|Staging area for some of the riders at Gravel Worlds.|
An odd thing for me happened when I got a call to answer nature, ahem! just before the start. By the looks of the length of the line in front of the three porta-potties they had, I wasn't alone in the feeling of the urge to purge. So, I got in line hoping I wouldn't miss the start. Bobby Thompson, of Gravel Guru fame, was just behind me in the line. We were nervously chatting and checking our watches constantly. Fortunately for the both of us, we cleared the line up with pretty much ten minutes to spare. Whew!
Then it was time for a final run down on things. Cue sheets ready? Yes! Lights ready? Yes! Turn on the GPS? Yes? The final countdown started, and then I said a few parting words with Tony and we were off. His blinky blended in with hundreds of others and I wouldn't see him again until much later in the afternoon.
|The opening miles of Gravel Worlds are typically a scrum of faster and slower riders finding their place in line.|
|I should get up early to ride more often.|
|My usual view of the road after about ten miles in.|
The opening parts of Gravel Worlds 2018 took us Northeast of Lincoln into an area which I was unfamiliar with. The locals have always referred to this hillier, upland area as "The Bohemian Alps", which is a nod to not only the elevation, but to the area's pioneering settlers. There was a heavy Czech influx here back in the 19th Century, and some of the heritage of this area reflects this to this day. There is even a newer gravel event called the "Bohemian Sto-Mil" which celebrates this area and it's heritage.
Well, all this meant to me at the time was that we were going to go up, up, up! If you recall last year's posts on my Gravel Worlds, I was climbing "14ers", which was a tongue in cheek stab at the big climbs in the Rockies, but these were 1,400 footers. I thought that was big for the Mid-West, but we went into an area this year which took us a little higher. My GPS topped out at a little over 1600ft, so that was interesting and, of course, not easy with all the climbing up from Lincoln.
|You learn to ignore these signs when doing any gravel grinding.|
|That group of folks there at that small building? They saved my day from being really short!|
You see, Gravel Worlds, (and other gravel based events), which are "self-supported", don't mind if locals get into the game by offering free drinks and snacks. They call them "Trail Angels" at Gravel Worlds, and there was a Trail Angel or two at Tuffy's operating out of a pick-up truck. All I know is that a fine young lass with a foreign accent asked if I wanted a Coke, and I replied in the affirmative. That little 8oz can of sugary, caffeinated goodness zapped me back into the land of the living! I had a half a banana as well and then I set off for the higher heights of the 2018 Gravel Worlds course.
|Some fine looking ponies and evidence of the "pea-gravel" like conditions.|
|Loma, Nebraska. This was about as high as we climbed at just over 1600 ft.|
I passed through Loma, and it was darn near a ghost town with its weathered, moldering buildings and dearth of activity. The local bar looked to be the bright spot in the community.
This part rode along a higher ridge and the scenery was spectacular. It was as high an elevation as we'd see for the course, so I was hopeful for a "downward trend" toward the checkpoint, which I had mistakenly drilled into my head as being Malcom. I rolled onward and turned on to Rd. 25, and that stretch had roller after roller in an unrelenting succession. They were steep too. This started me back towards the sleepy feelings, but just as I was despairing of another fight with that malady, I came across another Trail Angel, and wouldn't you know it? Another Coca-Cola. I diluted this one into a partially filled water bottle and soldiered onward.
Now the course went more down than up. I finally had a couple of directional changes, and then I came into a town. I was a bit taken aback by that, until I recognized the place, that is. I was in Valparaiso. The convenience store there is well known to me, and I cruised on up where the Boy Scout troop had a table set up with snacks and water. A young lass came out and asked what I needed and wouldn't leave me alone until I got something from her. She couldn't have been much more than 5, maybe six. I think she has a future in sales.
|Onward to CP#1|
It was approximately 16 miles to the checkpoint and when I realized it was Otto Pond, a farm out in the countryside, and not Malcom, I got a bit dismayed. But what really started to annoy me was that my legs were hurting and the power was slipping away. I ended up in "survival mode" before I reached Otto Pond, and I knew I had a tough decision to make when I reached that place.
They have a big machine shed there which you can get out of the Sun in and I availed myself of another banana and a hot dog while I was there. Matt Wills and his single speed crew, who I had been trading places with all day long, came in right behind me. They were stronger riders than I by far, but their pace was dictated by the "safety breaks" they were wont to take on occasion, and that let me catch up and pass them several times. I loved seeing "MW" out there as he is a very positive influence for my psyche and he made a big difference in my attitude Saturday as well as other times I've ridden with him.
Anyway, I asked MW if he had any recommendations for a route to bail out back to Lincoln. I doubted my legs would hold out much longer and he made a suggestion that I could simply follow the course to a point just North of Lincoln, turn South, and I would be back. It would be about 22 miles or so. I took that under advisement, and I figured that if I could somehow rally in the next few miles out of CP#1, I might continue on to Malcom. It would be an easy 15 miles or so back to Lincoln from there if I needed to bail. I decided to top off the water, just in case, and I left slowly from the checkpoint.
|Barns For Jason- Gravel Worlds edition|
It's never fun to not meet your goals and have your body dictate to you when you are finished. It also isn't fun to answer the questions afterward, but it is what it is. I took care of myself, and I will be fine. Going more miles until I was incapable of riding back to Lincoln was not an option with me, and I had a rough go of it as it was.
But, after I peeled off the official course, I was actually riding okay. I hit some big rollers on Raymond Road, then I went South on 27th until I reached a corner near to the end of Alvo Road, which is the paved boulevard that takes you back to Fallbrook Center. I was near to being done, but I actually was so gassed I had to stop and rest two miles out because my legs were not going to hold out. I guess I made the call at the right time. Just about this time the leaders came by in a blur to finish Gravel Worlds. Amazing!
A bit more than 80 miles on the day. Not what I signed up for, but I'll take it.
Next: I've covered the good, the bad, and next I will touch upon the ugly part in Part 3 of my Gravel Worlds report.