Cap2Cap Century

The alarm went off at 5:00 am.

Through bleary eyes, I checked my phone’s weather app. It was 60 degrees and threatening to rain. The forecast told me this would be the warmest part of the day. Maureen and I got up and began the process of getting our act together for the 2022 Cap2Cap Century. We had spent a night in a nearby hotel and prepared as much of our equipment as possible. What’s better than getting up at 5:00 am on a Saturday to ride all day in the rain? This was what we pondered as we ate our breakfast and donned our cycling gear.

Way back in 2011, the Cap2Cap was my first century ride. Today it would also be Maureen’s first. The weather eleven years ago was pleasant and sunny. I finished the ride in a short sleeve jersey. That sort of experience would not be on offer today. Maureen was going to earn her first century the hard way.

The Cap2Cap Century is now in its 17th year. It features the logically-named Cap2Cap Trail – a mixed-use path that connects Virginia’s current capital of Richmond with its original capital of Williamsburg. As luck would have it, the trail is 52 miles long, making it ideal for the riding of a century. It’s relatively flat with only a little more than 1,000′ of climbing in each direction. The ride organizers provide several rest stops, complete with water, Gatorade, and all the snacks one could hope for. They also sponsor a party at the end of the ride featuring music, BBQ and a free beer. In summation it’s flat, off the roads, with plenty of support and food/beer – a perfect first century experience, to be sure!

For those not intimately familiar with The Peninsula, please refer to this helpful map

Another nice feature of the Cap2Cap is that it has an open start format, meaning you can start anywhere on the course you want at any time you want. The rest stops aren’t manned until 8:00am but if you can somehow manage without them, an earlier start is possible. This was key to our strategy because we wanted to finish the ride in time for the party. The beer tent closed at 4:00 and the BBQ would close at 4:30. We picked a start time of 6:00 am – seven minutes before sunrise and (more importantly) ten hours before the beer tent closed. The race was on!

We drove through the early morning drizzle to Rockett’s Landing, just outside of Richmond, and unloaded our bikes in a small parking lot along the James River. We noticed we were next to Mile Marker 51, meaning this ride would actually be a tick more than 100 miles if we took it to the very end of the trail in Williamsburg. Who doesn’t want a pic next to Mile Marker 0? The trail was very quiet at this hour and Maureen and I pedaled along with our head and tail lights blinking away. It remained very quiet, with only the occasional cyclist, for most of the first 10 miles. We were alone in the morning mist, grateful for occasional periods of dryness and very pleased that a heavier rain and not yet developed. Some forecasts originally called for showers all day. That would not have been fun.

But why should today’s weather be any different from almost every single training ride we had over the past two months? These rides made us experts in foul weather cycling. One of our earliest trips featured 40mph(!) wind gusts so strong that Maureen found herself being blown off the trail. Looking at her frame and then at my own, the only logical conclusion was that she needed to add about 100 pounds to avoid this sort of treatment. Maureen agreed with my reasoning but pointed out I probably would be largely unhappy with that option. I can’t say she was wrong.

Other bad weather came. On a 50-mile training ride, the temperature was a mere 38 degrees. Luckily for me, I missed that ride due to a business trip. Undaunted, Maureen knocked it out by herself and in the process got a crash course in cold weather riding. On the final training ride the week prior to the century, it poured on us for the final hour and a half. Virginia is known for its mild spring weather but Mother Nature had other plans for us. Every ride seemed to feature some combination of cold, rain, and wind. At least we were prepared by the time the century came around and mildly pleased at the lack of a downpour, gale-force wind, or biting cold.

If your constitution permits it, there’s a lot to be said for an early morning start. We had the trail to ourselves and enjoyed the peaceful exit from the suburbs of Richmond. Things were still quiet when we pulled into our first rest stop outside of Charles City, about 23 miles into the ride. There were freshly-made PB&J sandwiches on offer, along with bananas, cookies and all manner of snack food. The people manning the site were friendly and very complimentary of our willingness to brave the misty weather. The Cap2Cap does a fine job of placing rest stops every 15 miles (or less) along the route. You’re never too far away from sanctuary, which is a nice thought while pedaling through potential thunderstorms.

