Back in the winter Mark Merrill and I had the idea to toss together a gravel/dirt road ride to help send the Gamecock Cycling Club (me) to cyclo-cross nationals in Boulder, CO. The ride went off smoothly and we had a ton of fun exploring some new dirt in West Columbia and met some new folks from out of town.
My friends at Summit Cycles reminded me that there was lots of other dirt that needed to be explored, and the college club always needs some fundraising done, so the School's Out Gravel Grind was born.
This ride will start in Blythewood, SC, a little bit farther away from USC's campus and farther out than I normally ride, but the drive is well worth it.
I really like this route. It starts through Cobblestone Park, the neighborhood that used to host an early season omnium in March. After cutting through a short washout, you hit your first gravel section. The dirt comes early and often, and you sometimes forget how about any connecting paved roads there might be. I don't think that it's a majority dirt, but it certainly feels like it. When you do get back on the tarmac, you're thankful that you can spin your legs out a little bit.
I know that people are going to be tempted to smash this ride but trust me, especially if you're riding the full 45 miles, you're going to want to save your bullets.
I swear every dirt road finishes uphill, and at one point it hits 25%.
TWENTY FIVE PERCENT
I might be lying, but I don't think I am.
It was at least 20%, and I know that for a fact. So, it feels like more elevation change than what we had in December, but I'm not really much of one for tracking elevation gained/lost on a ride.
There are two out and back roads. This may sound lazy, but it's really cool. It gives the group a chance to naturally stop and collect everyone who may be straggling on the hill, and the change in direction gives a new perspective on the road.
The dirt roads are in pretty decent shape. There are a couple that just got new stone, but it's not a big deal at all. Only ONE road that is sandy, and I think we may be able to avoid that one by way of jeep trail. A little bit of moisture would be nice, as it was super dusty the day we went out and rode. My chain was less than pleased. (We've had some rain but I think we'll need more this week to pack everything in nicely)
I know that we're going to have some folks "sign-up" for the 45 mile ride but, when we get back to the parking lot after the 30 mile loop, will change their minds, pack it in and call it a day. It's a pretty tough loop, and it's going to be a lot of fun.
That said, be ready for what's coming for you on Saturday. It's not a race, and I doubt it will be "epic", but it's still going to take some preparation.
Despite what The Rules say about saddle bags and frame pumps, you're riding gravel. The clean lines of your frame can give way to efficiency every now and then. One tube probably won't cut it and it wouldn't hurt to bring along an infinite amount of air (i.e. a pump) if you blast through your CO2 early.
Also, it's South Carolina in May. It's going to be hot. Not South Carolina in August hot, but still hot. The great thing about this route is that after 30 miles, we return right back to where we started. I suggest putting a cooler in your car so that you can have fresh water for the final 15 miles. Or you could always just swing into the Food Lion. Some electrolytes might be a good idea, too. I hear Nuun Hydration makes good stuff...
It is NOT a race! But, it is covered by USAC as a sanctioned non-competitive event. This means that we're covered under their insurance should anything awful happen. *knocks on wood*
It is FREE! But, donations are more than acceptable. The Gamecock Cycling Club is still not funded by the school (we're too new) and we operate strictly on sponsor dollars and donations. Anything you think you can do to help is greatly appreciated.
Thanks to Henry and Summit Cycles for putting together a great loop.
Henry's Strava Route