Disclaimer: This Tour de Conservation Easement Gnarly Gravel Grinder recap contains affiliate links…

 

Land Trust of Virginia

In its fifth year, the Bike the Gravel Tour de Conservation Easement was organized to bring awareness and appreciation to land protected by the Land Trust of Virginia. Private landowners who wish to protect their property from future development can put their land in conservation easements while still maintaining ownership.

Land in conservation easements can still be farmed, sold, willed to family members; it just can never be developed beyond its current state. It’s a wonderful way to protect old estates with historical landmarks, waterways and woodlands and the associated animals, battlefields, and other historical sites for future generations.

 

The Ride in a Nutshell

It was 51° with a blue sky and white wispy clouds when the 65-milers rolled out of the starting chute shortly after 9 AM – distances were staggered by 10 minutes. My husband Bill and I were among many VeloPigs from our beer and bicycle social club, and wearing our team kits, we were able to easily identify others in our club.

There were three different distances from which to choose:

  • • Gnarly Gravel Grinder – 65 miles with 70% gravel and 4,466 feet of climbing (we finished with over 5,000 feet)
  • • Grand Gravel Grinder – 34.8 miles with 87% gravel and 2,115 feet of climbing
  • • Gorgeous Gravel Explorer – 18.36 miles with 60% gravel and 1,102 feet of climbing

Bill and I stayed together for the entire ride, savoring our time on the private properties knowing we wouldn’t have an opportunity to enjoy those views again until next year’s event. We stopped at all three aid stations, especially enjoying the second stop which was hopping with many of our friends convening at the same time. We finished our ride tired and extremely fulfilled from a day enjoying the beauty of our home and neighboring county.

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect with low humidity and a high of 71°. Weather can make or break an event and it seemed as if Mother Nature wanted us to enjoy our day exploring a bit of history. With an average speed of 12.0 MPH, we were able to enjoy the scenery without pushing too hard; yet over 5,000 feet of climbing on gravel gave us an incredible workout.

 

About the Course

The course started and finished at Buchanan Hall in Upperville, Virginia and wound its way along portions of Loudoun and Fauquier Counties’ many miles of  gravel roads, some of which date back to the 1700’s. For the most part, the dusty gravel roads were packed and in fairly good condition; however, when riding gravel, ruts, washboards, and loose gravel is to be expected and we occasionally saw those conditions.

All routes took riders past well-manicured farmland framed by rock and rail fences, beautiful barns and silos, and an assortment of livestock. For this event only, the course granted access to many private properties protected by the Landtrust of Virginia.

Wineries, breweries, small country stores, and community churches dotted the course as the 65-milers rode through Willsville, Unison, St. Louis, Mountville, Rectortown, and Delaplane, as we circled the course clockwise on our way back to Upperville.

 

Ride Overview
  • • Ride With GPS Name: LTV Gnarly Gravel Grinder
  • • Ride with GPS: Link to turn-by-turn navigation cue sheet
  • • Location: Loudoun and Fauquier Counties, Virginia
  • • Start/Finish: Buchanan Hall, Upperville, Virginia
  • • Course Type: Large loop with a small lollypop
  • • Course Surface: Mostly gravel with some paved
  • • Distance: 65 miles
  • • Time: 3:03:19
  • • Average Speed: 12.0 MPH
  • • Maximum Speed: 38.1 MPH
  • • Elevation Gain: 5,066 feet
  • • Elevation Range: 340 to 803 feet
  • • Temperature Range: 51° to 71°
  • • Course Map:

 

Fun Pictures From Along the Way

The following pictures were taken with my iPhone (affiliate link), by my husband Bill with his Insta 360 camera (affiliate link), and with my GoPro Hero 7 (affiliate link) attached to the front of my bike.

Packet pickup was offered the night before the event at Lost Barrel Brewing in Middleburg (one of our favorite places to gather with friends after a ride) or the morning of just outside Buchanan Hall, the start/finish venue. A family event precluded us from the earlier pickup, but it was easy enough the morning of…

 

Just after picking up our bike bibs, our VeloPigs fearless leader Kasey snapped our picture…

On our Cannondale Topstone gravel bikes and ready to roll…

 

Rolling out for 65 miles of Loudoun and Fauquier County gravel grinding…

 

Directional signs with colors corresponding with our course distance and bike bib color were clearly placed along the course. Red for 65 miles, blue for 35 miles and green for 18 miles…

 

Cruising along Millville Road…

 

Riding past the hounds just prior to a fox hunt starting on Welbourne Road…

 

The first rest stop at the old Unison Store had potato chips and water…

 

Gravel, hills, and sunshine – what a perfect day!

 

“Rest Stop Ahead” was a welcome sign while climbing this hill…

 

The second rest stop was on Smitten Farm Lane and it was quite busy…

 

Volunteers were super friendly and encouraging…

 

We saw several friends at this rest stop, but only took a picture with George and Michelle…

 

Horses were waiting to cheer us on as we rode out of the stop.

 

Beautiful countryside…

 

More climbing, but this time on a paved road which is much easier…

 

This sweet family had homemade tiny cheesecakes and water out for cyclists. We chatted with them for a while, asking if they know our good friends who own property nearby – they do…

 

Turning right inside one of the private properties…

 

Gorgeous views on Burnt Mill Farm Lane…

 

Riding past Hickory Tree Farm Lake…

 

Course map at the third rest stop…

 

Water and Gatorade…

 

The rest stops had a perfect assortment of food for fueling. The peanut butter filled pretzels are a personal favorite!

 

We chatted for a while with Dawn, the mechanic from Maverick Bicycles. I may have asked if they have any Salsa Warbirds in stock…

 

Parked along a section of the many miles of rock fences…

 

At 2:34 PM we reached an intersection where there were signs telling us that we could go straight to cut off 7 miles, or continue on with the 65-mile route. We thought there was cutoff and that we needed to be beyond that point by 2:30, but the signs didn’t specify that so we opted to continue on the full route.

Entering the final private property of the day’s ride…

 

Each property had several signs at the entrance with information on property ownership, acres in easement, historic facts, miles of waterfront, etc.

 

This church was beautiful and could easily fit in Tuscany…

 

The back side of this property had a gorgeous view of Sky Meadows State Park

 

After leaving the final property, we had just under 3 miles to go and were close to the last cyclists to finish. We talked to some friends who were behind us who had opted to take the earlier shortcut and finished before us.

 

Garmin Stats

Post-ride Garmin (affiliate link) picture…

 

Garmin map and elevation graph…

 

Final Thoughts on the Ride

Bill and I had a wonderful time at the Tour de Conservation Easement Gnarly Gravel Grinder and will most likely do it again next year. With several distances from which to choose, it’s got an option for all levels of riders.

Volunteers with the Land Trust of Virginia did a wonderful job with the event. The communication leading up to the day of the ride was great, the course was beautiful and well marked, volunteers were friendly, and aid stations were well appointed, and we had everything we needed from start to finish!

 

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?