We’re proud to feature a guest post on the Oregon Coast Gravel Epic with words and photos by Mielle Blomberg. A full gps report on this route can be found here.
Our riders meeting announcements led me to believe my race route could include the following: becoming a human kite in monster cross-winds, sinking in a gravel slurry mix of wheel sucking quicksand, getting t-boned by a nice retiree backing out of their driveway, or ending my day and possibly my front wheel in any number of kiddie pool sized potholes of unknown depth on a sun-blind downhill. Ok. Let’s do this thing.
1st hill , immediately after go, was about a 30% grade punch and a chain breaker for the guy next to me who made it 2 pedal strokes before it snapped. The flat, paved Crestline Dr. road at the top greeted us with 15-20 mph head to cross winds for the next 4 miles. I found a lovely group of dudes to sit behind until we departed once the group turned onto dual track gravel roads.
I counted 6 riders with flats pulled off on the side of the road in the first 5 miles and we hadn’t even got to the slurry of no return yet. My 700x35c file tread tires have served me really well for rides like these, with aggressive gravel and rocky roads, so I was hoping I wouldn’t be number 7 .
The roads leading to climb #1 of 4 were a mix of dual track mud and gravel with tons of debris from the hard winter at the Oregon Coast and some paved roads. Climb one was out of the wind with the forest around us providing the shelter but not enough shelter for the pounding rain that arrived right on time about 30 minutes in. With temps around 52F, the rain made me thankful I kept a rain jacket on and warm leggings. Towards the top of the winding climb the wind smacked us in the face as the vista opened before us on an exposed ridge and the guy behind me said, ” Hardest part of the day, uphill in a huge headwind”. HA HA.. I thought. Hardest part will be doing 60 miles of this.. And to add to this, there were signs posted with funny quips from the race promoter that said things like, ” Are you swearing like a sailor yet?”, and ” Oh, you are not done climbing “.
The descent after Aide Station 1 (mile 13.6) was rough, thick gravel with tight sweeping corners and little room for error. We were warned of a very sharp left turn towards the bottom and I barely pulled off the gas when I arrived and ended up in the weeds to avoid leaving all of my skin behind in a gravel washout.Whew!
Climb #2, well, it came too soon and it was grueling. Someone joked before the race that I have a ‘Corn Cob’ cassette on my cyclocross/gravel bike. That means I roll with less gears for steep climbs and more reason for whining about it, but you dance with the one ya brung. And my dance partner was doing the freeking hokey pokey. Some of the pitches on this route are out of the saddle grunts , and just when you think the summit has arrived, your corner reveals another punch on on your dance card.
Rain continued for over 4 hours as we humped our way through the coast range. One of the most beautiful parts of this route happen between mile 30 and 40 when the swollen Yachts River appears on your left, blending the sound of rushing water with spinning wet tires on pavement, leading you to open farm lands and a dilapidated barn making its’ last stand.
Turning off the paved road at mile 44, I am warned at the last Aide Station of “slick conditions” on the descent. The last climb is almost 10 miles. That is all I am worried about. What a doozie. Luckily the rain stopped and I was out of the wind that slowed me on the river road sight seeing portions. Nothing to do but keep moving. Up, with more ups, out of the saddle ups, low back screaming ups. Oh look. More ups! Ughhh. A few cloudy, fog filled glimpses of a valley off to our left when there was an opening in the trees, but for the most part, we were snaking our way up rough roads to find a very rough descent.
It was indeed slick and the corners were tricky to avoid sliding in the mud or washing out in fresh gravel. “Watch out for the potholes on the last descent” was all I could hear in my head. I got this far, lets not screw it up. After a righthand turn the sun was indeed glaring through the haze of our passing storm and the ‘fire swamp’ presented itself. Huge holes, some obvious, some not, requiring some fast thinking at 20+mph as they spread across the road like landmines. Luckily, no rodents of unusual size were spotted.
The finish of this day is actually UPHILL. 1/4 mile of almost single track , mud and rocks until the overgrown shrubs recede to the glorious finish line tent basking in the sun. I have arrived 12 minutes ahead of my goal time, I survived the “Abomination Route” and there is one final sign to read-
IT’S ALL OVER BUT THE CRYING.