I will not be able to attend the race since me and Melissa will be at the Hangout Music Festival but uh, I still wanted to preride it. Thanks to the facebook Skyway Epic group it was pretty easy to coordinate a ride and amazingly enough everyone showed up plus a few bonus folks.
I should mention it has rained a Costco sized shitload here in Alabama the past few days. Yes, we got wet. Yes, the trail is rideable in the wet and handles water well. More on that in a minute.
We had an awesome group this morning. Boris and I rode out to meet Lee, George, Stewart, Matt, John Newsom, Mike the Cramper, Gavin, Tony Esposito, and JD. Big group of good riders. Big groups are great but with an increase in group size it is common to see an exponential rise in mechanicals and waiting around. We had lots of waiting but only one mechanical.
The rain held off but a thick blanket of fog covered the National Forest. I didn't take many pictures because we could really only see about 50 feet at any given time. The trail looked great considering all the rain. There were huge puddles and some slick spots on climbs but overall not bad. ZERO peanut butter mud. Awesome.
Coming from the Sylacauga end the trail starts with maybe a 3 mile climb which isn't bad. I was a bit sad there was so much fog, I'm sure the views are awesome out there. The area has a feel like that of the North Georgia mountains. About 8 miles in, Mike the Cramper rode up and announced his freehub had failed. After closer inspection a gnarled up chain was found and fixed and we were all done with mechanicals for the day!
Around 16 miles in there is a ripping fast downhill that comes out on the road for about 2 miles then climbs again. Mike was now having some cramping issues and went ahead and turned around. Ouch, hope he made it out ok. Not a good area to be in if you feel bad. The downhills are not your typical gravel fare with nasty turns waiting to wash out tires and rub your elbows raw. They require caution of a different sort. Folks with good line picking skills will be rewarded. Those that aren't paying attention end up in some nasty ruts. Be careful. They are fun in an "Oh shit I'm going to die, but not really" way. The climbs were saturated with water and really took a lot of energy to get up today. This course is ALL climbing. It is hard and deserving of its name.
Singlespeed Course Notes: I used a 32/17 on a 29er out there today and really like it. It felt good everywhere but there are some grunt climbs going Cheaha to Sylacauga. I didn't walk but really wanted to a few times. If I did the race, I would probably do a 32/16 on a 29er and hope for fast, dry conditions.
Bike Notes: Don't use a cross bike, terrible idea. I think a 29er with a rigid fork, maybe a front squish would be good. Bring some durable, fast rolling tires and you will be happy.
We reached the turnaround point and I noticed the ride time was 2:12 on Gavin's GPS. Pretty good I think. Elapsed time was ridiculous due to all the stops but I didn't mind the breaks. Going back was much tougher. It began misting and I was now soaking wet. Our group for most of the ride ended up being Tony, Gavin, Boris and me with some switching around depending on who was hurting the most.
I was shocked at the amount of climbing in the final ten miles. It was nuts. They were steep and rutted out. Many looked the same and began to play tricks on my mind. I wanted to be back at the car but I was still digging the ride. Soon enough, the Element was in sight! Six hours later, we were back where we started. Soaking wet, exhausted, and smiles all around. Notice all the fog still around.
|Done. So Done.|
LINK to Boris' Strava data on today's ride.