By Sarah Myers

From recreational cyclist to professional racers, we truly have some epic road and mountain biking here in Garrett County. Just a few weeks ago, I participated in the “Garrett’s Greatest 25” bike ride in the Garrett County Gran Fondo.

Gran Fondo is a type of bicycle ride that basically translates basically into “Big Ride”: A number of cyclists ride, not race, a marked route.

Have you been biking here in Garrett County? Have you seen these hills!?

Here is an excerpt from the Garrett County Gran Fondo website:

“Garrett County and the Deep Creek Lake area boast some of the finest and most challenging cycling in North America, and the Garrett County Gran Fondo has established itself as a premier North American Gran Fondo unsurpassed in challenge, scenery, and riding quality.

With seven Timed KOM Climbs covering 14.8 miles and 5400′ of elevation gain, the Garrett County Gran Fondo is the King of all Climbing Gran Fondos. No other Gran Fondo has more timed climbing!”

KOM is known as “king of the mountain” in cycling terminology where a rider is timed from the bottom of a climb to the top. There are various methods to calculating averages and awards for KOM but seven different timing mats were laid out in a methodical way across the course. It’s important to note that the timed climbs do not necessarily represent the hardest, steepest or longest climbs.

In my “25” ride, there was only one chance to be timed for KOM that was from the bottom of a climb to right before the finish line.

Here is the breakdown of the Gran Fondo rides from the website:

The “Diabolical Double” –  …on par with European climbing classics such as Etape du Tour, la Marmotte, and the classic Italian Gran Fondos. At 203K (126.2 miles) and over 16,500 feet of climbing, the Diabolical Double is an extreme challenge for even the most fit rider. Virtually all who have completed the Diabolical Double have considered it the hardest single day ride they have ever experienced.

The “Savage Century” – the Savage Century is an extremely challenging century ride, and with 105.8 miles and over 12,500 feet of climbing likely the hardest century ride in North America.

The “Masochistic Metric” – the Masochistic Metric is one-half the distance with one-half the climbing of the Diabolical Double at 64.8 miles and over 8000 feet of climbing. An extraordinary challenging ride itself, if you want to experience a true climbing epic, but 105 miles or 203K of it seems a bit excessive, then the Masochistic Metric is the ride for you.

The “Fabulous 44” – The Fabulous 44 is an excellent option for anyone looking for a longer, more challenging ride than the “Garrett’s Greatest 25” and wants a taste of the extremity of the three longer rides, but does not want to undertake the extreme challenge of the 100K, 100 miles, or 200K distances. The Fabulous 44 includes 42.6 miles and over 4500 feet of climbing.

The “Garrett’s Greatest 25” – A beautiful 25-mile ride along Deep Creek Lake and through the rolling Garrett County farmland, the Garrett’s Greatest 25 includes no major hills and just one of the seven Timed KOM Climbs.

Even though I didn’t sign up for a challenging ride by others’ standards, I signed up for the ride I thought I would enjoy – and enjoy I did.

Two years ago, I did the 44 ride and I remember the start gate much more vividly. The announcer says, “this ride is hard. If you are doing it because you think it will be easier than the other rides like the 63 and 100, you are wrong. It is not easier…. just shorter. If you want easier, there is no problem in waiting for the 25 ride.” Whoa.

It WAS a hard ride but I made it through… barely. Anyway, that’s the reason I was in the 25 this year.

The much harder rides began early in the morning on this Saturday, so the riders left informally gathering around the porta-potties and picnic tables late morning were ready for the 25 ride. The group of about 40 of us didn’t seem to have many nervous jitters; just ready for a nice Garrett County bike ride.

We began from Garrett College with the threat of some rain in big dark clouds behind us but it made for an awesome scene in the morning light. The first few miles, we sorted ourselves out and were able to ride single-file down Deep Creek Drive. Then, we crossed Route 219 and enjoyed the length of Rock Lodge Road.

I was taking my time and thoroughly enjoyed the Lakeside view. One of my favorite Deep Creek Lake spots! The first incline that can be considered a hill came into view… ahh, I pushed through and took some of my stress out on those pedals.

At this point, I was near a few others but most of the pack had separated. No competition; just a ride. Cruising down a large descent, I was able to join up with a fellow rider – it was pretty neat, and maybe a little scary, cruising at about 35mph side by side.

There is an aid station just a bit after getting onto Route 495; I believe it is about halfway on the 25 ride but only one of several aid stations along the other ride routes. Standing there enjoying a baggie of trail mix, it was truly inspiring to see athletes coming in off of the much longer rides utilizing the aid station and sharing their stories.

There were several young volunteers chanting “100+ to the right, 25 to the left” for the riders exiting the station.

After stretching my legs and having my snack, I was back on my way. On the back-half is where the rain began but I can’t say I was complaining. The temperature had warmed up over the last hour and there were a few more climbs to take care of; the rain was a refreshing shower.

I wasn’t really around many others at this point but I did play “leapfrog” with a few where I would pass them, then they would pass me, then I would pass them again. I think it’s a lot of fun to ride with others like this; I am sure I keep my pace this way.

Now for the last few miles, the 25 joins up with at least one the longer rides near Accident-Bittinger Road. I’m not sure but I think it is at least the 125 ride that comes through that way. I enjoy it but I’m sure it’s annoying to see those of us with relatively fresh legs going to town while others have been riding for hours by this point!

A little after the rides join, the only KOM on the 25 is on a tough climb at the bottom of Negro Mountain Road to Bumble Bee Road to near the finish line. On this climb (that seemed to take forever) the sun came back out, my jersey and shorts dried out for the most part and I was ready to finish strong!

I pulled back into the College with my best hey-that-was-easy smile and pretended to look like I had just done 125 miles!

Part of the ride price includes an awesome lunch so I sat with a few other finishers to swap stories and enjoy our pulled pork or chicken sandwiches. Of course, the topic at the table turned to how fortunate I am to live near some of the greatest biking climbs in the country!

It is true; we have excellent biking here! Come ride with me!