Rest Stop #1 (Mile 23)

Conditions were “sporty.”

So enough of the weather. What of the route? I am happy to report the Cap2Cap trail is in excellent condition. Much of the trail is new construction so the inevitable rutting and deterioration has yet to develop. The trail largely follows the James River, although the river is almost never within sight. But at least that means its relatively flat. There’s a bit of a hill when leaving Richmond (around Mile 2) and some “punchy” climbs of less than a few hundred yards. After the big hill at the start, the next biggest climb was the bridge over Chickahominy River, about ten miles from Williamsburg.

Speaking of Williamsburg, it’s quite the tourist area with a bustling town around it. All of this means more people, as did the improving weather and the lateness of the morning. We found ourselves overtaking cyclists, pedestrians, rollerbladers, and many other activities. We also were being passed by an increasing number of cyclists who had decided to let the sun rise before actually waking up to start their day.

The weather improved enough to show off our Cap2Cap jerseys at the end (or beginning, depending on your perspective) of the trail: Williamsburg

We were quite pleased with ourselves at the turnaround point, which we reached at 10:30 am. We felt good and the weather was improving. We fixed our sights on the Cap2Cap Race Party being held at Dorey Park, another 42 miles away. There would be BBQ there. And beer. The beer tent would be closing at 4:00 so we knew we would easily arrive in time to partake. Morale was high.

The weather wouldn’t hold, although we did manage to avoid the thunderstorms and big rain storms that were forecasted. We would occasionally remark on our good fortune, only to see the drizzle return a few minutes later. After the third or fourth time this happened, we agreed we should stop the practice. We made one rest stop along the way – at the Charles City Courthouse, where we were treated to an Alpalca being walked across the street. Because, OF COURSE there would be an alpalca in rural Virginia on a rainy Saturday!

What do you call a baby alpalca?

As we passed Mile 75, we had a mini celebration for Maureen as that was her longest ride to date. As we neared Dorey Park (Mile 93) the charm of the event was beginning to wear off. We were cold, tired, and hungry. Fortunately, the Ride Party was going strong when we arrived. We grabbed our beer and BBQ sandwiches and sat down to listen to the DJ (figuratively) spin some records. The food was delicious, and the break was welcome!

Did I mention we were riding a century? Well, that’s precisely what we were supposedly doing despite our extended break at Mile 93. We eventually accepted the notion that if we ever wanted to be dry, warm, and out of our cycling kit, we’d need to ride the final nine miles to the car. We did this, somewhat slowly. Our legs were not amused. I shared with Maureen Jens Voigt’s famous, “Shut up legs” motto and Maureen was not amused. Eventually, we made it to the hill on the outskirts of Richmond and sailed down it. We returned to Rockett’s Landing, now bustling with people trying to make the best of a relatively dry moment in a dizzly day. We pulled up to the car and had a small celebration, complete with photo opportunity.

The Ride Party at Dorey Park

Statistics And Damage Report

It was a banner day for Maureen – her first century! Prior to beginning our train up for this ride back in March, her longest distance ever traveled was 54 miles. This was quite an achievement. That she did it in poor weather made it more impressive. We clocked in at 7:57 minutes on the bike and 9:10 minutes total elapsed time. Not bad for casual riding and no drafting. As for myself, it was my 11th time going over 100 miles in a single day. I was nowhere close to my personal best of 187 miles and as the years go by I wonder how I ever managed to do that.

The bikes finished in fine form – just a lot of grime from the road (see picture above). Maureen and I actually managed to feel much better than we expected. We walked around town that night like normal people. Maureen is actually inquiring about doing another century! When that might happen is hard to say. We have other plans at the moment.

I understand they like bicycles in Amsterdam…

3 thoughts on “Cap2Cap Century

      1. That is very polite of you to say so. I hope to do 100 miles in a day this year if I can find a fine day with little wind . . . and get up early enough. 🙂

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