Last weekend I did the cue sheet verification drive with Wally and George's excellent assistance. (Thanks guys!) Together we made up "The Checking Crew" and what we found was good on many fronts and very important on another.
|Roads were a bit "peanut buttery" in some places.|
The winter was quite gentle on the gravels of Iowa. We did not see any evidence at all of frost heaves or soft patches due to frost damage. The roads, for the most part, were in good to excellent shape.
We have had several days of fine, soaking showers and rains leading up to our course check. With the combination of the very dry soils and good road conditions, this didn't seem to be much of an issue, except around Grinnell itself. As riders last year will recall, the roads were layered with a "peanut butter" like consistency of mud at the beginning of the event. Expect the same thing if rain comes within a few days of T.I.V8.
In other places the roads were incredibly dry for having just been rained on. We were actually still kicking up a fair amount of dust. White-ish gravel, fast, two laned, better than pavement riding was seen for miles.
The only things mitigating this were the few places where we saw maintenance done. Big, chunky, loose gravel patches were common. Only a few of the roads showed evidence of grading, so before ya'all get yer hopes up, I suspect that by T.I.V8 time, we'll be seeing a different consistency to the gravel in lots of places.
|Fast! (But it probably will get graded before T.I.V8)|
Checkpoint #1 will now be officially known as "Checkpoint Alpha". The second will be "Checkpoint Bravo". Checkpoint Bravo will be a remote checkpoint with zero services, just like last year. The volunteers will be the same, Wally and George, so be sure to be nice to them! The distance to Checkpoint Bravo is 172miles and it must be reached by 9:30pm Saturday night. Keep in mind that if you arrive even one minute late, it is too late. No exceptions!
Finally, there will be another checkpoint, but this one will be quite different. It is a "secret checkpoint" that we're calling "Checkpoint Charlie". This checkpoint will only serve me as a way to know who is where on course and to help plan the finish line set up so we are not caught short handed in case someone gets way ahead of schedule. For you, the riders, Checkpoint Charlie will be a surprise, but we think you'll appreciate what you find. Where is it? Well. it will come after Checkpoint Bravo, but well before the finish.
|Umm.....there will be a change in plans!|
Essentially, we had to add a bit of distance to get around this obstacle. So that added about 1.3 miles to Trans Iowa V8 to up the total to approximately 327.8 miles. You'll still have till 2pm Sunday to finish.
One other detail about the course to note that is of import to the racers. The number of miles of B Maintenance road. It breaks down like this: One mile of what I would call "typical B Maintenance Road" exists in the first sector to Checkpoint Alpha. It is hilly, no real ditch, and you'll likely have to walk it if things are wet. We did not drive this section of B Maintenance.
The next mile is a difficult, very steep B Maintenance road sector of one mile in length with a low water crossing. This comes after Checkpoint Alpha. I had thought to take this out of the course early on in recon last fall, but with the dry-ish winter, and so far, lower rainfall totals this spring, I am leaving it in. This shouldn't have any water across the road right now, but we did not drive this section. It will get checked before the event, and a reroute that does not add any mileage is available in case I need to do a reroute at the last minute.
|The sector with the low water crossing|
The next mile of B Road is also after Checkpoint Alpha and is a dead flat, easy B Road. We drove it, although it was wet. This should not present a problem unless it is actually raining the day of Trans Iowa.
Originally I had planned not to have any B Maintenance sectors after this, but one surprise of the course check was another 3/4's mile sector of B Maintenance road found within the final 20 miles of T.I.V8. This was the only part I hadn't laid eyes on before this past weekend. It was an easy sector by bike, but we almost did get stuck in it with the car! If it rains just prior to, or during T.I.V8, this will be a walking section.
The Checking Crew was pretty impressed with the course. Wally and George kept remarking how hard the hills looked to them, but after awhile, I noticed that they quit saying much about them. Why? Because there are so many. Yes- there are dead flat sectors in T.I.V8. Places where you can relax a bit, given that there is no wind to fight. However; the hills come at regular intervals all throughout the course, so be prepared to deal with them. Total elevation gain is 12,825 feet by Waly's Garmin device, so get those legs ready folks!
Misc.: Volunteer corps are looking good! Thanks to all who have stepped up in the past week or so. We look to have Checkpoint Alpha taken care of, but we might need a body or two yet at the finish line.
Riders in Trans Iowa should look for an e-mail soon concerning meal choices at the Grinnell Steakhouse. We will be planning to show "300 Miles of Gravel", the story of Trans Iowa V7, just before the pre-race meeting and after our meals. This film by Jeff Frings is 99% finished, and should be a go for the Meat-Up. You'll definitely want to see this!
Finally, if you look to not be coming to Trans Iowa, it is very important that you let me know ASAP. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.