This was the 3rd year our team had ventured down to West Virginia to stay at Raw Talent Ranch in the mountains and ride bikes all weekend. I knew what these climbs presented and threw on my compact 50/34 and 11-28 cassette to not kill my knees grinding up everything. Thursday morning I packed up the BMW 2002 and cruised up to Pottstown to Jamie’s to carpool down in the Greenland diesel Polo. We picked up another teammate and hit the road.
We got down to the house around 2pm, got things together and took off on a quick ride around 4pm. Descend the front side, try not to eat shit on all the cinders laid over winter, cruise around the valley a bit, then crush it up the dirt ascent back up to camp. It’s a good way to get the legs back up and ready after a 5hr car ride.
Day 1 Loop – Strava Jawn: http://www.strava.com/activities/126722495
1:51 moving time
3,035 ft of elevation
Avg speed = 16.6mph
Max speed = 40.7mph
Avg power = 204W
Max power = 1,036W
Max HR = 201bmp
The pie plate came out for the WV trip!!
Made some homemade date & cinnamon coconut milk rice bars. They were pretty solid@!!
Raw Talent Ranch Barn
Still in happy mode (before the mountains crushed me)
I still have 0 idea what this means
Its not camp without a solid soak
Eric ‘The Breadman’ Saxman cam through on the homemade focaccia and loaves!
Day 2 – Apple Orchard – Strava Jawn: http://www.strava.com/activities/126949212
4:33 moving time
7,513 ft of elevation
Avg speed = 15.7mph
Max speed = 50.1mph
Avg power = 190W
Max power = 1,051W
Max HR = 194bmp
The next day we woke up to weather in the low 50s with highs in the 70s and a chance for rain. It’s pretty hard to dress for rides around there as there are multiple ridges where weather changes frequently. On top of that rides usually take ~6hours with stops and such. I made the decision to roll with a light weight wind breaker and embro on the legs in order to minimize the clothing in my pockets as there was only 1 general store towards the very end of our ride and I wanted to bring a slew of food. The game plan was to ride the Apple Orchard route which ends up being the hardest day for me usually.
We started the route descending the backside where we quickly ran into very think fog where it became almost impossible to see. On top of that there was more gravel in the switch backs than I had ever seen on the road before. We took it very slow on the top and opened up once the visibility and road condition got better.
We cruised for a while in the valley before our dirt climb first climb up Walnut Bottom. After a quick gravel decent we ended up on a smoothly concreted 4 lane highway that started to climb a bit and led to a straight on 6% downhill. The potential to go fast here is high with the low traffic, nice decline, and proper road surface but being in the valley yields a good amount of wind. This year I was able to put my chin on my stem and pedal enough to get a tick of 50mph cruising down it compared to the mid-30s that we ramped up to the year before.
After a bunch of shit-eating-grins we got back to it and pace-lined to the start of the orchard climb. **Note to self for next year, the asphalt section of this climb hurts more than the dirt/gravel portion!!** The owner of the barn and all around great guy Jay, rode with us the entire day and like usual kept us all entertained with excellent stories. He also does a great job of helping sike you up for the wicked climbs but when he said the start was a gradual 10% and I look down to a constant 15+% my grim turned quickly to a grimace. Shit that is brutal. Around the time we hit the climb the sprinkling rain turned to more of a steady rain and I stopped to put my windbreaker on.
By the time the asphalt turned to dirt it was quite a bit muddy and it was some Rapha type shit… low 50s, slews of fog, and enough rain to make your front wheel scoot around while your shivering on the downhills. At the top of the climb we waited and regrouped for everyone. We climbed just a bit more to get the body warmed up and descended on a fast dirt/gravel/mud ridden double track full of cattle grates and large cliff faces. My fingerless gloves made braking in the drops almost unmanageable so the decent was very fast for the lack of sight I had. The surface was quite a bit smoother than last year with a lot less large rocks and gravel. After the dirt decent the road descends farther with more switch backs and leads into rolling steep hills and continues to dip down to the main road. At the bottom we re-grouped again at the general store.
After everyone warmed up we all sporadically left the store and headed through the valley to the worst climb of the day, the backside. I think it may be one of the hardest climb Ive ever done. The Strava segment tells me it’s a Cat2 climb, ~5miles long, over 2,000ft high with an average of 8%. Unfortunately my Garmin had other plans and transposed all my data a few hundred feet from the actual road surface.
