Getting Crooked

Following a strange edition of  the Poolesville Road Race,  I set out to find some roads and chart some hills.

The event itself was great.  The area, the weather, the organization, the action and the competition.  Dudes throwing down and generally handling the dirt well.  NCVC had things on point – props to them.

Unfortunately there was some confusion and miscommunication (or no communication) in the 1/2/3 field between the officials and the riders.   The officials have the safety of the riders as a priority:  a tough job to manage and wrangle the group.

In the middle of our race a moto came up on us and slowed us down.  I was at the front and was waiting for the pack to come to a stop and/or to get an explanation.  The pack bunched up and some riders who were behind came up quick.  At the time we had been chasing and about to catch two men up the road.  Some of the riders coming up swung wide to avoid colliding into the back or to just have breathing room.

There was never any formal stop or verbal explanation.  We just kept rolling.  This was past the feed zone before the lap counter.   When we came around the corner there were seven riders clear, including one of my teammates.  Back on the highway the pack resumed speed and, what now appeared to be the break, had a nice gap.

The officials never said anything.   I figured this was the time to neutralize or call the break back but since that wasn’t happening it looked to be race on (if it had ever been off).

I spent the rest of the time, along with Haymarket and Harley blocking and running tempo at the front.

To me this was the race.   All the strategy and efforts were dictated by the move in place.  To DQ them after the fact (along with letting the early move that seriously benefited from the DQ’d riders horsepower not be DQ’d) negates the pieces that were already in play.   Either DQ them on the spot; return them to the field; or stop and restart the race.

That my teammate crashed out of the break and I was done with two to go when my saddle torqued up and I couldn’t sit down is an unrelated side issue.   Anyway that was Poolseville.  Anti-climatic and a big let down for the folks who got burned unawares after paying their fare and putting it on the line.

For me it was a disappointment too. The legs felt ok but I came away with nothing and then later got the added humiliation of finding I spent my time reacting to something that apparently didn’t exist.   Who wants that?

With all that stowed away I was in the saddle Sunday to take some readings, and specifically, to chart the profile of Crooked Mountain Road. (Note – route started from my house which is 14 miles east of the barn.)

There is a great network of small quiet roads just west of Edinburgh and Woodstock, through farm country and hollows on the Virginia side of the mountain.   The catch is that reaching them requires two demanding dirt roads that cross the state dividing ridge.

One is Judge Rye Run and seven miles south of that is Crooked Run Road.  For a while I was doing this loop on the mountain bike until I decided the added challenge of descending dirt on the road bike trumps the tedious miles spent riding pavement on the mountain bike.

Ascending Judge Rye is fine.  Sensibly graded.  Steady.  Long.   The payoff at the top is worth the trip.  A plateau that stretches for a long time.  You descend, but gradually for awhile, as the ridge curves and you can look back at your lines.  This section is all George Washington National Forest and there are pull offs, rock formations and vistas.

The descent is two fold.  First a gradual stretch, then a sharp drop off with sections requiring shock absorbing pliant body reactions.

Eventually the pavement returns and the road keeps descending through Columbia Furnace heading east.  Twisting downward.   At Lantz  Mill just before reaching interstate 81 the route heads south through quiet woods and farm lands.

There are numerous road options in this valley and many of the roads connect and wind back up on each other.  I took 710 all the way to a brief turn on 263 before connecting with 720 or Crooked Run Road.

It is still seven miles and two small mile long climbs before the big ascent back to the WV side.   This same road ends up turning into Upper Cover Road and leading to the Community Center in Mathias but there are some serious obstacles before realizing that.

Out of the hard climbs it is tough to determine which is the hardest.  They all have their own personalities and sting (as well as exalt) you in different ways at different times.

Crooked starts out flat and peaceful.  A clear brook roadside percolating and some meandering farms and cabins bordering.

There are several gentle rises to remind you of your direction but when the initial pitch happens your interior mechanisms are instantly on alert.   The first sharp push is pretty long but levels to a false flat and then a slight down hill that abruptly brings you to a blind switchback and steep wall.

From here on up it is a series of tough sharp bumpy switch backs with minimal leveling  for recovery.

Each switch back is its own interval.  Even though the road never flattens again small recovery can be got before attacking the ensuing upward turns. Full gas and acceleration is needed to ensure passage over the bumps and rutted surfaces.

The Crooked Run Road feels like a long time.  Actual distance is about five but the final two miles have enough grade to keep you pushing.

The descent is over quick.  In less then two miles the dirt turns to pavement and a couple miles more puts you closing in on the valley.

As soon as I hit the bottom I turn and start the mile and three quarter climb to my house.  If I were barn bound there would be an extra 12 miles with about six more of climbing.  So with that said Sunday would be a relatively easy ride…….


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