Gravel Ride for Maisie’s Pride
With so many gravel grinders popping up everywhere you have to ask yourself which ones are worth doing. Costs add up for travel, registration fees, food and lodging. So why in the world would you drive to Eskridge, Kansas, the middle of nowhere, to ride 102 miles? Because it is probably the hardest 102 miles of gravel anywhere. And to a gravel grinder, the tougher the course the better.
I remember thinking I had never seen hills that big in Kansas before in the last leg of the 2010 DK200. This area of the Flint Hills has some of the worst roads and biggest hills I have ridden on and still called them gravel roads. It’s simply delicious.
Gravel Ride for Maisie’s Pride is a fundraiser helping Eskridge keep their city pool open for the community. Eskridge, the “Gateway to the Flint Hills” has just over 500 inhabitants. That is a small town to have a city pool, especially in these times. You may even wonder how in the world such a small town got a pool. Well, it’s only because of a woman named Maisie who believed one person can make a difference. Maisie’s story is a great one. Take the four and a half minutes to watch this report on how she worked to get Eskridge its pool. She is a modern day hero. Seriously – watch it.[jwplayer mediaid=”15402″]
Ryan Dudley has picked up where Maisie left off and put together this ride to continue raising money for the kids of the Eskridge community.
So this is supposed to be a ride, a fundraiser, a friendly day on the bicycle, but when you put two or more cyclists together, especially on one of the toughest gravel courses in the land, it is nothing short of a gravel race.
We lined up behind Maisie for a picture and Ryan gave us some instructions.
The wind began to pick up before the first pedal stroke of the day.
Off went over 100 riders into the gravel wilderness of Wabaunsee County
I told myself I was going to treat this race as a ride. I knew the course was difficult and I simply wanted to get in some big miles for the day. I rode out feeling good and strong and soon had a big smile on my face. I thought, “What in the world did Dudley get us into today?”
The gravel road turned into technical singletrack. I am not making that up. I was scanning the road ahead and watching riders fall and/or get off their bikes. When it was my turn to make a quick decision I knew I could ride clean. I was on a fatbike after all and I excelled on that section, getting ahead of other riders. Not only were they running with or walking their bikes over some technical terrain, many were also changing flats. I can’t remember for sure but I think this was in the first three to five miles of the race. “Spectacular,” I thought. I was having a ball. I have no pictures to show because there was no way to negotiate the terrain and take pictures. Trust me, it was pretty freaking sweet. The amount of riders changing flats was impressive.
I looked down at some point early in the race, with a few a few miles behind me, and I was averaging over 14 mph. I was doing well and feeling great. Then my day took a turn. The rest of the race went something like this: hill, wind, hill, wind, wind, hill, hill, hill, wind, wind, wind and more wind. My average speed began to fall at a steady pace.
It felt like 40+ miles in when I realized I was only about 28 miles into a 102 mile course. My legs simply had no “umpf” left in them. There was no cramping issues, they were just tired. I began to climb the hills slower and slower. More and more riders began to pass. Soon I was thinking about switching to the 50 mile course at the next checkpoint. I have done a couple centuries this year and have put in a few miles, but this was not going to be my day. I began to weigh my options.
- I could finish the race late, when all the free beer was gone, pack up my bike and drive home OR
- I could do the 50+ mile route, drink beer and hang out with other riders and friends for the afternoon
Yeah, I choose the second option. I just wasn’t feeling great. My muscles were sore and tired and Maisie’s showed me that my fitness level was not where I want it to be. I need to train harder. No, I need to be more consistent in my riding. Choosing to not follow through with my race plans is always a hard one for me, but when my muscles are that sore, I have to think smart. My heart is also a muscle and I have already done my time in the pain cave to finish races. It could be dangerous to keep going and I don’t need any more scars on my chest. I will get back to beast mode. I just need to commit myself to consistent riding.
I turned and spent some time riding with the wind. The fat bike is best on gravel going downhill and with the wind. At one point I was coasting downhill at 40 mph. On a fatbike, that is pure fun!
The biggest golf ball in the world
As I was wearing down I began to think that maybe I have had all the fun I can on a fatbike in gravel races. The wind is brutal on any cyclist and it it even worse on a fatbike. My mind wandered to ideas of selling all my bikes to afford one awesome bike, maybe a new Ti Fargo that would handle anything. Or maybe a fatbike with a larger triangle for racing and bikepacking tours. I didn’t come up with a concrete plan, but I’m working on it.
I finally made it to the first checkpoint. The last ten miles were slow. It felt like 50, but this checkpoint was only 38 miles into the race. I felt pathetic. After some thought I decided to do the 50. It ended up being a great decision because the next 20 miles were embarrassingly slow.
Yeah, it was worth doing the 50. Thanks Tallgrass for the cold recovery beer (or three).
All in all the ride was a complete success. Many people rerouted or had to pull out and only the toughest survived the full 102 miles. I spied lots of bloody knees and elbows among the finishers. If you are looking for a great gravel grinder to test your skills or tune up for the Dirty Kanza 200, this is one of the best. I highly recommend it.
That may not be the greatest image of two good looking guys that you’ve ever seen but I included it to make this point: If you ever have the chance to host riders for a race, DO IT! I have hosted at every race I could so far and have made some great friends because of it. It adds to the overall cycling experience and helps out fellow cyclists. Jake and Pete – it was a great weekend!
Feed Your Monkey!