A shorter ride also meant a later start, which also meant I could sleep in my own bed and drive over the morning of. I knew a few people doing the 115k loop. But they either had a later planned start than I or waited forever for the last members of their posse to show up. So I headed out alone (sorry Ray!). Probably just as well. Since I was doing a shorter ride, I hoped to score some Vermont 50 training value out of the ride by with minimal stopping and hitting the climbs kind of hard. Shit always happens in group rides. Flats seem to go up by more than N, where N=number of riders. Not sure how that can be, although I read nobody in Ray's group flatted. When you ride solo, you stop only when you flat, not every time somebody in your posse flats.
I was constantly catching and passing groups of a few to over a dozen riders. Occasionally, I'd know somebody in the group, I'd chill for a few minutes and chat for a bit. Then we'd go up, the group would slow down, I'd press on. I caught up with Clara Kelly before the first water stop. Clara joined our 6-gaps ride one year and kicked nearly everyone's butt.
The first major climb was interesting. It was a jeep track that crossed over into Vermont. Not sure the first section even has a road name, as it doesn't show on the maps. I was so glad to have fat tires for this. It was full on mountain biking. The climb then continued as an uber steep doubletrack called Abijah Prince Rd. There were two large groups ascending when I road through, and I didn't see anybody clean it. They all head cross bikes. Again, the MTB just scooted right on up. I didn't even work very hard and still claimed the Strava KOM on that one.
Precursor to Abijah Prince Rd
There was some very narrow, curvy road on the descent. The road was crowned, gravel and loose on the edges. I'm bombing down with a couple others just behind me when a septic service or heating oil truck came hauling ass up. He never moved over or let off the throttle. Me and the guy behind me nearly bit it. Some drivers are f'd in the head to be so cavalier with other's peoples lives. There was no excuse for this driver's behavior, especially after he saw me and I motioned for him to slow down. I think he even made sure I had little to no room.
Barney Hill Rd. Typical D2R2 riding.
I think this is Ames Hill Rd. Some buff gravel here.
Descending the second climb, I caught up with Steve Aiken, who I've mountain bike with before, and a couple others. We bombed down to the lunch stop, getting there pretty early. They were just finishing setting things up. I've learned to not stuff myself here, as you do nothing but go up when you leave.
Steve, myself and two others headed out together after eating. On a small dip on the climb, I hear the sicking sounds of bicycles crashing behind me. I turn around to see Steve crumpled up on the deck. We weren't going too fast, but fast enough make some nasty road rash. Steve was bleeding from and elbow and knee, the handlebars had turned on the bike, and the front tire blew up. I guess Steve went no-hands momentarily to do something when he and another rider bumped. Doesn't take much when you don't have your hands on the bar. It took a bit to get him going again. The injuries were minor. We pressed on.
The lunch climb was pretty serious, and I got serious with it. I was by myself again, and would be for a long time, since nearly all of the 115k riders were now behind me. The Jacksonville climb gains 1000ft over several miles and you could get into a good groove on this one.
Next up was the famed Pennel Hill Rd climb. I heard horror stories. Most of them were true. The climb was much steeper than Patten Hill at the end of the ride and was soft, loose gravel. My wide tires gave me a huge advantage here. I forced myself to climb it in my middle ring to ensure maximum suffering. There were only four sets of tire tracks ahead of me, and two of those had footprints along side.
Ed Clark Rd, descent after Pennel Hill climb.
There was a nice view at the top just before beginning the descent on Ed Clark Rd. This descent is also widely talked about as being a zero gravity inducing speed fest. The road is very narrow, new asphalt, with blind driveways along the way. The speed limit drops to 15mph, yet you can easily go over 50mph if you don't value your life. Two weeks ago I realized how easily shit happens on descents like these, so my self preservation instincts took over and I rode the brakes. Still was fun though, and I did feel my stomach float over one of the grade reversals. The gyroscopic effect of those 29 inch hoops was pretty extreme. Took some man-handling to turn the bike at 40+ mph.
Patten Hill came quickly, and I was kind of bummed how good I still felt. Normally, on the 180k route, I'm a wrecked mess by the time I get to Patten Hill, which is the only climb shared between the 115k and 180k routes. I caught up with Matt Lovett on the way to Patten and chatted for a bit. He and his riding buddy bolted on ahead as soon as the grade kicked up. I thought I was doing ok, but these guys were going to dust me. Matt used to put out mad Watts, so no surprise there. Eventually Matt's friend (Jason?) petered out and a few minutes later I passed Matt.
I was first to the Patten Hill feed station from the 115k ride group as best I could tell. There were no other riders there. I waited all day to bite into that watermelon they always have there. I topped off my water and pressed on, knowing most of the work was done.
I stopped to take a few more pictures on the way back in. The day was perfect in every way for a ride like this. Bluebird skies, low humidity with temperature in the 70's. I brought my better camera along to capture some of the scenery. Riding with a group, you just can't stop whenever, lest you want to chase like mad to get back on.
View from Cooper Lane, descending from Patten Hill.
I rolled in with just under five hours moving time, with 7500ft and 73.5 miles on the Garmin. This just nicely meets my 100ft/mile metric for Hill Junkie seal of approval. I hung around a good while for some of my usual riding posse to get in from the 180k loop. Funny how time flies when you start trading stories. You also lose track of how much you eat.
After telling about Steve's mishap, the consensus was strengthened that bad shit happens when people ride with me. Crashes happen, bad weather happens, even forest fires happen in place I plan to visit soon. I never cause these things, but DaveP says they just have a way of following me. It is probably wise to flee if you encounter me on a group ride.
I have to say that was one of my more enjoyable D2R2 rides, despite riding 90% of it solo. I got an awesome workout and rode mostly new terrain. Sandy is a genius in creating all these routes to go simultaneously without ever causing plugged roads and getting everybody back at about the same time. The event continues to grow in popularity, with somewhere around 1200 riders this year. That is a lot of gravel grinding. I surely will come back for more, maybe with a rigid MTB next year to do the full loop with the cool kids.