|Perhaps my favorite thing about Gravel Worlds is the Sunrise.|
"What the.....?!!" , I say out loud to myself. It looked like someone had just stopped in the right lane and was looking backward down the course. All I could see was a blinding LED light and shadowy figures making evasive maneuvers around the blazing torch. This was on an uphill bit.
As I approached I could see what it really was- a light had fallen off a competitor's bike. Probably one of the 'fast racers' who felt like they couldn't afford to go back for it. A similar situation presented itself a bit later when I saw a rider trying to fetch his sunglasses off the gravel. Of course, they were sitting right in a preferred line, so he was having to dodge other riders to get them. A dicey situation if you think about the front of the pack and trying something similarly. So, while it may seem wasteful to leave an expensive LED light there, it probably was the safest thing to do.
On the subject of safety: Gravel Worlds did have to make some concessions to this pandemic we are all in now. This being my first event since 2019, I noticed a big difference in how this affected the event. Riders were required to wear face masks at check-in, at the start, and (according to a pre-event communication via email) in checkpoints. I noted almost complete compliance at the check-in and on the start line. This was good, but I was dismayed at what the face mask requirement led to.
Discarded face masks on the gravel......
|I eventually started catching riders and was moving up in the field.|
|Taken over my shoulder- Riders almost do not need their lights after about 45 minutes into the event.|
I was shocked that people thought just tossing their mask was an okay thing to do. Obviously, it isn't. Here's the thing- We are supposedly representatives of a cleaner way of life because we exercise, use a non-fossil fuel burning vehicle, and we supposedly have an open mindset to humanity. Well, how does throwing a COVID mask out on the country gravel fit into that? (Doesn't this break the "Don't Be Lame" rule?) It just is super disappointing to me that my fellow cyclists feel that was okay.
And by the way, Tony and I noted masks discarded along the entire Gravel Worlds 150 mile course. It is despicable and anyone who decided that was okay should really reconsider their priorities. Of course, this is besides the food trash I noted on several climbs. It was the worst I've seen at Gravel Worlds by a long shot. Bottles too, but.....I can see why some were out there. There were a fair number of really rutted out portions on downhill runs which would easily eject a bottle. But yeah....some were just tossed out in random spots. I cannot abide by that nonsense.
Anyway......back to the story at hand!
|Oh yes! There were "Barns For Jason" out there!|
|GW '21 Barns For Jason #2|
The course had received a fair amount of rain on Friday morning there, which was a Godsend in that it had packed down the dust from weeks of previous dryness and car traffic further enhanced this in certain places. But even with all of that, the Gravel Worlds course was still loose and sandy in many places. There were copious amounts of washboard sections. There were also a lot of rain-rutted corners and dirt road bits were also affected by rutting where rain had washed down hillsides in rivulets. So while the rain they got helped knock down the dust and firm up the roads, it was still Nebraska gravel out there, and technical features were everywhere which required skill and keen powers of observation to navigate.
Through all of this I was plugging along just fine. I was trying to maintain a pace that was manageable, despite my feeling anxious about how I started. By now I had plateaued a bit in terms of the field and my speed. I was finding myself 'yo-yoing' with different people and groups of riders. I would also alternately find myself seemingly alone, then five minutes later I was in a string of 30 riders up the road. It's very odd how these events swing and sway in terms of who you see along the route.
|We were routed under this railroad overpass in Lancaster County during Gravel Worlds|
|GW '21 Barns For Jason #3|
Amazingly the weather was just about perfect. The previous day's humidity had cleared out, it was far cooler, and in fact, my feet were cold most of the morning. I didn't care! It was a fantastic change from the 'normal' Gravel Worlds baking heat and high humidity.
I felt pretty good yet. I kept having to check the speed at points where I was honking on the pedals and going a bit too hard. My right knee, which had flared up a few times with pain earlier in the year, was completely a non-issue during the entirety of my Gravel Worlds. Besides a bit of Northwest wind, this Gravel Worlds was perfect in terms of conditions and how I was faring up to that point.
|GW '21 Barns For Jason #4|
|"Did you see the sky this morning? Talk about blue!"|
My bottle system was a 100% home run, in terms of convenience and in practice. I was doing my best to get a bottle down every hour to hour and a half, and it was working out that way. So, adding in a bit of the dehydrated bananas I had, I seemed to be getting enough calories for the effort I was putting out.
The first real chance to get resupplied was coming up in the little town of Malcom, which Gravel Worlds has used several times before as a pass-through or checkpoint location. I was getting within ten miles of the little village when I had a pleasant surprise.
|GW '21 Barns For Jason #5|
|Aaron Schnee was with me when I got hit by a car on a GTDRI in 2014.|
I slowly came up upon another rider who was wearing the Army Green Pirate Cycling League jersey which they sold several years ago now. It happens to be one I own as well, and it is one of my favorite PCL jerseys, so I was admiring it when suddenly I had a strange feeling. Hey.....I think I know that guy!
As I pulled around to see the man's face, I recognized him as Aaron Schnee, a former Trans Iowa veteran of T.I.v4 and finisher of T.I.v8. I asked him how things were going, and as he turned, a sudden smile came across his face, and he exclaimed,"Guitar Ted! Just who I needed to see!" Well, I wasn't sure I would be a 'good thing to see', but we embraced across our bikes as we rode and he chatted with me for several miles. As these sorts of events often go, we ended up getting separated and I did not come across him again. But what a great chance meeting! It was really fun to catch up with Aaron and hear about his family.
|GW '21 Barns For Jason #6|
|Leaving Malcom, Nebraska. Yes- they have gravel streets there!|
I reached Malcom in a bit over three hours which was making great time, considering I started dead last. I needed water by this point and I needed to transfer out water from the big bottles strapped to my bike. While I was fiddling with things, a gentleman offered most of a gallon jug of water he wasn't going to use. I gladly accepted the offer, so I did not even have to go into the General Store to get water! This saved even more time and I was soon on my way to get to Checkpoint #1 which was only another 20 miles away at 61 miles in.
Next: Shaking Hands With Adversity