There was a great turnout for the inaugural Lehigh Gran Fondo Sunday afternoon. We had two routes planned: 64 miles of pain out to Lake Nockamixon and up the hills of Lower Saucon Township and 18 miles around Center Valley. The whole pack rode together for the first 14 miles, with the two groups going their separate ways before heading east towards Springtown. Six of us opted for the longer trip and stayed together for the remaining 50 miles.
Below is a map of the ride and the Strava data for the day's journey:
Eight Lehigh riders rolled out from Warren Square at 12:30 on a humid and cloudy afternoon in the Lehigh Valley. We climbed our way up campus, past the University Center and up the Hill on Lower Sayre Park Dr, before getting onto Mountain Dr. After regrouping at the foot of Goodman Campus, we continued on our way to Center Valley. To make the ride a bit more interesting, we set up several sprints and KOMs. The first sprint took place on Camp Meeting Rd in Center Valley, with Brandon K. displaying his impressive speed and easily taking it at 37.2 mph. The group split up a bit going past DeSales, but we all met up at the top of Springtown Hill Rd. Brandon O. took the KOM on that climb ahead of Dave and Dean, with Brandon K. taking the Strava segment under the alias "Lehigh Cycling." On the fast and winding descent down into Springtown, Brandon O. showed how ridiculously aero he is, likely hitting 50 mph.
Following our trip through Springtown, it was time for TTT practice. At least that's what happened. We had a great rotation going heading up 412 from Durham Rd to Bursonville Rd--a 2 mile stretch at 2.3%. Dean, a freshman member of the team, impressed us all with an outstanding pull about halfway up the steeper portion of the climb. Look out ECCC! After what amounted to a muscular endurance interval on that ascent, we rode off through some heavily wooded roads approaching Lake Nockamixon and avoided a close run-in with a loose dog.
The paceline resumed on Mountain View Dr, with everyone taking solid pulls on the 6 miles of undulating terrain as a light rain fell down. We quickly hopped on and off of the heavily traveled Dublin Pike, taking 3 Mile Run Rd alongside the east side of the lake. Our final TTT work came on Ridge Rd. All of us put in some hard work and rode close to our limits. The combination of a light drizzle, all but one of us wearing the latest Lehigh kit, and the intensity of our effort made it look and feel like a scene out of an epic Grand Tour TTT stage.
Up next was the second intermediate sprint. Thanks to being unfamiliar with the area, I inadvertently placed the sprint on a gravel section of road. Needless to say, we were quite surprised when we noticed this as we got up to speed shortly before the asphalt disappeared. No sprint points were awarded, but we all got a taste of how uncomfortable it must be to ride Paris-Roubaix. We made it through fine and pulled over at a Turkey Hill 42 miles into the ride for some much deserved drinks and fuel.
We then took 412 back north to Durham Rd before tackling the Durham Rd climb at mile 50 (yes, there are 3 different Durham Rds that we rode today, all near each other). This one was tough--the first quarter of a mile was at 11.1%--and never seemed to end. The wet roads also caused some of our rear wheels to skid out when accelerating. After getting off to a quick start on the steep portion, Brandon K. caught up to me and sped by. He took the KOM, and the two of us went 1-2 on the Strava segment, separated by a second. The climbs continued, as Brandon took another two KOMs in short succession on Raubsville Rd and Lower Saucon Rd. Another climb up Applebutter Rd above I-78 led us to a grinding descent over the following 2.5 miles, which ended in the final sprint around a sweeping right bend. I took the sprint at the bottom of one of my favorite roads in the area, topping out at 39 mph. We rode the remaining few miles through Southside and arrived back at Warren Square after a long, fun day with 4,300 feet of climbing.
Awards on the day:
KOM: Brandon K. dropped us on every climb, scoring a decisive victory
Sprints: I picked up this one with Applebutter's extra points
Young Rider: Dave got up the final three climbs the fastest of the 2 underclassmen riders
Most Combative: Dean put in a gritty ride, pushing hard on the climbs and picking himself up after a spill
Most Aggressive: Brandon O. attacked on several of the hills and took all of the slippery descents with speed