Saturday was a trip just west of Richmond to the outskirts of Charlottesville for ‘Ride the Ridge’ at the Blue Ridge School. The race has been a recent favorite of the Virginia Off Road Series featuring challenging terrain of the steep and rocky variety. After a ‘over the river and through the woods’ trip to the venue, I had minimal time to run through my warm-up and get ready. A quick look at the starting mile of the course saw field staging with a grass uphill sprint to a gravel road and open field entrance to the single track. Trail conditions were fantastic with rollers, two sustained climbs, bridge crossings, and the occasional mud puddle.
On the line, the promoter reminded us of the purpose of the event, having fun with all proceeds going to World Bicycle Relief
. The expert field was smaller so it was easier to keep track of riders. At the start, we went out fairly conservative knowing that the first climb was sustained gaining 350+ feet over 1/2 mile. Technical climbing and descending were on the menu with rock gardens reminiscent of Pennsylvania. Lap one saw the strong climbers take out early with others focusing on the terrain. I fell into the latter camp and maintained contact with the lead group until the second climb.
The Giant XTC Advanced 27.5 responded fantastically on the technical descents carving through the features and accelerated well on the pitchy climbs when I called on it. The SRAM X01 1×11 was the perfect weapon as I ended up using all 42 teeth on the third lap for a steep section while providing plenty of clearance to maneuver through tight and sporatic rock gardens on the course. By the middle of lap two, my lower back started to fatigue and required some on-the-bike acrobatics to loosen up. By the last lap I willed myself to finish out and enjoy the great weather conditions. Though my lap times slid due to mechanicals, I got the benefit from chasing faster guys up the trail. I finished 3 minutes back from 3rd place and know where that time could have been made up. Lesson of the day: Find more terrain that points to the sky and repeat.
Current Soundtrack: NCAA Men’s National Championship Game