Sunday, December 15, 2013

Trans Iowa: Ten Years Of Tales #19

In mid-November, the idea of Trans Iowa was hatched. The year was 2004. In the ten years since then there have been many stories and memories. These posts will tell of the most prominent ones to my mind. Maybe I'll even spill the beans on some things you never knew....

T.I.v4 riders struggling against a mighty headwind
 Let's see....I've always said "the weather is the wildcard" for Trans Iowa, and in the case of v4, it was not only the wildcard for us and the riders, it was "the beast" David and I struggled with from way before I tooted that horn to lead out the riders from Decorah at 4am that cold, windy April morning.

We were dealt a bad hand in doing recon, and the effects that the weather had on the roads were tremendous, as will be pointed out in my next post on Trans Iowa Tales. But for the time of T.I.v4's start, all we knew was that it was snowing!

It is hard to convey just how miserably cold and windy it was that morning. I don't have a record of what the windchill was that morning, but it had to be way down into the low 20's/upper teens. It felt like Winter! I remember David and I huddled at the convenience store in Cresco, just a short distance down the T.I.v4 course, and watching snow swirl across Highway 9. The riders were headed in a general direction facing the wind, and it was becoming apparent that the checkpoint cutoff time at our first checkpoint in Wadena Iowa was going to bite a lot of folks.

In fact, when a slug of riders finally appeared- maybe about 20 in a tightly knit pack- it was obvious by our calculations that these were the only riders with any prayer of making the cutoff at CP#1. Riders were calling in to drop out already at an alarming rate. It was almost Trans Iowa v2 all over again, only with snow and wind this time! I remember standing on a hill south of Cresco with David and one of our photographers that year just struggling to stand upright in the gusts that would come every so often. We would later learn that riders were getting blown off their bikes into the ditches at this point of the event!

David Pals scrambling down the mudslide on the T.I.v4 course
Well, that snow went away, and the winds backed off a tick, maybe. However; we weren't done dealing with what the weather had done previous to T.I.v4's crazy start. One of the chief memories I have about this event is the mudslide we encountered. It was not far from the Wadena checkpoint, and I recall David and I were flat out amazed and freaked out about it.

We quickly surveyed our options and with a re-route going miles out of our way not very appealing, we decided to make the riders hike-a-bike over the clay and dirt mound. Not ten seconds from planting the last flags marking the safest way over the mound, here the leaders came. Several figured it out and a line of cyclo cross style riders running up and over the dirt soon formed. I remember Brian Hannon scrambling around the pile through a field lower down the hillside. It was pretty intense for a minute or two. Then they were gone.

A few more riders would go over this, but with so many just barely getting pipped by the cutoff time in Wadena, the event effectively was down to a dozen riders or less. I remember riders telling me they could see the valley and Wadena down below and being minutes from the cutoff with no hope of making it. Wind and missed turns were being given as the main reasons for the drop outs that year.

I remember we were having some difficulties with where folks were by early afternoon. What with the chaos of the Turkey River re-route and the mudslide. However; with only a few folks left going by around 1:30pm -2:00pm, we knew we would just need to get a few good reports and we'd be back on track. We had two guys doing photography work on this event, so it was hoped that this would allow for a better tracking of riders.

Finally, a rider story that I recall. It was Joe Meiser, who was riding a Salsa Cycles La Cruz  and had shifted his derailluer into his spokes. After several valiant attempts to revive his stricken steed, he succumbed to being too late to the Wadena checkpoint and was out. It was a widely repeated story back then, and folks were impressed by Joe's determination in the face of  adversity. Joe was already a Trans Iowa finisher, having completed the event the year before. However; it wouldn't be the last we'd hear from this Minnesota rider.

Next Week: Water, Wind, and Washouts......

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