Thanks for registering for the 2016 Farmer’s Daughter Gravel Grinder, the second year in what we hope will become a longstanding tradition, and thanks to all of you who took a chance on us last year and not only came back, but brought friends. Welcome old friends and new, we look forward to seeing you on Sunday! You’ll find below some things you’ll need to know for Sunday. There’s a link to the final course, some important things you should bring (proof of identification, and cash for food in particular), and a few reminders and suggestions that will help you have a great experience on the ride. Please read carefully and completely, especially if you weren’t here last year.
The start and finish is at the Columbia County Fairgrounds in Chatham NY. You can park there at no charge, there should be plenty of parking room for all. See the Directions page on this site for details and to generate custom directions using Google Maps.
The ride will begin between 9:10 and 9:15 AM. Please arrive at a time that allows you plenty of time to get parked, set up, and checked in. There are public restrooms on site (near the check-in area). We’ll have bottled water available, and there’s a Stewarts convenience store adjacent to where you’ll enter the fairgrounds, as well as other shops in and around Chatham.
Aside from your biking equipment (see the section dedicated to this below), you should bring an official form of identification, e.g. driver’s license, and cash to pay for food and beverages at the finish.
Check-in is from 7:00-8:30 on Sunday morning in the pavilion of the Columbia County Fairgrounds.
Find the appropriate line based on your last name, when it’s your turn we’ll check off your name and have you sign a waiver. Please bring a driver’s license or similar proof of identification it can be helpful in the occasional case of a mix-up in your registration.
You’ll get 3 things at check-in:
- A goody bag that contains your event t-shirt and water bottle, and offers from local merchants.
- A wristband. Please put this on before starting the ride! It will be used to ensure that you have access to the aid stations and other support out on the course, and if you’re old enough to enjoy a free beer, it will get you that beer once you’ve signed back in at the finish. Finally, it will serve as proof of age should you decide to enjoy another beer!
- A commemorative pint glass.
We’ll also have plenty of copies of the course cue sheets available at sign-in in case you need it. If you are using a downloaded file for navigation, please make sure that you have Andy’s and Jon’s cell numbers in case you need help: Andy Ruiz (518)495-6058, or Jon Stillman (518)368-8901. Those are also provided at the top of the cue sheets. Important: if you call us and can’t get through, please send us a text, not a voicemail. In spotty cell conditions, sometimes we can see that a voicemail has been left, but we have no signal to hear it. With a text message it’s much more likely that we’ll at least get some information quickly.
The ride will start from the fairgrounds at approximately 9:10. Please be prepared to gather around the pavilion at 9:00 for a few words from the organizers (last minutes updates, etc.) and from the deputy mayor of Chatham, after which you’ll line up for the start. Remember that this is not a race. We do know that different people are riding the course with different aims: some will be riding very fast, some at a slightly less aggressive friendly group ride pace, and some out to enjoy the beautiful scenery at a pace that allows them to do so. This is a challenging course at any pace, and we think that there are different things to be gained at any pace. We do ask that you self-select where in the line you start: if you’re planning to be among the first groups to finish, get up toward the front; If you’re planning to enjoy the full day, take lots of rests, start at the back. Regardless, ride considerately throughout, and if you see someone in need of help, lend a hand. Obey all traffic laws, be good citizens out there, you’re riding in someone else’s home town, we want all of them to feel that this is a great event, too!
There’s no formal starting gun, we’re not timing anyone, so let’s keep the start relaxed, with plenty of room for everyone to get started safely. The Chatham Police Chief will escort you through town and pull over once you’re safely through the downtown area.
Current Course Conditions
As of Thursday, the course is fast and very dry. We may get a bit of rain tomorrow and Saturday, which will help keep dust down on the dirt roads, but Sunday’s weather is looking good, though probably a bit chilly at the start! We expect the course to be fairly dry and fast, with the possibility of a few short wet areas on the first couple of off-road segments. We’ll provide an update on Sunday morning if there are any significant changes.
