Saturday morning began with some nice sunshine and rather cool temps...arm warmers on August 1st? We had decided to spend the morning down at the Afton Alps ski area riding the single track and doing a bit climbing.
We started our ride from the parking lot at the bottom of the ski hills and spent the morning working our way up and down on the single track trails.
A good deal of erosion had taken place and there were trail crews out working on several different portions of the trail and some areas were closed to riding. Shortly after starting we ran into the first crew which was filling in areas on the side of one of the ski runs that had washed out in the rain the previous night. I was following along still in the woods when I could here someone yell..."MOUNTAIN BIKER!" which was followed seconds later by..."ROADIE!"
The story was that Bob cruised by in very fine form as would be expected, followed Matt who apparently had some difficulties with his balance in front of the trail crew audience. He apparently took one of his feet off the pedals and placed it on the ground to regain his balance. Which of course would be very typical of one who has spent most of his summer on his road bike.
Afton offers up everything. The climbs can be brutal and the names given these climbs fit. Lung Buster and Man Handler were the longest, steepest, and most difficult. However, our group was able to handle them with only a bit of cussing along the way.
Many portions of the single track offer up some pretty technical riding with winding descents that are littered with rocks and a lot of exposed tree roots.
These of course could also be found on the ascents as well and proved to be a challenge for me and now bare a very nice hematoma on my right arm as a result of a tumble off a pile of rocks. Which of course was only feet from the top of a climb.After completing our first lap some confusion ensued about where to continue on. This was the result of some portions of the trail being closed for repair work and the entire trail system was not available to riding. We headed out for lap two and along the way Bob and Matt found what they had been looking for. As I pulled up to where they were waiting I saw the sign with the arrow pointing up..."LUNG BUSTER" I could see that glimmer in Bob's eye. He lives for this kind of torture. With a very wry smile on his face he said..."We have to do it." "Well of course" I said. If they only knew what was going through my mind. Bob also said that he would buy a beer for anyone who made it to the top without getting off the bike. Game on! I made it to the top only to hear Matt and Bob say take the sharp right it's the easy way. There was even a sign that said "EASY WAY". I listened and immediately came upon a rock wall. Of course I had to get off and carry my bike up and in the process lose my well deserved cold one. Bob still had that damn grin on his face.
As difficult and challenging as these trails were, I think that I have begun a love affair with Afton. However, I'm sure if I will ever be doing the 24 Hr. race. There is something about trying to tackle those technical sections in the wee hours of the night that just doesn't appeal to me.
After Lung Buster you wind your way across the slopes and to the top of another ski run before descending to the bottom and hitting the final objective...Man Handler.The first time we hit the base of Man Handler it was very wet from the previous night's rain and traction was initially really difficult to come by. By the end of the second lap conditions had improved somewhat.
Man Handler basically runs straight up one of ski runs. It's a long, steep, and tiring climb and once you get to the top you have to do a U turn and head right back down.
Matt (a.k.a. Roadie) and Tom at the top of Man Handler with Brad coming up in the background. Tom and Brad were pretty much all in at this point in time. Brad kept falling off his bike and Tom had snot all over his face from a previous crash. Yes...Afton can dish it out. I can understand why Kenny hates this place, but I can also understand why so many people love to come here and challenge themselves.
I'm not sure what that look is on Matt's face. I think he has his mouth full of food. After climbing Man Handler a second time. Tom and Brad left for home and Matt, Bob, and I (somewhat reluctantly) headed back around for third go at the course.
Afton will definitely test your equipment and push it to the edge. My old Stumpjumper is in dire need of some upgrades. One thing is for sure...I won't ride Afton again until I have some new brakes. Other than that, she's still a good solid riding machine.