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 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…
Smiling for the professional photographer…
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…
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…
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.
- • 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?
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This looks like so much fun in spite of the weather!! I would have been a little taken aback by the last minute distance change, tho! Glad you did so well. And what a shame that no one else was in your age group–what is happening to us ‘older’ athletes? Great job Debbie and keep inspiring!
I think the weather kept a lot of people away because I do see older women cycling, not so many on gravel though. There’s certainly plenty of women in my age group at running races!
How many people participated all together? It does seem strange that you were the only one in your age group. Well, never mind- you officially won it! Glad you enjoyed this race and didn’t let the weather stop you. The scenery is beautiful!
Good question and I wish I’d asked how many people were registered for each event. The results page only lists participants by event (100-miler and Mini G), division (regular, collegiate, single speed, and fat tire), and age group, not by total participants in each event.
Wow, well done Debbie!
Didn’t your hands freeze without the pogies? It all looks very cold. Fabulous that both of you persevered. Those routes look fantastic – perfect for a summer outing on a bike.
Thanks, Catrina! For the first mile my fingers were a little cold, but luckily they warmed up once I got moving. My saving grace was that I wore rubber gloves under my biking gloves and they kept my hands from getting wet.
Yes, the western part of our county is absolutely gorgeous and we love riding there.
That looks like a whole lot of messy! I know I’ve had good races in horrible conditions and it usually does come down to the company.
Very beautiful scenery! Glad you got your dressing right — that’s got to be tricky.
Congrats on winning your AG — even if it was just you, hey, you gotta be in it to win it right?
Yep, it was messy, but fun! And LOL, I like the way you point out, “… you gotta be in it to win it…”
Very well done Debbie, especially in that less than ideal weather!
I think those miles count double in that weather! Nice job Deb you have really become quite the cyclist
HaHa, I like the way you think, Deborah!
As I said before, you’re a trooper! I guess (like with running) if you have the proper gear, inclement weather is manageable…even on wheels. It seems a little odd the one aid station wasn’t until the final stretch on the course, but at least you did know that ahead of time. Great job, to both you and Bill!
Thanks, Kim! The aid station was set up in a location more convenient to the two laps for those doing the main event, the 100-miler. We were told from the get-go so we knew to have plenty of food to keep us fueled.
Wait, I’m confused, the course was increased for safety reasons? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Still, congrats! You had fun and made the best of it.
The course change happened about a week before the event and I think it may have been due to some road closures, either that or the original course was going to have us on the side of a much busier highway. I thought I heard both, but I might have misunderstood. Whatever the case, we got an extra 9 miles for free! 😀
This is a brilliant recap! And well done! I don’t ride but my husband does and he will ride in any weather with a smile on his face. But many of his cycling friends would not be caught dead out in the rain, LOL!
Thank you so much, Shathiso! The race was fun despite the weather.