Coast 2 Coast
by Michael Green • August 29, 2022
My first “A” race of the season was the Coast 2 Coast 100 mile gravel race, here in Michigan. An outstanding location, starting and finishing on the beach on Lake Michigan, so much so, my mother and sister decided to fly across the pond to join us for this adventure. Thus, the pressure was on for a good showing.
An early morning start had us lined up in the corral with blue skies, a slight chill in the air and a forecast for hot temperatures. I knew the peloton would make the pace hard early so I lined up close to the front and I was not disappointed, within a mile of the gun we were buzzing along at 30mph and immediately many were spat out the back. Riding parallel to the lake I kept myself out of trouble, out of the wind and close to the front. Typically, once some sort of selection had formed, the pace will slow down: I just had to stay in contact.
Amazingly, even at this pace, three jumped off the front and by the time the pace settled down I was in a group of 25 or so with three up the road. This is how it remained until about mile 30. I was sitting third wheel when suddenly I was swamped from behind for the first technical selection was coming up.
Everyone was vying for the best line into a five mile sandy seasonal road. I allowed those around me to fight for position and tried to be patient. Soon, everyone’s pace and eagerness backfired and there were riders all over the place: on the ground, in the bushes and crashing into each other. I chose a good line, my tire choice hooked up nicely and I didn’t miss a pedal stoke. Before long, I was leading the group, riding alone and the whole peloton was spread out depending on skill level, tire and pressure selection. I rode my own pace not intending to do anything but ride cleanly and amazingly was rewarded with the all time Strava KOM for this five mile section.
When I exited the seasonal road and only a third of the way through the day, I was all alone. I decided to sit up and wait for the group of four a couple of hundred yards back. Our five worked well together for the next fifteen miles or so until the early fast pace started to take its toll with two of our group already starting to cramp. As we rolled into the only checkpoint for the day at mile 64, there was three of us in our group with three more up the road holding a significant gap.
My bottle and food exchange wasn’t as quick as the others and the other two gapped me a little through the checkpoint. I knew the next sector was a single track, climbing section though the National Forest. I felt confident with the technical nature of the course and it wasn’t long before I’d caught the first of my foe. I was in fifth.
As I exited the protection of the forest with thirty miles to go, the heat was starting to rise but more importantly, the westerly wind had picked up and was directly into my face - the next segment through open fields and farmland was going to be a mental battle…UGH..!!!
While the open country no longer had the protection from the wind they also opened up the roads a little and up ahead I had a carrot…another rider struggling. I got as aero as possible, rode tucking in the drops and before long caught the rider in front. “I done” he said, I never saw him again.
Sitting in fourth I just tried to keep my lines clean, my pace steady and tried to stick to my nutrition plan. I expected the remaining 36 miles after the checkpoint to be over with in less than two hours but the wind was really taking its toll. Everyone was crawling along with a pace close to 15mph: I was going to run out of fluids.
In the distance I could see another struggling which gave me a little momentum to catch and pass. Sitting in third with less than ten miles to go, my fluids were depleted, I was cooked and I could see another in the distance behind. I remember specifically seeing a puddle in the road and thinking about how I could drink it…that’s where my mind was, just ready to be done.
With three miles to go I was caught by the guy behind me. I tried to stick on his wheel to perhaps sprint for position but I was in survival mode. I crossed the line in fourth overall and first old guy. I had far exceeded my goals for the day in a competitive field. Apparently was was speaking gibberish as I laid in the shade at the finish but soon came around with some water and food. Sitting at the finish line awaiting others was a wild experience. So many dirty faces and blank stares - those final miles directly into the wind were like a death march and the constant talk of those awaiting podiums. A good day in the end and most importantly, mum enjoyed herself.