Monday, April 11, 2011

Gravel Grinder Spring Classic - VT

Our trails are fairly dry and I haven't seen snow beyond parking-lot piles in a few weeks. Where's a good place to go ride bikes then?

Head up north where there is snow. Duh!

After all, the Canadianicans came down from the snowy north to visit Dicky in North Carolina (Unlike Alaska, Peter was not allowed to come too). Us Connecticuticans drive north to visit the folks at Bike29.

Makes sense? 



Photo: Mandy

This past Sunday marked the 2011 edition of the Gravel Grinder Spring Classic Dirt Road Ride in the Waterbury Vermont area. Ginger and I drove up Saturday to see George, Mandy and the folks at Bike29. It was a reasonable sunny day with temperatures climbing into the upper 50s. What a perfect day!

We also were picking up Ginger's new 29er. A 2011 Trek/Gary Fisher X-Caliber.

George was pretty busy with logistics for the event and Mandy was running the registration table so Ginger and  I focused on getting her bike set-up proper and teaching her how to use clip-less pedals (her first time and she picked it up better than I did when I learned). We then went for a ride around Waterbury to try out the new bike and practice with those pedals. In-between practicing with the new pedals and swapping Ergon GP1 Bio-Kork grips onto Ginger's new bike we also checked in at the Old Stagecoach Inn (our place of rest for the evening) pretty much right next door from 5hillsbikes/bike29.

Great Success!

George's friends from California arrived and in-between a few drinks we waited for T-Hom* to get his ass up to Vermont from Boston. T-Hom didn't arrive until very late and I was getting Le-Tired as 7hrs of sleep lately has not been enough for me (probably because I've been working 15hr days, on average).

Sunday morning Ginger and I woke up and I opted for my first shower in about half a week. My thighs almost cramped up as I had to squat to use the shower facet because the ceiling in that part of the bed-and-breakfast was low and the crow-foot bathtub was sitting quite high off the floor.

This is not a good sign.. cramping legs before even getting anywhere near a bicycle.

A good homemade breakfast was ruined as I saturated my belgian waffle with not a little but a whole container of VT maple syrup. We then found our bikes and got our gear together. It was quite warm out for 8am in the mountains. I was rather surprised but very pleased at the same time. This meant knee warmers and a good thermal under the jersey would be just enough for the day's efforts.

There were over 130 people participating in this bike ride. Yes, I said bike ride. It was not a race and as Dejay has been known to say "The people riding in the back of the group are probably having more fun". That was just it, we were riding our bikes and we stoked to ride our bikes.

 the start

the ride out of town

cars and bicycles sharing the roads. YES!

Every year the route is slightly different. We left Waterbury Center and headed north sort of parallel ling Rt100. George then decided to kick us all in the gut not even 10minutes into the ride by making us ride up Perry Hill Road (the first of five major climbs). The same road George took T-Hom up last summer and the two were in some pain but neither of them wanted to be 'that guy' who stopped or slowed down (I would have found T-Hom's story but I think it was on the 29er crew page and is now deleted). Perry Hill did get steep but only for a short section. My 34x19 on the Superfly felt good but I was also turning it over at a near stand-still cadence as I opted to maintain pace with Ginger and not ride on ahead.

Climbing Perry Hill came with reward though. Reward of some soft dirt roads that robbed you of forward momentum and made you pedal harder. There where some cool views.

By now a lot of the riders are quite a ways ahead of us and there were quite a few riders behind us. We were somewhere in the bunch but pedaling at our pace and having a good time.

Around mile 7 was the first time we'd see the aid station. If you were looking for water you are in for a rude awakening. George and T-Hom where there making sure everyone was fueled with liquor and bananas and other good fixings (I spy gummy bears!).
After the aid station we crossed over Rt100 and rode some dirt roads on the west side of Rt100. This was the second major climb of the day (I think). It was all dirt road and the dirt was quite wet and soggy which made for a slow ride. We came back onto Rt100 and headed north towards Stowe.

That would be Mt Mansfield and Stowe Mountain Resort off in the distance.

Right turn onto Dewey Hill Road and we climbed up that hill (#3 for the day). At the top we stopped and took in the sights and ate some food before carrying onto climb #4 for the day (Stowe Hollow Road).

I remembered driving this when we were here back in late February. Only it was snow-covered at the time and not dirt/mud. Driving this road was a coincidence. We wanted to take a scenic ride from Stowe down to Waterbury and happened to drive down Stowe Hollow Road and Barnes Hill Road. There are some nice houses back there that I wouldn't mind living in.

Ginger's knee was acting up so the pace slowed down a bit but we did our best to keep moving forward while taking care of her knee and taking in the sights and sun. Once at hte top of Stowe Hill Road we knew climb #4 was over and it was all downhill back to the aid station (same aid station as before and now mile 20).
Mount Mansfield and Stowe in the background

I think the pavement came back when we changed towns and the road became Barnes Hill. Lots of gravel all over it which made it quite slippery. We rolled down this and over to the aid station.
From there we opted to skip the last climb (#5) because we didn't want Ginger's knee to become the size of a soft ball like George's did in AZ. We did make our way over to the community bike path and ride through the mud and snow and soggy grass on our way back into downtown Waterbury. The community bike path put us out right at the base of Perry Hill Road. From there we rode back into town as it was about noon and thoughts of finish-line tacos were making our stomachs hungry.

Mmmm. Tacos.

The Tacos from Fridas were very tasty. Best Tacos in Stowe.

We did it! We rode 20something miles of mostly soggy dirt roads with a whole ton of climbing. George says about 3,000 feet of climbing if you did the complete loop. Considering Ginger has A)never ridden this 29er before and B)not ridden a bike since October I am overly impressed that she completed it. This was a big Victory in her book! Congrats.

George, T-Hom, Myself and Ginger after the ride.
photo: Mandy

A big 'Thank You' to George, Mandy and everyone else involved with organizing and executing this event. It was a lot of fun and the people involved were super. Bike rides are supposed to be fun and while this was challenging at times it was still fun overall. That's success right there!

* Its T-Hom... pronounced 'T' [pause] 'Hom'


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