Guns Grits and Gravel – 2011 – Fire Road Throw Down

Route detail

Most of the pieces already exist.  New ones are open to investigation and interpretation.  The sequence, an assemblence of tracks, stretches, lanes and corridors; surfaces and textures visited but not yet connected.

South Branch Mountain. Shenandoah Mountain.  Elkhorn Mountain. Spring Mountain.  Foremost Mountain. Flattop Mountain.  Wolfpen Hollow.  Reynolds Knob.  Stump Knob. Peru Gap….

Names and vague places deep in the Appalachian greenery and rock.  While a visit reveals some aspects, it also reinforces just how mysterious and remote it remains. Pedaling the back roads into history and cultures lost, or just hidden,  there is a quiet reverence that pads the athletic effort required to even get there.

This was ‘Guns, Grits and Gravel 2011 – (version 2.0) – Fire Road Throw Down.’

The previous edition, a Cyclocross Workshop  on a full blown course complete with run up, mud bog, sand pit and barriers, was fun enough, but this time we wanted to take the action further into the hills.  With cross bikes primed for the ready the idea was more expedition than workshop.

The roster included Radio Shack/Nissan Trek rider and 201O US PRO road race champion Ben King; Cannondale mountain bike professional Jeremiah Bishop, a silver medal winner in the 2011 Pan American Games; Joe Dombrowski U23 professional for Trek Livestrong, stage winner at the Val d’Oasta road race in Italy this year.  Also on hand was American Classics/Kenda mountain bike professional Chris Michaels.

In simple terms we connected a lot of the dirt roads that RTR visitors are already acquainted with into a mostly continuous route.  The cross bikes opened up single track, field traverse and stream crossings that would be ponderous on thin tires.

In addition to extra access the cross bikes made descents that are usually tricky and tentative, rambling and fun. While still rapid and bumpy there is a much greater room for error with the capacity to open things up on the ’32’s.

The three days of riding, along with grilled venison, Pad Thai, chocolate pancakes, beer, turkey jerky and bonfires in between, was highlighted by Saturday’s ‘Triple G’ loop.  The Garmin read of 57 miles and 8200 climbing feet doesn’t quite express the actual density.

Over half was dirt with three large stream crossings.  The ridge top climbs are obvious in the profile but the real hurt comes with a variety of 15 to 20 percent rollers or punch ups that pop up on the plateaus and ridge roads.

The fact that this was essentially an expedition added extra excitement to the venture.  Seeing these unconnected parts flow as one route made return to the Barn that much sweeter.

The loop isn’t something to attack.  It is something to fall into and something to be absorbed by.  There is always a chance for aggression but rhythm takes precedence.  You roll the Triple G out, firm and steady, smooth and strong, present enough that you stay on top of it but not so wild that you might miss a new road or cut off for future exploration.

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