by Michael Green • October 17, 2022
Inspired by Leadboat - Leadville and Steamboat Gravel back-to-back - I had the idea to combine a MTB race with a gravel race, back-to-back on the same weekend. Not sure why, but let’s just say “because it’s there”.
Lord of the Springs is a 37 mile race of windy singletrack, sandy seasonal roads and some gravel roads linking the various sections. I was fortunate to be placed in the first wave and prepared for the first challenge - Sagar Road.
The neutral roll-out on local roads led to Sagar Road, a crazy sandy, uphill seasonal road which fed into the first singletrack. Riders were everywhere trying to find a line in the sand, the front riding it all and those behind, like me, getting caught in the traffic and dismounting.
Entering the singletrack I was decently placed and had some good wheels to follow. I’m not the best singletrack rider although pre-race I’d spent some significant time dialing in my tire pressures and skills. It appeared to pay off as I kept up with those ahead of me - unlike my last attempt at Lord of the Springs when I struggled to keep up.
We kicked out into dirt roads, two track and gravel, here the pace was high, flying through the countryside with various kicks as we tried to whittle down the group. We caught others kicked out of the group ahead and we grew to maybe ten at the most. Hills created some further damage and as we entered the last singletrack I led the group.
I was riding well, flowing with the trail and actually reduced the group for as we exited onto a back road there was just two of us. I was riding with my daughters boyfriend and we put in a surge. It was slightly down hill and gearing limited us to a fair degree and couldn’t hold three others off. There were five coming into the final.
I was on Chris’ wheel and with roughly half a mile left I blocked the pace line and told him to go. He got a gap and the others came around me to bridge. I sat on and they worked hard, I could hear them all breathing heavily. The finish was a left turn into two track we were positioned perfectly to finish first and second in the group. Twenty first overall for the day, and first in my age. I was happy with that.
Next day was Uncle John’s Dirty Ride hosted by a Michigan apple orchard with pie and bags of apples on the line. A flat 56 mile gravel course where I expected high speeds looking at the attendees - goals #1 and 2 stay in touch and ride the wheels. It was fast, insanely fast and on tired legs!
The peloton rolled along like a crazy train. We were holding over 35mph on flat gravel roads, just hammering. Around halfway I got dropped. It was a dirt crit and I’m not a fan of the surgy nature of the accelerations out of corners and sketchy gravel.
I let the gap open and hoped those behind would fill and allow me to reconnect, yet fortunately having more space I took my own line on the next corner as the peloton slowed and made up numerous bike lengths. I was back on. The speed was continuing to shed riders and the 450 entrants was down to maybe twenty-five. I surveyed the group and saw a couple I needed to beat to win my age, my tactics and motivation changed a bit as we headed to the finish.
A left turn on a chunky gravel two track, up a steep grass hill and across the line. I guy I’ve raced ‘cross with over the years took a wide line and believing he could handle his bike on a questionable surface, I followed his wheel. Left turn, hopped a grass verge and into an apple tree…at least that’s what he did. I made it safely ducking and weaving, trusting my tires as others got caught in the crash. I sprinted to make the gap stick and was cooked by the hill. I managed the gap and finished thirteenth on the day, a very positive result against some big hitters and first again in my age.
I great weekend of racing, good tactics, lots of food and some fun. A deserved couple of days off and back to it.