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Orny's Cycling Journal

Mon Again

ornoth-cycling

11 PMC Riding

Mon Again

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12 MLR

Sunday saw the return of the Mon Valley Century, which I rode once in 2016, but which was not held for the past two years due to landslides: a fact of life in Western PA.

After driving down to Monongahela city and getting kitted up, I set out at 6:35am in foggy and chilly weather, the route following wooded (and mostly flat) creek beds. The first segment was a long 40 miles: 2.5h in the saddle without a break. The sun slowly burned through the fog, leaving yet another near-perfect day for riding.

Summer morning near Glyde, PA

Summer morning near Glyde, PA

Although I’d been told at the start that about ten riders started before me, I was the first to arrive at the eventual rest stop, despite only passing one other rider; three others arrived a few minutes later.

The middle part of the ride followed the (mostly flat) Monongahela River, with two notable exceptions: Brownsville Road, which climbs over a ridge to eliminate a big bend in the river (a mile climb at 8% grade); and an unexpected detour in Fayette City where our riverside route had been blocked by a major rockfall.

The route passed through several old, failed steel towns that had been built along the river. While not complete ghost towns, most of the buildings were long-abandoned industrial shells from the 1800s that felt more like a post-apocalyptic movie set than any 21st century communities. Pretty surreal; I really should’ve taken pictures.

I arrived at the advertised Belle Vernon rest stop (mile 60) at 10:30am to find two empty cooler jugs and a canister of Gatorade powder lying on the ground, unattended. Great. Thanks for all the support, ride organizers!

Fortunately, I still had a little fluid left in my bottle, and the lunch stop was only another ten miles further on. I arrived there at 11:15 and downed a turkey sandwich. The group behind me, which had swollen to five, arrived 15 minutes later.

After a good rest for tiring legs, I set off on the next leg, which (at mile 70) passed by the start-finish on the way to a 30-mile bonus loop to make a full century. After a moment of confusion about whether to turn at the Monongahela 7-Eleven or the New Eagle 7-Eleven, I left the river and passed up into the pretty Mingo Creek county park.

Three of the riders from the following group finally caught me in the last mile before the final rest stop at mile 90, which again was completely unmanned, but at least someone had bothered to fill the coolers with water and ice.

From there, four of the other riders split off, having started the ride from that area that morning and thus “completed” the ride. My final companion was on a recumbent and dropped me almost immediately, leaving me to toodle home casually over the last ten miles, which included a long, gentle descent. I returned to the car at 2pm, completing 102 miles in 7h25m, which was about right, given the half hour I’d killed at the lunch stop.

The main highlight of the ride was the countryside. Following creek beds and the river not only ensured the course wasn’t too hilly, but also provided a very pleasant mix of cool, shady, wooded glens and warm, sunny, open farmland.

That was complemented by another beautiful weather day. Unlike last year’s record rainfall, somehow all seven of my calendar-firm event days have provided stunning conditions. I hope that’ll continue for my three remaining scheduled events!

On the downside, there was a pretty large quantity of loose oil & chip roads, which are arduous to ride, damaging to equipment, and sometimes dangerous to riders.

But the biggest problems were entirely the fault of the organizers. Not providing GPS route data is lazy and unfriendly. Leaving rest stops stocked but unmanned is pretty sketchy. But not bothering to even set up an advertised water stop is inconsiderate, dangerous, negligent, and unforgivable.

If you ignore those issues—which fortunately didn’t inconvenience me too much—it was a really nice ride. My third century in three weeks, and my ninth of the year, which ties my previous annual record.

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