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Gravel, Games, Grupetto

While the majority of my rides are on the road, it's always nice to get off the beaten path every so often. Which also entails utilizing a different bicycle — change is good, right?

I've come across a couple of different sources for finding places to roam on the wild side that I wanted to share with you.

The first one is linked to a Facebook group called Maine Gravel. There is a lot of back and forth, with cyclists seeking and recommending routes in different parts of the state. Riders share photographs, stories, experiences, trail conditions, and more. Many times, they invite others to come and join the journeys. It's a really great resource for locating roads where the pavement ends.

The other place for off-road riding information is Gravelmap. It is described this way: “An interactive database of gravel and dirt roads and paths, submitted and managed entirely by people who ride them.” It is owned and operated by a North Carolina nonprofit organization with a mission to facilitate access to an active, outdoor lifestyle. Gravelmap features more than 700,000 miles of routes and unpaved segments across six continents.

I was able to sign up for free. It allows me to browse all of Maine's counties for specific routes. Each listing mentions total distance, elevation gain/loss, surface type, etc., and you can export map files to your bike computer. Another site worth checking out.

The Games — just not in Paris ...

With the month of July coming up, it's time to turn up the training. Why, pray tell? Because I've registered again for the Maine Senior Games. I will be seeking my third straight gold medal in the 20-kilometer (12.4-mile) cycling road race — in the 70-74 age bracket.

This particular event usually takes place in September, but last year's competition was delayed until mid-October because of inclement weather. Participants made the request for a summer date, when it's warmer and less of a strain on our "old" muscles and bones. So, I have to be on the starting line on August 11; hence, the need to ratchet up my heart rate.

The six-lap circular course is once again located at The Landing in Brunswick. It's pretty much as flat as flat can be. In 2022, I covered the distance in 34 minutes and 20 seconds. In 2023, I did it in 36 minutes and 35 seconds. Yes, slower — but also a year older. Hopefully, the ticking clock will be kinder to me this time around.

Those taking part have the opportunity to qualify for the 2025 National Senior Games, slated to occur in Des Moines, Iowa.

My 2024 season, so far ...

Grupetto is Italian for "small group." Despite my desire to pedal with more like-minded people, so far, that's not happening. Occasionally, I will join up with a cyclist already on the road, but — mostly — it's the usual solo excursion. So, a very small group, indeed. Hopefully, this will change over the summer.

Although I no longer give monthly reports on the statistical side of cycling, I thought I'd provide an update on where my 2024 season currently stands. In a nutshell, my frequency of riding continues to be strong — practically every day — but with less mileage. Having achieved 8,000 miles last year, I'm not in a rush to reach the same amount this year.

At the halfway point of 2024, I'm one ride short of 140 outings for the season and I've accumulated a total of just over 3,000 miles. Seven bicycles have been involved in the fun, including my four road machines (Schwinn Circuit, Trek 2.3 aluminum, 2017 Trek Domane, 2023 Trek Domane), my Specialized Crux gravel beast, my Specialized fat bike, and the one provided by Trek Travel in Belgium (another 2023 Trek Domane, with electronic shifting).

No matter the type of two-wheeled steed I find myself climbing aboard, I still get a thrill each time I go for a ride. Stay safe!

It only seems fitting that I would have such a garden ornament.

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