Sunday, May 15, 2022

Trans Iowa Stories: Troubles Balance The Scales

(L-R) Mark Lowe and Nick Legan traversing some fresh gravel chunk.
 "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 clicking on the "Trans Iowa Stories" link under the blog header. Thanks and enjoy!  

The morning hours of Trans Iowa v14 were sweet. I probably had the best time I was ever going to have on Trans Iowa during the morning, and that became rather apparent, even while the event was still ongoing, because by around noon things got serious. 

I started getting random DNF calls which included reports of crashes. Now, while the random crash during a Trans Iowa was not unusual, it was generally during poor weather years. This final Trans Iowa was held on perhaps the most idyllic of weekends I ever put an event on. So, what gives? We even had a report of one fellow who crashed so violently that he snapped his seat post off! 

Then the worst of my fears seemed to be coming true when I heard about Kate Ankofski's crash coming down a hill. Witnesses to the event say she looked to have lost control of her bike and seemed to have landed on her head on the gravel at a pretty high rate of speed. I was, obviously, horrified at first. Details weren't available right away, so this took several hours to sort through, all the while during a time when we had a lot going on elsewhere in the event as well. 

Fortunately Keisuke Inoue and  Warren Weibe, two veterans of Trans Iowa, gave up their race to assist. Then my volunteers, John and Celeste Mathias came along to ferry Kate to a local hospital where she eventually was cleared of any serious injuries. Once again, dodging a bullet, but this was weighing heavily on my mind for most of Saturday as the event unfolded.

Fresh, chunky gravel was the rule of the day seemingly everywhere the course went. (This and previous image by Jon Duke)
Eventually it became clear that most of the course, if not all of it, was freshly laid, deep, chunky crushed limestone. It did not seem to matter which county we were in either. And this, the gravel itself, became the major foe of riders that day. Eventually it became clear that the gravel was the cause of all the crashing as well. 

As if that wasn't enough to worry about, a strange text came to me via one of the volunteers. Apparently a woman had a dog and they lived along the course. The dog, seeing all the riders, went for a run. And it kept on going. The dog's owner then discovered the event, and put two and two together. Word reached me that this person was somehow blaming Trans Iowa for losing her dog. 

Now, let it be known that the law is that dog owners must be in control of their dogs and if a dog runs after a car- or in this case cyclists- the vehicle on the public roadway is not to blame for the dog's disappearance. But- of course- that wasn't going to be of any use to me on that day. This owner was missing a dog, and blame was on Trans Iowa. That's how it went. I ended up texting route cues to the person to follow if they wanted to track down their animal, and then that was that. I never did learn anything more about the dog. But this process took several hours to work through via various texts between volunteers and the person in question. 

That street sign is 90° off. It was another problem we dealt with during T.I.v14

Then we discovered a bad street sign. It was there alright, but some vandals had turned it 90 degrees so that it was misleading. Matt and I drove about a mile and a half off course when we missed seeing that sign was off. So, once we had discovered what was going on we had to put in a call to Tony and Mike to come over and stake the corner out to redirect riders the right direction. Meanwhile we waited for Luke Wilson and any chasers to come by so we could direct them around the bad sign.

Luke ended up going by, and the route then took him through Kalona, Iowa, where there was a convenience store opportunity. After this the route came out of that town and North, then back West. Luke had been gone for a bit, but we were still waiting for Tony and Mike to get there to mark the corner. Then Luke called me. The road out of Kalona was closed. Should he go through anyway? This was news to us, as it must have happened within the last couple of weeks before T.I.v14. 

The road out of Kalona which was under construction that caused a bit of worry during T.I.v14
Greg Gleason, Walter Zitz, and Stefan Tomasello come through the construction area as Matt Gersib looks on.

Luke called back and said it was good to go. That was a bit of a relief. We ended up seeing the chase group pass us at the corner with the bad sign, right about when Tony and Mike showed up to mark the corner. Then we all went over to watch the riders come through, with the exception of Luke, who was about an hour ahead of anyone chasing him. 

Tony and Mike then high-tailed it over to a wilderness area where the route passed by. We were to meet them there later on. I was looking forward to a break, and to the evening, hoping that a change in the weather might bring calmer times for the event. This afternoon, with all of its travails and issues, had erased all memory of the beautiful peace I experienced during the morning hours. But this was Trans Iowa, and how could you not expect there to be some challenges to your sanity and well being? 

Next: Lessons Learned; Part 1

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