As I mentioned earlier, a group of us made the trip to central Washington for Gran Fondo Ephrata, an 80 mile ride, half of which is on primitive gravel roads. Grayson and I left early afternoon this past Saturday to make the three hour drive in time to have enough daylight to recon the course conditions and to stretch our legs.
I was excited to give the Hakkalugi a thorough off-road ride, but I have to admit I was a bit nervous about my tire selection (28c GP4000 All Season) after Grayson and I scouted the first climb. Perhaps it was just nervous energy, but I had a tough time getting traction on the rear wheel while ascending. However, I neglected to bring any other tires so I decided to stop worrying about it because I wasn’t going to do anything about it anyway.
The next morning we had a continental breakfast together at the Best Western where we stayed, packed our things, and headed to the start line at Ephrata High School.
After a short controlled start through a few local streets, the course immediately began ascending over gravel roads. The traction problems I had the prior day didn’t seem to bother me, and I just concentrated on riding my own pace. Towards the top, Derek and Ed waited for Grayson and I, and a little later we caught up with Kellen, Bob and Mark.
At about the 24 mile mark, after doing a pull for our group, plus about 10-15 other wheel suckers that had attached themselves, I hit a rock and pinch flatted my front wheel. Before I could get anyones attention, I had been dropped. I pulled over to the side of the gravel road, and before I could even get my wheel off, a support truck pulled up behind, a man jumped from the truck bed and said he had a spare wheel he could swap with me. I was shocked. He ran up with the wheel, told me they would leap frog me and have my flat fixed to swap in my own wheel later on.
I hooked up with a group of six or seven riders that were riding by as I was getting started, and hoped that one of the guys would notice I was gone. Luckily they did, and 10 minutes later I saw Grayson, Kellen, Derek and Ed waiting for me on the side of the road.
At the halfway point, we reconnected with Bob and Mark, who are always looking to push the tempo–in a good way. Jose was also there waiting for us. He decided to make the trip all the way from Seattle to drive the course and document the ride. He took the opportunity to take a few photos, as well as a group portrait with his medium format camera. I can’t wait to see the shots he took after the film gets developed. He mentioned to us that it had a been a while since he went out to shoot something “just for fun” after being so busy with family and professional jobs, and was glad to be a small part of the reason for him wanting to shoot with actual film.
Just before heading out of the rest stop, Mark realized he flatted, so the rest of us took the opportunity to fuel up from the well stocked food station. For the next 20-30 miles, we shared the work riding tempo, until we hit the “3 Devils”. A climb that consists of three steep pitches, the first of which reached a 20% grade. The gravel made things a little more challenging, but the scenery of the climb made it all worth it.
The final climb was only about 2.5 miles, but a mean headwind and false summits played mean tricks on us. Derek paced the climb with me and I was glad to be riding alongside somebody during the suck.
The last 8 miles provided us with a well deserved 10 descent. Having stuffed my face at every opportunity with food and drink, I felt decently strong when I crossed the finish line.
Rides like these are always more enjoyable when ridden with friends. The miles tick by faster and when you’re feeling down, the presence of a familiar wheel can lift the spirit. Whenever completing events like these, I always ask myself if I’d do it again. In this case, the answer is a definite yes.
Ride data: 03/10/2013 Ephrata, WA - Gran Fondo Ephrata