Encierro Velo - 2018

Wakeup call

What can I say? I wasn't ready for a 100K gravel race, forget about 100 miles. Which is kind of a bummer, but shouldn't be a surprise. While I am in decent "shape" - my fitness & strength are both OK, I am not ready for 6 to 10 hard-pedalling hours in the saddle.

Coming into this event I was actually feeling pretty good (other than the fact that I was in the final throws of influenza). I had been running 20-30 miles a week, lifting pretty regularly & getting some miles in around town & the occasional longish ride. But the Encierro Velo reminded me that running 5 miles a day isn't endurance training. 

Enough about my struggles - as for the race itself...

Awesome course & great turnout

 Cued up at the start with plenty of team jerseys in the field.

Cued up at the start with plenty of team jerseys in the field.

I was giddy as I pulled into the parking lot of the little town running track of Elbert, CO. The drive down from Denver was beautiful and I was eager to begin my Colorado racing career. The lot was nearly full when I got there, probably a total of 125 - 150 riders. After a quick rider meeting in the bleachers and we were off.

I was a little surprised at the start, probably 5 miles of pavement - and people were really moving. I felt like shit from the flu, but hoped that it would pass once I get into the race so I did my best to stay with the front group of 25-30 riders. Once we turned onto the gravel the front group splintered and I was immediately isolated. And I spent the next 55 miles giving up positions.

The first half of the course heads primarily west and includes a great view of Pike's Peak for nearly the entire way. The gravel is smooth & hard-packed, none of that Midwestern "fresh rock" that I dread. There were a few short stretches of sand, but nothing to really worry about. I did my best to keep a decent pace, but couldn't hold my average speed much above 15 mph.

 The course wound predominantly through cattle & horse ranches, the occasional rock outcroppings on the edges of a wash or the crest of a hill with mountains in the western distance.

The course wound predominantly through cattle & horse ranches, the occasional rock outcroppings on the edges of a wash or the crest of a hill with mountains in the western distance.

About 20 miles in I became aware of a building wind out of the south. And with every turn we could feel the impact as we shifted our relationship to the growing gale. By the time I hit the northbound frontage road at mile 30 the wind had to be blowing at 20+ mph. The wind combined with a nice downhill made for a fast stretch and speeds over 45 mph. 

 A familiar scene. Of note are the hard-packed gravel and blue skies - I expect to see a lot of both this summer.

A familiar scene. Of note are the hard-packed gravel and blue skies - I expect to see a lot of both this summer.

As is the case with a lot of back-of-the-packers, I rode most of the race alone. I put in some extra fight every once in a while to stick to the wheels of a passing rider or group, but ultimately the struggle was too much and I was left to battle the wind & the rock alone. 

Thankfully the final 5 miles or so headed northeast with a consistent breeze at our backs. I had been counting down to that downwind stretch for miles and managed to pedal pretty hard to the finish. Not a great day for me performance-wise, I finished in about 3:43, but a great day for the start of my season. A beautiful course and a kick in the pants, it's time to get in the saddle and put in some miles.

 Still my favorite bike, a 2012 Salsa Warbird Ti.

Still my favorite bike, a 2012 Salsa Warbird Ti.