The Diabolical Double is the 125 mile ride option of the Garrett County Gran Fondo. Advertised as being as difficult as European climbing classics, the event was one of the toughest endurance events that I have ever completed and definitely the most difficult single-day ride that I ever completed. Below is my race report from the event:
Stage 1: Start to Checkpoint 1 (18.6 miles; Elevation Gain 1575 feet)
Major climbs: White Rock (.75 miles, 550 feet)
The opening stage of the race was a very gentle introduction to this grueling event. This stage is generally downhill, with a few gentle climbs to remind you of why you’re here to ride today. At this point of the race, the group of riders was generally still together in a pack and arrived to the first checkpoint within a few minutes of each other.
Stage 2: Checkpoint 1 to Check point 2 (21.3 miles; Elevation Gain: 3797 feet)
Major climbs: Old Morgantown Road (3 miles, 1000 feet); Everly Road (.6 miles, 350 feet); Collier Road (.4 miles, 300 feet); Pig’s Ear (.4 miles, 300 feet); Devil’s Half Acre (1.25 miles, 600 feet)
Stage 2 of the race features the largest cumulative elevation gain of any stage during the event. This stage features several steady climbs. While no single climb is particularly difficult, the effect of five climbs back-to-back can definitely start to zap
your legs. You have to make sure to hold a little back on this stage, there’s still about 85 miles of difficult riding remaining at the end of this stage.
Stage 3: Checkpoint 2 to Checkpoint 3 (18.1 miles; Elevation Gain: 2311 feet)
Major climbs: Bowman Hill (1.1 miles, 800 feet); Killer Miller (.6 miles, 400 feet)
Stage 3 is the make or break stage of this event. It features two of the most difficult climbs on the course in terms of steepness in Bowman Hill and Killer Miller. These hills are long and steep, with grades that top out over 20%. At the end of this stage, there’s the option to downgrade to the Masochist Metric Century (the 62 mile ride option), which I have to imagine a number of riders took advantage of. The top of Killer Miller provides some gorgeous views of the countryside that surrounds you.
On a side note, this stage also provided one of my funnier moments of my ride. Immediately after climbing Killer Miller, there was a road marking indicating a left turn. I took the left turn down a dirt road. While it looked suspiciously like someone’s
driveway, the course was so well marked that I didn’t spend much time questioning the route. Suddenly, I heard a rustling in the bushes and a loud moo. A cow that was outside the gate (and much bigger than me) stood up and just stared at me. I took this as my cue that this was in fact NOT the route, turned around, and quickly got back on the road. This served as a lesson to know the cue sheet just a bit better!
Stage 4: Checkpoint 3 to Checkpoint 4 (26.3 miles; Elevation Gain: 3095 feet)
Major climbs: Blue Lick Road (.9 miles, 400 feet); Avilton-Lonaconing Road (1.5 miles, 600 feet); Big Savage Mountain (.7 miles, 200 feet)
Coming off of the euphoria of completing the previous stage and conquering the climbs up Bowman Hill and Killer Miller (and outrunning that cow), Stage 4 is the longest stage mileage-wise with the second largest elevation gain. This is also the last
opportunity to downgrade from the Diabolical Double to the Savage Century. There was no way I was doing that! At this point in the ride, my legs were still feeling great and additionally, if I downgraded, I would never forgive myself and spend an entire year thinking about the decision. Onward!
During this stage, you climb Blue Lick Road which is a steep climb made more difficult by the fact that it is a gravel road. While it is hard-packed gravel, these conditions definitely made the climb more difficult and added a noticeable challenge to the legs. The climb up the summit of Big Savage Mountain is rewarded with a 7-mile trip down the other side of the mountain, including a brake-heating trip down the Westernport Wall. I definitely appreciated the salty and sweet offerings that were available at the rest stop during this point in the ride.
Stage 5: Checkpoint 4 to Checkpoint 5 (16 miles; Elevation Gain: 2258 feet)
Major climbs: Jennings Randolph Lake (4 miles, 1000 feet); Elk Garden, WV (1.5 800 feet)
Almost immediately after leaving Checkpoint 4, you begin the 4 mile climb up to Jennings Randolph Lake. While the grade is not particularly steep, the climb is long and steady and constantly uphill. This climb took a lot out of my legs, but made me appreciate all of the hill repeats that I did in my training. Reaching the top of this climb is a brief satisfaction as you get a short downhill followed by a few small climbs. Next up, you cross into West Virginia and have a nice steady climb up Elk Garden. The top of Elk Garden and subsequent descent provided some stunning views and were well worth the climb up the mountain.
Stage 6: Checkpoint 5 to Checkpoint 6 (10 miles; Elevation Gain: 1847 feet)
Major Climbs: North Hill (4 miles, 1100 feet)
While Stage 6 is the shortest stage in terms of mileage, I think that this stage was one of the most grueling mentally. At this point in the ride, my legs were feeling the cumulative elevation and climbing of the previous 7+ hours. North Hill is a punishing 4 mile climb. After 100+ miles with significant climbing, my legs were screaming. I had to constantly switch positions in the saddle to get every ounce of energy from every part of my legs to get up the hill. After summiting North Hill, you get a brief downhill respite before climbing up and over the Continental Divide again. Once you get over the top of the Continental
Divide, you get a nice cruise into town and it’s generally downhill to Checkpoint 6.
Stage 7: Checkpoint 6 to Finish (15.1 miles; Elevation Gain 1654)
Major climbs: Spring Glade Road (.25 miles, 125 feet), Wisp Mountain (.75 miles, 500 feet)
The final stage. At this point in the ride, both of my legs were cramping and I was trying to massage the cramps out on each pedal stroke. After a brief climb up Spring Glade Road, the course is mostly downhill (until the final mile). This downhill
provided a much needed reprieve from the climbing and allowed me to get some energy and strength back into my legs. The final climb up Wisp Mountain is a demanding climb. Turning the corner and seeing the huge hill to the finish was an incredible mental challenge (in addition to the obvious physical challenge). I quickly determined that I didn’t want to see how much more of the hill was left, so I just put my head down, and watched my feet pedal: right, left, right, left, repeat. Thankfully, there was great fan support on this final climb and these supporters’ cowbells and horns were an incredibly welcome encouragement for me. Seeing the Finish Line Arch gave me my final wind and I was able to “sprint” across the line before standing over my bike happy to finish pedaling for the day.
Overall, the Diabolical Double, as part of the Garret County Gran Fondo, was an incredible endurance event. As with the other WIN-THE-FIGHT events that I have done, the race day logistics were clear, the event was as grueling as advertised, rest stations were well stocked with food, drink, and great volunteers. I highly recommend this event for anyone looking for a fantastic one-day cycling challenge.
Interested in training for next year’s Diabolical Double or another similar endurance event? Contact District Fitness
today for an individualized training plan.