Jeramie Hoff (2)
Started the day under perfect skies and crisp temps for the first day of May! Because I’m between gravel bikes at the moment I rode a MTB hardtail equipped with 700 X 40C tires. This made for a comfortable and confident descending ride, but it was a tad slower on the more sustained climbs. A case could be made for either bike being the best choice.
Leaving from the pull out next to the river, you don’t go far before you hit the day's first climb, although it’s just a warm-up compared to the others. This was welcomed as I didn’t want to take clothes I would soon be shedding. Rolling over to the base of Waucheesi mountain was fast and smooth but once making the turn, the surface turn into a freshly graveled climb. This challenged my 40C tires with 35/37 psi, especially if I wanted to stand, But knew the section would probably represent the loosest part of the entire course.
Didn’t need to take advantage of the Green Cove store but did make a really quick stop at the ranger station to fill up a bottle of water to make it up and over the Skyway climb and back down to the campground general store. The climb up the skyway is long but consistent and I did spot a piped spring about 2/3 of the way up N. River Rd. Maybe next time I will opt for it.
The small hiking trail along the shores of Lake is what I called the postcard section of the ride. The mountains of the skyway offer a fantastic backdrop to the crisp waters of the lake. Once taking provisions from the campground General store it was time to head over to the Citico wilderness section, which offers another opportunity for a climb that is the better part of an hour. Although it’s long, the grade is consistent until the last five or six minutes, where a couple more points are added. The descent back down to the river is fast where you’ll find another piped spring at the intersection. Took on enough water here to make it to the finish.
The next part of the course is what I referred to as the ‘championship’ section. I called this because it comes 3/4 into the ride and is series of rollers with net elevation gain back towards Indian Boundary. Additionally, while the trail surface is good it’s not the fast hard pack that you’ve been riding on for most of the day. It’s just a slower, tough section for about an hour. The good news is that once you get through this section it’s all downhill (mostly) to the finish. Once descending to the river it’s just a left turn to go up approximately 2 paved miles to get the selfie at Bald River Falls.
All in all, it was the perfect weather conditions on a fast course. Total time was 7:52.