Ma Nature certainly rewarded the BikeIowa.com crew and all 225 racers with perfect weather conditions of blue sky, minimal wind, and comfortable temperatures that were not too cold, and not too warm for the 4th running of the Renegade Gent's Race that takes place on the gravel roads north of Ankeny, Iowa. Kudos to my teammates for doing such a wonderful job of organizing and running this great event: Kyle Sedore, Rob Versteegh, and Bruce Reese!!! Hats off to the other team members for helping out with registration, bag drop, 1/2 way point, cue cards (Brian Portttorff - great job!!!), etc... .
In 4 short years, this has quickly become thee premiere gravel event for us here in Central Iowa. The format of it being a 5 person team time trial, the time of year it is held, and the reality that all types of cyclists can ride in this event on whatever bike they want to ride it on, etc.... makes the Gent's Race such an accessible event for everyone and obviously speaks volumes to the growth in numbers it has experienced since the inception...
This year we had yet another cute Cue Card which we got at registration to either keep in our jersey pocket or strap to our stem with a zip tie. Brian did a great job and I'm keeping mine as a cool momento. The front side looked like this...
And the flip side had the the detailed turning directions...
I was riding this year with fellow teammates Scott Sumpter, Andy Zeiner, Matt DenHartog, and Jared Morford. Our start time was slotted for a 9:16 AM start. I arrived at Kyle's Bikes about 8:45, got my tires pumped up, water bottles loaded, drop bag sorted out and hooked with with our quintet. No need to warm-up for a such an event, so the ride from the parking lot over to the starting line was all that was needed as my official warm up. Each group of 5 on a team started off time trial style with several minutes between each group. The group in front of us was not at their appointed starting time, but they came along just about a minute before our time and were told to just ride on out since they were late and had missed their 9:12 start. Regardless, off we went at 9:16 and settled into a pace that involved no warm-up as my heart rate jumped up in the 160's. Wow! I guess we were racing...or at the very least starting right off in tempo/threshold to warm up!!!!
The main rule to follow for the event is the team of 5 must start together and must finish together. Jared mentioned to me he was worried about the distance as he had not been out on any rides this year longer than 20 miles, although he had been commuting all year. I said I had not done anything longer than a 40 miler, but I had lots of Zone 2 in my legs over the course of the past 3 months to make the distance without any worries. I was more worried about the pace we started with as now the heart rate was tipping into the 170's as we flew up the climbs and kept the screws on the pace. Andy and Scott were flying and we did our best to keep the group of 5 together. It turned out fine for me as we spent most of the day in my Zone 3 (first 1/2 of the race) and Zone 2 - with only about a quarter hour spent in Zone 4 according to my exercise profile in Training Peaks.
We were usually together in a tight group of 5, but here's Scott and I out in front by 50-100 feet or so from the other 3 which happened every now and then during the race as we visited along the way...
Photo by Corcoran
It was usually Scott and Andy who ventured ahead of us, but we all took turns pushing the pace and getting our groove on when it felt good. I wore my BikeIowa kit underneath, double chamois, a pair of wool long johns, my Pearl Izumi cool weather pants (good for temps in the 30's - 50's), Pearl Izumi gloves designed for the same temps, a Pearl Izumi thermal long sleeve base layer, my BikeIowa jacket, warm wool socks, and a light cap with a sweat band under the helmet to stay comfy, but not too warm. I had debated about wearing my winter cycling Shimano shoes/boots, but went with the normal shoes instead. My toes were the only thing that got cold all day, but it wasn't bad enough to really complain about as it didn't bother me.
Scott, Matt, and I got out ahead coming into the 1/2 way point stop in Slater where our drop bags were and the check point was. I downed my PB&J along with a banana and a Cliff bar. I stocked up again with 2 fresh water bottles (one loaded with Perpetuem), used the facilities and we were off again for the 2nd half of the race. Many like to pop a beer or other alcholic beverage at the 1/2 way point, but I don't do well drinking while riding so I always try to avoid it until after a ride or event is completed. Otherwise, I'd be ready for a nap along the side of the road in a food coma topped off with a sugar low after a drink. For others, it doesn't seem to stifle their ride as I saw a few even pulling out 12 packs and cases of beer for their teams to consume at lunch!!!
