Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Waterbury Area Trails Alliance Gravel Grinder

Well, it's spring 2019, so that means rain... April, and so far early May, have been rainy, rainy, rainy. Mountain bike trails are a mess, and events like the Muddy Onion, Rasputitsa, and the Waterbury Area Trails Alliance (WATA) gravel grinder have been impacted by the rain in one way or another. I did the Muddy Onion, and while it was a bit muddy, I fortunately finished right before the cold deluge began. Rasputitsa is on my bucket list, but I haven't committed yet, and this year's course seemed miserable with not only rain, but sleet and snow.

And, just about every day leading up to the WATA event, the rain fell. .. We drove up in the rain and set up our TT in the rain.

Dan found us a campground relatively close to the event, Onion River Campground, which was great because not many campgrounds open this early in Vermont. We had the place all to ourselves, and we camped right along the river.

Anyway, despite all of the rain, the weather predictions for the ride itself were for overcast and cloudy skies. Grey skies and muddy roads... sounded good to me.

We lined up with about 400 like-minded fools and rolled out of Waterbury with sort of a neutral start and police escort. As with all of the gravel rides we've done, the bikes ranged from a regular road bike with antlers zip-tied to the handlebars, to full suspension mountain bikes, to a fat bike towing two kids on a trail-a-bike, to veritable antique mountain bikes to top-of-the-line carbon gravel bikes. Personally, as a niche, I think "gravel bikes" are funny because they're becoming more and more like hardtail mountain bikes as the tires get wider and wider, and now that Niner has a full-suspension gravel bike, the market will be completely confused. I've ranted about this before, but I digress...

There were two course options, a 26-mile Traditional Grind and a 38-mile Big Grind, which was just the 26-mile loop with an additional 12-mile loop of extra fun at the end.

Either way, the course punches you in the face right from the start with about 600ft of climbing the first couple of miles and about 1000ft within the first 7 miles. Good stuff, and the climbs kept on punching.

Even with the overcast skies, it was still beautiful, Vermont is like that. There was a small amount of mud on the gravel roads, and there was some mist and light right here and there, but the mud really came out on one of the last sections of the Big Grind, where we were just flying down rutted, sloppy, Class IV road.

The course had it all; great climbs, fun downhills, classic Vermont scenery, and well stocked food stations--including a ride through the ZenBarn for Maple Liqueur shots. There was even a little bit of rain, although it was more of a misting...

Anyway, fun was had, hills were conquered and beer was consumed. That's successful ride in my book.

Check back here because I've got more pics and video to edit & upload!

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