Grinduro - What a Day.
63 miles. 7,500 feet of climbing. 2 mountains. 1 dusty double-track descent. 1 steep and rowdy singletrack descent. This is what I think of when I hear “gravel grinder”. This ride defines adventure riding for me. I was loving every minute of it - even when I was hating it.
In typical Tabrett fashion, Dad and I were 5 minutes late to the start. Poor Doug was along for the ride as well. To be fair, having ridden with the pair of us before, he knew what he was getting into. And so as we ambled our way oncourse as the main pack was reaching the forestline, our journey to complete the Grinduro began.
It was about 40 degrees Fahrenheit by the time we headed out onto the road. The wind chill was burning my fingers, but I was determined to catch up to the main pack. I ended up drafting off of Dad and Doug, making it more bearable, but it was a bit of a shock to the system. The moment we hit the tan dirt road lined with impressive redwoods and pines, I could feel my grin growing.
As we climbed up towards Grizzly Peak and alongside Taylor Rock, the first segment greeted us. A fairly short fire road climb with a few twists and turns. I started with a steady cadence and absolutely no idea what to expect. As I took the last turn, I noticed people speeding up, so I kicked up the watts and put my head down as I pedaled onwards. I glanced up to see a crowd of people waiting ahead and plowed up the last kick in the segment. One down, three to go.
The climbing continued past the first segment until we approached the second segment. We arrived with about 15 minutes left before the cut off. I lowered my saddle height and followed my dad down the speedy and flowy doubletrack segment. I passed quite a few people on this part, coming in hot on the corners and clenching the drop bars as I rattled over the rocks and slippery gravel. Eventually, about halfway through, I caught sight of him.
Following closely behind another rider, my Dad was close enough for me to catch up. I stayed on his tail as we both passed the other rider and with about three corners to go, I used a bit of slipstream to pass my Dad. I knew I was grinning like a loon, but I couldn’t help but get so excited! And of course, on the very last corner of the segment, he passed me and we sprinted towards the checkpoint. I’m obviously still learning the tactics of racing.
The rest stops were bliss. There were offerings of beer, fruit, energy gels and chews, BBQ, and even bacon at one point. Fueling up after the second segment, Dad, Doug and I pedaled along the Beckwourth-Taylorsville fireroad. We came across a couple of riders who were most likely roadies due to their dodgy descending styles, but all in all this part of the ride was surprisingly beautiful. Classic backcountry ranches lined the road and the fall colors were starting to blossom.
Then came the third segment - the road segment. A five and a half mile stretch of road to be ridden at maximum effort from the town of Genesee to Taylorsville. And so I pumped up my tires and raised my saddle height.
My friend Meghan, a triathlete who’s raced at the semi-professional level, was kind enough to let me join her for drafting the segment. When we picked up another female cyclist along the way, I realized it’s much better with more riders in your group. We were trying to catch up to Meghan’s friends, but they were long gone.
About three quarters of the way, I stripped off our tiny pack and missed latching on again. I thought, “Don’t panic, we’re on a flat bit with a downhill coming up. I can catch up.”
And then I ran out of gears. Having low gears has its perks for this particular race, but I was gloomy about it in that moment. I was dropped with about a mile to go, but, in the end, I got third in my age group for this segment - much better than I would’ve expected.
The lunch stop was tough as I wasn’t feeling too well, but I knew I had to force myself to eat something to avoid bonking. It was oddly quiet at this rest stop due to the looming knowledge of the second climb, Mt. Hough, quickly approaching reality.
After a short road section, we turned back onto gravel and let some air out of our tires. A steeper climb later in the day after three segments, Mt. Hough was proving to be quite mentally, as well as physically, challenging. Dad was struggling on this bit. I want to say I was impressed with how he pushed through this ride despite his injuries destroying his training plan, but it’s in typical fashion for him to just get on with it.
The pain was worth it. We finally reached some amazing singletrack. It was pure bliss after such a brutal climb. For me, there is honestly nothing better than riding singletrack through a forest. We warmed up our handling skills for a bit before we reached the junction just before the singletrack descent.
The singletrack segment - the fourth and final segment of the Grinduro - was both heaven and hell. Purely downhill with only a bit of pedaling needed, my hands were cramping with the effort of holding onto the drop bars for dear life. At one point, my finger slipped off the brake lever for only a second as I was taking a turn around a corner with a steep drop off. It was three-finger braking from then onwards.
I lost control of my speed about a quarter of the way down and felt the need to stop and calm down for a bit before I wiped out. I was kicking myself for this afterwards as it caused me to finish eleventh in my age group for this segment, but I’m still glad I didn’t crash.
I carried on. It was mind blowing, flying through the trees on a torn up, dusty trail no wider than a foot - with drop bars! I even got some unexpected air - which is terrifying on a cross bike, in my opinion. I weaved around some loose switchbacks and VERY rocky sections until I successfully made the river crossing right at the end of the segment.
Even though my entire body was trembling and I was absolutely terrified, this was, by far, my favorite part of the ride solely due to the rush of adrenaline I experienced after finishing it. I was absolutely beaming at the end. It was the perfect way to end a race, in my eyes.
It was just so much fun. Reliving it to write this article reminded me of how much fun I had on this ride. It was the ultimate adventure.