As usual, my best part of endurance riding is in the 2-4 hour point when my body "wakes up" and gets in a groove. And it happened again this year - like clock work - during that time frame where everything was efficient, felt great and was easy during the 2-4 hour point. The last 25 minutes I could feel the legs were torn down, and the right knee was talking back at me, but I pushed through it.
We had been riding primarily with a tailwind (when heading north) and some crosswinds (when heading east or west) up to this point, but knew the final 15 mile or so leg when we turned by the Ames airport south back to Ankeny would be against the winds that were blowing out of the south. The wind was pretty mild this year and once we made the turn, it wasn't that bad - at least compared to what I've been out riding in this Spring with howling winds and gusts in the 30's and 40mph range. This felt like something in the 8-11 mph range which was very manageable. However, we had 50 miles under out belt and the legs and lungs still need to dig deep to face a headwind like that. Jared was struggling, but Matt - in a really selfless display of support - would ride alongside Jared and give him a push every now and then to keep him in the middle of our group and sheltered by the wind. I rode over on the side where the wind was blowing from to create a wind block for Jared as much as I could so he could tuck in and stay with us without having to put out as much power. We kept together for the 15 mile headwind section and our pace, and effort was quite a bit less than the first half of the race, but we kept passing slower teams and making our way back to the finish line.
We finally saw the Ankeny water tower in the distance and had about 5 miles to go. We hit the 60 mile point at a time of 3:56 of bike riding time. The last couple of miles were on pavement, and I rolled with Jared and chatted with him. The final hill up to the finish line had me out of saddle thinking I could muster up a full out sprint up the hill. Ha!!! That lasted for only about 200 yards until my legs said - enough of that for today!! Our group separated with Andy, Scott, and Matt crossing the line together, me about 50 yards back, and Jared finally got up the hill and crossed the line for our total riding time of 4:23:55. When I rode it 2 years ago in Version 2, my team had fallen apart and only 2 of us finished with a time of 5:37, so this was about an hour shorter thanks to the pace we maintained, the weather, and the excellent condition of the gravel.
Without the handicap system, our time was 17th best out of the 43 teams that started. With the handicap system, we were ranked as 20th across the line. The main thing, however, was the fun of the ride and getting out to enjoy such a great day with like minded cyclists.
Now the bad news: my front tire's tread started to peel off the carcass just as the rear had done out of the bag when I bought them!! That means both Challenger Alamanzo tires are toast. Too bad, as they roll great and are very supple which opens up the Roubaix as the perfect gravel bike for me. We'll see if the replacement pair last any longer - or if this brand is simply dead in the water for me. The size is perfect at 30mm width to fit in my frame, provide clearance and provide squish on the rough gravel surface.
I rolled back to the Element, changed clothes, loaded up the bike and listened to Act IV of La Boheme on XM satellite radio live from the MET. Inspired by Puccini, I took a few minutes nap and decided to wait for Bob, Al, Andy, Phil, and Nick to roll in on their FAT Bikes and head over to On the Rocks with them to visit and have a few beers. They rolled in with Andy a bit ticked off with endurance riding in general and commentary on what in the world was he thinking listening to all the nuts that had convinced him he needed to buy a FAT Bike in the first place. I guess we could replace the same "type" of nuts who spout on about how a rigid singlespeed bike is the purest form of mountain biking yada, yada, yada, by substituting - or maybe at least adding - the Fat Bike yada, yada to the list, Andy. Oh, but wait Andy! Don't you have a rigid singlespeed? ;-) The rest of the FAT 5 crew were all chipper and full of smiles from the day.
We headed over to On the Rocks and I enjoyed a few Fat Tires and some nice pork shanks cooked ossa buco style, with nice sauteed zucchini, and potatoes - which I inhaled along with a salad. After a good hour or two of chit-chat, it was off to Indianola for a shower and a nap. Since I had burned over 4000 calories on the ride, I still had more to eat to make up for my spend and had some more food at home visiting with Tara. I still ended up about 100 calories short for the day.
Today - we're heading off to make 1200 kebabs at the Temple!!!! Then a concert at Simpson at 3. My legs feel worked today, but it was really fun yesterday and always a good test of Spring endurance. The weather looks like we will all be able to ride dirt by next weekend here in Central Iowa. Thumbs up if that happens!