Darby Roubaix 2015

Mountain bike race Men under 40 podium.

2nd place in the under-30 division and 7th overall. Not too bad for riding my mountain bike against some sneaky roadies!

On Sunday I competed in my first ever road race, Darby Roubaix, capping a weekend of camping at Bandits Roost and riding the phenomenal singletrack at W. Kerr Scott Dam.

The Darby Roubaix road/gravel race is held in Ferguson, NC and traces one of the most bucolic routes through Wilkes and Caldwell counties. If you live in or near North Carolina and haven’t yet ridden in the Appalachian foothill region, this is a bucket list event.

Departing from Durham, we set up camp at the nearby Bandits Roost campground in Wilkesboro, home of the W. Kerr Scott Dam mountain biking trails.

Bandits Roost campsite with two-person tent, picnic table, and reservoir view.

Not such a bad view at our Bandits Roost campsite.

Needless to say, I was a very happy camper.

First-person point of view, mountain bike rider on Open O-1.0 on the trail at Kerr Scott Dam.

Hitting the W. Kerr Scott Dam trails on Saturday, with my turn-by-turn directions for the Darby Roubaix race on Sunday already taped to the top tube

View of mountain bike trail from behind ENVE carbon handle bar.

Taking a tranquil moment after a hair raising switchback descent on the Dark Mountain trail

Grass surrounding small finger of reservoir at Kerr Scott Dam.

Pausing to take in this view of the reservoir at the end of the Dark Mountain trail

Forested natural surface trail on hillside, reservoir visible through the trees.

The Overmountain Victory trail snakes along the ridges above the reservoir. There’s a postcard view on just about every stretch of the trail.

On top of the camping and biking, my better half and I enjoyed some hiking and relaxing along the water.  The W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir is for sure one of my top-5 places to be in NC.

Wooden footbridge leading to large tree.

Taking a walk by the visitors center. My better half is dwarfed by a tree in full bloom.

Calm water in the reservoir.

Sunset on the reservoir, as seen from our campsite.

On Sunday morning, we made the short drive from Wilkesboro to Ferguson for the race. The 150 or so racers congregated just before 9 am, and we set off to test our mettle against each other and the challenging 50-mile course.

The course has a mix of about 75% paved roads and 25% gravel, and just about every racer was riding a cyclo-cross or road bike. Owning neither, I showed up with my mountain bike hoping for the best. Bottom line, the biggest gear on my mountain bike is about 30% smaller than the biggest gear of my fellow racers on road and cyclo-cross bikes. This means, on flat road and downhills, I spin out of gears long before they do and risk getting dropped.

After moving to the front of the lead pack on the first gravel section, that’s exactly what happened. The lead pack rode away from me on a long flat section of road, I was spinning out at about 30 miles per hour, and they rolled away a few miles per hour faster.

Alex Modestou on OPEN O-1.0 mountain bike in the pain cave on the back of a train of road cyclists.

Trying desperately not to get dropped by the roadies. My mountain bike simply doesn’t have the gears to keep up on the flats.

I rode solo in pursuit of the lead pack for several miles, then bridged up to a smaller chase group that had dropped back from the splintering lead pack. About halfway into the race, a large chase pack of about 15 riders caught us, and we rode together for a good stretch.

The dynamics of pack riding were quite foreign given my habit of almost always riding alone, but I enjoyed the novelty and extra tactical wrinkle. On every gravel segment, I would ride off the front, only to be pulled back on the pavement, where my speed is more limited on a mountain bike. The group tried to drop me a few times before the long, final climb up a very bumpy, and rocky 4×4 road, but I held on to the foot of the climb and took off.

Riding through the stream crossings, sand, mud, and rocks up the final climb felt right at home. In the process, I dropped the chase group and caught a few other riders to finish 7th overall.

Hefty portions of southern breakfast food staples and PBR facilitated the post race camaraderie at the Leatherwood Mountains Resort. The beauty of the route alone was well worth the trip and I’ll seek out similar events to see all that North Carolina has to offer.

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