Where’s the gravel? Just wait. How much waiting exactly before you arrive on the looming gravel of the RGR? 104 miles and somewhere close to 8,000ft of climbing. Try that on as a warm-up.
True to its fashion the 2012 NW Gentleman’s’ race delivers a true gentleman’s race. What may have seemed like an easy paved race in the first 40-50-60-70-80 miles finally took it’s toll and in the final 20 miles of the race dialed up the suffering.
But what was in store before the gravel was a 90% perfect route of solid climbing, followed by screaming smiling ear to ear descents laid out between rolling forested PNW style roads. The first of these climbs was wickedly beautiful forest road 1828 up to Lolo Pass. Nearing the QOM stunning views of Mountain Hood dominated the upper horizon. Descending off Lolo pass we chased vehicles topping out over 40mph.
The descent continued down Barlow Trail past the infamous Sandy Ridge MTB trails. A turn onto Marmot road took the route through what is considered Little Switzerland, wide open fields and hills all around, with Mountain Hood once again rising behind us.
We descend down to the Sandy River and climb the onerous Ten Eyck Road up into the town of Sandy. The top of the climb is marked for those that look up by the intersection of Pleasant Road, not a felling Ten Eyck delivers.
We spend some time on high traffic roads for a couple miles taking us to our next turn off onto the rolling Wildcat Mountain and Eagle Fern Roads. Quintessential NW pavement covered by a canopy of green. This only continues for a brief amount of time before the road turns upward into the next climbing challenge. Possibly the most enjoyable portion of the race is this lollipop out of Eagle Fern Park. We nod and wave to the fine Rapha gents at the checkpoint and keep turning pedals up George Road. Up, up, up, up, up. We turn left onto Clausen Rd and go up, up, up, up. Surrealism at its finest when we crest the top of the last pitch and there is a photographer waiting. The descent back to Eagle Fern has me and my bike screaming unicorns and rainbows from a mouth turned upward in permanence. It could have been from the intersection at Rainbow Dr. You can’t make this up.
A brief stop at Eagle Fern park to refill water also provides a nice encounter with regulars who are curious about our bike ride. For people who don’t bike, the measurements of a ride are always comparable to car travel, so when you really surprise someone by how far you’ve come or where you are going it’s pretty reassuring to our general badassness, but it is all about the bike. The bike makes us stronger, the bike makes us better people, the bike makes us badasses. It’s a fact. If you don’t believe me, try it yourself.
Lollipop section completed, and as expected another climb. Kitzmiller road awaits. We climb into Dover, a small community where we share paths with what must be the infamous NW Scooter gangs, who are rallying the corners with serious seriousness. Dozens of scooters pass as we regroup and not a one has any emotion seeping out from above their matching scooter garments. We hit some big rollers on low traffic roads and rally them, smiles and laughter filling the quiet air around us,
We turn onto Hwy 26 for a few and then cross back over to Barlow Pass road. We have a secret weapon in our quiver today. Once we hit mile 102, we know we will have some solace, for one of our teammates has a mountain house on the route. We check in and mix new bottles of nutrition, put on clean socks, and have a brief respite from the saddle, for the gravel is coming.
Still Creek Road stands between us and the end of this ride, but this is no rush. Twelve miles of rough rocky gravel road ascent up 2,000 ft to Timothy Lake. It’s not a Gentleman’s Race without the gravel grinder. Many occasions the tires slip under loose rocks. Bouncing back and forth between the car tracks trying to find the best line, eventually just digging in. The road dumps us out on Timothy Lake, once again with Mountain Hood rising tall behind us, beckoning us to ride on.
And the ride ends. And we share smiles. And we are exhausted. And we share cheers with our friends. And we put these memories of the day in an accessible vault, pull them up regularly, and await the next grand adventure.