Velocio // Exploro Chooses Their Own Adventure
It’s impossible to escape a bit of a sinking feeling that crops up when a pre-COVID calendar reminder harkens to days before all of 2020’s schedule was shuffled. As a brand, we’d planned on a host of events from Vermont’s Rooted Gravel Ride to Chicago’s Intelligensia Cup. From Sea Otter to the Northampton Cyclocross Invitational.
All have been placed on hold though they still pop up in Google Calendar form, in social media memories and in the haze of time before quarantine and vaccine countdowns. Hence, 2020 has been a constant problem to solve and we’re all collectively cornering on a bits of gravel covered pavement, uncertain when the tires will steadfast hook up and we gain a bit of traction.
So it’s been with our friends at the Velocio // Exploro team, a program we took over co-title sponsorship at the start of this year. As the months tick on, we’ve watched Velocio // Exploro navigate a calendar which has proven to be as firm and steady as wood smoke or cloud shadows. Impressively, they’ve ridden through the fire and rain of the year choosing adventure and self-possession.
Choose your own Velocio // Exploro track to follow to learn more.
I closed my garage door at 3:36am and rode into what was essentially a rain cloud. It was so foggy, I couldn't see more than 5ft in front of me. About an hour later and a close call with a skunk, I arrived at the Hotchkiss residence to start our DIYGRAVEL 200 mile ride.
Pierson and I began our adventure in the dark, and ended it in the dark. Many miles of local history, stories, and geographical facts, we made our way around Rockbridge County Virginia. Rarely was there silence, and when there was, we were thinking about fried chicken. There is something special about knowing you're going to be riding for the foreseeable future. There is a solace in continual pedaling.
After a wrong turn, we made our way to the last DIY aid station where we picked up chicken nuggets and french fries to fuel our final miles in the dark. After parting ways with Pierson, I scooted and rolled around town in hopes of picking up those last miles needed to check the 200 box.
I arrived at my house with 6 miles to go and a bowl of animal shaped mac and cheese waiting for me. My husband joined me for the last few miles, and of course I chose the route with the most elevation to check the 20k box. 200.6 miles with 20,090ft of climbing I DIYGRAVEL'd my longest ride ever at 19 hours. I'm already planning the next adventure to find that solace and joy.
‘Tis the year of contingency plans. When my long-planned vacation with my family in late May got cancelled, I already had bike adventures planned and ready to roll as a backup.
I headed to the Tetons to spend time with my family and while there took a few days to myself and did my first solo bikepack trip (and only second bikepack trip ever) around the Wind River Mountains.
In my pre-medicine life, I spent months in those mountains working for NOLS and knew the route well, but had been dreaming of riding it - especially the gravel sections - for years.
Blessed with a perfect weather window, I enjoyed endless views of the still snow-capped high peaks, perfect gravel roads for miles, and spectacular campsites.
One huge highlight of the trip was getting to visit old friends from NOLS in Lander, WY. I hadn’t seen them in years and coming from the last several months of shutdown catching up with my friends in person was absolutely wonderful.
I arrived home mentally rejuvenated although in need of a rest day. Racing may be cancelled for now, but I am thankful there are so many other ways I can explore and push myself on my bike!
This was the year to test my fitness, my endurance, my mental toughness. I never really enjoyed rides greater than 60 miles. My fitness was kept for one day road races, crits and cyclocross, not long grueling endurance events.
This was the year to get off the pavement and onto that uneven surface that makes you a little uncomfortable in the corners. I was ready, I trained, I mentally prepared myself. Albeit in a different way. Normally I prep for something shorter and punchier.
This year I was going all in on gravel and that started early with BWR coming out of a New England winter. And then things changed, for everyone. I decided to stick to my plans and ride my heart out and see how far I could push myself.
Doing a DIY BWR was going to be the longest ride I had ever done. I mounted the 40mm G-Ones to my Stan’s CB7 Grails and hit the road with my husband, who is generally up for anything.
