|It's hard to capture the beauty of the scenery out there with an iPhone while rolling.|
Odin's Revenge was a highlight of our summer last year. Racing bikes on gravel, hanging out at a campsite with good people, drinking beer, and getting two nights away from home with no kids in tow (thanks Grammies!) is a recipe for success in our books! So, when we started looking at our calendar for the season, going to Gothenburg again was a no-brainer.
I decided to do the short course again this year. One of my favorite parts of last year's event was hanging out after the race. I knew that doing the long course would mean not really getting a chance to do that again unless I had to drop out, which isn't something I would exactly plan for so short course it was.
We had a bit of a hectic week heading into Odin's weekend so my normal routine of getting the van packed up the night before didn't happen this time. Rachel dropped the kids off at my mom's house before their nap time and came home as soon as my mom got home from work. Side not: My mom really is super-Grandma. In addition to her normal awesomeness, watching our kids so often, she took a half day off of work so that we could leave early enough to make it to the rider's meeting in Gothenburg on time! I got home from work just as Rachel pulled into the garage and we got right to packing. We got everything packed up and ready to go from pretty much scratch in about an hour. Rushing around to get ready is not my favorite way to start a race weekend but the checklist I had made really helped things move smoothly.
We left Omaha around 2:15 or so and made it Gothenburg in time to attempt to check in to our hotel room and go to Walker's Steakhouse to get signed in to the race and get food before the rider's meeting started. The information at the rider's meeting is really more for the long course racers, but the organizers somehow manage to get a TON of swag from their sponsors so the little raffle they have after the meeting is totally worth sticking around for. I scored quite a few single servings of Skratch Labs hydration mix and one of those BackBottles from the maker of Fix-It-Sticks. I think that BackBottle will come in handy during 'cross season for sure!
|We saw this rat rod in Gothenburg after the rider's meeting. I'm pretty sure I saw it on the interstate earlier that day too. Very cool!|
After the meeting, we headed back to the hotel. We were getting tired and I wanted to get everything laid out for the race the next morning so I could quickly get ready and make it down to see the long course riders hit the road at 6 am. We were in bed by probably 9:30 but I laid there awake until closer to 11:30, I think. I'm not sure why I couldn't sleep. I wasn't exactly nervous about the racing and the bed was comfy enough. I think I was just jazzed about the weekend.
Despite my lack of sleep, I was able to wake up pretty easily at 4:30 the next morning. And, since I had everything ready to go, I was able to take my time eating breakfast and getting showered and kitting up. I rode over to the start/finish at the Blue Heron (formerly the KOA) and was able to see the long course guys/gals take off. I had about 45 minutes until my race started and I had to pee, so I meandered back to where the campsites are and saw just how bad the flooding was back there. Wow! There was a ton of standing water everywhere and water was rushing under this little bridge, where last year it seemed like a nice calm little stream! Luckily they hadn't really gotten much rain in the previous week or so so I was pretty confident that the gravel roads would be pretty dry.
|These are all supposed to be campsites!|
Our race (though to hear Chad "Odin" Quigley speak of it, it was more of a gravel primer than a race, but c'mon Chad, we're "pinning a number on" so it's a race!) started at 6:45 and we took off in a similar fashion to the previous year. I soft pedaled up to the front and rode a very moderate pace following our pace vehicle to the start of the gravel. By the time we hit the first turn, there was just three of us together with a big gap back to the rest of the group. Like I said, the same kind of thing happened last year (not everybody is there to go fast) so I wasn't too surprised, but I had seen Corey "Cornbread" Godfrey at the start and I know he is fast so I kind of expected to see him up with us too.
|Tooling around the parking lot waiting for our race start.|
After maybe two miles, the three of us were down to two. The guy that dropped off said he had recently injured a hamstring so he wouldn't be pacing with us too long. So, I rode with a guy named Ben, who was riding a fat bike (sorry Tyler, I don't remember the brand/model of the bike!) for a while. When we hit the start of the hills, Ben said he didn't think he would be holding my pace either and about 7 miles in, he started gapping off my wheel. I was trying to hold a very steady pace, not accelerating up the hills or anything, but those big old fat tires just don't go uphill as easily as skinnier tires. Of course, every time we hit softer gravel he would be right back on my wheel as my 35mm tires just dug in a bit.
I decided to up the pace a tiny bit to make the gap more permanent so we wouldn't be yo-yoing so much. After a few minutes of that my Garmin beeped at me to tell me I was off course. It does that sometimes even when you're not off course and I had convinced myself that there wasn't a turn or a ways yet so it took me an extra few seconds to realize that I had indeed missed a turn! I doubled back to see Ben and four others heading up the hill at the turn I missed. When I got to the turn one of the guys was dealing with a flat tire and Ben had just started up the hill so got past both of them pretty quickly. I was riding a little harder than I meant to so early in the race, but I didn't want the three others ahead to get too far away.
