My spring gravel racing season is underway with the 2nd annual running of the 80 mile Lakeville - Milltown - Lakeville!
We found out about this event just last week while browsing the calendar at GravelGrinderNews. After a few pints and a few more emails we were in. Thanks to Larry for letting us in at the last moment. Now that we know about this event we'll be sure to get in early next year.
As punishment for late entry the gravel gods made sure we were wrong about the official start time. Thinking the start was at 8AM you can imagine our surprise to find ourselves practically alone at Harry's cafe at 7:30. When the race did finally being at 9AM we were ready.
We didn't know what to expect of the ride, for some reason I thought we'd be on pavement; instead nearly the entire course was on gravel, or more precisely on frozen dirt roads. We were lucky with the temps - cold enough for the roads to be frozen and not so cold as to be uncomfortable. In fact it was a bluebird day in the 30's. The frozen mud made for a fast track with only the occasional bout of flypaper. I suspect that as the ground thaws in the coming weeks that these same roads will turn into a pretty muddy mess.
Larry led us out of the Harry's cafe lot sometime around 9 and after just about 1/2 mile we were already on dirt, heading south right along side the highway. Who knew there we dirt roads 100 yards from Interstate 35? I kept with the lead group of about 25 riders for the first 10 miles and remember having thoughts about going for the win. With the first real hill just a few minutes later I also remember having thoughts about just trying to finish. The lead group was quickly away from me and I settled into my familiar heads down this-is-gonna-be-a-long-f'n-day position.
The first half of the race was especially beautiful. Great rolling hills, a few lakes, streams and nice farm country. After the lead group dusted me I pretty much rode alone. I ran into one guy planning to ride the Alexander this spring - which is a 400 miler put on by the Almanzo team - after a few minutes of chatting he effortlessly pulled away from me.
Somewhere around mile 35 I joined up with a few other riders and the 4 of us rode into Faribault together and followed the smell of freshly cooked bacon to the alley behind Milltown Cycle. Inside Milltown we picked up the Tulip sheet (turn by turn directions) for our return trip and stocked up on donut holes & water bottle refills. Outside was the bacon - and the bacon was good. Did I mention the bacon?
I had been getting cramps on and off already since around mile 30 so I was looking to limp home. And I was fortunate that the return trip was largely downwind, punctuated by a few hills, including the "Hill to Nowhere" - straight up hill for 1/2 mile, u-turn & right back down. The cramps in my quads came and went and came back again, the simple reality of early season riding for me.
I was again riding alone so I plugged in my headphones and just kept pedaling. The scenery was again beautiful on the return trip, but my head was down for most of it, just wanting to be done. The finish did seem to come quickly, retracing just a few miles from the very start to the end. I finished somewhere in the middle, which is great for me.
Following my 6th sense back to Harry's Cafe I found a seat at the bar and began nursing myself back to health with the help of a few Summit EPAs. All and all a very good start to my gravel season on a well put together ride.