Thursday, May 02, 2013

Trans Iowa V9: Troubles Under The Sun

Approximately 7:30am, April 27th, 2013: I am standing at an intersection of a bike path and a gravel road, looking for signs of two separate groups of cyclists.....

Some of the nicest roads on T.I.V9
 After standing around a bit waiting for the Brunt group to appear, I felt that perhaps they had realized their mistake and turned around. That must have been a bitter pill to swallow after having put in such a huge effort early on in the hills of Jasper County. Now all they had to show for it was a footnote that they had been leaders and now were chasers.

And the new leaders, where were they? I waited and then saw two cyclists nose to tail with a third one dangling off the back. Around the corner and down 100th they came. It was Dennis Grelk with Rich Wince in tow. The straggler was Chris Schotz. I jumped back into the truck and passed Wince and Grelk while thinking I had to make it to an unsigned corner up the road at the end of the course's first B Road. The adrenaline rush of the previous moments was still with me and the dreamy, foggy morning was but a distant memory. Now it was bright, clear, and almost sharp as a fresh cut chunk of metal. I was probably driving a bit too fast, but I reached the B Road's end with plenty of time to mark it.

I staked out the corner and then snapped an image of the road, because it was completely dry and rideable. When does that ever happen at Trans Iowa? It may never happen again, so I had to have the evidence!

A dry B Road at Trans Iowa? That happened...
Then it was off to mark another feature of Trans Iowa V9, a bike path that led riders underneath a four lane highway. This was at Melbourne, and the path uses a huge cement culvert as a means to cross riders under the highway. It was a key element to getting the riders West of Highway 330, and without this feature, T.I.V9 would have been much, much different.

The marking of corners in the angled light of morning was relaxing me again and I was doing nicely until I thought I lost my phone. I was frantically searching for it and then found it. This raised my anxiety levels and then that got taken a notch higher when I heard from Checkpoint #1 that they were certain they were going to be short cue sheet sets to hand out. After I hung up I had a bit of a mini-fit in the cab of the truck, then I calmed down, and then I tried to figure out a plan to get the situation rectified. It was great that Trans Iowa was exceeding expectations, but it was an issue right then I didn't want. I figured I could hit a copying machine in State Center and hot foot it back to Ira to cover my butt. Just when I was settled on this, the cell phone sprang to life. It was super-volunteer Brent Irish again. He found an auto repair place in Ira that had a copy machine. We were all good!

Cornbread leading Trans Iowa V9
I stopped at State Center to refuel the truck and grab a bite to eat. The place would soon be crawling with cyclists from this crazy gravel grinder. State Center was the first place I routed the event right in front of a convenience store. It fell about 70 miles out from Grinnell, so maybe a bit early for the fast guys. I could see some of them skipping this one.

I bugged out of town and went up the road a ways until I found a nice parking lot at Marietta Sand Prairie. I had decided that stops often and in decent lengths would be okay and beneficial to my planned 30 plus hours of being awake. I got out and stretched a bit. I walked around, and then I got my camera ready for Dennis and Rich to pass by. Only it wasn't Dennis and Rich.  There were two new riders out front now.

It was Corey "Cornbread" Godfrey and tagging along behind was Chris Schotz. Either they didn't go to the convenience store, or they got out first. Whatever, this was a big turn of events in the front, as Cornbread is certainly capable of powering out a first place finish, even after getting out front at this early stage. But I figured things might get shuffled up again at Eldora just a wee bit up the road, since skipping two convenience stores would be unthinkable, or so I thought.

The clearest road of T.I.V9? North of Eldora
At any rate, I got back into the truck and passed them finally just before Mormon Ridge Road and left them behind. I got to the road closed section and drove right through it. Then on toward Eldora over many hills and wide open spaces. The Sun was riding up in the sky by now and it was a fine, hot day. As I approached Eldora, I could see that the wind was starting to pick up. Not very strong, but enough to let you know it was there. When the riders turned Southward, it would be in their faces.

