Travels with Hammer

2018 Tour DaVita – Let’s ride the Old Dominion, Virginia!!!

This year we ride southeasterly across Virginia, one of the original 13 colonies. Our route starts just north of Richmond, winding its way to Jamestown. Get ready for a great and beautiful ride! Riding through Virginia feels like a trip through early US History. We will ride past historic sites and beautiful landscapes. So clip in and I’ll try to give you a preview of this year’s tour!

Once again, I had the good fortune to do a scouting ride of the Tour DaVita route. My knee is much better this year, which is great because the arthritis in my hip is killing me. Again, my orthopedic surgeon made me “promise” not to overdo it this time. This annual speech from my doctor is becoming boring and repetitive…

This year the Tour starts in Doswell, just 25 miles north of Richmond. The route starts in horse country and is a loop which heads out to the east winding through Shumanville, Beverly, Newtown and Beulahville before returning to our campground in Doswell at the Meadow Events Center. Day 2 winds its way Southeast towards Jamestown, with a special route for the Century riders which loops through West Point. Day 3 is a popsicle stick route with almost half of the day’s route on a beautiful and smooth Capital Trail bike path.

Riding with me again this year were two awesome and reliable riders, Seth Winbolt, Senior Accountant with the Accountables in Federal Way, Washington, and Dan DeYoung, Seattle based Audit Partner with KPMG. We were generously supported by Covey (Margaret) Kilgore who drove SAG on this year’s adventure. The route is very pretty, riding through beautiful winding farmland, over twisting rivers, past historical plantations and original pilgrim settlements. We will ride on the historical routes traveled by General Washington in the War of independence as well as civil war armies. The topography is primarily flat with intermittent rolling hills and very few challenging hills. This is a great Tour route. It gets better every day, culminating with the Day 2 and 3 rides which bring you through beautiful countryside landscapes with a finish in Jamestown right on the James River, which is superb for an end of ride swim.

Again, this year we eagerly arrived and built out our bikes for the ride ahead. Making a scouting ride is a very different experience compared to riding the Backroads supported Tour. No smiling Backroads teammates, no rest stops set up with goodies. Generally, the route winds through quiet country roads which are far from convenience or grocery stores, making it difficult to casually stop for needed supplies, so it is important to have SAG (Support and Gear) support. This year Covey (Margaret) Kilgore, FA at Mechanicsville Dialysis, in the mighty Team Virginias Division, provided us awesome and much appreciated support. Driving the SAG wagon consists of drop-off/pickup at the start and finish of each day’s ride, organizing a daily lunch for disoriented, overheated, dehydrated, and hungry riders, and making sure we were safe and accounted for at all times. It’s amazing how much driving time and effort that entails.

The total mileage for the long version of this year’s Tour is about 225 miles and about 200 for the shorter version. The area is generally flat with intermittent rolling hills. On average, this is a relatively flat course and the hills we encountered were gentle, with an occasional challenging hill to get your heart pumping. Total elevation gains of ~8400 feet over 225 miles is considered very ridable for the average cyclist. The Tour begins in Doswell, Virginia at the Meadow Event Center (this is the site of the Virginia State Fair and is the birthplace of Secretariat, winner of the horse racing Triple Crown), We will camp here for the first two nights. The last two nights of the Tour we will camp at the Jamestown Beach Event Center, located conveniently on the James River, right across the street from the Jamestown settlement (the first permanent English settlement), just a few miles down the road from Williamsburg. The road conditions varied a lot, but well worn and thus smooth chip seal was the predominant surface. A significant portion of this year’s ride is tree lined through forest groves, but there is also a fair bit of open farmland. Some of the lanes are a bit narrow and there are railroad tracks to cross, so remember to pay attention while riding (generally a good rule of life).

The first day of the route is a 66 mile loop that brings you back to the campground. Day 2 will zigzag over 100 miles, heading generally South by Southeast, ending in Jamestown (75 miles for those cyclists choosing the Metric Century). The final day of riding is a 58 mile popsicle stick route which heads northwest with a loop back to Jamestown. Virginia is a great state and this year’s route is super nice!

The weather should be great, but late September can be unpredictable, so be prepared for moderate weather and bring a light weight rain jacket just in case. The temperature will likely rise to the high seventies during the day and drop down into the 50’s at night, so a jacket or warm pullover for the evening is advised. We found the people are very friendly and cyclist-aware. On the road, drivers gave us a wide berth and were courteous and safety conscious.

First things first, Backroads has once again designed a great ride this year. Looking at the MapMyRide maps will reinforce the view of a rolling path winding through forests and farmland, along and over rivers, and everywhere incredible views. The roads were generally in reasonably good shape, with a mix of asphalt and sections of chip seal that were worn smooth in most stretches. As in all routes that you are unfamiliar with, the roads can be unpredictable, so keeping both hands on the bars at all times is highly recommended. We did not encounter much road construction, so we should be in good stead come late September. However, always ride safely and pay attention to your surroundings.

While this year’s course is pretty flat, there are some rolling hills from time to time. A quick note about riding rolling hills. Rolling hills can be a total blast to ride! Lots of work and lots of rewards. While riding on the rollers, you will be changing gears much more frequently. Try to catch the momentum of going downhill and peddle through the bottom of the hill, using that captured momentum to help carry you up the hill. You should be increasing the power of the gears on the way downhill and reducing the gears as you go up the hill. This is an important skill to master and can make riding through the hills much less challenging and way more enjoyable.

