Words by Alex Morse
January 17th by most people’s standards, isn’t the best date for a group ride… but we’re Great (fuckin) Eskape. A new DC based team, focused on getting away from the overworked, day in and out grind of living in America’s most expensive city. A group of youngish guys and gals, who like to ride and race our bikes, especially in less than favorable conditions.
I had planned out a route we had ridden before, a loop in Loudon County that’s 46 miles long, with 4100 or so feet of climbing. We set out early in the morning, arriving at 10:00am to suit up and get our ride started. The loop starts with about a mile stretch of flat road, followed by an immediate left turn that develops into a 16% grade climb for about a half a mile, which we were grateful for, being that it was about 30 degrees and the sun had not yet peered from behind the clouds.
Once we hit our first long gravel road, the members who had not yet ridden that route, knew that this was a legit gravel ride. Our first cross street became a place to pause, recap, up the stoke and let some air out of our tires. From there we continued on, pleased that it had started to snow… further adding to the experience of riding on these backcountry roads, passing cow and horse farms.
Once we reached the top of a hill, that 2 weeks before we had come to find that a Great Dane occupied (he wasn’t there this time) we decided to have a ‘safety meeting.’ I opened up my Revelate seat bag, and displayed to the team a bottle of Jameson. "We worked hard for this boys! After all, its almost noon, right?" A few quick nips and we were off once again to continue our journey.
Somewhere along the way, Andy mentioned that his old team was having an indoor trainer ride that day; we collectively agreed to name this ride the ‘Fuck your indoor trainer’ ride.
Up and down hills, through little roads with backcountry names, seeing no one around but a few SUV’s here and there, we continued on until reaching the Country Store at mile 29, where we stopped for donuts and beer, and to dispose of the GU packets and empty whiskey bottles. The ladies at the counter thought we were a bit crazy, and offered to take our pictures if they could hang them in their storefront. We agreed, and got some amazing team shots.
We set off again after about 20 minutes or so of chatting, drinking and regrouping; colder than we were when we arrived. The dampness now settling in, it dawned on us that we still had about 20 hard miles to go. We set off, some of us swapping water for beer in our bottles, less chatty and more focused than before our stop.
The remainder of the ride was a mixture of beautiful scenery, more farmland, and gratitude as the snow halted and the sun once returned, bringing the temperature up about 10 degrees. The last four miles of this route are the best way that a long, cold and hilly ride like this can end. Flat and downhill and all paved. Coasting at about 25 miles an hour (not bad when we’re all running ‘cross knobbies at about 40 psi) drying us off while reminding us of where our ride had begun. We finished off the day with burritos and beer, and we couldn’t ask for anything more.