Wally and George texted me and said they were getting grub in Eldora. I was not far behind them. I swung into the convenience store, which was several blocks off course, and got a chicken sandwich. Wally and George didn't text me that they were at the river just north of town until I had passed them. I wasn't wanting to miss the leaders coming out of Eldora, so I parked on the road and waited. It wasn't too long before I saw a lone rider coming. Chris Schotz! My guess was that going off course wasn't in his game plan, and that Corey probably did take the left turn off, so Chris decided to motor on without stopping. Risky move, but who knows what he's packing in his bag or on his person for food and water.

Climbing out of the Iowa River Valley......again!
I had to get going though, so I didn't wait for him to pass me and I jetted up the road with Wally and George's truck and Jason's Element in tow, as they caught up to me at about the same time. We were a caravan of T.I. vehicles! Pretty soon I had to pull off to mark a corner that had a sign that was folded over so you couldn't read it. Jason, Wally, and George kept going up the road.

Wally texted me that another sign looked bad and gave me the location. I headed on up the road, which crossed the Iowa River here four times. It was a twisty-turny section that was a bit bewildering. I didn't want anyone to miss a corner! I pulled the truck off to the opposite side of the road, since the corner was blind on the inside, and got out to set up two stakes with streamers attached. One stake in, and then I saw a truck coming, it slowed, then it stopped, and then I saw the back up lights come on.

"Okay, now what?!!", I was thinking, as the window went down and my gaze fell upon two individuals, a man and a woman, that can only be described as "Iowa Hillbillies". The man asked what I was up to. I kindly and politely said I was merely marking a turn to indicate to some following riders where to turn on a route I had devised through there. The man stated that he was curious, since they had trouble recently with mushroom poachers. Then the female piped up and said that they were real angry about that, and that they owned all the land on either side of the road there. I stated we were merely passing through and were not going to be getting off our bicycles and poaching shrooms.

I backed away slowly when it seemed they were accepting my explanations and they quietly, but slowly rolled away. Whew!

Wally and George texted that they all were headed for Checkpoint #2 and so was Jason. Not much later Jeremy texted that he and Robert were rendezvousing there soon as well. On to Checkpoint #2 then under a hot, bright Sun.

Next: Good Friends- Good Times!


Irishtsunami said...

It was a good thing that Merrie and Craig were able to get photo copies at the wrecking yard because they were about to go door to door in Ira to get access to a computer and printer. It was unbelievable that so many would get to CP1 and proceed to CP2. We were having our own panic attack; nobody wanted to let you or the riders down. It was only three short but at 7:30 most of the riders were through and it actually seemed possible. In the end they were not needed but it was close.

Steve Fuller said...

That middle section of the course was really enjoyable. While the tailwinds certainly helped, it was scenic, there were some cool things to spot, and I was able to ride with some cool people at various points along the way.

I actually opted to go off course at the Bike Trail and hit the convenience store to the right of the turn onto the trail, thinking that was the one you were running us by. I ran into Matt Maxwell there who helped make my decision seem like the right one, until we rode right into State Center. I actually skipped that Casey's and kept moving. I never found the store in Eldora and that cost me towards the end of the second leg.

Katherine Roccasecca said...

Just want to let you know that I'm enjoying these posts. I love reading race reports, and this is a whole new perspective.

Travel Gravel said...

Anyone care to speculate as to what today's weather might have done to the race if the timing were all wrong?

Guitar Ted said...

@Travel Gravel: You would have seen a completely different event. Out of the folks we had show up, several would have not even come to take the start. I would guess we would have started maybe 20 less people. Then there would have been a huge amount of attrition at the first checkpoint, because Jasper County roads get gooey and muddy, which would have really slowed folks down. As for finishers- Well, it would depend on wind, and whether it would be raining again this weekend, but it is quite possible no one would have finished, or at best, less than ten.