Tim and I drove up to Spearfish Friday for Gold Rush and camped with James, Keith and David in the municipal campground about 400 yards from the start line. Also there were Cindy and Darcy and Darrel from First City who I think also both camped and Kurt (rides for another team in Ft.Collins) and his wife Jody who offered to be our emergency support in case of crisis. If you’ve been plagued by the DK200 vs Nick Frey clickbait circulating on the web in the last week you know that having someone’s cellphone number who you can call for the bailout if needed is a critical aspect to racing gravel.
I was feeling like I had achieved some sense of race fitness in the past couple weeks after a long spring of feeling like it was coming along but not quite there yet. Last weekend out in Steamboat the race plans had been scuppered and I ended up putting in a 9 hour training day… maybe that was good because it made sure I didn’t really need to drain the batteries completely racing that entire distance. Who knows if I would’ve been able to recharge them in time for this weekend. It did however, largely erase any fears I had about racing for 110 miles on gravel. I had a good workout Wednesday at Worlds and was feeling pretty confident that I could ride with the lead group and see how things would play out late in the race. General strategy was to follow anything that seemed reasonable and not follow anything that seemed unreasonable because it was going to be too hot to really recover and keep racing if you dug too deep early on. (That battery comments was a metaphor – in case you’re unsure about motors in the peloton)
In SD for a @1stcitycycling team road trIp. 7 members out for the Gold Rush gravel grinder south west of Spearfish in the Black Hills. Tim, Dave and I took on the 110 mile loop at 6h30, which might set a record for my earliest race-start ever. With forecast afternoon highs at a hundred I didn't complain too much.
A lead group of a dozen formed on the first short steep hill and two climbers gapped the main pack on an early roller a few miles later. I sensed quite a bit of resignation from the pack as the duo included last year’s winner and I ended up doing more than my share of towing. I went solo just before the crosswind ended not super keen to do work for everyone else all day long. It took about ten miles before two more bridged up to me and then as a trio we soon caught the leaders making five rolling into Aid 1 at mile 32.
Temperatures were probably already above 85 by this point and I had finished two bottles. I drank two more standing at the aid station and left a belly sloshing with fluids and two more full bottles in addition to my camelback which I hadn’t started yet. Extra time to drink and fill those two bottles meant I was detached from the front group but with forty miles to the next aid it seemed like the right thing. I couldn’t make the catch with a strong effort leaving the aid station. I imagined it was the dude from Lincoln NB whom I’d raced in Scottsbluff three weeks prior who was rallying the troops to make time on me, obviously the world was out to get me, heat stroke and conspiracy theories go hand in hand right? I had some ups and downs through the next bit, flatting partially (I was running stans and lost pressure down to about 15 psi) and I was struggling to eat anything in the heat. I think I chewed a bit of a luna bar for more than a mile at one point before managing to swallow part of it and spitting the rest out. I reminded myself that 5th place was a place worth racing for and soon after I patched all the cracks in my mental-game I was rewarded by seeing the first of the leaders come back to me on the road. I would pass him and another before draining all of my fluids 5 miles prior to arriving to the mile 68 aid station. Luckily I had a drop-bag with 98 oz water and a pepsi waiting for me at the aid where I arrived about 90 seconds after the lead pair had departed. I borrowed a floor pump from support crew Jody and ID’d that the tyre needed a tube added which requires disassembling the tubeless stem, not easy to do in a hurry, Would have been nice if I could’ve just added air, oh well. This was much better than doing it roadside.
I had to deal with flats and got unhitched from the leaders to battle the headwinds alone. Ended up riding about 95 of the 110 by myself. One by one all but one of the four ahead of me cracked under the oppressive heat or got lost and I reeled them back. The winner would stay away to solo in about 6 minutes ahead of me.
I filled two bottles, and downed the remainder which retrospectively is something like a 58 oz chug. I rolled out with a distended stomach from all the fluids about 10 minutes off the lead but with renewed hope and hydration. I was looking forward to racing the remainder of the race with gravity on my side and now that my head was checked back in I was really enjoying things. I threw caution to the wind on the rifleridge descent (Strava KOM to prove it) and closed to within 7 minutes. I turned myself inside out on the beast of a climb to the cement ridge at mile 85 where the temperature is purported to have been 103 degrees and made a 45 second stop at the final aid downing two bottles and filling two more, holding the gap to only 7 minutes at the top. I rolled hard on the descent but didn’t make much time on the lone leader finishing second by about 6 minutes in the end. Total race time a shade over 6 and a half hours.