When I decided to put on a 200 kilometer ride out through Powhatan and Cumberland I really didn't know what to expect. I knew most of the route and we test rode most of it back in March but riding with 3 people vs inviting whoever is bound to change the dynamics of the ride.
Noelle from Lamplighter Roasting Company came to prepare fresh coffee for everyone, which was much appreciated.
Around 8 am people started rolling into the shop and by nine we had around 25 people that were getting ready to tackle either the full 200k or a shorter 100k.
Lucky for me a decent sized group of riders from Charlottesville decided to make the drive down to do the ride nearly doubling the amount of people who planned to tackle the 200.
The weather report had been changing all week but by Sunday morning it looked like we were going to experience a humid but not too hot ride most of the time with a chance of getting rained on later in the day.
I was confident I was prepared mentally and physically. I knew I had all the right supplies to deal with possible mechanical issues and my Endpoint Coffee Grinder bike was dialed.
A little after 9am we all rolled out heading west along the James River. Once we crested the top of Old Gun an unspoken pact was made among the 15 riders who were still together to ride hard but steady. Winding out through Powhatan along 711 and 13 the pace was high but many hands made for lighter work and nobody was ever in danger of getting dropped.
With one store stop along the way so far we entered Bear Creek Lake State Park at around mile 58. Bear Creek is nestled in between two large sections of Cumberland State Forest and weather you plan on riding out there or just making the drive I would highly suggest going there. I have been there several times now and it is always pleasant. Camping, hiking, and lots of good riding. But I digress...
When I charted the course through the park and into the lower section of the state forest I knew there would be some gravel road mixed it but I wasn't entirely sure how much. To my pleasant surprise almost the entire loop once we entered the forest was mostly well maintained hard packed gravel roads. Certainly not ideal for those on the ride that opted for traditional road bikes but they managed well enough.
We exited the park and made second store stop to refuel with plenty of salt and sugar. The weather was starting to change and as we prepared to roll off again a very light rain started. After a short paved section we were back into the northern half of the state forest and cruising along gravel roads again. The light rain kept the dust down and felt great.
Riding through gravel back roads is an experience that cannot be replicated. Without the regulations of paved roads the trees are allowed to grow far closer to the edges. The canopy often fully connects above your head. Light filtered by the greenery above dapples the ground. The sound of gravel, dirt and dust being crushed beneath your tires. The gentle whirring of gears. Wind gently moving the leaves and grass around you. Easily my favorite conditions to ride in and always worth the trip to get there.
A short time later a series of flat tires happened that finally split our group up. I did my best to play sweeper and assist with flats where needed. The tire boots and scissors to cut them to size that were packed in my bag came in handy. Eventually we reached the next store stop in Cumberland where we regrouped and filled up again, this time on fried chicken. It may have been the 80 miles I had ridden so far, but the chicken was delicious!
Again we rolled out. Fatigue was starting to set in and things started to break up a bit. I eventually settled in with a smaller group of 7 as Mark, Frank and the other half of the group charged on. We took turns pulling at a steady pace as the light rain began to increase in intensity. By the time we were back on 711 it was coming down pretty hard. I don't think any of us really minded though. I could feel the rain washing off all the salt and grime. It stung my eyes and I could taste the salt but eventually we were all washed clean.
Finally we all began to trickle into the shop around 8 hours after we started. To say I was exhausted was an understatement but a pastry from Sub Rosa and a chocolate milk later I was starting to feel like myself again.
Eventually we all packed up and left. I headed home (in my car for a change), played with my daughter a bit, ate dinner, and passed out. A great end to a great day.
All said and done I finished in 8 1/2 hours. I was hoping to finish inside 8 but the series of flat tires dashed that.
No regrets though. It was a great day on the bike and from what I could tell everyone had a fantastic time. I know I'm not alone in being more than ready for the next ride like this. This fall we will put on at least one or two more 200k rides like this. If all goes well I'm sure there will be even more in 2017.
Big thanks to everyone who came out to ride!