Getting the course map and cue sheet
You can now access the final course and cue sheet for the Farmer’s Daughter ride here. There is a map and annotated cue sheet. For those of you who want to download the file to your GPS devices, click on the “Export” tab in the upper right hand corner of the page, where you’ll find links and directions for downloading .tcx files and .gpx files, along with directions for a number of devices. Note that the off-road parts of the course are approximations, so be sure and follow the arrows in the off-road sections and not your GPS device. Similarly, the cue sheet does not provide directions in the off-road sections, just follow the arrows. For similar reasons, the stated distances on the cue sheets are likely to be slightly inexact. The feedback we received last year was that the course was very well marked, and that most didn’t need to refer to the cue sheets; that’s our objective again this year, but bring it along in some form so that you can refer to it if you need to do so.
In addition to the official course, there are two “go directly to the fairgrounds” routes available for download, the first from aid station #1 at mile 30, and the second from aid station #2 at mile 50. There will also be paper copies of the cue sheets available at those two aid stations. We hope that every participant plans to ride the entire course, but it is a challenging ride, and it may not be your day on Sunday. These two opt-out routes will get you back to the fairgrounds on well-traveled paved roads as easily as we can. They are not supported parts of the course, though. There are no signs, and no roving support, you’ll have to rely on the cue sheets (which are very simple). If you do get into a fix, you can still call Andy or me, and we’ll do our best to help you.
For those of you who rode it last year, there is only one significant change in the course: at the Ooms Preserve ( the first off-road segment) you entered and exited at the first entrance to the preserve that you came across, and immediately rode onto a series of little bridges and skinnies last year. It was early enough in the ride that these created congestion. We looked at several solutions, and ultimately decided to eliminate those features from the course. As a result, you’ll now enter the preserve a little further down the road than you did last year, and start the loop of the preserve in the field where the skinnies ended. Everything else is exactly the same as last year, and the mileage is exactly the same.
We’ve also annotated the cue sheet tags online with information that will be helpful to those riding the course for the first time, especially the off-road sections. You can see these descriptions by scrolling over the cue sheet items on the left of the course display. The annotations include things like descriptions of the off-road segments, where many might want to hop off and portage, where there are especially tight turns followed by steep hills, etc. Please read them if you’re not familiar with the course.
Notes on the Off-road Segments
There are 4 distinct off-road segments on the course. We have annotated the official course map so that you can see the descriptions in context of the course map, but will repeat them here for your convenience:
- The first is approximately 5 miles into the ride, at the Ooms Conservation Area at Sutherland Pond. You’ll go past the first entrance (you’ll exit from there in a few minutes), there’s another one a bit further down that you’ll take a right into. The Ooms section circumnavigates Sutherland Pond and on a sunny day provides gorgeous views of the countryside. It is composed mostly of wide mowed grassy paths, and is a nice off-road warmup. There are a couple of steep climbs in there, one in a field, and the other in the woods going up to the gazebo. Take it easy on these two hills, you’ll appreciate later any energy you saved here.
- The second off-road section is a beautiful ride through the woods, literally just around the corner from where you exited the Ooms loop . It’s a mix of old farm road (tractor path) and singletrack, including one short bit of twisty turny singletrack fun with a very short but tricky hill (mound, really). Don’t get discouraged if you don’t make it up that, it’s tough. You’ll also cross three small streams in this section. The first two are easy to cross, they’re shallow, and have bedrock bases. There’s a short climb just after you cross the second stream, you may choose to hop off and walk for that climb, but it is rideable. Please do get off and ford the third stream crossing. You can remount once you’re across and back on some dry footing. The descent to that stream can be tricky, and the ground on the far side can be muddy for a bit. Once past the final stream you’ll climb a tractor path to the crest of the hill. There are many opportunities to see beautiful views of the Catskill Mountains off to your left here and on the dirt road descent that follows.
