Brought to you by Wilderness Adventure at Eagle Landing, The Appalachian Mountaineer is a ride, not a race, created to get us out, challenge our mental and physical fortitude, and to explore the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Year one of the event saw a covid-conscious version of the event with staggered starts and a proof of concept course. The 2021 year takes all of the best parts, adds in professional timing, start categories and times, and swaps slower chunky course segments for some grade A gravel riding.
The Mountaineer is a cousin to The Appalachian Journey, in that it is also in Virginia, run on gravel, and built with the same stoke and fire you expect in Floyd in the spring. But that’s where the similarities end. In Floyd you roll along through the soul of Appalachia farm land, with punchy climbs and amazing descents. In Craig… things get a little bigger. The courses feature three unique routes, each adding mileage, difficulty, and more unique terrain spanning National Forest gravel roads, gradual old rail grades, winding rural farm roads, and an optional river crossing within a half mile from the finish. There are three route options to choose from: (1) 85 miles with 7800 ft of elevation gain; (2) 67 miles with 6600 feet of elevation gain; and (3) 22 miles with 2500 ft of elevation gain. See profiles and maps below.
What’s the ideal bike set-up for this event? The debate between cross/gravel bike and mountain style bike is an honest toss up. There’s a lot of efficiency to be gained on a gravel style bike but a hardtail will make the long descents and climbs perhaps a little more bearable. If you’re looking to go fast and have 38c or bigger tires, a gravel rig is probably your best bet. If you wanna carry a little extra rocket fuel, or just ride along, then a hardtail mountain bike will be a great choice!November weather in the region can be chilly, especially a the top of the biggest climb which peaks at over 4k feet, so be prepared with layers.
One of the best part of the event for all riders all riders is the after-party with a hot meal (chili w/cornbread – veg or meat), a cold beer, live music, and a place for the whole family to celebrate together over the weekend on Wilderness Adventure’s 500 acres of creek-front property in Craig County, VA.
The inaugural event held last year was a big success. 600 riders fell in love with the route, Lewisburg and the weekend festival atmosphere. This years event will expand to 800 riders on the two unPAved courses and 400 for the two SOMEpaved courses. Each route showcases some of the best gravel riding Pennsylvania has to offer, first heading West from Lewisburg on the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail and into Bald Eagle State Forest. While the Plenty and Proper courses are big rides, the Full 120-mile unPAved is a rugged challenge of stamina and skills. “The Difference” section packs four mountain passes, one gnarly downhill trail, and three seemingly endless descents into a 30-mile loop from the GU Energy Labs Oasis and back again.
A unique aspect of this event is that you choose your own start time, but can still participate in the race. There are 6 timed segments representing 43 miles of the full 120 mile route. There is also an overnight category allowing you to start the ride on Saturday, camp out in Poe Paddy State Park, and complete the ride on Sunday. The event operator will transfer your gear for just $10.
There is good fun to be had the entire weekend in Lewisburg. There is a Fall festival on Saturday and a DONEpaved party following the ride. If you aren’t familiar with the region, the Susquehanna River Valley offers an authentic rural Pennsylvania experience: Breweries, award-winning wineries, great dining, wildlife, outdoor recreation of all types, and great hospitality.
While the Plenty and Proper courses are big rides, the Full 120-mile unPAved is a rugged challenge of stamina and skills. “The Difference” section packs four mountain passes, one gnarly downhill trail, and three seemingly endless descents into a 30-mile loop from the GU Energy Labs Oasis and back again.
Virginia’s Blue Ridge Gran Fondo is a signature cycling event in the Mid-Atlantic region. The event is produced by Muddy Squirrel, an organization dedicated to helping individuals and families break free from their “technology-driven” life and connect with the outdoors with meaningful and challenging events. New for 2021, the event is partnered with the Gran Fondo National Series, a producer of premier one day events including the official USA Cycling Gran Fondo Championship. What’s unique about GFNS events is that they offer a mix of personal challenge and serious competition on roads with challenging climbs and incredible scenery. Each rider is assigned an electronic timing-chip to keep track of their progress throughout the course and to allow riders to compete for best time through highlighted sections of the course. There is not start to finish as in traditional racing formats, but rather timed sections count towards a rider’s competition time.
The Virginia’s Blue Ridge Gran Fondo will feature three different routes — 33, 45, and 75 miles. Each route has been carefully crafted to showcase Botetourt County’s rich scenic beauty and it’s warm & welcoming communities. Riders will enjoy the area’s natural beauty including the rolling terrain, open farmland, forested mountains, and the James River. Each route also features memorable aid stations and charming small towns.
The famous MoCo epic is back in fall 2021 for its 11th edition. The epic takes place in Boyds Maryland and features some of the mid-Atlantic best singletracks. The Epic is not a singular mountain bike race but rather more of a festival spanning the entire weekend of October 9th to the tenth. The Saturday of the 10th features multiple festival family-friendly rides for the kids including a 4 mile and 11-mile race, and finally a ‘gravity soul pump and jump competition for everyone.’ When it comes to the proper events (non-child), there is an 11 mile, 15 miles, 30 miles, 40 mile, 55 miles, and a considerable 75-mile event respectively. The Maryland mountain bike festival attracts a hefty following, and at the time of writing the article 3 months before the festival weekend, there are already a whopping 300 people signed up making it one of the most well-attended mountain bike events in the Mid Atlantic. Being such a well-attended event with many great sponsors, the festival boasts fully stocked aid stations, great food after the races, and music. The MoCo Epic is sure to impress the offroad enthusiasts and gets the Strambecco stamp of approval as being a premier mountain bike weekend festival in the Mid Atlantic and the United States as a whole.
The Storming of Thunder Ride is an annual cycling event in the heartland of central Virginia. Hosted by the YMCA of Central Virginia, this bike event holds 5 distances for every level at 27, 45, 49, and 100 miles respectively. “The longer 75 & 100-mile routes test rider stamina with a 13-mile ascent to Apple Orchard Mountain, the highest peak of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. For an epic day in the saddle, the 100-mile route boasts over 9000 feet of climbing.” 2019 calls more than 600 riders and 2021 brought the Storming Of Thunder Ridge to new heights with over 800 riders and over 300 just for the century. With so many participants and more likely in 2022, The storming of Thunder Ridge is a premier Mid-Atlantic cycling event.