Sunday, May 29, 2016

2016 Gravel Metric

Up to my ankles in the middle of Steward Creek.

The Gravel Metric is hard. Really hard. Technically, it’s not a race. But people race it. Technically, its course runs on nearly 70 miles of gravel and dirt roads. But the term “road” applies to some of them only by the broadest definition.

Jeff Wren (Team Extreme) and I loaded up our cyclocross bikes and traveled to Waterman IL this morning for the 7th running of The Gravel Metric. Previously, the ride started and finished in the heart of DeKalb IL. The new start/finish was a family farm, eliminating the “garbage miles” that we used to ride to get out of town and then to return. This year’s ride was a fight all the way. It was my 3rd appearance and Jeff’s 2nd. And just like 2014—the 1st time that Jeff & I traveled to the ride together—our on-road collaboration didn’t last long. We got separated at Mile 3 and didn’t see each other again until the ride was over.

Neither of us lacked company: about 300 riders turned out. It was mostly an Illinois crowd, but I saw some familiar faces. I rode for a few minutes with fellow Wisconsin cyclocross racer Kellen Muldoon (BELGIANWERKX) before he powered away. Little groups formed here and there, worked together for a while, then split up. Everyone needed shelter from the wind, which blew steadily at 15-18 mph and hit us with gusts in excess of 25 mph. The wind was the limiting factor today, much more of an obstacle than the course itself. I managed the 69.12 miles in 4:55:55. That’s just 14 mph … and I was far from the slowest rider! Some of the "B" roads were more challenging than most singletrack mountain bike trails.

Our hosts, Axletree, had plenty of food and beverages available at the finish. I almost couldn’t look at it. I didn’t trust myself to eat or drink anything more than a few chunks of fruit and some fresh water. But now the event is almost 6 hours in the past, I’m home, I have eaten dinner and I’m contemplating a recovery ride tomorrow. Today was an ass whoopin’ as The Gravel Metric should be. It was hard training—really hard—and that should pay off when I’m pinning on a number later this year.

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