Some ride details. Iron Cross is a 63 miles cyclocross race through Michaux State Forrest out by Carlyle, Pa. It's got it all - smooth road, fire road, killer climbs, climbs that you have to carry your bike, wicked descents, gnarly mountain bike sections and 6200' of climbing to boot. For the average weekend warrior it's quite an ordeal.
You know when you're in trouble when the start has 200+ riders in the "spiral of death", a mass start in a big field that has everyone going through gates into a spiral. I went with my good friend and partner in the the outragious, George Hollerback who decided that it was not enough of a challenge so he took off all his speeds and entered as a single speed. Shear lunacy in my book.
After that dizzying spiral fun you're merrily on your way to do a 60 mile loop through very sparse civilization and mostly desolate Forrest. Invariably you'll find yourself by yourself and it's a little unnerving in that if you get lost it could be a long day.
The 1st 7 miles aren't too bad happily booking through the woods along a stream until a long uphill fire road starts the panting process that you'll have for the rest of the ride. Popping out of the woods onto the road and some some really neat vista's of the hills and smelling the apple orchards has somewhat of a surreal feel that's tempered by the incessant climbs. Dam it's hilly out there!
The smooth roads are short lived as it's back into the woods and on a fire road that goes up hill for a long, long time. At the 18 mile mark it's hard core mountain biking time - but I don't have a mountain bike, darn! Hacking through rocks and roots with skinner than I'm accustomed tires is a bit of a shock but I knew what was coming and got through it this time without incident. The downhill cliff/drop off section was another story and preserved my health and walked down some of this section.
Once through this preposterous section it's on over the the perverse "walk ups". A traditional "walk up" is a section where you have to dismount and walk up a small hill. In this case the hill is on steroids and is more like climbing up a ski mountain. Once up on the top trying to ride down is difficult because of the sand. I never could figure out why it was so sandy in this area. Maximum effort is required for this LOL, and then -you do it again. At the top of the 2ND "run up" is a welcome checkpoint with fluids and food. Started to bonk even after eating and drinking a lot, certainly due to the extreme effort and tried to get a peanut butter/jelly sandwich down but too dry so went with my secret weapon, ham and cheese sandwich. Crammed some of that down with banana, fig newtons and cookies and was good to go.
Onward we race, up and down and all around. Fire roads, hills, single track and did I say hills. This ride has it all. The next to last check point was finally here but I knew new what came next - the 5 mile long hill. This hill is 5 miles of gradual fire road mixed with some steep sections. Very draining. The fire road is slow going, it feels like the fire road gravel is sand.
The last check point was a blur, fatigue was setting and just wanted to be done. Only 10 more miles to go - this darn ride keeps coming at you with more.
Into the woods for some nice single track through the trees and ferns. Can't enjoy the scenery due to the fear of getting lost. Actually moving along nicely at this section until - another rude mountain biking section - and it's uphill - yippee!
Dragging the bike through this part (or is the bike dragging me) and looking up and keep seeing it go and go. Does it ever end?
Finally at the top and riding again, nervously awaiting the last energy sucking section - the "surface of the moon uphill slog". This dastardly section is devoid of most vegetation and is another long switchback slog up a very large hill that has you craning your neck to see the little people at the top. Furthering you to the point of total exhaustion, but alas, it's almost over!
The last couple miles are on the road with guess what? Some more hills!
This ride is easily one of the most demanding bike rides I've ever done due to its fine assortmant of terrain and it's length. Paced myself, Rode it cautiously and lived to ride it again.
The incredable George finished a short time after me beaming that he had 3 flats but had a great time. I barely got through this thing with 20 speeds, he had just one. Remarkable!
Who in their right minds would drive 3 hours to ride