ROSELAND, VIRGINIA — On August 25th, the Devils Backbone Mountain Cross will commence its fourth edition. The event is the brainchild of two master’s cyclocross riders from the mid-Atlantic region, Richard Pence and Tony Bilotta. Pence’s penchant for dragging his buddies along on long dirt road rides on cross bikes into the Blue Ridge Mountains is what planted the seed for the event. These were rides with lots of elevation gain, outstanding scenery, and terrain that challenged the bike handling skills of even the most seasoned crossers. Most of these early “mountain cross” rides took place in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Nelson County, Virginia, just about the same time the Devils Backbone Brewing Company opened its doors near the base of Wintergreen Mountain. So it seemed natural to start and finish the rides at the Brewery, especially since finishing there would allow for a unique recovery drink: locally crafted beer! It was decided that others would probably enjoy Pence and Bilotta’s formula for fun, and thus Devils Backbone Mountain Cross was born.
The event was designed to be kept simple. It is non-competitive with no categories, age groups, or prizes. Just a long, challenging ride on remote and scenic mountain roads followed by a cold brew. However, riders are provided with finishing times, so quite a few riders do treat it like a race. Last year, almost 200 riders on bikes of all kinds (cross, road, and mtb) turned out for the event. A cross bike or a road bike with fat tires is the steed of choice for most riders. In Pence’s opinion, a cyclocross bike is probably the best choice because it provides the most comfort and stability on the dirt roads, which make up about 45% of the event.
Near the end of the ride, there is a challenging nine mile dirt road descent through the beautiful Tye River Canyon. “This is where the cross bikes rule,” according to Pence. Since the event offers different ride distance options, riders can choose their level of exertion. This results in a wide range of rider abilities, from recreational to pro. Pro mountain biker Jeremiah Bishop has done the event, and local master’s cyclocross national champion Fred Wittwer has done all of the events. Fred says “this ride is hard, but a blast.” This year’s event will bring a new meaning to the word hard, as the promoters have decided to add a new 100 mile option along with the 35 and 75 mile rides. This 100 mile ride could be described as a Tour de France stage for cyclocross bikes. When comparing the distance and elevation profile of the new 100 mile route to stage 8 of the 2012 TDF, the two were found to be almost identical! Check out the comparison.
An added post-ride bonus this year: The Devils Backbone Brewing Company will be hosting the Virginia Craft Brewers Fest on the same day as the mountain cross event (Sat. Aug. 25th). This 2012 Virginia Craft Brewers Festival will bring together all of the Virginia Craft Breweries to promote their beers. The event will feature the Virginia Craft Beer Cup competition in five different categories, as well as The Governor’s Cup (awarded to the Best Overall brewery), beer tastings, some of Virginia’s best live bands, and some amazing food. Camping will be available at the Brewery near the foot of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.
If you are interested in joining the fun, you can get more information and also register at: https://www.bikereg.com/Net/16635. When you register, use coupon code “cycloxmag” to get a $5 discount on your registration!