Kudos to the the BikeIowa.com Team for doing it right once again in version 6 of the Renegade Gents Race. Bruce Reese, Kyle Sedore, Rob Versteegh, Paul & Christy Varnum, Jesse Gerlits, and volunteers of Nick Wooley, Jeff Stegeman, and Patrick Schoolen all helped to pull off what has quickly become a great Spring tradition here in Iowa. The format of riding with a group of 5 on Iowa's gravel roads using whatever bike you want (singlespeed, road bike, cross bike, gravel bike, mountain bike, fat bike, tandem) makes this event accessible to all.
I was unable to ride last year due to teaching in Germany, but teamed up again with fellow BikeIowa.com team members Scott Sumpter, Mat DenHartog, Andy Zeiner, and this time Jim Coady. Matt had sent out an email the day before of our strategy of taking turns pulling, riding in formation to fight the wind, and what to bring or not bring so we were all on the same page from the get go. In the end, I chose the Dos Niner with the big Renegade 2.3's to deal with the sandy gravel and wind as the wider handlebars gave me more stability. Sure, I was a major windsock because of it sitting up higher, more surface area for the wind to catch on my chest, Camelbak,wheels and tires - but I was comfortable. The Roubaix was fine two years ago, but we weren't fighting wind back then.
The Dos is about to get some upgrades and weight weenie treatment to get it up to bike technology 2015/2016 for XC racing this year, but I rode it with the 2 x 9 drivetrain and at the weight before any upgrades were added (started upgrading on Monday, but more on that later).
Weighing in at 24.36 before adding the top tube pack, and saddle bag...
A little extra cushion in the back with the Thudbuster ST to absorb any washboard chatter...
In spite of the grimace, I was comfy out on the gravel riding the Dos Niner...
We had gorgeous sunshine and wind that reminded me of those days I would go for long rides on the prairie in South & North Dakota as a teenager and in college back in the late 70's early 80's. I used to hop on my Browning ten speed - no shirt, no helmet - with my Sony Walkman and ride for 50-75 miles in tailwinds that would sometimes take me too far too fast making me hitch hike back home. And the crosswinds on a "calm day" in northwestern North Dakota has an average of 23-25 mph. On windy days, well forget about it. The force of Ma Nature on those plains in terms of wind speed makes playing golf a sport that requires some serious skill. Try kicking a field goal in a football game against that kind of wind!!! Or how about raking leaves on a Fall blustery day? Or trying to shovel snow in those winds? And it always makes for fun tumbleweed watching in the Dakotas. Saturday was a reminder to me of growing up in all of that.
I ride the Summerset Trail from Indianola to Carlisle quite a bit and have been out in wind like this several times to be accustomed to the off camber lean required to maintain your line in strong crosswinds. None of that was a shock to me on Saturday and I was dressed perfectly to not feel chilled with my Pearl Izumi gloves, arm and leg warmers, and base layer under my kit. The warm BikeIowa jacket kept my core nice and toasty. That doesn't mean the effort required isn't shocking, just to say that I knew what I was getting myself into and it wasn't going to be easy. It was going to be what we always called a "bad hair day" in the Dakotas with steady winds in the 25-35 mph range, and gusts of up to and over 45+!!!
Riding it 4 years ago on the Dos Niner as well. Only two of us finished in the group that year as weather was tough with cold, and wet conditions. There was lots and lots of fresh gravel that year which contributed to the challenge. Julie Sedore snapped a picture of that group back in 2012...
I used the Camelbak for water mainly because I need to get my water bottle cage mount bolt holes fixed on the Dos Niner so I can hold two bottles. The one bottle cage that does work had a 5 hour bottle of Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem mix slotted into it to provide the lion's share of calories for this kind of a ride. I forgot my Hammer gels on my dresser, so stopped at the local Casey's in Slater and picked up some honey roasted nuts, and some Snickers (which I never eat, but oh well) to help add some sugar. I had a peanut butter sandwich in a zip-lock bag that went in the drop bag for our lunch stop at Snus Winery at the 1/2 way point. So I was prepared.
