|Sunrise over TransIowa... Photo: Gnat|
Gravel road races the length of TransIowa are unique. They're long enough to require months of training, so they aren't undertaken lightly and they aren't something you drop out of on a whim. But one thing years of racing these events has taught me is that, sometimes it just isn't your day. And so it was this year at TransIowa v.9.
The morning of the race started off well enough. I was one of the first riders to show up on the line, actually leaving my hotel for the start line at 3:00am sharp. Guitar Ted had asked us to be there by 3:30 and I was ready a little early, so I decided to get going. When I arrived at the line at 3:10, just one other rider was present that I could see. It was a little eerie, as I knew within minutes a mass of people would descend on the area.
And so they did. I chatted with a number of other riders, including 2012 TransIowa winner, Eric Brunt, who was looking fit, Dirty Kanza 200 race director, Jim Cummins, who was looking equally fit, and other friends from Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and other places. Then, after a short talk from Guitar Ted, he led us out of to the edge of town, to the first gravel, in his truck.
Once we hit the gravel, the pace lit up almost immediately, and a couple of racers started attacking on the early steep climbs. I tried to stay near the front but in the pack so I was in a draft most of the time, but realized after the first couple of hours, when I stopped to remove my jacket, that I was using more energy than I'd thought. The jacket was completely soaked through with sweat... Not a good sign.
|Chad Quigley catches me making a funny face at CP1. That's Lance Andre lowering the pressure on the 27c Vittoria tubulars on his Trek Madone. It was a decision he'd later regret, as he'd flat his rear tire less than 15 miles later on some chunky asphalt on a section of bike path.|
|The section of bike path that caused Lance Andre's first flat of the day. Photo: Gnat|
When we pulled into the checkpoint, Chad Quigley, a Nebraska homeboy volunteering for the event, told me the leaders had taken a wrong turn and were off-course. That meant we were very close to the race lead, but in all honesty, I didn't really care. I just wanted to get back on-course and catch up to Cornbread, who'd left the checkpoint just ahead of me, so I quickly arranged my second set of cue sheets and was on my way. I caught Cornbread and (I believe) Jay Barre about two miles later, but started having pain in my right knee on a climb shortly after and let them ride away from me while I tried to figure out what was going on.
I eventually stopped and did some stretching to try to loosen my leg up, which helped a little. While I was stopped, I had the good fortune of having a big group ride up on me that included Salsa riders, Tim Ek, Paul Errinton and Jim Cummins. Our group eventually grew to also include several members of the Cycle Works/Moose's Tooth team, eventual women's winner (and 4th place overall finisher), Monika Sattler, and others. It was a group I was stoked to be riding with, and honestly thought I'd end up finishing with.
But on this day it wasn't to be. At about 110 miles into the event, my body began to falter again and I quietly drifted to the back of the group. As I dangled at the back, it became harder and harder simply for me to maintain contact, even with the strong draft from the eight-strong group, and at one point I simply made the decision to cut the cord. I rode alone for about 20 more minutes contemplating my fate before I stopped on the side of the road at the entrance to a field, where I sat down and ate a few Honey Stinger waffles and drank a whole water bottle as I sent a text message to Laura warning her that the end may be drawing neigh on TransIowa v.9. But before I decided conclusively, I hopped back on to my bike for about 30 more minutes to confirm my legs weren't coming back (which they weren't).
|My dusty Gryphon sits, awaiting my decision...|
I want to thank everyone who supported me with their thoughts and comments in the lead-up and during TransIowa this year. It was truly humbling and inspiring to see how many people were following our progress during the event. Thanks again to all who took time to follow along!
It was fantastic to see and ride with lots of old friends, and also meet and ride with a lot of cool new people. I was reminded once again of one of the best things about the gravel racing scene -- the people! Thanks to each of you who made this a special event.
Preparing and competing in TransIowa would not have been possible without the incredible support of my beautiful wife, Laura. Not only was she there to pick me up when I faltered, but she unselfishly allowed me the time necessary to prepare the way I needed to for TransIowa -- and any of you who've done it know that's no small undertaking! And also, thank you to Marty Larson (The Prairie Peddler) and Sam Alison at Singular Cycles, and Rob Versteegh at Oakley for the support of my riding and racing. I feel honored to represent each of you whenever I'm on my bike! And finally, thank you to Guitar Ted and all of the volunteers who made TransIowa v.9 an unforgettable, life-changing event for so many participants. Even though it didn't work out the way I'd hoped, personally, it was still an amazing experience... Thanks again!