Monday, July 28, 2014

From a brutal slugfest a new elite cyclist emerges ...

Luckily, I was right place at the right time to witness an incredible athletic performance yesterday.

He didn't realize he was in over his head, much less how far in over his head he was ... but that didn't matter. In his mind he had distilled this situation down to a simple conviction "no matter what lie ahead, he would not deviate from the course and he would not give up". Period.

Viscerally, this was more like a 15 round boxing match than an epic mountain bike challenge ride. By round 7 Ricci had already been hurtled to the ground by the Gamut a couple of times, though there wasn't even a hint of submission. Time and again Ricci picked himself and his bike up and the battle would wage on.

Back pain and enormous fatigue were factors for Ricci by round 11 when the Gamut relentlessly pounded Ricci with the Kerncliff climb. Still, I was not surprised when Ricci, steadily walking beside his Rumblefish, crested the summit. Round 11 - Ricci.

Round 14 was Hemlock Tunnel end to end. I didn't realize it but rocks hidden beneath leaves had thrown Ricci to the unforgiving trail. I waited and waited for him at the bottom of the descent. I called out to him, but no response. Then, just as I was about to head back up, the distant sound of tire disturbing rocks could be heard. Moments later Ricci rolled up to my rear wheel with a few new scrapes. Clearly battered, Ricci somehow made it to the end of Hemlock Tunnel, but he had nothing left. His bike fell to the ground, Ricci dropped to his knees and elbows, he was now out of water too ... and the bell sounded. Round 14 - the Gamut.

Anyone watching this would have bet against Ricci even emerging from his corner to contest the final round, but rise he did.

Ricci, for the first times, spoke aloud about not being able to continue, but uttering those words seemed to free him of them. As Ricci battled along 4 Gorges it was now the Gamut who was beginning to submit to the impossible resolve of Ricci.

With a final acceleration, Ricci ascended the rocky entrance to the Bennett Springs Parking area. There were no reporters, no fans, not even a visible finish line, though the challenge and challenger both knew what had just gone down.

Everyone that showed up to this year's annual challenge of "The Gamut" (riding every trail at Carvins Cove in a single day) likely loaded their cars in the rain to drive to the start. 23 began their Gamut attempt at the designated 9am start time and a number of others started later. Of these very hearty souls, only 6 would complete the entire Gamut route 43.1 miles, 7,231 feet of climbing.
  • Jeff Cheng
  • Sean Mallahan
  • Ryan Fedak
  • Matt Childers
  • Shawn Ricci
  • Rob Issem
Personally, it took me 7 attempts before I completed my first full VES route in November of 2013. There are shorter options for every VES event, but the full (longest) route is intended to be challenging even for Virginia's top endurance athletes.

Welcome to the endurance cycling elite Shawn Ricci.
... and the winner is ...
Studies have conclusively determined that excruciating leg cramp pain
always subsides after a picture has been taken and posted to Facebook.


  1. Bravo! Welcome to the club of sufferers!

  2. Congratulations for this achievement. A very proper rest now... And lots of massages!