Monday, August 31, 2009

Got Backbone

I missed the Devil's Backbone mountain bike race this spring but was glad to participate in the first Devil's Backbone Mountain Cross Aug 29. Cross bikes were lauded as the "best tool for the job" on this half pavement, half fire road 60 miler
. I have done many mountain centuries as well as the self proclaimed longest cyclocross race in America (Ironcross), and this event had the best of both worlds.

The beginning and end of the course used the same sick, psycho 20% grade dirt climb that blew up the group the first 4 miles. The ride was true to the advertised 50-50 fireroad-pavement, and I estimate that there was more total climbing in those 60 miles than in Ironcross's 60 miles. The difference is that Ironcross has single track and long run ups that make the event take longer. The agonizing Parkway section from Irish Gap to Montebello reminded me of a road century, whereas the climb up Fork Mountain on fireroads had that back country Shenandoah Mountain 100 feel.

It catered perfectly to cross bikes, but there were still those who fared well on road bikes. Pete Tempest used a road bike with 25 inch tires without incident. There were a few on mountain bikes, though I would not have wanted to drag a mountain bike up the nontechnical climbs. I couldn't help but notice that a significant number of elite men and women participated, and sure enough pros Jeremiah Bishop and Deidre Winfield posted the best finishing men's and women's times.

From the Tripower women's side, Carol, Sally, Meaghann and I all completed the ride. I ended up with Sally and Jeff Brown for the last 15 miles. I was giving my full effort to the event ("racing" it) whereas the fact that I was riding with Sally at that point told me she was treating it a little more casually! We came upon Bill Gilmer and Meaghann McCarthy who were stopped on side of road. Meg looked as if she had just seen a ghost and Bill was adjusting a bike. They hollered that they were fine, so we kept moving.

On the last 3 mile climb (sick, sick) Sally was turning around to offer a generous pace, but I told her to go. She was out of sight pretty soon. Jeff pulled away from me also. When I was about a minute away from the top on the 20% grade section, I heard familiar voices--Meg and Bill were coming up behind me. Apparently I was talking to myself at the time (cussing or praying probably) because when Bill passed he asked if I was talking on a cell phone. Meg zipped past me also, and I thought, well, perhaps I would latch onto them after the summit since I figured Meg may be tentative on the steep downhill to the finish.

NOPE. I got to the top about 20 secs after Meg and they were GONE, sucked into the fast descent. I guess I should know better than to underestimate Meaghann who has ridden across the USA on a tandem! Jeff and I rode together on the last flat stretch to the finish, a minute or so behind them. We found out Bill had taken a scary face plant on the gravel on a fairly flat section, so luckily he was not going very fast.

The Devil's BB brewery is perfect staging place for the race. We finished and took meal vouchers inside for a great dinner! My camping comrades Mike, Lynn, Carol and Chris were awesome. Above images courtesy of Mike Park, Sally Tempest, Jerry Hadley and Liz Sorrell.

1 comment:

Silly said...

Awesome write up--glad we were all a part of this first annual backbone challenge! It was certainly that! Great riding with old and new friends!