Sunday, May 4, 2014

Chino Valley Gravel Grinder

Well, one week after freezing in Prescott doing the Whiskey, I am back up there doing the first Chino Valley Gravel Grinder held on May 3.

This is a 106 mile long ride, with about 8500 feet of climbing on 60 miles of dirt and 40 miles of pavement.  You get to ride from a little baseball field in Chino Valley out into some really empty country and up to a ski area in the city limits of Williams.

There were about 120 riders, some pro mtb riders and pro cycle cross riders, ASU cycling team members, and some pretty good riders who did this ride, along with guys like me.  We all lined up at 7:30 with a cloudless fairly warm morning and started out.   At the very first turn I look ahead and there is a mountain bike peleton going like crazy up this paved road that we had just turned onto ( that's the last we saw of those guys ).  Me and the rest of the tail end charlies proceeded mostly singly the next mile or so until we ran out of pavement.  We would be on dirt for 30 miles as we climbed just slightly and then took a long descent to the Verde River.  Once at the Verde, we crossed a one lane metal bridge, and then up a pretty steep climb.  Finally we get to Hwy 73 and we are back on pavement again.

The next 20 miles were a bit weird.  We were climbing the whole way, and you could feel the climbing in how much effort you were putting in.  But we were in small oaks and then into pines and you did not see an appreciation of just what you were doing.  When I do Mt Lemmon, it's easy to look out and see the progress that you are making, this road looked flat but certainly was not !

Finally we get to Williams, and make a turn to the ski area, up a couple of miles of slippery loose red dirt and get to our turnaround point.  They had BACON !  and Cokes !  It was most excellent.  Felt pretty rejuvenated after that rest, got back on the bike, negotiated that loose slippery stuff ( same crap I fell on when I did the Whiskey pre-ride, still very nervous about that ) and got back on the highway.

So now the fun is supposed to start, we have a downhill of close to 20 miles, and it went by pretty quickly.  Finally did the turn back onto dirt and it's beginning to get warm out there.  Still was descending a bit until we get to the Verde.  Another section of thick loose dirt, and we're trying to not loose the bike ( I kinda scooted all the way to the other side of the road in one place almost into a stupid ditch  LOL ! ).   Then back to the SAG/aid station at the Verde.

Felt pretty good, a little group of about 5 of us would leapfrog one another, as we started up the climb out away from the Verde.  But it got hotter, and the 90 something miles we had done started to take it's toll on me, so I was moving pretty slow at the end.  The wind had started gusting pretty strong ( someone said 18-20 ) and it's hotter, I'am putting water on my hat under my helmet, getting passed by the SAG truck with people in it who had been picked up asking me if I needed anything ( there's like no way in hell that I am quitting now, even if I have to walk back ).

So I cross that last little hill that we sailed across earlier in the morning, wait for some cows to cross the road, get passed by a bunch of OHV's doing 30 plus miles per hour raising a cloud of dust that you couldn't see through ( or breathe, but who needs air ?? ).  Finally get back to pavement, know that I got this thing and I finished it.

Something like 9.5 hours was my time.  No major issues, my Pivot bike was great, my tires were good, ( lots of flats out there with other riders ), and I didn't fall apart, so it was a good experience.  I didn't hang around the finish very long and headed to a McDonalds for a Coke and fries.  Got back to the hotel and one of the motorcycle riders standing in front of the hotel goes "this guys got a number on his bike" and asked about it all.

Unless I think of something in the next 7 weeks, that's the last "event" before lining up at Antelope Wells on June 13.  I got a chance to ride with Steve A who is also doing TD.  A great fellow, it will be fun to meet him someplace in Colorado or Wyoming this summer as north bound and south bound TD riders run into each other.

I took some pictures, but I seem to have misplaced my little Sony camera ( it may be on the ground at the ball field in Chino Valley ).   The countryside out there is absolutely beautiful.  It is the open West, with unspoiled scenic vistas in all directions, starting with grassland, going into oaks, and then pine forests and not all that much traffic.  The red rocks of Sedona are visible ( from the west side ), and it's just a stunning set of vistas.  Worth a drive and doable in pretty much any good vehicle.
Close to finishing


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