Brad Cobb (1)
Dirty 130 is one of the greatest gravel loops in the southeast. It has some of the best climbs with awesome views and remote riding that keeps you looking up the whole time. My day started right at six am when the sunlight was just breaking through the trees. The first climb is a great way to get the day started with a manageable 4 to 5 percent grade and good clean gravel. The climb is about 11 miles and actually passes by pretty quickly. I was loaded up with a ton of food, two full bottles, three Garmins, two tubes, a hand pump and some general bike fixing stuff. The Trek Checkpoint was loaded down as I tried to hang/tie/tape/Velcro everything I could on the bike so I wouldn’t have to carry it. About 15 miles into the ride, my chain started ghost shifting and would only stay in the middle rings (and with any pressure it would start bouncing). I thought to myself, if I am going to finish this challenge, I am going to need at least a few gears that can withstand pressure. As I continued to ride, the shifting got worse and worse (so much so that I stopped a couple of times and looked at my chain and my derailleur). About mile 19, my chain kept getting caught between the cassette and the rear triangle, and I realized my day was done if I couldn’t figure this one out. I stopped again, flipped the bike and started looking at the whole drivetrain. Luckily, I quickly realized my rear skewer had completely come unthreaded and my rear triangle was just free flowing. Disaster averted and I was back on the bike. First aid station stop (Webb's) at the river was uneventful with two sweet ladies wishing me good luck (as I told them to tell the next two guys coming in dressed like me that they hadn’t seen me).
On to the spring creek segment next to the railroad tracks then on to the next climb feeling great and reloaded with fluids. Starr mountain was in great shape and really wasn’t that bad. I had a horrible experience with these three horseback riders as I came around a corner at about 25 miles an hour only to have them rare back and throw one of the riders off. I immediately jumped off my bike and stood there apologizing. They were noticeably pissed, and asked “what the hell are you doing on a bike on this open road”? I apologized a few more times and waited for them to walk on by. I felt horrible, but I was a lot better than a car coming down as they were in the middle of the road. Next challenge, Ivy Trail, and it is a tough road section not to be taken lightly. On to the Coker Creek store and another reload of fluids and a Mountain Dew. I also got to see the Hoff outside getting ready to hit Buck Bald as well. I got in and out of the store as fast as I could to keep ahead of Taco and Wiygul. This I when I learned that Taco had a tire sliced and was out for the day.
The ride from Coker Creek to Buck Bald is one of my favorites as it seems like it is downhill the whole time, has a creek running by it , and is free miles because it is so easy.
The gates at Buck Bald were open so the conditions were perfect. The last time we did Buck Bald, it was overgrown and wet and sloppy, but Saturday, it was awesome. The climb is pretty well in the shade the whole time except for the top, and it has several breaks in the climb. As I arrived at the top, I knew we had to get a selfie at the picnic table, but a full family had pitched a tent over the table, had a Hamm radio antenna out and was having a huge meal. So, I awkwardly pulled out my phone and took a selfie with them in the background. Next up was the awesomely fast descent down Buck Bald (and watching for Wiygul to be coming up while I was going down). I was so happy because there no sign of him, so I was still rolling. The next part of the course is my least favorite part of the whole ride. It is roller hell that never seems to end, and just when you think you are done, Kim sends you down this last gravel road only to have to climb back out again. This is where I seem to always fall apart. Finally, the roller hell ends with some really fast pavement before the third stop; however, this is where I got a huge hole in my front tire (on stinking pavement!!!!!!)
So, I quickly plugged the hole and hand pumped it back up to which it immediately sprayed Stans all over my leg again (held air at about 10 pounds). So, I aired it up again trying to get to the next stop. I limped into the final store to get reloaded and attempted to fix my tire again. I figured that trying to keep air in it before I put a new tube in there was the best course of action.
The final climb is actually my favorite part of the whole ride. It is the most scenic and coolest because of the river and the mountain and the creeks running along side the road. After crossing the foot bridge at the power station, I started climbing with the intent of not seeing Wiygul; however, about 15 minutes into the first part, I saw him slowly catching me. As soon as we crested the mountain, he blew by me because I had to take the descents at a crazy slow pace (and for him to beat me on a gravel descent, something had to be wrong).
Then, the final full climb that goes on forever. It is basically an hour climb that is not easy (and you have eight plus hours in your legs), but at the end, you get a thirty minute downhill (that I had to go slow because of my tire) to the finish.
I ended up at 9:43 total time with moving time at 9:30 (I figure the flat combined with the slow downs costed me about 15 minutes). So, my next attempt will be a goal of sub 9:30, but all things will need to be perfect and the weather must be like this weekend.
I would say that this course is something that you must try at least once. It is the perfect gravel course and close to home.