Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gravel Worlds 2011 Recap

Around 100 riders of this year's Gravel Worlds rolled out of the Lancaster Event center in darkness and thick humidity to cover 153.7 miles of mostly gravel roads near Lincoln this past Saturday. A double pace line continued for much of the first 15 miles. The beginning of the race is always exciting, rubbing elbows with many friends. Excitement is high. Lots of smiles and chatting. That part of racing never lasts long enough.

Then we hit the first of many minimum maintenance roads (MMRs). Minimum maintenance roads are country roads without gravel. And since it rained much the night before and was wet throughout the week, the MMRs were basically a ribbon of thick, unrideable mud. But the first section of mud that we hit was relatively dry. That section was actually still a gravel road that had a very short dirt section. Somebody inspired by rideable condition called out, "the gravel gods are smiling on us today". We'd soon find out otherwise.

At the first real MMR, the mud was so thick that nobody could ride it. In the lead group, two had their rear deraileurs snapped off. Everyone was forced to portage their bikes while thick, viscous mud caked shoes. It was like hiking through peanut butter.

The first checkpoint of Valparaiso followed. Leah Kleager was there. It was the first of many times that I gladly accepted her support throughout the race. Some may say that having a support vehicle is not in the spirit of such an event. They might be right. But then again this is the Pirate Cycling League, people. Yeah, it fits inside the pirate's code of ethics. Anyway, thanks Leah, that was huge.

While we were refueling in Malcolm, Jim Winklepleck and Chris Hansen slipped away quietly. Shim, Lucas and I were soon on the chase. The second MMR followed about 10 miles later. While we were hiking through it, Eric Brunt comes riding down the center of the mud. He was on a single speed and just made up huge ground on us. I stood with jaw agape while Lucas called out, "Nice job, Eric." He made the selection. Soon, we were cleaning our bikes and riding again. We stayed together most of the way to Malcolm, where we caught up with Chris Hansen. Hansen hadn't seen Winklepleck so we were now at the lead of the race.

Hansen, also on a single speed, rode out of Malcolm solo. Shim, Brunt and I followed. Lucas was inside filling bottles and had to burn some matches to catch back on. Hansen took some long pulls while I was thinking, what's up with these single speeders? It was amazing.

At about 80 miles, Brunt attacked. Again, another shocker: a single speeder was attacking three guys on geared bikes. But there he went, blazing a trail while we watched. He was pulling away at good speed. After awhile, I went up front to bring him back. I took a long pull. While doing so, Shim said that Lucas and Hansen dropped off. Shim came around for a turn. After my next pull, I could no longer hold onto Shim's wheel. He went ahead while I sat up and waited for Lucas and Hansen.

The three of us rode in together to the secret checkpoint Oasis at mile 102. By that time, Shim and Brunt had six minutes on us. After refueling, we hit the road as Dale Pinkelman pulled up. Soon, Pinkleman was closing in on us. I picked up the pace and ended up going solo beyond the next checkpoint in Hickman (mile 115) and until I caught Eric Brunt at a MMR around 130 mile marker. Eric had GI issues and had to let Shim go ahead.

From there, the two of us rode together to the finish. At one point, we actually saw Shim. I told Eric that I had already helped pull Shim back in a race earlier in the year and I wasn't going to help if he tried. Eric was cool with that. We agreed to ride in together and not let anyone catch us. It was good riding with you, Eric. You rode very well Saturday.

Shim had finished 7 minutes before us. Gravel Worlds Champion can now be added to his list of palmares. Congratulations, Shim.

Greg Shimonek, Gravel Worlds Champion 2011

Thanks to the PCL for all the work required to put this on. We're grateful for your efforts and will look forward to next year's event.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Hello Gravel Worlds

I'm intrigued. I'm excited. I'm all in.

150 miles of Gravel Worlds goodness awaits 08/20/2011.

Happy Friday, everyone.