This was the 7th year for the Funk Bottoms Gravel a race that I helped start back in 2011. As in the past years I spend the fall winter scouting out the route. Each year when setting up the route I try and make it easy for the racers to be self supported. The route changes a little bit each year, and at 68.6 miles this was the longest.
This years course was 68 miles and 7,000 feet of climbing and still wasn't the most climbing per mile. The course made up for the lack of climbing compared to past years by being the most technical. The "easy" section of the course was from Danville to Greer which had several small rollers but you paid for it once you hit Beam Road.
My goal for the race was to have 100 people sign up this year. When online registration ended on Thursday we had 99 pre-registered. Figuring a few people would drop out plus the few who show up on race day we had our goal of 100 racers. We tell the racers they have to be self supported and the course is not marked. Once again my sponsor Hammer Nutrition provided HEED, Endurolytes, and Hammer Gel for all the racers. We had water and HEED at the start, the secret checkpoint and the hidden oasis. Friday my father-in-law, Potenza and myself drove the course and marked all the turns. While we marked the course Friday morning and into the afternoon there was heavy rain. I started getting text messages and emails from racers questioning the course. Many were concerned about the hike a bike section. The rains stopped late Friday afternoon and the forecast for Saturday was sunny and a high of 80. Once the sun came out Saturday morning the roads dried quickly and the moisture from the rain kept the dust to a minimum.
The race starts out with a neutral rollout for the first mile, once we get to the first hill it time to start racing.
Hammering out in the morning sun. Photo: Dan Nolan
The first few miles are relatively easy with a few short steep climbs and mostly rollers. I took the opportunity to talk with several riders as we did the easy first few miles.
Alex and Zach Valigosky racing single speed.
Around mile 10 just past the common core corner there was a fellow rider with a flat. I gave him my pump and took a few minutes drink some of my favorite mixture of Orange-Vanilla Perpetuem and Lemon-Lime HEED. Alex and Zach rode past and I knew I would catch up with them on the climb out of Glenmont.
This year parts of the course were done in different order. Glenmont was early in the race around mile 13. Instead of coming down Twp Rd 29 we had the fun of climbing up.
Just as we started the 2 mile grind to the top I saw the flying Valigosky brothers walking their single speeds up the hill. I couldn't help but tell them they are "Almost to the top" That was the last I saw of them for the rest of the day. Once we got to the top of the Twp 29 climb we went down Twp 34 which was just graded the week before when we scouted the route. It was soft from the rain the day before and had fresh gravel down.
Up next was the Twp 28 followed by the hike a bike section. Yes it was muddy and I had to walk part of it, but it was only a mile of the 68 mile race. The course continued with its fast descents and long steep climbs for the next few miles. There were some amazing views along the way.
Photo: Adam McNiel
During my scouting of the course I found a park that was not on any maps. With a few emails to the Tiverton Twp officials I had the place for the secret checkpoint. The checkpoint was manned by members of the PCL-Ohio chapter and stocked with plenty of Hammer Nutrition HEED and Hammer Gels.
It wouldn't be the Funk if there wasn't a down tree across the road.
Around mile 40 when we rode through Danville we jumped on the Mohican Valley Trail between dodging buggies and road apples I had time to take a selfie.
I finished 26th with a time of 5:37.