We are all about breaking boundaries here on the blog and today we do this via a combination of three perspectives on the recent Ellensburg Fondo.
From Aaron the Arrow:Big John, Richman and I left Seattle early Sunday morning and were met with beautiful weather in Ellensburg. Not a cloud in the sky and a relatively cool temperature. We rolled out as a group and headed into the stiff NW wind. The group built up the pace, but there was a large group at the front to break the wind. One of the noticeably faster riders made a move off the front, and Big John said he had to make it interesting by matching him and pulling around him. As usual, Big John spent a good portion of the time up front leading to Cle Elum. Incredibly beautiful ride along the Yakima River, and it felt good to be heading into the wind with such a large group.
After going through Cle Elum, we headed south and started the gravel. The first climb was crazy steep, and I was definitely missing a couple more gears. Just concentrating on not putting down a foot. This was one of many amazing performances with my new tubeless wheels with Trigger tires. Definitely an impressive setup! There were a number of people spinning out in the loose and steep gravel.
This was my first Gran Fondo, and the gravel was really intense. Having it all for the one stretch of 30+ miles with no letup was exhausting. I basically rode alone with people passing me on the uphills and then catching up with them on the downhills. The downhills were awesome. The downhill in the Nature Conservancy was the best with smooth gravel.
There was a ton of washboard on the second big decent to the rest station, and then the last downhill was so much fun with high speeds and relatively smooth gravel.
I took a shorter stop at the main rest area before the last gravel climb. I was hoping to take my time on the uphill, let people pass me, and then catch people on the downhill for the last 23 miles of pavement to the finish. As it was, nobody really caught me on the uphill or downhill, so I found myself at the pavement alone.
Fortunately, the wind remained out of the NW, so I figured I'd ride hard with the tailwind and see what happened. A group of 5 finally caught me 10 miles from the finish, and I joined them. We had a great pace line going and were flying with the tailwind and long sweeping downhills. The road riding portions of this course were beautiful. We hit the last couple miles of gravel on the John Wayne trail. Sketchy with lots of loose gravel. I was feeling better than I expected, but happy to just stay with the group to the finish. Big John and Richman had successful finishes with their own stories to tell...
All in all, it was a great day and an epic ride. We were fortunate with the weather and wind direction... I was impressed with how well the ride was organized and how difficult the gravel section was. Fun stuff.
This was the trash can at the food stop in 2015. Flat city !Big John reported that he missed the Dolomiters. He added that Aaron the Arrow’s report captured the ride well. He was craving a 12 x 30 instead of the 11 x 28 he was on. After holding out like an old school laggard Big John is now on the waiting list for gravel tubeless. Sharp rocks had intervened in 3 rides over the past 8 days. His highlight was seeing Rich's beaming smile at the finish line
There is something that satisfies the soul when you ride past a sign that forbids your route
Really nice terrain. From following up the glittering Yakima along the back roads to Cle Elum to great views of the Cascades on the climb to running a nice ridge line after the big climb to rolling home by wind turbines and the occasional right-wing political sign. And, as has always been the case with Jake of Vicious Cycle, really well marked course with arrows before and after the turn and pavement markings. That plus RWG course map made it quite comfortable to be way back on a route that you never rode before.
For the first 30 miles Ellensburg to CE - against a headwind - I managed to limit energy expenditure by getting on a couple of pace lines and following the wise team advice (I think from WhipLaesch), "Never pull if you don't have to." My excuse was that I had fatter tires than the other riders...anyway, it provided sufficient rationalization to leave me in good shape for the big up. Fortunately, I had the patented Davo top tube Suffering Still to Go (SSG) cheat sheet so knew precisely where I was on the climb in terms of mileage and elevation and that helped.
I opted to ride with higher tire pressure to avoid pinch flats and that plus my concern for falling on a high speed gravel descent and turning into a bloody mess had me taking it casual on the downhills.
A shaggy coyote crossed the road in front of me.
A side fun fact is that we passed through Nature Conservancy gated land that is part of the effort of consolidating the public-private checkerboard of forest ownership, which dates from the days of original federal land grants to the railroads, in the Teanaway and along I-90 and Mrs Richman (Evo-planted naming convention) played a major role in the acquisition of this land from Plum Creek. I had been hearing about the deal for a long time before it was public in spousal cone of silence work talk.
Big Thanks to Aaron, John and Rich for the words and Rich took the pictures !