Our group rolled out at 9:36 am and like everyone else, immediately encountered the wind. We got into our formation to deal with what Ma Nature was throwing at us and motored into it. I mentioned to the group that two years ago we rolled out from the start line and were immediately rolling along in Zone 4. In contrast, I hoped we would take some time to get warmed up first this year. Well, we were rolling along in Zone 4 by the 5th minute and kept it there until the turn to the tailwind that led us to our lunch stop. I never once felt I couldn't make the distance and handle the wind, but I did feel I would be unable to sustain the effort we were pumping out. So I had to ask the group to back it off a few beats per minute a few times during the day as although I race at that heart rate for up to 2 1/2 hour durations - I can't hold it for 4-5 hours.
Our team was officially called the BikeIowa Stepdads. Here we are enjoying the day out on the Iowa gravel...
The peanut butter sandwich went down easily at the Snus Winery lunch stop, I refilled the Camelbak, relieved myself and we were off again after a nice 10 minute break.
Luckily, the tailwind sections dropped us back down into Zone 2 and 3 where I could recover. But anything against the wind was brutal in terms of the pedal effort, bike control with the cross winds and head winds, as well as the higher heart rate hanging out from 166-173 most of the time for those sections. How strong were the winds? How about cruising along at 27-28 mph on gravel pedaling pretty easy in Zone 2/3. That's a strong tailwind!!!
Here was our effort from Saturday...
Here was our effort from more or less the same group back in 2014...
Not all that different in terms of average heart rate - 150 this year compared to 151 two years ago. Highest heart rate was 173 this year compared to 177 two years ago. But you can see in the calorie burn difference and the TSS that the hurt was on more this year than two years ago with 1400 more calories being burned and the TSS quite a bit higher.
As usual, I felt the best from hour 2 - 4 (aided by a nice King Size Snickers bar!!!!). At least two or three times when we made a turn, or I got caught up in some sandy soil trying to hold my line in the group formation, I fell off the back for a bit. Matt would always come and pull me back up to the group and then I would be okay. Matt and Scott were the big motors for the day, and the latter half of the day had Jim, Andy, and myself hunkering down to put out what we could to get through the event. Scott is riding the Trans Iowa event this year and is in good shape. All said and done, we rallied and knocked out the final 12 miles in good formation and rolled back into Slater with big grins on our wind blown faces.
One of our other BikeIowa Team squads out on the route (Kyle Sedore, Bruce Reese, Christopher Maharry, and Rob Versteegh)
It was only when I went into the Night Hawk Bar and Grill to get a pair of PBR's for myself and Scott to celebrate that I began chatting to other riders who told me they had bailed out of the ride. Some within the first 10 miles, some made it to the lunch spot, and others made it to the 40 mile or so distance before deciding to pull the plug. It was that kind of day with Ma Nature making it a challenge for everyone with the wind, the temperatures, the soft gravel and lots of stories to share about the experience - all well worth it no matter if one finished or not.
Version 6.0 is in the books. I have no idea where we finished in the handicapped standings, or how many teams that started actually finished. That will all be posted at some point in time.
Edit: For the teams that finished with all 5 riders and based on elapsed time alone, we were 10th place. However, with the handicap system based on the ability of each time and their assigned start time, we rolled into Slater in 14th place. Results are HERE. Looks like only 18 teams out of the 63 teams that signed up finished the course as a quintet. So the post race chit-chat in the bar was telling indeed with the day's carnage thanks to Ma Nature.
All were winners in my book for just getting out and giving it a go to spend time with friends, take on Ma Nature, enjoy Iowa's gravel, donate to the Animal Rescue League in honor of Julie, and toss a leg over a bike.
Now, on to upgrading the Dos, recitals at school, and the IRS deadline beckons.....!!!!