Monday, April 09, 2012

Renegade Gents Race 2012 Ride Report

The 2012 version of the Renegade Gents Race is in the books and this time the event was memorable for weather and road conditions. It was a long, fun Saturday for sure.

Threatening skies at the start
I had done a fair amount of laying out my kit on Friday evening so that when I awoke at 4:30am on Saturday morning I wouldn't have to scramble around making noises while the rest of my family was asleep. The alarm went off, I made some oatmeal and had a couple slices of toast, loaded up the "Truck With No Name" and hit the road about 5:45am.

The full moon was setting into a bank of clouds while the sun was announcing its arrival with a glow in the east. The forecast called for occasional thunderstorms and a high of 60 degrees for the Des Moines area. As the sun arose in a spectacular  display of crimson and orange I was reminded of that old saw, "Red skies in the morning, Sailors take warning!" I began to see wet sections of pavement on my trek down I-35, and I was hopeful that the worst had already passed by.

I arrived at Kyle's Bikes in Ankeny and began to see several dozens of cyclists kitting up, waving to me with friendly faces, and looking furtively towards the west. The sky was getting that "angry look" that says rain is a sure thing. We even saw a bit of lightning at one point.

My team mates all were there and we had signed in. Cue sheets were actually spoke cards like last year that we center punched in the corners and zip tied to our handle bars. Our start time was at 9:08am, so we set off to the start area, about a mile away, at 8:50am. This was exactly when it began to rain. Of course!

Wet beginnings
We arrived at the start area where there was a little park and a gazebo in the center provided us with a bit of shelter until it was our turn to set out. The rain had tapered off somewhat, but it was still coming down pretty good at this point.

Getting out of town required riding a few miles of busy city streets until we hit the first gravel. By the time we got going on the unpaved roads, the rain had tapered off to mere sprinkles. I heard a hissing sound and became a bit alarmed.

I called out that I had a flat tire. I thought it was my front, but it was still up. Checked the rear. Good. Hmm...well, let's go! As we took off again, I heard the same sound. Turns out it was our tires on wet gravel. I had never ridden on wet gravel when it wasn't lightning, storming, and windy, so I guess that sound of wet tires on wet gravel had never reached my ears unsullied before. False alarm diagnosed, we took off with a constant chatter amongst team mates.

The Renegade Gents Race is a team event. Riders on teams of five must start together, check in at a midway checkpoint all together, and finish all together at the end to get an overall time which is then compared to the times of other teams. The team with the least amount of time to cover the 66.5 mile course wins.

Bob Moural ahead of Steve Fuller
My team consisted of the same people as last year: Steve Fuller was our "Captain", and David Corneilson, Sam Auen, and Bob Moural were the others on my team with me again.

We all seemed to be pretty well matched for pace and we all seemed to be able to get along pretty well. None of us were/are averse to stopping now and again, we don't mind having a beer once in awhile on the ride, and we don't take ourselves too seriously.  Of course, this doesn't mean we weren't pushing ourselves pretty hard, and that we didn't expect a lot out of ourselves, because we did and we do.

The roads were okay to start out with. Of course, they were wet, and another thing about these roads that struck us was that they had a high sand content. This made the surface a bit mushy here and there, with our tires digging  and cutting in sometimes. There were even a few hills out this way, but nothing terrible. I found myself hanging in with the group pretty well, which I was happy about.

The beginning of the event started out just like last year's course, but we then ended up going west a fair bit, then north a long ways. The event organizers had obviously done a fair amount of recon to pack in more actual gravel miles over last year's course, which was predominantly pavement at the end of the event. Good job guys!

The team that was to start ahead of us was penalized for not having five team members, so they started behind us, and we hadn't been passed yet by 20 miles into the event. Then Sam saw "Unicorn Ave" and he wanted a picture by the sign.

As we waited for Sam and David to get the shot set up, we could see two teams coming up the road. One was the blazing fast team of event organizer Rob Versteegh. They went flying by, and as we got back on the course, the next team coming up the road were the guys and gals that had started 10 minutes behind us. We fell in line with them and ended up passing back ahead of them, (temporarily), until we got to the mid-way checkpoint where we were to check in with the volunteers.

The checkpoint was in Slater, Iowa at mile 33.2. Coming into town from the north there was a mile and a half of fresh, deep gravel spread across the road way that made riding very difficult and riders were scrambling to find a line. Little did we realize that this would be a portent of things to come later.

At the checkpoint we decided to rip into Bob's 12 pack of Budweiser while Sam busted out a can of 4 Loko and we munched on whatever food stuffs we could find in our drop bags. I managed to get a half a banana, a gel packet, and the rest was drink. We weren't there all that long and we decided to bug out. So far we were all doing okay, we had ridden through several rain showers, and the roads had been pretty good so far, with the exception of the ones coming into the checkpoint.

David, Sam, and Steve bucking the head wind
As we were leaving the checkpoint- northward and westward-we realized that at some point we were going to have a long slog southward. After a bit of a nice eastward run, where we were all riding together and having a lot of fun doing so, we made that fateful turn for 14 miles of straight into a south headwind fun.

That's when it all went to heck.

The roads were freshly graded and overlaid with deep, chunky, loose gravel. There had been no, or very few cars or trucks on this, so it was pretty unconsolidated, shifty rock.

We figured out pretty quickly that getting to the extreme right or left was where the best lines were and where the deep rock hadn't been spread to. This wasn't fool proof though, as graded berms, loose, sandy soil, and skinny lines at times made it just as difficult as running out  the loose gravel.

Adding to the road difficulties was a Southerly wind that was making forward progress difficult. This was often accompanied by a mist which would threaten to become full on rain at times. So, wet, windy, and washed out riding was making for slow going.

Rural Iowa version of single track
All of this was a bit much for my team mate Sam on this day. His progress wasn't what he wanted, and some of the guys stayed back to help pull him along while Bob and I plugged away up the road, waiting at intersections at times to take a breather and let the other guys catch back up.

Last year it was Sam that was just destroying all of us with his motoring up the road at such a pace that I could barely hang on. This year I felt pretty good, and Bob must have as well, as the both of us were plodding along the margins of a wide white strip of crushed rock for miles upon miles. 14 miles to be exact. (Did I mention it was 14 miles already?) It was a bit discouraging to look up and see far ahead that things weren't getting any better any time soon.

Things eventually did get better, of course. That was when we crossed the Story County line back into Polk County. Then we had about 4 miles of what seemed like heavenly smooth gravel before coming back into the finish on the same roads we had left on.

I don't know how our team finished, but we all came back together at the end and finished as a team. It felt pretty good. I was really taxed by the time we reached pavement and I was really, really hungry.

After my return to the start I went over to hang out with the other racers for a bit and to get some much needed calories into my belly. Then I had to load up the truck and point myself back northward for the two hour trip.

The 2012 Renegade Gents Race was a great event that had 29 teams take the start with 145 cyclists. All despite the forecast, and all had a pretty great time. Thanks to Bike Iowa, Kyle Sedore, Bruce Reese, and Rob Versteegh along with all the awesome volunteers for putting on this great event. I really enjoyed myself and got in 68 miles of good, hard riding.

Here's to everyone involved and to everyone that rode. Hope to see you all again next year!

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