2009 Devil's Backbone Mountain Cross | Post Race Report

2009 Devil's Backbone Mountain Cross
Devil's Backbone Brewery
I cowboy up to ride the first Devil's Backbone Mountain Cross which was a USA Cycling sanctioned the noncompetitive event, but for some, it was a race and for others like myself it was a task just to finish. My ride report is from my point of view which was from the back of the pack. My goal was to finish and three different times I think I had an out-of-body experience on the course.

This event started off at the Devil's Backbone Brewery which is just down from the Wintergreen Resort located in Nelson County VA. This was a nice place to start and finish a race/ride death march. There where four sag vehicles with radio communication that patrolled the route. There was also a rest stop that was stocked with anything you wanted to refuel yourself and refill your water bottles with.

Now for some of you folks in blog land that do not know the area, we covered three different counties in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We followed the Tye River which in some places look like a creek. Past by the lower parking area for The Priest located in The Priest Wilderness. The elevation to the summit is 4063ft which is reached by following the Appalachian Trail.

Gravel roads of the Blue Ridge Mountains
The course follows many of the gravel roads of the Blue Ridge Mountains

The course was made up of 50% road and 50% gravel/hardpack road. This was an open road course which means there was traffic on the road. Upon leaving the brewery we hit our first hill which was on Cub Creek Road. This is a very steep climb with grades of 15-20%. I had to walk some of this. After reaching the summit the road surface changes to gravel and plunges down for the next 4-6 miles. It had started to rain just before the downhill section and I guess it would not be cross without rain. Either way, I notice on my way down that some people did not make some of the turns and their bikes were on the ground by the road.

Devil's Backbone Mountain Cross
The course follows VA-56 which follows the Tye River
Somewhere on Carter Hill Road, I met up with Mountainspider and we took turns pulling for the next 4.5 miles on Crabtree Falls Highway. Then we started a 9-mile ascent of the Tye River Canyon. This is where Mountainspider was able to get ahead of me and the next place I saw him was at the rest stop where he had arrived about 5 minutes ahead of me. Over that 9 miles of gravel hard pack road, we gain 2000ft of elevation. This was the second out-of-body experience.

Devil's Backbone Mountain Cross
The course follows under and over the Blue Ridge Parkway
After leaving the rest stop I hit Irish Creek Road and descend for the next 7 miles topping out at 44mph. Then I started my climb back up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The 8.5 miles of the parkway where a mix of Hills and flat sections. At one point my left hamstring cramped up before I could get off the bike. This took me back to the rest stop where I took about a five-minute break.

The next leg of the route is where the fun begins, as you descend for the next 13 miles. Oh, there must be someone looking out for me! 13 miles downhill? Remember this is an open course! But I am going to ride it like I stole it. This section re-traces the same roads as the first section of the course and there will be long gravel descent. You can get some crazy fast speed coming down this section of the route. The only things that slow you down are the blind turns and one switchback. There where points on this section that I topped out at 40+mph.

Devil's Backbone Mountain Cross
Sooner or later the course will take us over that mountain
All good things must come to an end! I forgot that the first descent I took on the gravel section of Cub Creek Road was there to greet me on my way back to the Brewery. A 20% climb that looks like it reaches into the sky is what's stopping me from having a beer! This section of the course killed me. I could not climb it. I just did not have it in me. So I dismounted and took one step at a time. I was never so glad to see the summit of Cub Creek Road. Another downhill section and a flat section to go and it is all over. I started down the hill like a mad man and topped out at 48mph. The finished time was 5:55.

This was a brutal event for me. I think it is the hardest physical one-day event that I have ever done. What did I take away from this Mountain Cross event? I suck at going up hills! Since I had to use my Bontrager mountain bike for this course I was pleased with the set-up. I used a set of Bontrager Connection tires and they proved to be the right pick for me. Clif Shot Electrolyte works and Gatorade does not work for me. If they have this event next year I will do it but I think the weapon of choice is going to be a cross bike. The last thing is that I did meet my goal of finishing!


Metro said…
A great write up. Thanks for sharing dude.

Dan O said…
Sounds like an epic ride. Nice write up.

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