Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Gravel Worlds '19: Part 2

The Cycle Works gang (Me in center) Image by Michaela courtesy of Rob Evans
Tony and I got our gear on quickly after breakfast and we were out the door with plenty of time to get to the Fallbrook area North of Lincoln for the start at SchillingBridge. I noted that my tire held air again all night, so..... ??? Weird. (More on the rear tire later)

The bikes got unloaded and as we were riding over to the staging area for the start, I could hear Tony trying to shift his front derailleur. But it wouldn't shift. It was just grinding, grinding, and this after Tony had said that his bike had been working perfectly. Great! Why is it that these gremlins rear their ugly little heads at the most inopportune times?

Well, we stopped under a street light and tried to diagnose what the issue was. Everything looked normal upon a visual inspection. The cable tension was thought to be the culprit for a brief minute, but that wasn't it either. Tony tried shifting without him in the saddle as I held the bike's rear end up off the ground. It shifted! So, Tony went for a brief test ride. He came back with more positive, but guarded news. It shifted, but it wasn't a real inspiring shift. He was going to live with it.

With that done I moved to the back end of the starting chute where I belonged. Suddenly I found myself surrounded by many in the Cycle Works crew. Their distinctive "Rasta" striped jerseys are hard to miss. I saw Rob Evans, (he was at my GTDRI ride in July), and his girlfriend, Michaela was there as well. I moved over to chat with Michaela a bit and next thing ya know I was in the middle of the Cycle Works start line image. Literally. I was in the middle of it. Anyway.......

Tony looking over his bike pre-race. It turned out to be okay.
Then we all chatted until the minutes wound their way around to close to 6:00am, which was the slated start time, and we began to get a bit more focused on what was about to happen. I even remembered to turn on my Lezyne Super GPS unit! Amazing, right? (By the way- I hate that you have to mess with the menu and physically turn on two different things to get the stupid computer just to read out the info on your ride.)

I was taking things calmly. No need to stress out about my lack of training, my rear tire, or whatever. I just wanted to give it a go and see what would happen. My plan was to "shift early- shift often" and as an alternative to a maxim I heard from former Trans Iowa winner Dennis Grelk, I was going to "go easy on the hard parts, and go easy on the easy parts". Dennis didn't say, "go easy on the easy parts" though!

We were talking amongst each other at the starting line about how when Gravel Worlds used to be led out for the neutralized start by an old Ford pick-up truck with a very throaty exhaust note. You could tell when the driver dropped the automatic transmission into "Drive" as the RPM's would cause the exhaust note to lower in pitch. You knew to get clipped in then because it was about to be "go time". Now, with a police cruiser doing the escort from town, that is a distant memory. Suddenly, I heard a chorus of metallic clicking noises. Lots of clipless pedals being engaged all at once. Guess we were off! With the start chute being so narrow, we had to wait about 30 seconds before we could get ourselves mobile. Then it was a left turn out into the neighborhood. The course was pavement for the first mile plus, so jockeying for positions is pretty common here.

An overcast sky greeted the riders. It actually rained a tiny bit before the start.
The scrum on the initial parts of the course wasn't as bad as I have experienced in years past. The riders seemed to holding lines, not cutting people off, and everyone just seemed to be working well around each other. At least where I was in the group. The overcast, very humid, but cool weather was also odd. Typically it is baking already an hour into this event and you are looking at a long day in the heat. However; the overcast skies made the temperatures hold down in the upper 70's longer than expected, and everyone I came across seemed to be having a lot more fun than we would have been had the Sun been out.

The full moon hadn't set yet as the riders get strung out over the Gravel Worlds course.
I got settled into a groove and found out I wasn't working too hard but was "putting time in the bank". My goal was to keep well above a 10 miles covered per hour pace so I would be able to take longer breaks when necessary when and if the Sun came out and it got hot. It would get hot, right? I mean, it is Gravel Worlds we are talking about here. 

Everything was working so smoothly it was scary. I was eating, drinking, and keeping from horsing the pedals too much. Then I got up to around Mile 30, a left hand turn at the bottom a fairly fast downhill. The road was graded here, fluffed up, and the surface was loose. What's more, the turn was off-camber, and also very loose. A woman on a small fat bike was just entering the apex of the turn as I started to enter the turn. I was gaining on her quickly and I figured that as she straightened up off the corner I would pass her on the outside. But just then she stabbed her brakes, and drifted to the outside, right into my planned line!

You know when you do something pretty outstanding and you wish someone would have filmed it? I made a pretty spectacular, one-footed save, and rode the bike to a halt just before entering the ditch. One person behind me who didn't see what caused my fancy stop said, "Get in too hot?", with a smirk as he flew by. Whatever. I know what went down, and in the moment I was pretty upset that this woman bailed out and got on her brakes. She ran me right off the road.  It wasn't her fault, just one of those deals, and I quickly got over it and moved on. I was just glad I didn't eat it and go for a ditch header.

Next Gravel Worlds '19: Part 3

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