Disclaimer: This US Endurance Gravel Grinder Nationals and Mini G recap contains affiliate links…

 

About the Event

When Bill and I first heard about the US Endurance Gravel Grinder Nationals and Mini G coming to Loudoun County, we knew we wanted to be a part of this event which would be held on the gravel roads we regularly ride. Loudoun County’s gravel roads are considered some of the best in the country for both serious grinding and scenic touring. With two distances from which to choose – 100-Mile Grinder National Championship and 30-Mile Mini G – we opted for the shorter route. When a week before the event we received an email stating that the Mini G course was changed to 39.2 miles to keep the route safer, we were happy that the additional mileage was doable for us both.

 

If I Have a Timing Chip and Assigned Age Group, I’m Racing

Even though at registration we had to choose an age group and the event would be timed, we were reminded that the Mini G was not a race. I’m sorry, but if I’m in an age group and have a timing chip on my bib, I am racing!

In spite of the fact that I had no intention of riding at a full out speed, I was cognizant of the clock ticking away and tried not to spend too much time while stopped to fuel or take pictures.

 

The Ride in a Nutshell

While I envisioned arriving early on a beautiful spring morning to cheer as we sent off those competing in the 100-mile national championship before embarking on our own shorter adventure, the weather had an entirely different plan in store.

It was 49°(feels like 46°) and raining as we pulled into the grass-turned-to-mud parking area. Rather than quickly getting our gear and bikes together so we could watch the start of the 100-milers, we took our time, not wanting to get out of our car any earlier than necessary.

The weather was slightly cooler, but similar to the day we rode in the Bike NY Five Boro Bike Tour, making it easy for me to look back on what I’d worn that day – not overheating or getting cold is key to a good ride. Two key items I’d worn in NY which I felt made a huge difference in my comfort level were rubber gloves and a poncho with the hood tucked under my helmet, keeping wet clothes and hair from chilling me to the bone.

It was still raining steadily as we rolled out of the starting chute promptly at 8 AM; however, the rain eventually lessened to a drizzle only to return heavier with the dreaded wind gusts with about 10 miles to go.

For the most part, I was quite comfortable under my layers (and ridiculous looking and non-aerodynamic clear poncho – next time I’ll tape it or belt it to keep it closer to my body); however, just before 10 AM as forecasted, when the rain and wind picked up, we battled a few gusts that practically blew me backwards thanks to my built-in wind sail.

I finished my ride with an average speed of 11.7 MPH, not bad considering the miserable weather and a mostly gravel course.

 

About the Course

The course started at the Bluemont Station Brewery and Winery in Bluemont, Virginia and wound its way along portions of western Loudoun County’s 265 miles of gravel roads, some of which date back to the 1700’s. With a heavy downpour of rain the night before, the roads were washed out at places where riverlets had cut narrow gullies. The roads were sprinkled with the typical potholes of this time of year making for a dangerous, yet exciting, obstacle course.

Rain couldn’t dampen the beauty of the bright green grass and newly leafed trees framing stunning mountain views as we rode past well-manicured farmland framed by rock and rail fences, beautiful barns and an assortment of livestock. Wineries and breweries dotted the course as we rode from Bluemont through Trapp, Willsville, Unison, St. Louis, Philomont, and Paxson on our way back to Bluemont.

 

Ride Overview
  • • Ride With GPS Name: Mini G 2022
  • • Ride with GPS: Link to turn-by-turn navigation cue sheet
  • • Location: Loudoun County, Virginia
  • • Start/Finish: Bluemont Station Brewery and Winery, Bluemont, Virginia
  • • Course Type: Loop
  • • Course Surface: Mostly gravel with minimal paved
  • • Distance: 39.2 miles
  • • Time: 3:22:55
  • • Average Speed: 11.7 MPH
  • • Maximum Speed: 31.5 MPH
  • • Elevation Gain: 1,778 feet (Ride With GPS shows 2,142 feet)
  • • Elevation Range: 296 to 709 feet
  • • Temperature Range: 49° to 50° (feels like 46°) and raining with wind gusts up to 30 MPH
  • • Course Map:

 

Fun Pictures From Along the Way

The following pictures were taken with my iPhone (affiliate link) before the event and while stopped along the course. A few were taken by Bill who had his GoPro Hero 7 (affiliate link) attached to the front of his bike. Photo credit is given on individual pictures taken by Bruce Buckley Photography.