Please also remember that on flat stretches, larger groups of riders can often form and will tend to create pace lines. Riding in a pace line can be a lot of fun and you will go faster than you would otherwise ride, but you need to keep a few “rules” in mind. Rule number one, never touch your brakes in a pace line unless you first signal clearly to those behind you that you will be braking (failure to do so will likely result in riders, including you, suddenly hitting the ground). Rule number two, when you take a turn at the front, maintain the current pace of the line, riding in a steady, predictable pace. When you find yourself getting fatigued, signal to the rider behind you to come up and replace you at the front (don’t stay up front and slow down as you will slow the whole group). Rule number three, when you pull off the front, do so by pulling over to the left and drifting to the back of the line. Do not pull off to the right as you will become a hazard and may find yourself trapped in a dangerous situation. Rule number four, remember to “latch on” at the end of the line, which takes a final burst of energy so the line doesn’t ride off into the distance without you. Finally, when you are in a pace line, it is best to be in an easier gear while spinning the pedals a little faster. This will help prevent you from surging into the rider in front of you. Remember predictability is really important to safe pace lining. Riding in a pace line also provides the benefits of drafting behind others, requiring less energy to travel the same distance.

You may encounter lots of wildlife on the ride this year. You may see deer, turkeys, otters, turtles, beavers, hawks, eagles, and vultures.

Again, just like clockwork, , we had intermittent user problems following the maps. We had dutifully printed out the maps and even downloaded them to our Garmins. We even used the MapMyRide App on our cell phones (this App is pretty darn good and can really give you a great view of where you are going). Each turn is laid out, right 1 mile, left .5 miles, rotate around the tree, go back, repeat and so on. Following the maps (or in my case, failing to pay attention) can sometimes be confusing or can take you to strange places. For instance, the map said turn left (west) and after a while we passed that darn corn field again…

All kidding aside, Backroads will have the route well marked with signs and painted arrows at most turns so no one should get lost or go off course. Riders should not be worried about getting lost or having to ride through overgrown forest trails, corn fields or tulip fields. We are on the paved roads the entire route.

Ok, a couple of other comments before I move on to describing the course. Drivers (although there were very few cars encountered) gave a wide berth and everyone we met could not have been more helpful or kind. There are farm trucks driving on some of the country roads. Drivers were patient and gave room, but please be careful as trucks and cars will win the physics battle 100% of the time. About 40 miles of the route this year rides along the Capital Trail bike path. Please use extra caution on the trail. There are other riders (in both directions) as well as walkers on the trail. Please stay to the right and try to ride in single file. The others using the path will thank you and you will have a better chance to stay safe. The weather may be unpredictable, with wind and rain possible while we are riding. Be prepared for great weather, but look out for heat, rain, winds and possible thunder storms. Staying hydrated is incredibly important. Even experienced riders can overlook this. Be smart and hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate!

Now, on to the route:

Day 1

The Day 1 Doswell – Newtown Loop, is a 66-mile route that climbs 2,500 ft. The majority of the route is a relatively flat ride through fertile valleys with some occasional rolling hills to break it up. There is one notable hills on this route, at about mile 17, climbing about 125 feet over just shy of a mile, very doable for most/all riders, the rest of the hills are rolling and they are relatively short. Be prepared for quiet country roads and beautiful scenery. Road surfaces were good to marginal at times. Much of Day 1’s route is along the Rochambeau Trail. A fictional factoid is that General Rochambeau taught General Washington and the British the Rock, Paper, Scissor game, thus avoiding several bloody battles along the way… Overall, Day 1 was very enjoyable and a fun ride.


Day 2

This year, like last year, Day 2 is the 100-mile “Century” ride, with a shorter, more manageable 75-mile version as an option. The route winds 100 miles from Doswell to Jamestown, with the final 3 miles on the Virginia Capital Trail, a wonderful asphalt bike path. Day 2 is reasonably flat, with occasional rolling hills. The only real testor of a hill comes at 33 miles in. It is a steep climb, but it doesn’t last too long. You can do it! The extra loop on the century route continues the winding path through lush farm land. Well worth the extra effort. The lunch stop is at New Kent Winery, a beautiful location located on Stuart’s Ride Trail. MapMyRide says 4100 feet of elevation gain for the Century ride (our Garmins’’ confirmed that elevation gain), so some up and down, especially on the extra loop for the Century riders, but frankly, it wasn’t that noticeable. Don’t sweat the elevation gain too much. It is spread out over 100 miles and there weren’t any super big hills along the way. Overall, we found the day’s ride to be very scenic and very pleasant riding.


Day 3

Day 3 is a great 58-mile popsicle stick loop route with a scant 1800 feet of climbing. This flat course starts from Jamestown heading out the first 11 miles on the Capital trail. Turning right, off the trail onto a serene 25 mile loop, the route winds along the Chickahominy Wildlife Area, through Charles City and Sherwood Forest. The ride concludes by connecting back onto the Capital Trail for the last 20 miles of super fun riding. The day ends with a traditional swim.

Overall, this year’s route is terrific and will provide a great experience for both the seasoned rider as well as the novice rider. Be prepared. Bring sunscreen, but also bring a light rain jacket just in case. Ride safely. Finally, hydrating is crucial to set yourself up for a spectacular experience. It is easy to be surprised and become dehydrated on long rides, so a good rule of thumb is a full water bottle an hour!

Enjoy the Tour!!!

About Jim Hilger

Jim “The Hammer” Hilger is DaVita’s Chief Accounting Officer.  Each Year, Jim rides the route ahead of Tour DaVita and reports back to the riders on what they can expect from the route.  Jim has participated in almost all of the Tour DaVita rides.

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