West Carleton Gravel Series Race # 1 - A beautifully challenging route for all! August 5th, 2018

For full route and pictures with descriptions: https://www.strava.com/activities/1672847333
On August 5th the West Carleton Gravel Series begins with Race 1. The cyclosportifs take in the best gravel roads in the area offering great courses for both racers and adventure cyclists. West Carleton's gravel roads are quiet, hard-packed and offer picturesque scenery. Recently I rode the first course and would like to share the highlights of the very enjoyable ride: 87km, 430m of elevation, two thirds gravel, one third pavement and a 700m unmaintained road climb that will become legendary as the years pass.

The first section begins a short distance away from the headquarters of the Kinburn Community Association. After a short neutral ride, the course begins at Mohrs and Kinburn Side Road. Travelling up Mohrs the course encounters the first obstacle, The Mohrs Wall. It's 1.3km long at 2% but has a 500m long section at 5%. Lungs will be burning from the start as the fittest cyclists use this as their first opportunity to break up the lead pack into a smaller group. A few km later as the course descends into Galetta the riders will encounter the picturesque double crossing on the Mississippi River over two single lane bridges. After momentarily being on an island you'll go under a railroad bridge and continue alongside the river before turning right onto Galetta Side Road. It's just a short jaunt and then a right on Loggers Way and then another quick right onto Riddledale to the second major climb on the route, The Riddledale Grinder. The 600m 3% gradient climb will feel much harder as you grind on loose gravel to the top with some sections exceeding 7%. Next you turn left and retrace Mohrs the opposite way until you come to the "V'" section, Yucks Lane and Rabbit Path. Not following the normal parallels of the majority of the roads they make a nice addition to the course with treed sections and great views of the countryside. The end of the first section is at Galetta Side Rd after taking the equally scenic and quiet roads of John Shaw, Lille and Homestedders.

The 2nd section takes in the roads behind Fitzroy Harbour on some little known jewels such as Old Birch, Aylwin and MacLarens Side Road while taking in Stonecrest and Torbolton Ridge as well. This section gives spectacular views of the Eardley Escarpment and the Ottawa River and you're more than likely to encounter wildlife like deer as they majestically run or quietly observe you riding by. 

The 3rd section begins at an indiscernible point somewhere along 12km Torbolton Ridge Road as you take what I call "The Straightaway" that leads farther away from the Ottawa River and closer to the Carp Ridge until you're riding right beside it. I couldn't put an exact point on where section 3 begins because although Torbolton Ridge Road is straight and rolling the whole way, by the time you get to the end you're in a completely different part of West Carleton.

The Carp Ridge is a defining feature of West Carleton, often called the mini Gatineau Park of the area. There are few roads, plenty of wildlife, trees and swamps. As Torbolton ends at a "T" intersection you then start the part of the course that will become the defining challenge as you turn right onto the unmaintained Needhams Side Road Climb. Pictures and words don't do this climb justice. It's something you have to experience for yourself. With extremely steep sections of loose stone, this narrow climb is tough and will challenge everyone regardless of fitness. In a large group, positioning leading into it will be paramount as you could lose over a minute in just 700m. Although a small portion of the overall distance, the smartest riders will adjust their equipment so as not to get caught out in what is likely the key point of the course. It may not be where the race is won BUT it will be the place where it is lost for many as they struggle up the steep gradients that reach a maximum of 15%.

In section 4 after almost 10km of pavement the course goes back onto gravel on Old Coach Road. One of the rare roads that doesn't follow the normal grid, it wiggles its way towards Carp and offers breathtaking views of the Carp Ridge. It ends just before Carp and after a right on Donald B. Munro, a left on Diamondview you turn on William Hodgins and start the westerly path to the finish. William Hodgins parallels Highway 417 for a short distance before it veers away into trees. A left onto Vaughn Side Road takes you over the highway and then it's a right on Marshwood, a very scenic quiet treed road. Arriving at Panmure Road the course climbs the overpass back over the highway and descends until it reaches Marathon Village and the finish is almost in sight. The final stretch is on John Shaw which leaves Marathon Village, crosses a one lane bridge over the Carp River and then it's a small gravel grinder up to the finish line just outside of Kinburn. It's not overly long or steep but after 87km it will separate the tired bodies from those who have some more gas in the tank.

The fastest riders will be able to complete the course in about 2 hours while others may take as long as 3 or 4 hours. Regardless, it will be a challenging course for all and will appeal equally to those wanting to race and those looking to ride some great roads in a challenge type event. No doubt the beauty of the course will at least initially stave off the fatigue of completing the inaugural event of the West Carleton Gravel Series.

(Thanks to Nicole who assisted in editing)