This route was a hit; passing countless historical graveyards, dropping off the backside of a random mountain on a double track ATV trail that quickly vanished in a river and then waist deep weeds. Undeterred, we followed the map on my Stages Dash and popped out the other side. We questionably skipped the food stop on the other side of the mountain and re-routed on the fly as we were now racing the sun in the early New England spring.
With 40 miles to go, we stopped for a Coke and a quick rest. I was tired, but the end was in sight and I always enjoy that feeling of accomplishment. I couldn't wait to continue on, and continue on we did. We pushed hard and ultimately lost to the sun but got all 140 miles just past dusk.
I didn’t choose my adventure this season - it chose me. I am a Registered Dietitian and work as a Certified Nutrition Support Clinician (CNSC) in the medical ICU and COVID-19 unit at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center.
I have had the opportunity to provide nutrition support to patients and assist the doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers who are working on the front lines during the pandemic, and I would not have it any other way.
As a CNSC, my specialty is figuring out how to keep patients nourished when they cannot eat or drink on their own. This involves feeding patients through a tube into the stomach or small intestine, or through an IV into their bloodstream using custom IV fluids. Every patient with COVID-19 on a ventilator (breathing machine) needs nutrition support if they are on the ventilator long enough.
I spent much of my time early this spring researching and gathering knowledge on suggested practices and new guidelines in order to support patients during the pandemic. It has been exhausting and emotional, yet rewarding.
Before I became a Dietitian, I never would have thought that nutrition could influence patient outcomes as much as it has this spring. I am grateful to be able to work with an amazing team that has saved many lives during this pandemic.
One patient spent ten days on a ventilator in the ICU and the team got her home safe and sound - see her story here.
Our version of traditional racing may be postponed for 2020; however, race promoters are finding unique ways to unite the cycling community during these challenging times. I had originally planned to lead a ladies' no drop ride - alongside fellow Vermonter Kim Coleman - for The Ranger, however the pandemic had us pondering new ways to safely connect.
When the event took on a virtual format, Kim and I decided that it was only fitting for us to pedal the race course and use this as an opportunity to share adventures with the registered women. Backyard Dirt was created in lieu of an organized event to encourage fellow Rangers to explore their hometown gravel and celebrate the places that give us joy.
We gathered in Tunbridge, Vermont to ride a truly adventurous route with loose gravel hills, chunky Class IV roads, and hike-a-bike sections. Kim and I started the day at a moderate pace; however, we soon found ourselves slowing down...and not just from the seemingly endless climbs! The landscape that we had the privilege to ride was breathtaking.
I forgot about maintaining a fast average or taking QOM segments and instead, enjoyed each mud puddle and pothole. We rode through deteriorating barns, got lost in waist-high fields, and spent nearly five hours on course. I discovered my #ridewithpurpose that day, and I hope that others did too.
What does Ride with Purpose mean? To me, it's about finding ways to provide everyone with the opportunity to enjoy two wheels. I pledged to donate $10 per mile of The Ranger's course to organizations that support getting more people on bikes (Black Girls Do Bike, Little Bellas). These are small steps to increasing diversity in cycling, but we have to start somewhere.
In a time when we are already isolated, I lost my quarantine partner to an unexpected deployment. This year hasn't been easy and it's taken quite a bit of outside influence to keep me motivated on the bike.
Rebecca Rusch created a climbing challenge and with a bit of hesitation, I registered. We’ve recently moved, so I don't yet have a circle of riding buddies to coerce into "dumb" ideas, and I’m still isolating.
Riding solo, in the Olympic National Forest, through the chilly spring weather, was very intimidating.
I had my car packed with snacks and layers, and survived on Mexican coke, Clif gels, mini cherry pies, and the promise of a Coors Light at the top of the last climb from some local gun shooters.
Finishing wasn't a guarantee, and I've filed this one into the memory log of events to look back at when the going gets tough.