Monday, April 20, 2009

Mountain Madness preview

Last Saturday a group of us drove to Danbury, NC for a training ride in anticipation of 3 Mountain Madness at the end of May. About a dozen of us met in Cary and carpooled out to Danbury with plans to follow a variation of NCBC's Sauratown 2 cue sheet whick took us from Moratock Park to Sauratown Mountain then Pilot Mountain and finally up Hanging Rock. That would allow for us to do all three climbs. When we got to Danbury, we met up with a group of riders from Greensboro and made a group of 20. Before leaving the parking lot, our group's organizer, Tom, gave a safety talk that including safe descending and an overview of the route.

We left and had fairly strenuous warm up leading to Sauratown Mountain Road. We all made our way up Sauratown and met at the top. Sauratown is about 3.2 miles of climbing. You stop when you run out of road. Near the top there is a place that you can see the skyline of Winston-Salem on a clear day. After regrouping at the top, we made the descent one at a time for safety's sake. We continued on a short way and one of the riders had a mechanical issue which turned out to be a broken shifter cable. No shifter cable means no shifting and that ended Hal's riding day. Tim offered to make sure that Hal made it back to the parking area safely.

Photos taken during Hal's mechanical failure

The rest of us continued to Pilot Mountain. The Greensboro group broke off just before Pilot Mountain and the ten remaining riders did the climb. Pilot is quite steep with a lot of switch backs and a section of 17% grade. The other thing about Pilot is that there is a climb to get to the ranger station so it's not as if you are coming from a flat valley road to a mountain. Instead, you've already been climbing for a while.
Photos taken at the top of Pilot

This was the second time that I've climbed Pilot. Last year Sandra told me that it was 1.2 miles from the ranger station -- if you can get through that, the grade becomes less steep. It's still a grinder of a hill for sure but its that one section that is really bad. I remembered what she said and I confirmed it on Saturday. I made it through the switch-backs up to the top and met the other riders. We rested there and refilled our water bottles at the overlook parking area. Then, like on Sauratown, we made the descent one at a time. I went last because I had every intention of pumping my brakes the whole way down.

As I made my way down the mountain, I saw two cars stopped in front of me. As I got closer, I could see a group of cyclists in front of the cars. I was extremely worried for a few seconds but saw a cyclists sitting down, not lying down. That was a good sign. I slowly made my way to the group and found that Tom (yes, the one who gave the safety talk before we set off on this adventure), had been injured and quickly figured out that a black truck had been involved and that the truck's mirror was damaged.

Since Tom had plenty of helpers, I went ahead and made my way down to the ranger station to meet up with the group. Four emergency vehicles passed me on the way up to see Tom. A ranger brought down Tom and his bike. Hal and Tim were contacted and we waited for them to come and pick up Tom. The rest of us made our way back to the parking area on our bikes and skipped the Hanging Rock climb. Greg road out ahead of the group so that he could drive Tom home. The rest of us stayed together. Afterward, Tom was thanked for his creative and acrobatic way of getting us out of climbing Hanging Rock.

After changing cloths and making an attempt at post-ride clean-up, several of us stopped at Sam's Pizza in Walnut Cove. I understand that this is the traditional post ride dinner.

Since the incident, the Legend of Tom has grown:
  • ...he hit the transport truck going 57 mph, was thrown 75 feet in the air and landed on his head, with brain matter oozing on to the pavement, oh wait that was his GU gel
  • It is quite amazing that he didn't suffer any burns from the exploding tanker truck that he hit.
Seriously, we all know how lucky Tom was to get by with scrapes and sore muscles and a bike that needs some work but can be repaired.

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