<===Riders bustin' a 25mph headwind with 40 + mph gusts just south of Cresco, Iowa. That's eventual third place finisher Charlie Farrow on the right.
Lying in bed on Friday night in a hotel room I could hear the wind screaming over the top of the building. "Good", I thought, "Maybe that'll dry things up a bit for us."
Well, I was right, it did, but it nearly roached the whole field of racers in the process! But I'll get to that in a minute. First we had to get this beast cranked up. So let's back up a bit and take a look.
I had told the racers that they should make sure they got to the start good and early. I figured I might help avoid the last minute arrivals to the start line like we had last year. What I didn't count on was that almost everyone heeded my warning and that the temperatures were so cold with a biting west wind. I arrived at the start with d.p. and Brother Mark at about 3:20 am and there were already several riders milling about. Apparently, several folks actually camped out at the start line. At any rate, a lot of the field was there and huddled behind some dump trucks and heavy equipment trying to shield themselves from the wind at 3:35am.
At 3:50am, I walked back behind the trucks and stuff and called the riders out to start. After a few words of caution, I honked the horn and pulled away at 3:59am. One minute of mercy shown to the bone chilled riders. Off we went up Quarry Hill Road. Team Polska and a few others tried to circumvent the neutral start by bypassing me on my left, but they quickly fell back in line and followed me out. What I didn't know until later was that one rider had sped over the last hill on Ice Cave Road just as we were pulling out. He was in such a hurry, he lost it in trying to make the corner to jump in behind us and did an awesome power slide, gathered himself up, and joined in at the tail end of the line. That rider was eventual winner John Gorilla.
I sped on ahead after I was satisfied that I had gotten the field strung out enough to avoid mishap and parked along the side of the road to wait and see the spectacle of lights and bikes pass by. it's always one of my favorite sights during T.I.
We corner marshaled the first turn onto and off of pavement just north of town without incident. The wind was still howling.
Then we went on ahead to Cresco and waited at the Kwik Star for the riders to appear. they were later than we thought. This was bad for the prospect of finishers. It was clear already that if there were to be any, they would be selected from the first bunch of about 15-18 riders that appeared on Highway 9 that morning. Only one guy peeled off to stop and the rest kept moving.
Snow was swirling in the streets and the wind kept on howling.
d.p. and I then hustled to the low water crossing to re-route the riders as we had explained at the pre-race the night before. Then we went to a point just south of there and settled in to see what we could see of the leaders coming up the road. Our photographer, Rob Walters called then and said, "Hey, what's the deal? The riders are confused because they can't go across that water." I said that they had missed the flags we put up and that they needed to turn around and go back a bit. Rob said it looked as though they were doing just that and that he would point them in the right direction. Crap! I couldn't believe our flags were that poorly placed. We had them as close to the road as we could get them.
At any rate, the leaders finally came around. Rob snapped some photos and then we chatted for a few seconds. Just then, I got a call from Paul Jacobson that explained that another large group of riders missed the flags too. I was bummed! Our idea seemed to be not working out too well.
<===The lead group powering up Main Street in Protivin, Iowa
Then we headed on down the course, checking on any thing that might be wrong, but the course was fine and we were not seeing any mistakes on the cue sheets. We got to West Union and decided we were hungry. I knew the lead pack would be too, as they had bypassed the first two convenience store stops on the route so far. West Union was a full on 80 plus miles in, and I knew they would have to stop.
And the wind never did let up.
<===Convenience Store Chaos!
T.I. always brings madness and frenetic energy when riders pull into convenience stores. Befuddled locals are left with jaws hanging open and slightly frightened teenage girls behind cash registers are just some of the more surreal high lights of these stops. It is a chance for me to check out bikes, set ups, watch strategies played out, and learn a thing or two. I get to chat with the racers and get a feel for how the event is being recieved. For me personally, it is one of the highlights of a Trans Iowa. Some of my most cherished T.I. memories are from stops just like this one. Strangely enough, it would end up being the only convenience store stop on the whole day.
And the wind still screamed..............
We left West Union and being confident in our course from there to Checkpoint #1, we decided to go directly to the checkpoint. Tomorrow, Checkpoint and Checkmate!