off-road, made for a solid weekend. Interestingly, my average speed for the two activities was almost identical. My run will be interesting on Monday...