A foggy start to the morning
A proper dirt climb
Mark checking his wounds after a little pothole incident
Ryan having more fun than I was…
A very wet orchard climb
Wet backside climb
Eric’s mud face
That night Eric helped get my bike dialed in after the harsh conditions
Solid dinners all week
A lil Lamas action
Drying soaked shoes by the fire
Day 3 – Crooked Loop – Strava Jawn: http://www.strava.com/activities/127295821
3:35 moving time
6,962 ft of elevation
Avg speed = 13.7mph
Max speed = 45.4mph
Avg power = 207W
Max power = 925W
Max HR = 191bmp
The crooked was going to be a rough one since everyone already had a solid amount of miles and vertical feet in their legs. This rough has a slew of dirt/gravel climbs & descents. So much so that Jay (who runs the barn) always uses his cross bike with 34c knobbies. The dirt decent from the barn was in perfect shape so we bombed it hard. By the time I got to the bottom of the decent I realized my front bottle was MIA. Welp that’s gonna suck… luckily for me a teammate saw it bounce off a few rocks and snagged it for me. After being pretty entertained by the 40+mph dirt decent we got back into the groove of the paceline until the Breadman got a flat. A few of us went and checked out a damn that was right off the road where a few people fish and hangout.
We tackled a quick climb, hit the wicked winds in the valley and finally got close to the climb they call ‘wicked’. The profile on Strava makes it look pretty intense as it’s a very steep 2000ft peak which drops off quickly. The front side of the climb has slews of switchbacks tracking up the face of the mountain with a couple points of relief in the bottom section. The gravel wasn’t too deep this year so most sections you could down shift a couple and stand to pedal without the fear of spinning out.
Once at the top we all joined up for a couple pictures before the wicked MTB-esq decent. My confidence was high after a couple other dirt descents and it almost took its toll. I cam in hot… some would say too hot into a steep 180 switchback that made me have an ‘O Shit’ moment. It twasn’t that bad as I didn’t even take a foot out of the pedal but I definitely locked the rear up. After calming down a bit I ran into Jay and talked a bit before hitting the bottom.
We cruised back to camp with a short trip to the front side climb. A few of us stopped into a general store to grab a bit more liquid before the 8miles climb back to camp. During such time we spotted something that they call a barbeque loaf?! Never seen that one before.
During the ride up the winds howled and out group of 9 dwindled to a group of 4. Mark and myself were taking some deep pulls while Ryan and Rory sat in. I tried my best to stay on Marks wheel up the climb for as long as I could but just like every other climb during the week, I couldn’t hold his wicked pace. I knew today was the last climb so I would push sporadically as my legs regained their composure. Once at the first crest we descended a bit on the ridge where I was pushing the pace trying to make back time. I eventually reeled Mark back in and rode next to him talking for a bit. As the landscaped kicked again I sat on his wheel hoping NAY praying that I would see the barn soon. I stayed on his wheel for a bit longer until the hellish road kicked again, this time HARD! He rode away from me like I wasn’t even pedaling. I crushed as hard as I could on the next flat but had nothing left. Mark rolled in a solid 20seconds before me and I greeted him at the barn with a solid dare I say fist bump. Solid day, solid ride.
Dirt descent from the barn
Top of wicked
Simpler Times eh?
Day 4 – Ridge Ride Solo – Strava Jawn: http://www.strava.com/activities/128075666
1:15 moving time
2,493 ft of elevation
Avg speed = 14.9mph
Max speed = 38.9mph
Avg power = 208W
Max power = 830W
Max HR = 176bmp
Sunday morning is usually set aside for cleaning, packing, and watching whatever Classic is on TV that weekend. I woke up early and wanted to take in the sights and sounds. I did a solo #yawnpatrol ride on top of the ridge. It’s a fun little ride with some brutal punchy climbs and ~1/2 of the terrain dirt/rock farmer roads. It was chilly ~30F but felt warm with the amount of climbing and the pounding sun. I was loving life, bombing the descents until I finally got a rear pinch flat where the dirt became littered with exposed rock. I wont complain as it was in the low 40s by then and I was in the middle of nowhere riding my bike… ie the complete opposite of my normal daily bike commute though Philly. I changed the flat and backed off on the gnarly-ness degree as that was my only tube. I cruised back to camp and got to watching Tour of Flanders. The race this year was very entertaining and didn’t disappoint. Ben had gone over to Belgium a few days before and my goal was to spot him on the Koppenberg! Check and mate!
No work + riding all day with a solid crew = the life. 2014’s version of RTR did not disappoint at all.
1st flat/mechanical of the weekend for me.
We watched the race and got to see friend & teammate Ben on TV repping hard! #PHLCX
I got home and met the lady at the corner bar to relax and fall back into real life. It was another solid weekend.