Note: With some events announcing registration this week and with a peculiar requirement from one, I thought it would be a good mid-week bonus post to talk about my philosophies on registration, who could get in or not, and all in relation to Trans Iowa versus other gravel events.
Now it has to be said that with only 550 unique individuals that ever were in Trans Iowa over 14 events, it is obvious that it was a hard race to get into. I want to make this distinction about Trans Iowa though- while I rewarded experience, winners, and people who were loyal, I made room for absolutely anyone else that wanted to try it out. That was not a very popular position amongst many folks that commented on Trans Iowa throughout the years.
There were grumbles throughout the years that I was "wasting spots" on riders that weren't worthy of trying a triple plus century in potentially tough conditions. They thought there should be some sort of seeding system, or that riders should have to show some sort of resume' to me to gain entry if they were a "rookie" to the event. Obviously, that never happened.
|From the Leadboat Challenge registration page.|
Now with the way things went, I ended up having to go with a lottery, but I tried to keep it open to rookies, and I think I did that. It was a tough job to balance things out. I think I managed it pretty well. Some folks got in that never finished a Trans Iowa, but I know that their experiences were rich, life changing, and that friendships were forged. That's worth letting someone in that maybe 'was just taking up roster space' in someone else's eyes. And again- for the umpteenth millionth time- Trans Iowa was never the event that could handle vast amounts of people in one shot. I mean, most "big time" gravel events eclipse the number of folks that did Trans Iowa in 14 years in one single event.
|Image by David Pals of Trans Iowa v5|
" People come to these gravel based cycling events and they know they will be accepted. They know that there isn't a hierarchy based upon classes, points, categories, or what have you. People understand that you can show up on a Schwinn Collegiate converted to single speed and get the same amount of respect and acceptance as a guy on the latest Open Cycles UP rig. People understand that if you need help out on the course, someone, or five, will offer you assistance. In the gravel scene, there basically is only one rule. That is, "Don't be a dick", to put it bluntly. It seems to have been a widely accepted, respected, and followed rule, as far as I can tell."
Trans Iowa folks always held to that rule whether you were a rank beginner or the guy that won the year before, or anyone in between. In my event I wanted registration to reflect this. I wanted a wide variety of folks and with all sorts of skill levels present. One story I will share here reflects this.
I used to lead a local weekly gravel event. I had "one last ride" in November of that year, and only two people showed up to ride. They were a couple, two women, and one was on a Next department store bike and the other was on a 70's era Kubuki. We went out, slow- but we went out, and I tried to make the ride the most fun that I could. Later, after I had regaled them with some gravel stories on the ride about Trans Iowa and other events, they asked about getting into Trans Iowa. Now they were about as "rookie" as it gets, so I went about giving them advice and whatnot. Whatever ideas I could share with them, I did.
They made it through the registration, and they then committed to training. One of the couple had gotten a good, sturdy bike for Trans Iowa, and she wanted to get her partner a better bike, but money was an obstacle. So, I had a bike and made that obstacle go away. They were set. They had a goal- to reach Checkpoint #1, and they did due diligence and showed up for Trans Iowa v9. Just the fact that I saw them making the start line filled me with immense pride. But you know what, they made their goal too.
If that isn't winning, I don't want anything else to do with gravel grinding events ever again. Trans Iowa was always as open as I could make it towards all skill levels, and in my mind, that was what gravel grinding as a genre' should have been all about all along.
Thanks for reading this "bonus" Trans Iowa Stories post. I'll have another one coming Sunday, so stay tuned.