Chris and I celebrated the Summer Solstice this year by going on a big ride around the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Afton/Wintergreen Area. It was the perfect summer day - sunny, breezy, and not too hot.

We had ridden a portion of this ride last winter, and since then I've wanted to go back and explore some more. So when Christopher suggested the ride in Afton, I jumped on the chance to go back.

Our route took us down into Sherando, from which we climbed Love Rd to the Parkway. From the parkway we dropped down a gravel road onto Crabtree Falls Hwy. We took the Hwy to the same dirt road we traveled on last winter. This time, however, we continued up the whole dirt road to head into Montebello for some good snacking at the cabin-esque convenience store. Riding this dirt road is good; really good. Its about a 10 climb with a couple of rolling sections - with 1700ft of elevation gain.  about halfway through this road is White Rock. A town of pretty much 2 houses. A creek runs through here full of cold mountain water. The scenery is absolutely beautiful. Green lush forest, and a quiet road - you can't really ask for anything better.

When we were snacking in Montebello, the temperatures were hitting their peak for the day, and my jersey was soaked. Big rides like these, in the heat, are important for training, especially with regards to nutrition intake. I've found that I sweat out A LOT of salt. So much so that if I don't stay on top of salt consumption, the imbalance that occurs in my body is so great that being able to eat becomes almost impossible. I've tried many things, including eating a small snack bag of potato chips during a ride. I guess it might be because of the grease that comes along with potato chips, but there's something about them that also makes me feel sick during a big ride. I'll force myself if it's my only option, but I'm glad to say there are other less nauseating things available. Elete is an electrolyte add-in that contains the four essential electrolytes - sodium, magnesium, potassium, and chloride. It's basically filtered sea water; super concentrated. Elete comes in a nice travel sized dropper bottle, and it is now my go-to, non-caloric electrolyte liquid of choice. For this ride, I made sure to put in about 20drops of this stuff into my water bottle. I felt good for the whole ride, pretty much thanks to this stuff. I didn't cramp, I never felt sick, and I didn't feel like I had to eat as much in order to replace the electrolytes I was sweating out. It's a tricky game I've had to play with figuring out what works best nutritionally, but I think I'm almost at perfection.

The little town of Vesuvius. The starting point of the climb.

After Montebello, we had plans to do a gravel loop that would make our ride figure-eight shaped. Unfortunately we couldn't find the road we were looking for and so opted to climb back up to the parkway and do the Vesuvius climb. The climb is an out and back from the parkway, so when you're descending you get a preview of the tough parts you'll be hitting on your way back up. I took it pretty easy on the descent since I was given a warning from Chris about loose gravel in the turns. It's a great descent, but an even better climb. At 3.1 miles long, with a 9% grade average and many points of hitting 15-17% grade, it makes for great training grounds.

Continuing our ride north on the parkway, we had plans for climbing Wintergreen, but decided against it when we reached the intersection to turn towards the resort. It was getting late, we were both tired, and ready to head home. I had also thought that the Wintergreen climb would be steeper than, but close to the same distance as the Vesuvius climb. I'm glad I check with Chris because it is actually  much longer. At that point in our ride I guess you could say I waved the white flag. It had been a great day of riding, we were both in good spirits the whole way through, and I think if we had gone for the Wintergreen climb, it would have tuned into an unhappy experience and a very slow time getting back to the car.

We took a moment to enjoy the views. The gap in the background is where we had been riding earlier in the day

So with smiles still on our faces, we rolled along the parkway (which is not without it's own climbs by the way), stopped to take pictures at some of the overlooks, and got back to the car. It was a great way to spend the day, and a great training ride for some of our races coming up. I'll definitely be going to ride around there more now that I know so many cool roads!

- Kelly

Check out the ride on Strava HERE

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