Once we’d gotten ourselves situated with hopefully just the right layers, we attached our Garmins (affiliate link), Varia radars (affiliate link), lights, water bottles, and most importantly, our front mud fenders (affiliate link) and rear mud fenders (affiliate link) to our bikes and rode over to the brewery to pick up our packets.

Packet pickup was easy peasy with super nice volunteers…

 

These cute free posters were up for grab, but hmmm, there’s no mention of bicycles. Shouldn’t the rooster be riding a gravel bike?

 

Once we picked up our bibs, we attached them to our bikes. Notice the pogies on my handlebars. These would have worked wonders on keeping my hands warm if I could have ridden on the hoods, but when riding gravel I spend a lot of time in the drops where I have better control. I realized at the starting line that I couldn’t fit my hands in the drops so I quickly removed the pogies and put them in my back pocket. Lesson learned, just like with running, never try something new on race day.

 

Pre-race briefing with the lead car ready to usher us for the first two miles of our adventure…

 

Ready to roll…

 

Rain drops keeps falling on my lens…

 

Water was standing in the road being sprayed to each side by a cyclist…

 

Cheerleaders along the course…

 

Working my way up a small hill…

 

Hanging loose!

 

Blue Ridge Mountains in the background…

 

Stunning view of a typical western Loudoun farm…

 

Water gushing down the ditch while taking some of the road with it…

 

Roadside mirror!

 

There were two climbs on this route, this wasn’t one of them…

 

We only had three cars meeting or passing us during the first 25 miles so maneuvering around water in the road wasn’t dangerous…

 

Happy to see our one and only aid station 29 miles into the course…

 

Food, drinks, bike mechanics, and porta potties…

 

Go straight for the Mini G, right for the 100-miler…

 

Imagine that, more water in the road…

 

One of the few paved roads along the course…

 

Finish line straight ahead!

 

Despite the crappy weather, we had a blast and were happy to be done! Bill finished second in his age group (out of four) and I finished first in mine (I was the only person in my age group). In fact, I was the oldest female participating in either event, a mantle I wore proudly.

 

Awards for the 100-mile race…

 

Garmin Stats

Post-ride Garmin (affiliate link) picture…

 

Garmin map and graphs…

 

Final Thoughts on the Ride

As my title declares, neither rain nor mud nor flooding nor cold could keep us from completing the Gravel Grinder Nationals Mini G, and for that, I’m glad. Despite the weather being pretty nasty, it truly wasn’t as bad as it sounds and Bill and I finished with huge smiles on our faces and had a blast. A tiny part of me wished I’d registered for the 100-miler; however, this time of year I’m just not as strong due to my winter outdoor riding hiatus.

US Endurance did a great job with the event. The communication leading up to the day of the ride was great, the course was beautiful and well marked, and the volunteers were very friendly. An additional aid station would have been nice, but we knew in advance to expect only one. We had everything we needed from start to finish – just waiting for the email with the official photos…

 

Questions:
  • • Do you prefer organized rides/tours or just heading out and seeing where your bike takes you?
  • • What’s the lowest temperature you’ll ride in? The highest?
  • • Do you stop and relax occasionally to fuel or take pictures, or barrel on through when on a long run or ride?

 

Disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on the blue product link and then make a purchase, I will receive a small commission for referring you. You will pay no more or less for the product; however, Amazon will show their gratitude for my referral by paying me.

I’m linking up with Kim at Kookyrunner and Zenaida of Zenaida Arroya for their Tuesday topics Link-Up. Be sure to check out not only the hosts’ posts, but those of the other great bloggers joining in on the fun!