Today was the 2nd Annual Renegade Gents Race. It's an event that takes off from Kyle's Bikes in Ankeny as a 5 person team race. 66.5 miles on gravel with a little bit of pavement at the start and finish. The team of 5 starts together at assigned times (my group started at 8:28 a.m.), has to check in at the midway checkpoint together, and has to cross the finish line together.
I joined up on Facebook with another group who was looking for a 5th racer After obsessing about tire choice for gravel and doing some experimenting this week leading up to it, I really wanted to ride my big fat Nobby Nic 2.35's because they do so well on the gravel hills in Warren County. However, I yielded to the advice given by more experienced gravel road junkies who suggested going with something faster and skinnier. So I went with my Maxxis Maxxlite 330g tires front and rear on the Dos Niner. Sure enough - they were the right ticket from my tire stable for this event.
I packed up a drop bag this morning, made coffee, ate a big bowl of cereal with fruit, showered and drove up to Ankeny for the 7:30 check-in/meet up. Most of us in the parking lot were chatting about clothing, weather and what to bring or not bring. I wore long bibs, my long sleeve jersey, my jacket, gloves, 2 pair of socks and my regular cycling shoes (should have worn the winter shoes!!!). I had a nice turkey sandwich, honey roasted nuts, extra GU gels, a banana and a water bottle packed in the dropoff bag for the midway point.
We took off at 8:28 and immediately missed a turn from the cue sheet. Without my reading glasses - and in the rain - it was difficult to see. Here's the excellent cue card we were all given:
We caught our 1st mistake pretty quickly and turned around to get back on track. We only lost about a minute there. Soon after, we missed another turn and ventured about 4+ miles off track. We hit a dead end and realized we had made another mistake. Back up a hill and to the missed turn we went making our day longer in mileage than everyone else!! The rain had us soaking wet, cold and the wind added more pain - but I was loving the ride. I'm usually pretty good in hour 2 and 3 on longer events, and sure enough, my body kicked in at hour 2 and I wanted to go faster than we were. I was eating a GU gel every 30 minutes, downing Heed and Perpetuem from 2 different water bottles. Fuel early and often is the motto for endurance events and it was doing well by the way my body was responding.
Too bad I didn't wear my winter riding cycling shoes because they would have kept my feet dry and warm. As it was, my toes were very cold. And my hands. And my head. Amazing what rain and wind can do and I should have used my trust in the forecast that it was going to rain in spite of all the optimism from riders in the parking lot who claimed the rain would stay south of us. WRONG!!!
We slogged our way into the checkpoint, got our grab bags and ate. I suppose we were there for 20 minutes before heading out for the 2nd half of the race. Shortly after we got rolling, one of our team members announced he was going to have to bail. He had been fighting all morning to stay with us, so he knew his limits and couldn't make the next 33 miles. A few miles later after a tire blowout from one of my team members rear tire, our team leader made the same announcement and bailed. So we were down to 3 of us and off we went picking up the pace quite a bit by a few miles per hour. At mile 46.9, we turned south dead into the wind and fresh, chunky gravel. Another one of our team members slowed down and couldn't keep up with the other two of us (Shawn and myself). Since we were pretty much DQ'd as it was as you have to cross the line with all 5 team members, the two of us who still had legs and stamina decided to put the hammer down and get the best training ride out of that we could. Shawn pushed a pretty quick pace that had me on the ropes, but I hung on to the end.
The team of "2 of us" rolled across about 5:47 minutes after we had begun. That included two sojourns off the prescribed route, a tire blow out, a 20 minute lunch, and some waiting around for our team to regroup from time to time. I really had fun on this ride and may have to become a gravel junkie. Very few cars are found on gravel roads in Iowa and you get to see some interesting scenery.
Although this picture doesn't show how muddy and gritty we were at times out on the route, the final pavement stretch back into Ankeney and the pouring rain did a nice job of "washing" most of the gravel grit off of my bike...
Kudos to the Bike Iowa wizards for organizing and hosting the event. It was a well run event and I certainly had fun even if our entire group of 5 didn't finish the event.