Sunday, July 12, 2020

Trans Iowa Stories: Broken Bikes and Broken Fellowship

Hanging out with Ari Andonopoulous (center) and Charlie Farrow (right) at the T.I.v8 finish
"Trans Iowa Stories" is an every Sunday post which helps tell the stories behind the event. You can check out other posts about this subject by going back to earlier Sunday posts on this blog. Thanks and enjoy!  

With the Braun Brothers spectacular flame-out, the event was up for grabs. We were going to see a surprise winner, and it would be someone not in the mix for most of the event. In another stunner, John Gorilla also packed it in at the secret checkpoint, claiming that if he couldn't win, it wasn't worth continuing. Most of this news was given to me as I finished up running the course to check it in the middle of the night. After I had my silent victory party, detailed a couple of weeks ago in this series, I only had to wait to see who would make the final cut. Who was going to finish this version of Trans Iowa that I had poured myself out for.

The weather, which had miraculously went peaceful, if not a bit cool and overcast, suddenly became an issue again. The East wind picked up and strengthened in the early morning hours to a pretty heavy state, and this coincided with miles of fresh gravel in Marshall County. This stretch consisted of a very long Eastward traverse of the county straight into that heavy wind. This combination of obstacles, after nearly 300 miles of gravel, was enough to really slow down the progress of the would-be finishers. The thoughts of anyone even having a crack at a sub-24 Trans Iowa would have been dashed on those rollers that morning. Flaming out or no.

John Gorilla, seen here at CP#2, was a surprise DNF for T.I.v8.Image by Wally Kilburg
While we had many riders still in the event by this point, there were two clear front runners. They had been working together for most of the event past the first checkpoint, and all through the night, they stayed with each other. They were Troy Krause and Eric Brunt, both then from the Lincoln/Omaha area.

Troy I knew from the last Good Life Gravel Adventure. (Later became Gravel Worlds) He had won that event, and then he was sent out by Corey "Cornbread" Godfrey, the RD,  to collect me, as I had DNF'ed at just over 100 miles. The winner.....fetching DNF'ers! Yeah, THAT's something you won't see these former Pro roadies doing anytime soon at the big events!

Anyway, he was with Eric Brunt, a former bicycle messenger and veteran of Trans Iowa, his first being T.I.v4 on a Surly Steamroller. They were the front runners for the win at T.I.v8. We all expected them to show up together. You just don't drop a fellow rider who you've been working with all day and night. But at about 7:10am, here was Eric Brunt, alone, for the Trans Iowa v8 win.

In the scrum of congratulations and Trans Iowa Radio posting, I did not get much of a chance to cross examine Brunt as to the whereabouts of his riding partner to my satisfaction. There was some off-hand comment about Krause waving him ahead because Troy was on a single speed, and before I could get into more depth with another question, here came Troy to finish. Then something happened which only a few Trans Iowa folks up to this point ever knew about. I never have published the following story until now.....

Krause dropped his bike at the line and called loudly for Brunt to come to the finish line. Brunt obliged and then Krause demanded to know why Brunt had dropped him when they should have had had a gentleman's agreement to come in together. Angry words were spoken on Krause's side while Brunt sheepishly defended his actions. It was clear that Brunt had taken advantage of Krause, but it was also very uncouth and unnecessary of Krause to have so publicly made his anger known at the finish line. I get it though- heat of the moment and all, and Troy was obviously upset. The onlookers at the scene were taken aback. Things were extremely uncomfortable. The scene didn't last long and Brunt scooted out of the area with his father immediately afterward. With that emotionally charged  scene finished, Trans Iowa got back to its old self with the rest of the day's events. The air suddenly became much lighter! 

Eric Brunt as he was hurrying away after his confrontation with Troy Krause.
 Time was dragging..... The East wind was bone chilling. Weary T.I.v8 drop outs filtered into the finish line area where some of the volunteers and super-fans of the event were also gathered. In between finishers I hung out with friends I'd made through the event, chatting and laughing with them. It was a great time that morning. The tension between Brunt and Krause, an early stain on the proceedings, was forgotten.

Then I received a phone call from a rider named Charles Showalter. He had snapped off his rear derailleur in the crossing of the last Level B road seven miles from the finish line. He wanted a clarification on the rules. Was it okay if he walked/scootered his bicycle to the finish? Would that count? I affirmed him, telling him as long as he did the course as outlined on the cues, he would be scored an official finisher. Bystanders to the conversation on my end were amazed and word soon spread that a rider was going to have to walk in after coming up seven miles short. And later on, he did. Charles Showalter finished with his compromised bike and became the sixth place finisher at 11:14am that morning.

Now that would be legendary enough. One rider scootering in with a sheared off rear derailleur. But no! This was Trans Iowa. Weird things were commonplace. We had another rider scooter his bike in due to the same Level B Road! This rider was no stranger to broken bikes, by the way. He is legendary in that unfortunate category. Corey "Cornbread" Godfrey probably has had some of the worst luck with bikes and injuries during events of anyone I know. However, this time it didn't get him down! He finished "officially", unlike the previous year where he blew up a derailleur and went off course to convert to a single speed, and finish. Corey came in 11th at 12:20pm.

Corey wasn't the only one to redeem himself that day. Jay Barre did as well. Jay, the guy who missed checkpoint #1 at T.I.v7 by one minute, so emotionally shown in the film, "300 Miles of Gravel", was all smiles this day as he finished for his first of three times in the event. I was very happy for him, since that scene in the movie really got to me. And as I have said before, it still does.

Charles Showalter's busted Trek frame which he scootered in for an official T.I.v8 finish.
I was also pleased to see early Trans Iowa participants Robert Fry and Joe Partridge come back and bag finishes at Trans Iowa v8 also. Between all these great stories, the friends at the finish, and the way the event went down, I was really pretty amazed and happy by the time I pulled away to go home.

Like many Trans Iowas to come, leaving the scene of the event was always a shadowy, hazy thing for me. You know, being up for 35+ hours will have that effect upon a human. That and exposure to the elements, not eating enough, or correctly, and not hydrating right will do that. But I had no such time for such niceties. I was very busy trying to run the event in the best way possible, and I received a lot of feedback to that effect that Sunday morning and immediately afterward.

That was obviously the affirmation I was seeking, but even to this day, one person's approval has meant more to me, for what reason I cannot say, than anyone else's words. John Gorilla answered me when I asked him about the cues, and he said they were "spot on". I was just so satisfied to hear that from him, that it stood out in my mind, for whatever reason, and I felt justified. I had done good! THIS was how Trans Iowa should go down. While that small word from John may not seem like much to anyone else, it has meant the world to me ever since. I had done it. I put on the best Trans Iowa to that date, but there was more work to be done.......

Next: Moving On.....

No comments: