Before we all crumpled up our race calendars, I had the inaugural Mackinaw Gravel Race planned as a nice wrap up to spring racing before picking back up in early August at 24 Hours of Cumming. I'm a sucker for a challenge and since many of us find ourselves sudden co-stars in an aging Bill Murray flick, I needed something different. Enter Kom Teller and the #RideSoloSeries. Being 2 hours away meant riding Stage 1 and 2 consecutively and taking the first Wednesday morning that work and personal life aligned to allow for the time. I may not be fast, but I'd be first!
I went full gravel set up with the Giant TCX and Vittoria Terreno Dry 38s. Plenty conservative for sure as I was unfamiliar with the roads and unsure what the prior days rain would do to the gravel sectors. Lesson #1: If you have multiple spots on the bike rack, might as well bring options. Although truthfully it was the engine that would be the limiter on this day, not a few mils of rubber. A strong north wind meant Stage 1 would begin and end with a soul sucking of any good early feelings and punch you in the gut before reaching crazy cook at the end. It was a beautiful clear May morning even if the breeze made it a touch chilly at the starting gun. Turning onto the first gravel sector shortly after 10 AM showed what I was in for most of the day. Slightly peanut buttery but not sloppy. It certainly could have been worse. I was happy with that given the rain. The endless hills, headwind, no wheels to chase and knowing that I was going to turn around and do it all in reverse made pacing difficult. As a racer we always want to do better, but I am happy with the effort and not sure I could have gotten more out of the ride. (Wait, I was supposed to put a better excuse in there. Whoops) 1:17:11 meant I was 30 seconds behind Tom's scenic ride and could have had the KOM for a few hours anyway. Man...I probably could have found 30 seconds out there somewhere, Dang it! A quick break at my car to shed a layer, eat some snacks, and check in with race control (home). Sitting any longer was going to be counter-productive so I was off for stage 2. Thankfully a neutral roll out meant dragging the brakes down the first hill. This was good news as a man (I can only assume is known as Mr. Crazy Cook) and his dog were at the bottom. It could have been interesting if I was barreling down around that corner. Reaching the end of his driveway and turning left revealed the first surprise of Stage 2:
In the 30 minutes since I had last been there a road grader had piled a nice loose berm in the middle of the road. I was glad to be going back through before it was spread out and no preferred lines were left. By the time I reached the top of Schlappi it was apparent I was not attacking with the same vigor as Stage 1. I pressed on and things were going pretty well until the hill climbing back out of the river basin titled Zimmerman. About 1/3 of the way up and at 14.5% gradient my upper right leg had decided enough and began to cramp. Cramping issues are luckily not a problem I generally deal with. I'll take it as a sign the effort was good on this day. I still had 8 miles to go and while this was the last major climb of the route I hoped my leg would hold out for a good finish. Lesson #2: Stage 1 begins flatter and ends hillier. With Stage 2 being the opposite it might have been better to spread the hilly sections out more by reversing the order of completion? I'll let you decide. Stage 2 came in at 1:14:11 (seriously, both routes ended on 11 seconds? Try and do that!) While a shorter stage distance, I was happy that the falloff in power did not seem as great as I feared going in. Although the prospect of a 3rd lap, as the original race length would have been, has me taking a moment of pause. Nice stretch of road you all have there and I look forward to lining up with you at future race. Thanks Tom! Having finished it was time for lunch. I need to thank race control (home) for setting me up on this trip. With 2 hours of drive time there and back I needed all the snacks and food to get me through this challenge with zero public interactions.
It was a bit strange sitting on the ground eating in an empty parking lot. The only sound being old glory slapping against the pole constantly reminding you of the wind you battled all day. I wish I had more photos of the great countryside, but my head was down and digging. Good luck to everyone this month! Be well. I'm supporting my local bike shop Nick's Cycling and Fitness. If you're in SE Iowa and have a need they'd be happy to have you. They are also set up at Jingle Cross in Iowa City and RAGBRAI if you're at either event. You may also see some Rule 5 jerseys at various races in the area. Pop in and say hi to Nick and Tony for me.
Heart rate (bpm)