Written by Michael Green Friday, 23 October 2015 00:00
I've targeted four "A" races this fall, the first being a 100k Gravel Grinder in the northern Michigan hills. I did this race for the first time last fall and came second in the singlespeed class - this year my plan was to use my "learnings" from last year and win the event. With "big" money on the line, this is an event that attracts the cream of midwest cycling.
Unlike last year's race that took place after a foot of rain had fallen the week prior, this year the gravel and seasonal roads were full of dust and sand. I used the same 42x17 gearing I had used last year but instead of getting cast-off by the peloton during the first few miles on blacktop, this year I'd stick to the front of the pack - this was aided by having a "call up" and a second row start. I followed wheels like a limpet and committed to a 150 cadence to remain in the "crowd" until the gravel, where I knew the pace would be more manageable.
Aided by what seemed to be a slower lead-out, I remained at the front of the pack and rolled onto the gravel in a solid pack of fifty or so. The pace remained totally in my range and I sat in comfortably awaiting the start of the climbing. While the course was very "up and down" there were a number of climbs that, on a singlespeed, I would have to suffer. The first was Mount Bodawei which was totally manageable and I lost no ground to those "cheaters" with gears. Up next was Diablo's Mountian, steep and short at 10%, again I was still in the front, but the back of the pack was now thinning out significantly.
Some nasty, sandy seasonal roads saw many come to a stand still and run with their bikes - I wish there was more for I made up significant ground on those in front and dropped those around me, notably, had not seen any other singlespeeders and feeling good about my efforts. Up next, a 2.5 mile ascent of Mount Mayhem - twice with climbs hitting 15% at times. I knew I would truly have to "suck it up" and find comfort in the pain cave. On the first ascent I found a wheel and just focused on my lamaze breathing pattern. Strangely, I was one of the strongest in my group and sat within the top few all the way up - twice!! The front of the pack had separated themselves on the first ascent, but I was still in the top 20 and feeling good.
I met my "soigneur" for the day (thanks Tommy), refueled before another ascent of Bodawei and prepared to dig-in for the last third of the race. I'd lost my riding "buddies" by now and was riding alone. Tom let me know that the next singlespeeder was twenty minutes back and so I had sat up a little on the rutted, rocky and sandy seasonal road descents. In comparison to what I had already ridden, the remaining miles were just rolling hills but I was starting to suffer a little with cramps and the last KOM climb had proven difficult trying to keep my legs limber.
I caught a few stragglers on the remaining gravel roads - by now everyone was suffering. Onto the blacktop and into Boyne City for the finish I was alone. Through the finish line I'd finished in the top 20 and first in the singlespeed class - not bad for an old geezer with one gear. My Kona Major Jake performed pefectly and was super stiff on the climbs. Up next another 100k gravel race, this time defending my win of last year.
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