This race report comes to you courtesy of our new contributing editor, David Jordan. He foolishly agreed to do this, over the course of one Facebook message. Dave is another gravel dude from Florida, namely Jacksonville, where there is no gravel. Read on!
Dave Does It Again
Pisgah Monster Cross was last weekend. It’s the third year for the race and my second year of doing it. I’m hesitant to admit to racing it. Despite riding far past the brink of sanity and normal exhaustion, I’d rather feign nonchalance about the whole affair because of my totally average results. I’d rather have you believe I spent my time on the Blue Ridge Parkway taking in the scenery, riding like this person:
Yes, I was just going for a nice ride and I just happened to finish only an hour behind the godless heathens who blaspheme Nature’s grandeur by, ugh, trying to win. I could say that I rode like a happy-go-lucky tourist but it would be a lie.
I’ve been on the parkway before, and I know it’s beautiful. But I can’t tell you much about what it looked like on Saturday. I remember fog and hills. This after 20 or 30 miles of uphill gravel struggle and downhill gravel struggle.
Downhill gravel isn’t easy for me because I’m a gutless descender and I can’t relax. It doesn’t help that I crashed on these roads last year and broke a rib.
So, while the Monster Cross Challenge may look like this…
My experience was more like this:
Important bike-dork data for people who like that sort of thing and may be looking for new ways to flush money down the toilet:
Aluminum Cyclocross frame made in Southeast Asia like every frame from every manufacturer: In this case it’s a Blue Norcross SP. I bought this from an online store for a great price. As much as I’d like a snazzier boutique steel frame, this bike has served me so well that I can’t justify a new bike. Yet.
Wheels and Tires: Velocity A23s with a WTB Nano 40 on the front and an MSO Explorer 40 on the rear. PSI ~40 and ~45 respectively. I also use tubes. I’ve never ridden tubeless. But I’ve never had problems with flats and I am afraid to try new things.
Bike Computer: This was my first test of my brand new Garmin Edge Touring GPS thingy. I downloaded what I thought was the proper map so I could have some idea of how much time I had to suffer. I hit start at the start and after a few feet realized that I had the previous year’s map loaded. This is important because the course is run in different directions each year.
So every time during my misery uphill my Garmin was exhorting me to “Make a U-turn as soon as possible.”
Also about 55 miles in the computer inexplicably powered off. Not impressed, Garmin. **
** JOM – Dave, welcome to the world of Garmin F ups.
Overall experience: Though rain was promised, it held off until my last few miles on pavement. I started with no warm up, immediately went up the rocky climb for miles, past the scene of last year’s crash, then down the rocky descent, up and down gravel roads by babbling brooks and rushing streams, and campers waking to the gorgeous morning. All the time my legs were cramping and I absolutely could not believe that my brakes were not maladjusted and stuck against my rims, which would account for how goddamn slow I felt.
Oh yeah, my friend Roger was with me. He crashed in a well-marked rut on a descent. His bike survived and he had some bleeding, but nothing serious. Fortunately he was in front of me. Otherwise I would have certainly crashed in his place.
Long gravel ascent to the parkway, where the most godawful climb commenced. Hours it seemed, and I desperately wanted to heed my Garmin’s U-turn advice. Roger caught me midway and we rode to a food stop. I reloaded on PBJs and potato chips while Roger went ahead. Hours passed and I almost caught Roger at the top of a climb. But to our right was tourist facility. I seized the opportunity to shed some weight in the bathroom that had been bothering me for the last hour or so. So yeah, I’m a Florida flatlander going up the biggest hill ever AND I’ve got to take a shit.
That happened. Back on the road, maybe 1/2mph faster. Get off the parkway onto one of the longest, fastest descents I’ve ever ridden. It’s a good thing I made a pit stop earlier because this road was shit-your-pants fast. Another food stop, this one with quesadillas. (The volunteers at this race were great. You didn’t even have to stop. At one I just tossed them my empty bottles and they handed me new ones filled with colored sugar water as I slowly pedaled by.)
More gravel roads, short but hurty climbs.
It started raining when I hit the final paved stretch. I was rejuvenated. I TT’d all the way home and managed to pass some of the mountain bikers who made me feel like a pansy on the tricky downhills.
I will certainly do this race again. As a bonus the new Oskar Blues Brewery is only two miles from the park entrance. You should go there. They had a cask-conditioned imperial red with ginger and lime that I recommend. The brewery is a shrine to beer and bike love.
Thumbs up for Pisgah Monster Cross 2014. Do it in 2015, if only to ride downhill the whole time you’re on the parkway.
Article by David Jordan, check out his blog, Institute for Leisure Studies, here. Dave, thanks for the contribution, original article is here.