- The third off-road section is at another conservancy called Hand Hollow. You’ll take a left turn off Gale Hill Rd. into the Hand Hollow parking lot at approximately mile 29. From there you’ll start a section of trail that may be somewhat more challenging than the first two. It is fairly wide and clean, but has roots you’ll need to get over, some small rocks to either ride around or over, and there may still be a short section of shallow mud on Sunday. None of it is more technical than what one might see on a cyclocross course, but there’s more of it in sequence. Remember, it’s not a race, there’s no penalty for hopping off and running or walking over an obstacle that you’re not comfortable with. There are plenty of challenges ahead :). As of Monday at the very end of this trail section the path that goes to the left of a log skinny was under about 3″ of water due to a new beaver dam. You have three choices: ride the skinny, walk the skinny, or ride the path. I did the first and the third in a pre-ride. The path is quite firm and shallow. Once you get past that, you’ll cross a small field and arrive at aid station #1, which has a great selection of delicious food for every taste, provided by sponsor Bountiful Bread. Enjoy, and catch your breath, you’re not quite halfway through the course, and the next section of about 10 miles has a series of dirt road rollers that are the toughest you’ll encounter all day.
- The fourth and final off-road section starts at aid station #2 which is at approximately mile 50. We recommend that you refresh yourself first, then tackle the little loop behind the aid station parking lot. This first piece of the fourth section is mostly singletrack, and is the most technically challenging on the course. It’s a small loop of about 1/3 mile, but it has several parts that are more technically challenging than you’ll see on a typical cyclocross course. If you’ve felt very challenged on the other trail sections you might want to skip this part. Otherwise, give it a try, but be ready to hop off several times for an obstacle that you may not feel safe going over. This is the one trail section where you really do need to choose your line, especially on a cross bike. It’s all rideable by a competitive cyclocross rider, but there’s no shame in skipping it, either, especially this far into your ride. Once you’re done with this singletrack loop you’ll leave the parking lot go across the road to a quick left onto a short dirt road, then across Rte. 5 onto an access road to Beebe Forest (you’ll go around a steel gate and over a short gravel dam. There is a very steep grassy climb on this section. Only the strongest cyclocross riders will make it all the way up. It’s thankfully short, and not bad at all on a mountain bike, but it may be a cyclocross run-up for many. After that climb there’s one more hill, much less tough than the last, before you come to a T in the road. For those hardy folks who are interested, take a right to go just a bit further uphill to the Beebe State Forest fire tower. It’s only a couple of minutes ride, and you can dismount and climb the tower for a great view if conditions are right. Otherwise, take the left, you’ll enjoy a nice long downhill ride on a pretty smooth jeep trail before leaving the state forest.
Some Important Reminders
All of the roads on the course will be open to traffic. Please stay on the right side of the roads at all times and obey NYS traffic laws. That means full stops at stop signs! We want everyone to get back safely. You must ride with a CPSC-approved cycling helmet. No helmet, no ride.
Ride particularly carefully on the dirt roads. Tempting as it may be to bomb down the descents, they may have blind curves, gravel, potholes, oncoming cars, and other potential hazards, so stay within your ability to maneuver and stop quickly if you need to do so. Also, it’s smart to maximize your recovery time on the long descents following climbs. This course has lots of rollers and very few flat spots, so if you speed through the descents you may find yourself at the bottom of the next climb before you’re fully recovered.
If you see our event photographer Barry Koblenz out there, be sure to put on your best smile, or your toughest suffer-face, depending on how you’re feeling at the moment.
Please do not try to pre-ride the off-road sections. These are almost entirely private or otherwise regulated properties, for which we have use permission and insurance only for the event on Sunday. A number of people have generously opened up their land for your use, and the course is as rich as it is because of that generosity. If some abuse their trust it will be very difficult for us to create a similarly great course next year.
Several of the off-road sections will have hikers on them on Sunday. We do not have exclusive access. They will know that there are going to be cyclists on the trails. Please be aware, respectful, and safe. Don’t go bombing around that blind bend, there may be a family of hikers on the other side.