Not too much later, I caught the first of the three riders ahead of me who happened to be Craig Schmidt on a single speed. Because he was running his bike with one of those chain tensioners that look kind of like a derailleur cage, I assumed he was on a geared bike, which confused me cause he was riding it more like a single speed. Turns out he WAS riding it like a single speed, cause that's what it was!
Anyways, I caught up to Craig and slowed for a bit. We made small talk for a bit but it was pretty clear that we were going to be riding different paces so I kept going. The two guys ahead of me had somewhere around a 30 to 60 second gap. One was in a Cycle Works kit and the other was in a Kaos kit. I still wasn't totally sure who it was in the Cycle Works kit, though I had a hunch it was Cornbread. I had no clue who it was in the Kaos kit, but from my limited experience, people in Kaos kits tend to be on faster side of the spectrum, with few exceptions.
It seemed as though I was reeling those two back, but it was odd. I'd seem to close in on them a bit when they were on flatter ground, but as soon as they'd hit hit a climb the gap would hold or get bigger. It turns out the guy in the Kaos kit (Adam Kornfeld) was on a single speed as well which would explain their pacing a bit. I didn't feel like the gap was insurmountable yet and we still had 40 some miles to go, so I decided to hold the pace I was doing and see how things developed for a bit. However, I really had to pee as well! So, I popped off the road, did my business, and got back on the bike. I could still see the two ahead of me (plus Craig since he passed me while I was in the bushes) as I started riding again, but they soon took the next turn and were out of sight pretty quickly. I kept expecting to crest a climb and see them not too far away, but each hilltop disappointed me.
I keenly remember Lydic Road from last year. It's a ~12 mile section of road that climbs pretty steadily all the way with several little kickers on the way. Last year, it was the softest part of the course, and made my chain make all sorts of bad noises. The roads this year were dry and FAST! I settled into a kind of TT mode, keeping my heart rate up between 160 and 165 bpm. A good solid effort, but not so high that I would be burning matches just yet. My threshold is somewhere around 167 bpm so I figured if I kept the effort just below that, it would be a good fast pace without killing me later. This road was the complete opposite of last year's slog. Last year, the road just stuck to your tires making you feel like you had a flat tire. This year I felt like I was barely touching the road.
|Let's take a break and enjoy this sign I found in a gas station in Curtis, NE when I went to pick up Tyler off the long course.|
Eventually, I crested one of the many smaller climbs to see a pair of riders standing on opposite side of the road, maybe a half mile ahead. The two guys I was chasing had stopped for a nature break. I thought I might still catch them before the checkpoint. Maybe then we could ride together for a while and then duke it out later. But then I had to stop for my own nature break yet again and those ideas evaporated. As I turned down the road towards the checkpoint at Potters Pasture, Cornbread (now I knew for sure it was him!) and Adam were already heading back out. I stopped as quickly as I possibly could at the checkpoint, just long enough to top off my bottles, before heading out again. After seeing how much of a lead they had, I knew it would be a big ask to pull them back in the remaining 30ish miles. I knew Cornbread could keep their pace no problem. I didn't know what Adam'c capabilities were, but every time I saw them, Adam was on Cornbread's wheel, so I knew he wasn't having to work as hard as I or Cornbread were. Since they were in different categories, I have to assume this was a deal they worked out. I kept on plugging away at the same pace though. I could only hope that they would take it easier thinking that there was no way I could catch them.
|I'm smiling cause I managed to just barely miss a cute little three-legged dog that came running out on the road in front of me seconds before this picture was taken.|
Most of the rest of the course was slightly downhill, so the speeds were pretty fast, somewhere around a 19-20mph average depending on where you look. Once I hit the Canal road, I knew there was only around 8 miles left or so and I gave it one last ditch effort. I went as hard as I could all the way back, hoping to at least bring Cornbread and/or Adam back in to sight. I averaged just about 21 mph and just felt my legs burn for a good 25 minutes. I never did see those two before finishing, but I felt really good about how I rode.
I'm pretty sure the race would have been different had I not missed that turn. I wonder how long it would have taken Cornbread and Adam to catch me if they did at all. If I could have worked with them, I wonder what would have went down. I've never actually ridden with either of them so I don't actually know how we compare head-to-head, but I would have liked to have been able to try! Oh well. A big part of gravel racing is the navigation and I made a critical error in that regard this year.
|I think Greg Gleason and Guitar Ted were trading fishing tales after Greg won. "It was huge I tell you! Then it got away."|
Next year, I'm strongly considering trying the long course. The challenge is calling me!
|Rachel and I rode down Willow Island Road after my race for a little bit. Rachel got to experience gravel on her road bike. Not exactly the best tool for the job, but she did great!|