Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Experiencing Odin's Revenge...

This is Nebraska? Yes it is!! Eventual race winner, Mike Marchand and I navigate a section of deep sand on the first 98 mile loop of Odin's Revenge. Photo: Cornbread
As we pedaled along one of the more primitive dirt roads on the second loop of Odin's Revenge last Saturday, eventual race winner Mike Marchand and I agreed that, while both of us love the gravel "scene", neither of us love actually racing on gravel. It's an interesting paradox, it seems, as to experience the scene (and the scenery), you've got to do the races. And while we certainly had moments of distress at Odin's Revenge, there were also intense moments of beauty that more than made up for the challenges we experienced.
Riders begin to collect for the start. Photo: Kyle Vincent
A first-year gravel event, Odin's Revenge is the brainchild of Matt Bergen, Chad Quigley and the DSG Crew. It covered 180 miles in two large loops, both of which started and finished at the KOA in the central Nebraska railroad town of Gothenburg. 
About a mile from the start, the lead pack had already whittled down to four. Cornbread and Mike lead, while Aaron Schnee (in green) and I sit in. Photo: Kyle Vincent

The scenery along the course was absolutely stunning. Photo: Kyle Vincent

The first loop ventured south and west, into the incredible canyon country south of the Platte River valley, while the second loop traveled east and then North, climbing into the remote hills northwest of Cozad, NE.  The quality of the course definitely made me proud to be a Nebraskan. From the amazing roads we traversed, to the fantastic challenge of simply completing the event (only six individuals and one two-rider team finished the entire course), it exceeded every single one of my expectations. Even though I'm native to the state, I still found myself pondering the question "This is Nebraska?" on numerous occasions. But the answer was the same each time... "Yes it is!" I was stoked. Never before had I ridden such entertaining dirt roads -- roads that consistently asked me to handle my bike at speeds above 30 mph! Awesome!!
Chasing Mike and Cornbread down on a sandy downhill during the first loop. Photo: Kyle Vincent
I used my Vision Mini-TT bars to my advantage in catching back up to Mike on the smoother downhills. Photo: Cornbread

The challenge of the course made the racing itself a lot more fun, especially during the first loop (98 miles). My Cycle Works/Moose's Tooth teammate, Corey "Cornbread" Godfrey was with us during the first loop and we were having a great time racing up the climbs and ripping the descents. I couldn't believe how fearless Marchand was on his 35c Hutchinson 'cross tires on the downhills in the midst of rocks that could have easily ended his day! Often, I'd have to continue pushing through the uphill and into the downhill simply to make up a little ground on him on the DH. It wasn't easy and I definitely burnt a fair number of matches playing that little game.

In the final 10 miles of the first loop, I let Cornbread and Mike go ahead and settled into a pace I could better manage, but the damage to my legs had already been done. My power output would not be the same for the remainder of the day. Once I made it into the checkpoint, I learned that Mike and Corey were at McDonald's eating lunch, so I stuck with my race plan and ate leftover Valentino's pizza I had in my cooler and got back out on course quickly -- in less than 15 minutes. This put me back on-course in the race lead, with a several minute lead on Mike, who was now riding solo.

Mike Marchand prepares to head out onto the second loop. Photo: Kyle Vincent
My lead didn't last long, as Mike caught me less than ten miles into the second loop. We rode together for a short time before he forged ahead once again. This was a good thing, as it allowed me to once again resume a pace that would get me safely across the finish line. I had no idea where the third place rider was behind me, so it was always in my mind that somebody could be "coming to get me". In fact, one of the two-rider teams had sent a rider out onto the course just after Mike, and as I cooled off under a hydrant at a farm along the course about 120 miles in, that rider caught and passed me for a brief period. The heat was oppressive though, and he was wearing a huge backpack, and the combination allowed me to easily catch and pass him back.

It was here that a brief thunderstorm rolled through and gave us about a 15 minute respite from the heat. Unfortunately, as soon as the storm was gone, when the sun returned, so too did the heat.

Shortly after that, I stopped seeing Mike's tire tracks in the gravel ahead of me, which caused a bit of concern. I was running out of water and feared that, at his pace, Mike might have been experiencing severe heat-related issues. As it turned out, he'd simply made a wrong turn that resulted in an eight mile detour, so he ended up coming into the mid-loop checkpoint behind me. But we were thankful to see him come in just minutes after I arrived, and we left the checkpoint together again. But it wasn't long before Mike once again rode away from me. Though he was making some navigational errors, he was still riding well. His strength and determination could not be denied.

Sensing the inevitability of my second place finish, as Mike began to ride away from me, I decided to take a few minutes to sit in the shade under an oak tree along the course, eat some food and enjoy the beauty of the central Nebraska landscape. Up to that point, I hadn't really paused to really take in my surroundings and I'm sure glad I did. I watched Mike glide effortlessly up one of the steepest climbs on the course and out of sight, then I simply sat and enjoyed the sounds of nature... the sounds of silence.

When I resumed my journey refreshed and renewed, I knew first place was well beyond my grasp and I was perfectly content with that. On this day, a faster rider who wanted it more would take the victory, and I would get exactly what I came for -- a fantastic ride and weekend with great friends.
The raffle table... This was just a fraction of the stuff the DSG Crew gave away! Awesome... Thank you! Photo: Kyle Vincent

In fact, one of the best parts of the event came on Friday night, after the pre-race rider meeting. The DSG crew raffled off a ton of schwag provided by event sponsors On-One/Titus, American Classic, Revelate Designs, Backcountry Research, Climb On! Products, Twin Six and a host of others. I ended up taking home a sweet new On-One saddle (which is already on a bike), a tubeless conversion kit from American Classic (awesome!), some TwinSix socks and a Tulbag from Backcountry Research. I don't think anyone came away from the raffle empty handed! Thank you so much to all the event sponsors. Your support is noted, appreciated and I will definitely be considering your products first when it comes time to purchase these type of products in the future. We have to support the folks who support our sport!!
Iowa endurance stud, Mike Johnson, checks out my Salsa Vaya race setup for Odin's Revenge. Johnson would finish 4th overall (3rd place solo) in the event on his own Salsa Fargo. Photo: Kyle Vincent

And here I am checking out Mike's super sweet Fargo setup. The Ragley Luxy bars he's running are extra-nice! Photo: Kyle Vincent

And with that said, I'd like to thank the folks who support me and make my bicycle racing possible, including first and foremost, my beautiful wife Laura, who understands the time and commitment it takes to train for and compete in these events (and yet still allows me to do them). Thanks also to Kris, Julie and the crews at Cycle Works and The Moose's Tooth in Lincoln. It's an honor to race for and represent the same shop I first worked for at age 17 in 1990. And thank you to Rob Versteegh at Oakley for providing me with the best eyewear money can buy. Anyone who knows me knows I will wear nothing else... I'm an Oakley man.

Thanks for reading. Hope to see you out on a great adventure sometime soon!



Guitar Ted said...

Nice write up and a big Congratulations to you, my Friend. I had a sneaking hunch that terrain would be spectacular, and now I know it is, trusting in your view of things. Thanks!

MG said...

Thanks GT. It really was a beautiful grind. I can't wait to get you out there and show you firsthand.

Have a great weekend, my Brother. Enjoy the cooler temps that are on their way.


Chad Q said...

MG I just read this wright up for the third time !! I hope we can provide another great ride next year !! Thank You for the prop's my friend !!