First off, a big thank you goes out to Jared and the Haymarket crew for letting everyone in on this ride. Also thanks to the lady driving the sag wagon, I don't know her name.
This was an awesome ride and a welcomed change from doing the 7am and 10am ride. This ride was also more difficult than the 7 and 10am combined. No wonder those Haymarket guys are riding so strong if this is the course they've been training on.
I was actually pre-registered to head down to Smithfield for the HAMmerfest, but I really couldn't stomach the 3.5 hour commute plus I really didn't want to miss this ride again. I went into this Bull Run ride fully expecting to have my butt handed too me, but I actually hung in there pretty strong, that is until we got to the gravel.
Once we hit that very loose gravel section, I almost crapped my bibs. I've never ridden on anything like that before. I figured I'd just try and stay as smooth as possible but then I dropped my chain. I dunno if you've ever tried to re-clip into your pedals, going uphill, on extremely loose gravel, but it ain't fun. After watching about 5 to 6 people roll past me, I finally got clipped in to find out that my chain was stuck in 18 tooth cog. On regular pavement, this wouldn't have been a big deal, but on loose gravel there was too much torque to my back wheel, which just kept slipping and slipping as I pedaled uphill.
Eventually I was able to get going. As I rode along the gravel, I passed Fuentes who had flatted, which sucks because I know he was up in the front, then Nieters, who had flatted, then Sean Barrie, who I think flatted as well. After that I was riding alone...for what seemed like forever. The difficulty of every gravely climb was only magnified by the fact that I thought I was lost. I kept stopping just to make sure that I was really seeing tire marks on the gravel trail.
Eventually I made it off of the gravel but ended up at a "T" intersection. Fortunately there was a lady standing there who had to told me she'd seen cyclist go to the left. So off to the left I went where I was eventually joined by another Haymarket rider, Chris and we ended up riding in to the finish together.
All in all, this was a super exciting, tough ride that I definitely look forward to doing again, and again.