This year's edition of the Frost Heave Fondo can be summarized with two "F" words — fun and flood. Registration was maxed out, with 150 cyclists kind of competing for bragging rights over courses of either 34 miles or 50. I selected the former, knowing that was plenty after having done the Searsmont ride once before in 2019.
After two days of on-and-off rain — hence, my opening remarks — leading up to the initial event of the 2022 Maine Gravel Series, the actual gathering took place under dry conditions, with it being a bit windy, and temperatures in the 40s, warming into the 50s.
Ahead for those of us embarking on the shorter route were 2,353 feet of elevation gain, one monster climb, spots of pavement, and plenty of dirt, gravel, and mud.
My intent was to cruise with Steve, a colleague from the bike shop, and his friend John. Along with the services of their companionship, they were my navigators for the day, as I lacked the necessary GPS-equipped computer. So, I had no idea when to turn left, turn right, whether to go straight, whatever ... not a clue. And there were no posted direction signs, as we were forewarned prior to arriving.
Anyway, following a spirited start, I soon realized my tag team approach was useless, as Steve and John took off like rocket ships. There was no way I could keep up, which was fine with me. So, it was on to Plan B, which entailed keeping a fellow cyclist — any cyclist — in my sights at all times. If I'd been forced to stop for a "call of nature," I could have ended up lost for days.
Remember the monster climb I mentioned? At the eight-mile mark, we arrived at the base of what I would describe as a "heart attack" hill. One of those extremely steep inclines where you are seriously wondering if you can make it without stopping or, even worse, dismounting from your bike and walking. How embarrassing that would be. But I made it, staying aboard my Specialized Crux machine.
I must admit to experiencing a few unpleasant moments when descending — with speed — into sheets of gravel. It brought back vivid memories of last September's Northwoods Gravel Grind crash. I honestly thought a couple of times, "Oh no, it's going to happen again." But I kept my composure and glided through with confidence.
After the rest stop at mile 16, the fun and flood part got underway in earnest. If one was in need of a bike wash, this was the place to be. For a distance of three or four miles — although it seemed like it went on forever — there was water everywhere. And not just a little. There were running streams, 50-foot-long mud puddles that covered the entire so-called road. Approaching these huge waterholes turned into a guessing game, as you didn't know how deep they were or if there were boulders lurking underneath the surface. Most times, I just jumped off my bike and waded through, with very cold water up to my knees.
I was definitely "cyclocrossing" with my cyclocross bicycle!
The rest of the Sunday ride was pretty uneventful. Just wet tights and shoes. That aside, I really enjoyed myself. It was neat being with other like-minded bike enthusiasts and I'm sure I'll be back again next year — to splash around and have more fun. Stay safe!