In what is becoming a fall tradition, six OVC riders headed over to Harrisonburg, Virginia for the 5th edition of the Alpine Loop hosted by professional mountain bike racer Jeremiah Bishop. On Saturday evening, after getting their numbers, the group enjoyed a team dinner of pasta and pizza courtesy of Culver & Pierson, with the 3 ride veterans (Ted, Dean, and Caleb) doling out last minute words of wisdom to the 3 rookies (Mark, Jason, and Roscoe).
The team reconvened the next morning, rolling out in a mass start at 8am with Mr. Bishop and 400 other riders (about 200 were doing the full Alpine Loop) under perfect weather conditions. After an 18 mile warm-up, the riders faced the first climb of the day. This timed, 4 mile ascent would lead the ride from the friendly confines of the Shenandoah Valley to wild and wonderful West Virginia. Mark was the first OVC rider over the top; he stayed near the front and bested his next teammate by 1 min 30 seconds.
Following a screaming descent, OVC re-grouped at the first rest stop and refueled while chit-chatting with Mr. Bishop. The group soft-pedaled toward the next climb one rider short and wondered what happened to their man Ted. The next climb was the first gravel sector. Actually, it should be called “bumpy, rocky hiking trail”, rather than gravel. A couple of OVC riders lost traction on an early steep pitch and had to dismount. Back on their bikes, a steady climbing rhythm was found. Mark and Roscoe cleared the gravel together, with Jason not far behind.
The trio approached the rest stop outside of Franklin, WV, and was surprised to find Ted getting back on the road. The wily veteran had skipped the first rest stop and was the leading OVC rider on the course. Jason, Mark, and Roscoe headed out to reel Ted in, with Dean and Caleb not far behind. But with about 50 miles on their legs, the group began to get strung out a bit.
Mark and Roscoe found themselves at the tip of the spear at Mile 65 to begin the final major ascent. Known as the “Dark Side of Reddish Knob”, the 10 mile climb features another rocky, fire road and 2200 ft of vertical gain. Mark, who was cruising to another club KOM, suffered an untimely flat. Roscoe caught up and, knowing that Mark had two spare tubes on board, kept mashing, fearing he’d never get going if he stopped. After over an hour of climbing, the riders were rewarded with fantastic views from the top of Reddish Knob and were treated to Cokes and Twinkies from the race organizers.
Having survived the 5 major climbs of the day, the course headed back into the Shenandoah Valley and towards Harrisonburg. The legs enjoyed 12 miles of twisting descending down the mountain, lasting almost a half hour. Despite being out of the mountains, the riders still faced stiff winds and several punchy climbs for the final 20 miles that would test their physical stamina and mental fortitude. There was also a nice Amish family cheering us on.
All 6 OVC riders finished the 106 mile ride (with 11,000 ft of climbing) in under 8 hours and were all in the top 50 overall times for the 172 finishers. Not bad for a bunch of guys who live on a sand bar! Notably, Caleb and Ted shaved over 40 minutes off their times from last year -- solid work, guys! The group got a picture with Jeremiah Bishop and refueled on pulled pork sandwiches and some local beer. It was another great day on the bike, OVC!
More detailed results are here:http://www.midatlantictiming.com/resultsdetail.php?did=547