|Watching the eclipse of the moon in Madrid, Iowa|
This plan meant that I had to be awake by 3:00am and get on the road no later than 4:00am to make sure I was standing there ready to ride at 6:30am. I figured a two hour commute time and a bit more to change out shoes, etc and be ready to ride. I saved a lot of time the night before by getting a lot of my stuff laid out and ready to transport. At 3:00am the alarm went off, and things went so smoothly I was on the road by 3:40am with plenty of time to spare.
It was dark, of course, but there was a full moon and the skies were partly cloudy, so the light of the moon was showing brightly and it was a chilly, but beautiful evening out. The drive went without incident except for a truck that passed me at upwards of 100mph on the highway and then was seen to be pulled over about 20 miles later. I found the appointed meeting spot without too much trouble and was set to go with about an hour to go before Steve would arrive!
|Sunrise over Madrid and our route Eastward to the start in Slater Iowa.|
Steve was a bit annoyed at the few campers that had been noisey and kept him up late, but otherwise he looked none the worse for the wear. His titanium Fargo was loaded down as if he meant to do the Renegade Gent's Race and just keep going........for weeks. Training was the name of his game, and honestly, he's so fit we needed to have him take on the handicap of a fully loaded touring set up just so we'd have some hope of actually being able to ride with him. We set off Eastward down a cycling path in the face of the swiftly rising Sun. My hands were freezing, and I was suddenly really glad I wore my Fasterkatt boots instead of the Vittoria cycling shoes I was contemplating using instead. We didn't take long to reach Slater, the "Nite Hawk" bar and grill, and our breakfast.
The place had a "bar proper" and a converted garage to the rear of the original building that was somewhat finished off inside to accommodate cyclists using the trail in the warmer months. At the time I was there, it was a makeshift race headquarters, replete with roasters holding burritos and biscuits and gravy, along with several drink choices, most of those being of the alcoholic variety. I steered clear of those for the time being and stuck with water.
|Not many folks here this early, but the Nite Hawk would soon become a bee's hive of activity.|
Sam, Bob, and of course, Steve were all accounted for and we were only missing D-Corn who hadn't been keeping in touch via social media anything, but we had faith he'd be there. He always has been. I chatted with Sam a bit and then we all went in to the "garage" where we had breakfast and it was packed with excited racers getting ready to go.
|Punching the cue sheet/spoke card for attachment to the handlebars.|
|The "Careless Whispers" version 5.0- (L-R) Bob, Steve, Sam, G-Ted, D-Corn|
|The gravel was sandy, sort of deep, and rutted.|
Things started out well for us. The beginning miles went without much issue, and then I was feeling okay, riding up front with Steve up a slight grade, when Steve suddenly stated, "We're gapping them off." I backed it down a notch, but it wasn't enough, so I knocked it back a hair more. Sam and D-Corn caught back on, so we took off again. Then a few miles later we got strung out again, so we slowed a bit. D-Corn brought Sam back up again, and then I floated back to check on Sam and chat some with him.
I had forgotten that Sam had injured his foot earlier in March and was saying it didn't look good. Then I didn't hear anything but that Sam was coming to ride. I guess I assumed it was okay, but in reality, Sam was really hurting. He called a meeting on the road to announce that he was turning back. It just wasn't working. He felt really badly about it, but we all understood that it was no good for him to be out there. So, we tried to encourage him and sent him off. It was a tough scene.......
We soldiered onward for two miles North and then turned eastward for a glorious stretch of tailwind push that saw our speeds increase and our efforts decrease. I felt bad that Sam missed this part, but maybe even this would have just made his foot worse. He didn't need that.
|The remote checkpoint location near the tree on the left.|
|Not many riders were left when we departed the checkpoint.|
The checkpoint came a bit early, I thought, at almost 28 miles in for a course that was 64-ish miles long, but it was okay. It was very busy when we got there, but as usual, we spent a lot of time eating, drinking, and carrying on there until we were some of a handful of riders left. Finally, we took our leave and hit the rest of the course.
|A cowboy on a mule. We came across a Pony Express re-creation. This rider was waiting for the hand off.|
|One of the rare dogs we saw giving chase. They usually stop at the end of their territory.|
|A roadside break from the headwind.|
Finally I saw a row of a few round bales just off the road and then the three ahead of me heading over toward them. It looked as though a rest had been agreed upon. I was quite grateful to see that! I lumbered in not long afterward, but not before D-Corn had perched himself up on top of one of the bales for a look around.
|Barns For Jason- A heritage farm just South of Ames, Iowa.|
|D-Corn surveys his kingdom while Steve looks on.|
|Farmers were quite busy with Spring planting down this way. Note the loose, sandy road bed.|
Of course, we were a DNF for losing a team mate, but it didn't matter. We were full of pride and a deep feeling of accomplishment for having toughed out some less than ideal roads and a stiff headwind that sapped my legs and made me hungry! There were handshakes and goodbyes, then I saw MG and joined him in search of beer and food inside the bar.
|Plate full of food and some IPA.|
We settled in for a while and waited on our orders, which honestly, given how chaotic it was in there, didn't take all that long to show up at our table. MG and I enjoyed a great meal together and then we stepped outside for a nice chat.
After talking for awhile we ended up piling my bike onto his rack and he took me back to Madrid where my truck was parked. MG and I said our goodbyes, and then I was on my own to make it back to my home, which I did successfully.
Conclusions: At the end of the day, I had to be really satisfied with my performance at the Gents Race. This is because it was my longest day on the bike so far this year. The longest day and I still got the ride done without any major difficulties. I have to say it again- the roads and the winds made up for the lack of hills, and my legs were roached, but I made it. Really, I was happy since having been sick for most of this year. Clothing-wise I was good. I maybe overdressed a hair for what ended up becoming a glorious day, but as for the early morning, I was dressed perfectly.
The BMC worked great. Of course, it should have since I just refreshed it with a new drive train. The Nano 40's are perfect on a course like the Gent's Race had this year, and I probably will try these same tires at Gravel Worlds in Nebraska which has very similar gravel conditions.
The Event: Okay, what else can you say but "What an improvement!" Moving the event to Slater and its proximity to real gravel, its low traffic count, and the additional benefit of the Nite Hawk for a venue made for an elevation of this event to a much higher satisfaction level from my viewpoint. It really epitomizes what the gravel scene is all about, from my perspective. The event was really good before, but having to deal with the urban departure/return was a low point on an otherwise excellent format. Now that has been eliminated and all for the better. A shout out to Bike Iowa.com , the Nite Hawk, and the organizers of this great event for the new venue and feel for the event. I only have one suggestion: Porta-jon at the checkpoint. Otherwise, this is a bang on event for a good time and a good challenge.
Thank You: To Sam Auen for his character, caring, and willingness to suffer for the team. Thanks to Steve, D-Corn, and Bob. You guys are the best. To MG- Always a good time, my Brother! To Mike Johnson- What a surprise! Thanks for riding with us for a while. To All The Renegade Gents and Ladies- Thanks for a good time! Finally, to BikeIowa.com and the people behind this event- THANK YOU!!!