My goal was to get started around 10 AM on Sunday morning and ride comfortable hard all day long. So naturally, I got rolling just after 11 AM with a new plan to ride hard enough to finish before dark. My trusty gravel steed for the last couple of years has been a Trek Boone cyclocross bike running Maxxis Rambler tires (40 in the front, 38 in the rear). I had a handlebar bag filled with snacks and two bottles since there are several options to refill water on the route.
The Wildcat climb came and went - turned left onto Bald River road and was greeted by fresh, deep gravel and a pretty stiff headwind. I drug myself up the climb looking for the most well-traveled sections and was only pushed into the deep, deep stuff once by an oncoming moto that didn’t feel it was necessary to slow down. I was a little drifty on the descent, so I stopped and let some air out of both tires. (I didn’t feel great on this climb and was thinking about bail out points later in the route if it looked like I was going to be short on daylight. Luckily, this was my low point and I felt pretty good the rest of the day.)
I stopped at the check station to refill a bottle, eat a snack, and use the facilities before starting the climb up to the Skyway. North River was North River – I put my head down and zoned out until I passed the turn for Whigg Meadow when I heard some motos coming up behind me. I moved over to the right so they could pass when the lead moto slowed down next to me…surprise! it was my buddy, Zirkle! We yelled greetings at each other, and then he sped off with his friends to have more fun than me.
I super tucked my way down the Skyway while simultaneously trying to take in the view (how can you not?!) and battle the wind and made my way over to Indian Boundary. I resupplied at the campground store and had a nice chat with the guy at the register about how the Vista and Mountain riders are all a little crazy, but me, I was normal because I was only riding 90 miles. I’m not sure he was convinced.
Climbing up Farr Gap I realized I no longer had my hand pump - I guess I forgot to secure it after leaving the store. If anyone picks up a black Silca pump on Indian Boundary, I’d love to have it back, so holla atcha girl. My Wahoo lost the route coming down Farr Gap, and when I got it back it told me to turn left at the Citico road intersection which gave me a couple bonus miles. Once back on track I passed a couple of Forest Service trucks checking in on controlled burns that I’d be riding through all day.
I decided I had enough water to get to the finish, so I rolled through the last place to refill and took the left onto the grunty roller section to knock out most of the remaining elevation. My lower back was pretty tight by this point, but the legs still felt good, so once I got back to Indian Boundary I put in a big effort all the way to Bald River Falls, got the selfie, and then big ringed it downhill to the finish.
Bike: Trek Boone
Tires: Maxxis Rambler EXO (40/38)
Gearing: 2x11 50/34 up front with a 34 in the back