Please remember to thank the volunteers and sponsors you encounter out there. They’ve come together (and given up their Sunday rides) to help you have a great day, and many of them will be out there even longer than you will. To a person, they are here because of a love of cycling and an interest in maintaining and growing a rich cycling community.
At the Finish
The last leg of the course, approximately 5 miles long, retraces the first 5 miles in reverse. That keeps you on nice quiet, mostly dirt roads until very close to the finish at the fairgrounds. For almost all of you, there will be live entertainment in the pavilion by the time you arrive, so get into some comfortable clothes, grab your free pint of beer fresh from the tap from Chatham Brewing, and enjoy some good food.
This year we’ve got two vendors providing a choice of good foods.
The first is a chicken barbecue dinner provided by the Columbia County Rotary. These folks provided a great meal to cyclists last fall after another organized ride around the dirt roads of northern Columbia County, and we invited them to do it again for us this year.
Second is a great selection of some delicious foods offered by a Chatham lunch spot called Our Daily Bread. I’m a vegetarian, and it’s often tough to get good vegetarian lunches when you’re neither home nor in a big city. I’ve had several exceptionally good lunches at Our Daily Bread, as has Andy (not a vegetarian), so we decided to invite them to serve you this year. They will provide food for meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans. I’ll post a bit more about them tomorrow in a separate post. Please bring cash for food and beer, it makes things a lot easier!
The optimal bike for this ride is either a cyclocross bike or a hardtail mountain bike. We designed the course with cyclocross bikes in mind, but since it’s not a race, mountain bikes, while a bit slower out on the roads, have lower gearing that makes it easier to spin up the hills. Mountain bikes are likely be a better fit for people who don’t have experience with riding cyclocross bikes off-road, too. For many, a fairly light hardtail mountain bike will be at least as fast as a cyclocross bike.
For cyclocross bikes with two chainrings, we recommend that your small chainring be a 34 tooth, and that you have a cassette with it’s largest cog having at least 28 teeth, preferably 30 or more. An all-purpose CX tire would be fine in most conditions, something along the lines of the Clement MXP, Kenda small block 8, or Michelin mud 2, for instance. You can ride the entire course with file treads; several of us have done it. You’ll be a bit more confident through any muddy or wet grass conditions, though, if you have an all-purpose tire. I’ve ridden the course with both, and didn’t feel that I gave up much (if any) speed by using my Mud 2s. If conditions continue as they are today, though, I’d ride with a nice file-treaded tire. The dirt roads are hard-packed and fast, and the trails are also pretty dry, with very few wet spots and no deep mud.
We’ve also got a few fat-bike riders who’ll be out on the course on their fat-bikes. We’d suggest that they’re fine for the course, though only if you have a good bit of experience riding them in endurance events.
Please do not bring a road bike. They simply aren’t equipped for the off-road sections, regardless of the tires you’ve got on them, and risk being unsafe.
Accessories and Nutrition
Don’t forget your helmet! You should have at least 2 bottle cages on your bike, and start the ride with two bottles filled with whatever you prefer for a long ride. Some CX bikes only have bosses for one cage. In that case, we encourage you to carry at least one more bottle in a jersey pocket. Camelbaks are fine, too, for those so inclined. There will be water available at the aid stations at miles 19, 30, 41, and 50, with electrolyte mix also available at the aid stations at miles 30 and 50.
Your saddle bag should contain at least the following:
- CO2 pump head
- 2 CO2 cartridges
- 2 spare tubes
- tire lever(s)
We’ll have limited roaming support to help with flats and mechanical issues, and more at the aid stations, but the best way to get moving again quickly after a flat is to have what you need with you on the bike.
Also, pack emergency money, cue sheet, and your cell phone in a ziploc bag to be carried in your jersey. Cell coverage is spotty on the course, but not absent.
We have lots of good food and hydration at the aid stations, but it’s still a good idea to have something in your jersey pockets in case you get lost, miss or skip an aid station and regret it later, or just find that you’re bonking and need some food energy between stops.
Still have Questions?
If you have any further questions, please post here in the comments, we’ll answer promptly.