Gravel

Suffering Up

HOW I PR’D MY SLEEP AND NAILED THE 4 KEYS OUTSIDE OF TRIATHLON

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OK team, time for an update! After much back-and-forth, I’m pleased to report that we were able to attend and complete an off-road team event.

The logistics for this type of event or challenging because there are so many distributed across the United States. And there are so many different ability levels and specific cycling interests inside the team.

The Alpine Loop Gran Fondo fits the bill simply because it has different distances of events and different terrain options. Something for everyone! And just 2h drive from IAD Dulles Airport makes is pretty accessible as well.





The Team

EB (Emily Brinkley) helped me lock in MOOSE, my trusty NC-resident bike…and all relevant cycling supplies. That plus mojo, friend time and all the smiles made for a great weekend.

Matt Limbert surprised my by jumping into the event. We spent 3-ish days together in all manner of cycling situations…and it made the event itself 10x more fun.





Thursday Night Arrival

This is a total debacle. From a three hour delayed flight to a ridiculous hybrid rental car that had no trunk space, what was intended to be a 12 midnight arrival time into Harrisonburg turned into us getting there at 3 AM. 

Matt Limbert and I have agreed that we shall not speak of the food that we purchased and ate at the 24 hour convenience store on the way to our hotel.

Snitches eat burritos. I slept in until 9:45am!!!




Friday Ride

Given the late start, we modified the day. Instead of doing a full 70 mile loop, we opted to do an out and back I’m a climb known as Reddish Knob. Seems pretty straightforward, until we started climbing.

What started out as a gentle grade quickly kicked up and made for 30 minutes of really tough work. \

Thankfully it was shaded, a theme that persisted with our climbs all weekend.

The majority of this road was paved but it was not easy. Approx 140 TSS.


Saturday Ride

Opted to travel out to hang with EB (Emily Brinkley) because EB! We get to meet some of her friends and had a great time catching up over coffee.

We took that opportunity to ride from Bryce resort, which resulted in another fantastic session.

We took a loop with some single track on it and added on some more gravel riding.

Approx TSS 140 again, with 50% of ride time climbing! 

We did get a little lost…

But we found EB during her charity golf tournament…



Alpine Gran Fondo

With 90 miles and 9,000 ft of climbing in two days, we were clearly completely tapered for the Fondo itself. The Fondo is 110 miles with approximately 10,000 feet of climbing.

There were five categorized KOM’s and plenty of places to work and have fun along the way. I captured a video to sum up my experience across the aid stations:

The Highlights

Matt Limbert “told the story” of the ride .. instead of straight data … End it really worked!

I thought the narrative model was really effective at helping to set expectations to across what was going to be a long day.

The main themes of the story were that we were going to ride our specific numbers, not over-reach, and be really quick through the aid stations. 

The Food

As you undoubtedly noticed in the video food saved my day.

There were plenty of places across the road where things got hard very quickly.

Seemingly flat and fun sections turned into time trial drag races.

Quick detours through the forest turned into dirt roads with 22% inclines. This is not a long ride for the weak of mind or spirit.

The Pacing

This was the real game-changer. Our ability to work within our limits meant we could recover…but it wasn’t easy.

There was plenty of carnage out there on display, it took a great deal of savvy and patience to make sure we didn’t end up similarly. 

The Results

While it’s not a race in the traditional sense, the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo does have a cumulative timed section format that allows for competition. Surpisingly, I did fairly well overall and in the “top 5” range of my category! #plottingfor2022

2021 ALGF Mini Results

We Will Be Back! 

This was a great event in a world-class location. Aid stations were great, Harrisonburg had all the things, and there are multiple ride options (road vs gravel) as well as distances. This could become an end-of-season fixture, I won’t lie!


Thanks for reading!

~ Patrick

ps – the Sleep PR? That was 8 hours for two consecutive nights after my red-eye flight home. Yep….8 hours ride time + 2 hour drive + 2 hour flight had me home at 12:30am!  Zzzzzzzzzz

Gravel Camp: Day One Dirt Adventures

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All the Colors at Camp!

Note: This is the first of three updates from our first annual Gravel Adventure Camp. Early Registration for 2022 is open, and camp space is limited. Learn more on the 2022 event page.

After much planning, scheming, and dreaming we finally held our first official gravel camp! Camper consensus was unanimous — the wait was 100% worth it. Every day had rides ranging from 5 to 6 hours (that’s just ride time!) and adventures galore.

We’ll be back in 2022, and if you can handle six hours on the bike and grades ranging up to 18% at times, you should consider grabbing one of our limited spots with a 100% refundable deposit.

The View of Grandfather Mountain from Gravel Camp HQ

Settling In

The first order of business after the drive out to Linville was assembling bikes and making new friends. We took care of the friends part on Wednesday night with a pit stop in Banner Elk at the Kettell Brewery. Then it was on to Gravel Camp HQ for bike assembly and unpacking.

The Overly Ambitious Route for Day One
The River Road to Valle Crucis

Off the Beaten Path

Mast Gap General Store

Mast Gap General Store Pit Stop

Ouch. No really.

When Hard Becomes Gravel 

As if sneaking up the backside of Beech Mountain wasn’t enough, we decided to add a few additional gravel sections for some fun.

One of these was Philips Branch Road (above), where a punishingly steep straight shot gives way to gravel and switchbacks. Add a random pickup truck pulling a bobcat and you’ve got the recipe for total suffering.

This was only topped by a second, equally strong segment up by Bob’s Adventure. A little shorter this time wasn’t much solace as we were all hurting from the prior climb. We did get to meet “Bob” in his John Deere mobile, and he even offered us a beer. Unfortunately, oxygen was our top priority at the time! 🤣

Friendliness Wins

Heading back to Beech after this “bonus” loop, we realized just how low on water we were. Lucky for us, we came across a small church, a very nice gentleman and a spigot with endless cold water!

Shortly thereafter, our adventure was derailed by a dead end road (and a 10 foot high fence covered with signs). Google maps, it would seem, hadn’t exactly captured the nuances associated with this particular dirt road in the middle of nowhere!

Lesser of Two Evils

Sitting on the side of Beech Mountain, we had to make the call. Push onwards or start the journey home.

After many turns and stops, the truth of about riding gravel really sunk in: it takes time to enjoy this level of awesome!

So, we made the right call and ended up having our official lunch at roughly 4pm in Banner Elk! It was amazing and just in time. The climb home wasn’t any easier, but at least we weren’t starving!

Dinner at Lost Province

We wrapped the day with Dinner in Boone, NC. First for the delicious pizzas at Lost Province Brewing. Second for a proper late-night supermarket so we could stock up on provisions for tomorrow night’s dinner.

With the help of many calories, we mapped out our adventure(s) for the second day!