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Pre-riding the Southern Cross route

Loretta Simposon | Published on 1/9/2022

Just get in the car and go!

I got the heads up from Samantha Lindsey that a group was doing a pre-ride of the Southern Cross loop. I really enjoyed the last ride she invited me to so I opted in. As the crow flies, The start spot was pretty close to me and the start time and weather were favorable.

I actually got my stuff together the night before so I was less likely to find a reason to ride from the house. Plugged in the directions and tried to figure out what landmarks might clue me in to where the spot on the map was located. All I could figure was it was at the corner of somewhere on the other side of the mountain.

I debated my bike choice a bunch and decided on my gravel bike. The last part of my route into the meet up was on Cooper Gap downhill. I started to worry about that decision being it was such a long ride and I am most at home on fat tires, squish and lots of gear range. This was gonna be a test of my shoulder repair, Cooper Gap is a sustained steep downhill full of pretty much everything a mountain gravel road can throw at you. Good thing it would be at the end of the ride when I’m tired, thirsty, hungry and at the upper limit of what I consider a do-able distance….not.

The ride crew had a mix of gravel and mountain bikes. Thankfully there were experienced gravelers who had pressure gauges and the knowledge of appropriate pressures to run. Among the Sorella’s were Amanda, Saskia and of course Sam and their Sorella fellas. A great group and RTR right on time.

We had a mix of Sorella kits old and new, I decided to break in the brand new bright beautiful jersey and arm warmers that magically showed up at my house the day prior. Perfect for the warm conditions. We all discussed fluids and nutrition and hoped that cumulatively we could get everyone around the figure of 8 course of 45 miles and 5000 plus feet elevation gain.  

The run in to the dreaded Winding Stair Gap climb was rolling and beautiful. For my part, I decided to keep it toned down because I have been up winding stair a few times and knew what we were in for. We regrouped at the bottom and headed up. I had little confidence that my gravel gearing would get me up to the top without a stop and a hike a bike or two. I’m used to a 32 in front with a pancake gear in the rear. The group settled into our own pace and headspace. I had a few rabbits in front to keep me looking up the road and a feisty, very talkative Saskia to keep me honest for the 40 minute slog that is Winding Stair. Conditions could not have been better, enough bite on the gravel and enough gearing to get to the top with out putting a foot down and my heart still in my chest. A win….we regrouped at 5 forks for the crossing to springer gap, a roller coaster of what seemed like very little downhill pay off for what we just summited. Finally the time came for the screaming downhill to the short, smooth oh so sweet asphalt on Doublehead gap. I am used to being the queen descender in most groups of women I ride with, I was solidly dethroned by Saskia, I mean out of sight instantly, catching the guys on mountain bikes and comfortably waiting at the black top fresh as a daisy. We regroup again for a mother screaming downhill and I got to test my former road skills when Jesus and Saskia took off like they were shot out of a cannon. Grabbed their wheel and snagged a PR on the segment. Sooooo fun.

Back on my side of the mountain and heading up my favorite climb, i gained a new friend and learned so much about track cycling from Saskia who must be the most well rounded rider I have met to date.

A final regroup at the top and a decision to get to the cars asap because we were all getting low on food and drink. I was saved by my mates who shared their food as somehow my bars didn’t make it into my pack. Another rolling ridge full of more climbing and some serious bone chattering chunk, pot holes and embedded rock before the epic final down cooper gap. Once again I was schooled by Saskia on a downhill that I know and was not too far off lance Armstrong when I last raced Southern Cross (I was on a mountain bike) Much respect….

We had one casualty (not a Sorella) who bonked purely from lack of nutrition and hydration. Jesus saved the day and bombed to the car to go back and get her.

What a great day. So glad to be back with Sorella. I do feel like I have always been one. I am lucky to live near and am close to one of the founding members. So much has changed and yet so much has stayed the same. Great women sharing their passion and having a group where all are welcome to test their limits or just learn to love the joy of the ride.