Written by Doug Southwick Tuesday, 05 September 2017 00:00
The Overland is an adventure race on gravel and Pave roads (ancient, unmaintained and technical) and it's one big 49 mile loop with close to 6,000 feet of elevation. I went up the day before with the family to hit packet pick up, get my free beer for doing so, and to hike/check out Queechee Gorge. This all worked out well with a bonus of a nice included breakfast at the hotel. The weather for the race was great (sunshine but not hot or humid). I lined up with 700 friends that included former olympians and a few current national champions. So, I absolutely knew I’d be doing the mid pack thing all day. My goals for the day were to match my time from last year and to ride everything (which did not happen last year).
We all take off at the same time in a big group so it’s crowded even with the hills that start before mile one. A large percentage of racers are on cross/gravel bikes but I went with my hard tail mountain bike mostly because it's set up with a 2x10 drivetrain giving me some nice climbing gears. I am feeling good and set into a nice pace/zone that I hope to maintain for the next 4 hours or so without bonking.
There’re 7 pave sections in total and pretty much all them are mostly up & technical so there’re more people walking than riding which makes riding a lot tougher. Most folks (but not all) do their best to give you some room when you say rider back. The day is pretty much climb some gravel, hit a pave section, fly down a gravel road.. and repeat. And it’s a blast!
I skip water stop number one and realize I am not drinking much. Racers at this point are pretty spread out but there are always at least a few others around. I am seeing the same guys over and over as pass them in the Pave and they pass me back on the next gravel climb. Rinse and repeat throughout the day. Anytime there is a non technical flat or downhill I do my best to get in a group and take advantage of the added speed.
I feel hints of a leg cramp so I get some water at stop #2 and take the two salt tablets I brought. A few miles later I am at Pave section 5, the toughest section in the whole course known as "Oude Kwaremont" and I take it easy up until the nastiness begins. And of course as soon as it does, I see 10+ people walking so I dig deep, squeeze past the walkers and clean it. I feel pretty pumped being I am certain I'll end the day riding everything.
Next is water stop #3 put on by the Rasputitsa crew, music blaring, waffle handups, and a new full water bottle without a stop is pretty sweet. Two more pave sections, some fast descents, and I am hurting but I am finally on the last (mile long) climb. That's done and now a blast down one of suicide six's ski trails and I cross the line 4 minutes faster than last year! The food and after party was a nice way to end a great day. I'll be back next year.
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