LEWISBURG — The rain and mud highlighted Sunday’s ride in the unPAved gravel road bicycling event for Charlie Guttendorf and Lynn Pierson.
Tim Hodson wasn’t much of a fan.
“I already broke the derailleur once and I can’t break it a second time,” said Hodson, of Newark, Del., of the mechanism that shifts his bicycle’s chain at the rear sprockets. “I fixed it just to get back here.”
Hodson made it about 20 miles out from the starting line on the Lewisburg end of the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail before having to turn back. It cut short his ride on the full 125-mile course. He had to fix the derailleur just to get back.
“It’s also pretty gnarly. The rain has made it nice and slick. It’s disc brake weather and I’m not riding disc brakes. I value my life,” Hodson said, splattered with mud head to toe.
Guttendorf and Pierson, husband and wife from Milton, wore a front-and-back mud coating like Hodson. They biked in the shortest run among the five unPAved courses — the 20-mile SOMEpaved. That course was an out and back ride on the Rail Trail. It was their first time riding in the event.
“The leaves are changing, the mud, being able to go through mud puddles, it was a lot of fun,” Pierson said.
“Honestly, the best part was the mud. We run the rail trail, we ride bikes on the rail trail since we’re local.
“The weather was actually a fun factor,” Guttendorf said. “We’re gonna buy some mud guards after this one.”
unPAved is a top gravel road cycling event in the U.S. It began with 600 riders in 2018. This year’s max was 1,200 riders. The cyclists come from all across the country. Dave Pryor, the event’s lead organizer, said about 1,000 riders made it to the starting line Sunday morning, about what he expected. There were a few no-shows. Some other riders didn’t make the trip and gave advance notice.
The full course measured at 125 miles this year, extended by 5 miles because of some necessary rerouting due to road construction projects.
The second-longest course at 95 miles also grew five miles longer in distance. The remaining courses are 50, 30 and 20 miles. Depending on the course, it’s a mix of the Rail Trail, back roads and off-roads extending into the Bald Eagle State Forest and the Poe Paddy State Park.
The longest course isn’t timed in full. It shifted beginning last year to a segmented race — six separate timed segments measuring a combined 45 miles. The remainder of the course could be done at the rider’s discretion: fast, casual or something in between.
Just 13.7 seconded decided top place in the unPAved 125.
Brett Beard, 37, of Bellefonte, finished with the fastest segmented time of 2:13:19.9. He finished just ahead of Matthew Curbeau, 35, of Mills, who turned in a time of 2:13:33.6.
Beard’s performance in the fourth segment, named “The Difference,” put him on top.
The segment, at 22 miles, is by far the longest. It features four climbs and three descents.
All of it is off-road through the Bald Eagle State Forest with long stretches on Longwell Draft Road and Treaster Valley Road.
Beard’s time of 1:25:07.1 on “The Difference” was the day’s second-fastest. Curbeau’s followed at 1:27:08.1. Brian Biggs, 53, of Philadelphia finished fourth on the day but had the top time this segment: 1:19:33.6.
Kelly Catale, 31, of Pepperell, Mass., finished 9th overall and was the top female rider with a segmented time of 2:31:04.7. Jill Patterson, 40, of Alexandria, Va., turned in a segmented time of 2:37:32.8. She placed second among females and 15th overall.
Graeme Kenny, 47, of Princeton, N.J., and Robert Ozsvath, 55, of Dix Hills, N.Y. were the top two finishers on the 95-mile course. Lisa Csencsits, 37, of Wantagh, N.Y., was the first female in and fourth overall.
‘Have a pierogi’
There are aid stations set up throughout the courses where riders can stop for water, food and rest. There were ambulances at the ready, too, in the event of an accident or emergency.
Many riders showed for 7:30 a.m., the earliest they could start. Pryor anticipated some could be on the 125-mile course for 12 hours or longer.
“They can stop and have a pierogi that someone’s making out there. They can have more chips cause they were hungry. The last aid station’s at the Rusty Rail Brewing Co. They can go and have a burger and a beer and they’re not being timed. Who knows how long it will take?” Pryor said in explaining the segmented format.
“It’s really good, relaxed. It’s so much safer. and it allows people to ride together, make new friends, ride with their friends even if one is faster than the other,” he said.