|Starting out in fresh snow up top|
We started out at a casual 10:15AM and at that point, the sun was up but the air temperature was still in the low 20's. Winter doesn't seem to be through with us just yet, though at this point in the year, the sun is certainly warm. Too warm in fact and quickly turns gravel road surfaces frozen tight from the cool night time temperatures into, well, slop.
|Ridge Rd Kirby was in good shape thanks to the cold|
At this point we were still playing with good conditions and road surfaces that had yet to soften up much. The conditions down low, like on Mt Hunger Rd which is the final stretch before the drop down to the finish line was pretty dry in general and in good shape overall. This was mostly because it was still in the low twenties despite the forecast saying that we should get well above freezing on the day. there was virtually no snow on Belden Hill Rd, the drop down to the finish, but the road is washed in a number of spots and there was a little ice. Lose it here by riding over your ability and you will get a fun trip to the hospital I bet.
|Starting to soften up a bit but nice views|
The descent down West Darling Hill was fast but there were frozen ruts and chatter near the bottom. The road is one that can very easily get away from you. I have great respect for that descent. Bugbee Crossing Rd was much the same, firm still and in good shape at that point and with those conditions. In fact, even Brook Rd was pretty darn good though as we neared Carter Rd there started to be snow covering the road from the snow that fell the night before. This wasn't a problem at all as it meant that the road surface was still frozen. From Carter to Marshall Newland Rd conditions were firm and the descent, another tricky one, had frozen mud ruts, snow and generally aspects that required your attentiveness to navigate. The same with the descent down White School Rd. Firm and fast but rutted.
|Back into the snow on Carter Rd|
Speaking of conditions, I mentioned that we were starting to see some slop and also that we were still below freezing. Well yea, what that translated to was frozen crud, on the bikes, and the drive trains. Stuff was starting to pile up and tolerances were starting to get tight. We topped out on Victory Rd finally and savored the long, snow covered, rutted but incredibly fun descent down toward Granby. By the time we hit the town center and crossed the Moose River, turning onto River Rd, we'd lost the snow and started to pick up some melting and sloppy, soft surface. We also picked up two sets of other bike tracks, tracks that were very evident in the soft gravel. Immediately I started wondering who it could be and quickly wondered out loud if it could have been a mutual friend we'd invited on this ride but whom couldn't commit to the timing. Jeremiah wasn't convinced but I still suspected it was our friend Jamie who'd started his ride over in Lancaster.
|River Rd was typical|
River Rd never ceases to deliver early season. It trends downhill all the way and should be a fast, easy ride but inevitably it is always muddy, washboard and soft and or there is a headwind. That day we had the former. Six miles of seemingly endless slogging through the squishy energy sucking mud, mud that also froze to the stays, the seat tube and the drivetrain, a drivetrain that quickly stopped working.
|That was a problem|
And then we climbed, what seemed an endless climb up the soft grade of Victory Hill Rd, about a mile and a half steady climb up to Masten Rd, where the grade pitches up significantly leading up to the ClassIV seasonal Kirby Mountain Rd and #Cyberia. The approach is daunting. River Rd is always way harder than it should be, on paper. Then the first grade on Victory Hill Rd softens you up, the second pitch on Masten Rd puts a real sting in the legs and then when the real fun starts you are pretty well worked over having gone more than a few rounds already.
|Slow and meticulous going in #Cyberia|
|Snow and mud ruts #Cyberia|
|Couldn't get going again #Cyberia|
The descent down for us last Saturday was slow but incident free. As we got further down the snow tapered but the mud increased. We reached the bottom, pretty happy to be finished.
The Rasputitsa course is a stout route in any season but especially in the spring and winter. I knew that when I first suggested that particular route to Heidi and Anthony. One of the most appealing aspects of the back side of the course is literally, just how remote you are. For those who didn't look at the map, that is the only road. There are no short cuts, no cut through sections. Once you commit you are either going forward to the end or turning around and going back the way you came. There are no stores and phone service is spotty. It's as close to a wilderness area as we have in that general area, in fact, River Rd takes us right through Victory Basin WMA.
My best word of advice is to be ready for everything as I believe, that is what we are going to get. There will certainly be some terrific gravel roads but I suspect there will also be some of the most horrendous conditions you can imagine. It may well be a race of equipment preservation, one where you must meter just how hard you push your bike as much as how hard you push yourself. We'll see, maybe it will all dry up. Maybe.
But I wouldn't count on it.