LEWISBURG – Rain and mud highlighted Sunday’s race at the unpaved gravel road cycling event for Charlie Guttendorf and Lynn Pierson.
Tim Hodson wasn’t much of a fan.
âI’ve broken the derailleur once and can’t break it a second time,â Hodson, of Newark, Del., Said of the mechanism that moves his bike’s chain to the rear sprockets. “I fixed it just to get back here.”
Hodson traveled about 20 miles from the start line to the Lewisburg end of the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail before having to turn around. This shortened his run on the full 125 mile course. He had to fix the derailleur just to get back.
âIt’s also quite gnarly. The rain made it nice and slippery. It’s disc brake days and I don’t ride with disc brakes. I care about my life, âsaid Hodson, splashed with mud from head to toe.
Guttendorf and Pierson, Milton’s husband and wife, wore front and rear mud liner like Hodson. They did the shortest course of the five unpaved courses – the 20 mile SOMEpaved. This route was a round trip on the Rail Trail. It was the first time they had participated in the event.
âThe leaves change, the mud, being able to go through mud puddles, that was a lot of fun,â Pierson said.
âHonestly, the best part was the mud. We run the railroad, we cycle the railroad since we are local.
âThe weather was actually a fun factor,â Guttendorf said. âWe’re going to buy fenders after this one. “
unPAved is one of the top gravel road cycling events in the United States. He started with 600 runners in 2018. This year’s maximum was 1,200 runners. Cyclists come from all over the country. Dave Pryor, the main event organizer, said about 1,000 runners made it to the start line on Sunday morning, which he expected. There were a few no-shows. Some other runners did not make the trip and warned in advance.
The full course measured at 125 miles this year, extended by 5 miles due to some re-routing required due to road construction projects. The second longest run at 95 miles also went up five more miles. The remaining runs are 50, 30 and 20 miles. Depending on the route, it’s a mix of Rail Trail, side roads, and off-road stretching all the way to Bald Eagle State Forest and Poe Paddy State Park.
The longest route is not fully timed. It switched from last year to a segmented race – six separate timed segments measuring 45 miles combined. The rest of the course can be done at the discretion of the rider: fast, relaxed or something in between.
At just 13.7 seconds, first place was decided in the unpaved 125.
Brett Beard, 37, of Bellefonte, finished with the fastest segment time in 2: 13: 19.9. He finished just ahead of Matthew Curbeau, 35, of Mills, who clocked 2: 13: 33.6.
Beard’s performance in the fourth segment, named âThe Difference,â put him in the lead.
The segment, at 22 miles, is by far the longest. It has four climbs and three descents. It’s all off-road through Bald Eagle State Forest with long stretches on Longwell Draft Road and Treaster Valley Road.
Beard’s time of 1: 25: 07.1 on “The Difference” was the second fastest of the day. Curbeau followed at 1:27:08. Brian Biggs, 53, of Philadelphia was fourth on the day but had the best time in that segment: 1: 19: 33.6.
Kelly Catale, 31, of Pepperell, Mass., Was 9th overall and was the top rider with a segmented time of 2: 31: 04.7. Jill Patterson, 40, of Alexandria, Va., Shot in a segmented time of 2: 37: 32.8. She placed second in women and 15th overall.
Graeme Kenny, 47, of Princeton, NJ, and Robert Ozsvath, 55, of Dix Hills, NY were the first two on the 95 mile course. Lisa Csencsits, 37, of Wantagh, NY, was the first woman and fourth overall.
“Have a pierogi”
Aid stations are set up all along the routes where runners can stop to take water, food and rest. There were also ambulances ready for use in the event of an accident or emergency.
Many runners showed up at 7:30 am, as early as possible. Pryor predicted that some could be on the 125 mile course for 12 hours or more.
âThey can stop and have a pierogi that someone is making over there. They may have more chips because they were hungry. The last aid station is at Rusty Rail Brewing Co. They can go get a burger and a beer and they are not timed. Who knows how long it will take? âSaid Pryor explaining the segmented format.
âIt’s really good, relaxed. It is so much safer. and it allows people to ride together, to make new friends, to ride with their friends even if one is faster than the other, âhe said.