Words By Andy (@Rad_Baron)
Photos by Kevin (@PewPewBike) and Coman (@unwoundndone4)
Lesson 1: Location is everything.
The host for the Devils Backbone Mountain Cross is, as the name implies, the Devils Backbone Brewery Basecamp, located on the edge of the Shenandoah Mountains. With three full bars, multiple places to eat, large outdoor spaces, a firepit, bandstand, and covered beer garden this venue is a pretty great place to be, whether you are here for outdoor exploits or just for a beer. Just outside of the brewery grounds DB allows AT through-hikers and other vagabonds to pitch tent in some nice stealthy camping spots in the woods. We took advantage of the camping spots both the night before and after the race. The brewery also provides shuttles to the AT in the morning and a 5 dollar hikers' breakfast. Add in the panoramic views and you have one of the best race venues in the mid-Atlantic.
The only problem with the venue was that we were unable to avoid the temptation to get totally tanked the night before the race on the great beer served at the base camp. oops. The hangovers didn't mix very well with dehydration inducing heat and humidity the next day during the race.
Lesson 2: Some like it hot.
Yeah, it was pretty hot. Not like hot, hot July summer in DC but hot enough. It got up to about 90, it was pretty humid, and our kits are dark colors. Water management was a bit of an issue, cramps were a constant bother, and helmets were coming off immediately for hike-a-bikes (which were common, see next section.)
In any event, it made the experience a lot harder than last year's race. which was no cakewalk.
Lesson 3: Get low.
This race is seriously hilly. And not like the short "ok I can manage this for 5-10 minutes" climbs found at Hilly Billy, but like "Lord of the Rings: Directors Cut" long. This race is without a lot of short climbs or rollers, almost all of the climbing is done in 3 steep, long climbs, the longest of which takes well over an hour of granny gear spinning to get to the top.
Last year I did this on a heavy steel bike with a 34/36 low gear and it was tough. This year i had a 34/32 and it totally sucked. By the end of the race my legs were totally blown up and even walking the last climb was arduous to the point of nearly giving up. If you plan to do this race either plan on having a light bike, low gearing, or both.
Lesson 4: Three is company.
We had a stupid good time doing this. At last count we've got about 10 Great Eskape riders who show up for events and races. We had 9 at our last race (Monster Cross and MTB) and a dozen or so at last year's hilly billy. This race is really far from DC and happens on a busy weekend, so for the last 2 years there have been just 3 of us entering the race. This year it was Kevin, Coman, and I. We party paced the first 2/3rd together before entering the 10 mile climb. After that Kevin found the power and pulled ahead. Coman, despite feeling strong, did the charitable thing and held back with my slow ass.
Coman kept me company while i dug deeper and deeper into my pain cave. I probably wasn't finishing without the encouragement. We ended up making some new friends at the back of the pack and ended the race with a 4 way tie for DFL. Coman will be back next year to make a serious run at a good time, I'll be back next year to get to drunk and DFL again.
that's my life. it's how i do.
til next time,