Sunday, July 29, 2018

Party Of Two, Your Gravel Is Ready


With most of the usual folks off racing in the CSG gravel race, the SMNDFBR was narrowed down to just Kevin and I. 



The plan was to head out to Sprague at a somewhat casual pace and then head back and swing by to watch the riders finishing the 100 mile gravel race. Despite the beautiful weather and the best laid plans, the hills were still as unforgiving as ever. 

Video Jul 28, 11 01 28 AM

Since most of the crew wasn't in attendance, we spilled a little of the ditch beer in their honor. I'm sure that where ever they were in the race, they got an extra boost at that very moment or at least that's my theory. 

Photo Jul 28, 11 41 53 AM (1)

Before we got to Sprague however, we took a little detour to check up on Randy's corner. Surprisingly the RG sticker is still there but it's looking a bit weather worn, the next time we are out that way we will have to remember to bring a new sticker with us and replace the old with a new. 



Eventually we did make it to Sprague and Traditions Pub, Saturday is Taco day if you ever happen to be out that way on a Saturday, you should stop in, pretty tasty for $1.25 tacos. 




After lunch it was time to head back and see how things were shaking out on the CSG gravel, it was a trip of strange things. Saw this Bobcat with a mowing attachment and a teenage boy laying in the middle of the road listening to music. Hadn't seen either before and not sure I want to see the latter again, we slowed down to make sure the kid was OK and he said he was, just decided to pick that spot to take a break. 


CSG this year started and ended at Backswing Brewery out on South St., Kevin and I got there in time to see all but Carlos and Karla finish and the crew did an amazing job racing. 

Photo Jul 29, 2 01 30 PM

Photo Jul 28, 4 33 06 PM

Sarah and Roy got the gold, Doug got silver and Joe got bronze in the Fat Bike category and Carlos got the silver in the single speed category. Great job all around. 

Next week we are starting a bit earlier than normal and leaving the shop at 7 am to ride out to Wilbur for the Czechfest and some tasty kolaches. Event page for this can be found here. This will be a self supported ride so if you're unsure you can make it out and back, please make sure you have a bail out plan. 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Scaramouche Will You Do The Fandango


Saturday was the 2nd annual Bohemian Sto Mil and also my second time riding it. While the month was different, the wind was just a gently breeze this year and the temps were milder... it looked like there were a few familiar butt holes lined up at the beginning so hopes were high that this years race would be a better time than it was 13 months ago.  Last years Sto Mil was a brutal endeavor and I was more than a little excited that this years version was not going to be a repeat of last years sufferfest as far as the weather was concerned, now the hills could be a whole other matter. Last years write up can be found HERE if you're so inclined.



It was an absolutely beautiful morning for the race and an hour earlier than last year to try and avoid some of the heat but as it turned out, there was no actual heat. It did get a bit warm but I wouldn't say that it ever got really hot, almost perfect weather this year. The plan this year was to ride with Todd and Isabel at a fairly steady but comfortable pace.


Right out of the gates we had to stop before we even left the parking lot, Todd had to adjust a seat... usually it's his own seat, it's such a common practice during rides that he sort of gets a lot of guff for it. This time however it was Isabel's seat that needed the adjustment, they had to raise her seat up to accommodate both bikes on the car and then forgot to lower it until we tried to ride off. It was a nice view of the field riding off into the sunset though as we waited to start. It was ok though because as I said, racing wasn't really ever in the plans anyway.


After about 5 or so minutes we were off and onto the gravel and the next 99 miles. Now as I said the plan was that all three of us were going to ride together but somewhere between parking lot and first gravel it was decided that Isabel was pretty sure she only had 40 or so miles in her that day so she told Todd that we should just ride at our own pace and she'd ride her abbreviated route.





The delayed start really didn't phase me and I kind of liked not worrying about making sure not to go out too fast chasing folks or getting mixed up in a crowd of folks jockeying for position, it was kind of nice to just be the three of us with the whole road to ourselves. Surprisingly once Todd and I were cut loose, it wasn't long before we started catching people, we weren't going out all that hard I didn't think but perhaps we were going better than I thought. I knew that the Fargo was at least a good 15 or so pounds lighter than the loaded Pugs from last year and I also knew I was fresher this year than I was at the Sto Mil last year but it still seemed odd that we were catching folks so soon out of the start with a 5 minute penalty.



Not feeling like I was chasing rabbits but rather riding at a good pace I could maintain for the day, I decided to just keep riding as we were riding and see how things went. It wasn't long after that we started hitting the famous Sto Mil minimum maintenance roads, some of them could be classified as zero maintenance roads but they sure are a lot of fun.


This sketchy dry water crossing kept you on your toes, a few feet to the left or to the right and your day would suck a lot more than you wanted it to. Fortunately we navigated it without issue.


Todd and I even caught up to Michael and the three of us made up a train of purple Fargos for a good portion of the first 2/3rds of the Sto Mil. The Fargo was a great choice of bike for this type of gravel race and not once did I feel like I might have been better off with a different bike.


We even managed to ride for a bit with Joe before he decided we were going too slow and went on up ahead of us.



The thick gravel of last year was still there this year, this particular section is kind of a flat and faster section and last year I was surprised that there was such a long section of flat. Little did I know last year that this was the section leading up to Bohemian Everest, this year I knew what was coming and the flat didn't seem like so much of a blessing but more of an omen of what was to come.




I know that the hill doesn't look like much from pictures but I promise you it's quite the hill. About 8/10ths of a mile long it has two false summits you can't see from the approach before you finally get to it's highest point and at it's steepest it ticks upwards of 18% for grade. I did manage to knock about 15 seconds off of this years effort over last years, I'll take that any day of the week.



At the summit was a friendly crop duster, it was kind of interesting to watch  him making a few runs on the field as we rode along. Not sure he was as happy about it as we were, I'm guessing we were fouling up his spraying but to his credit he didn't douse us with pesticide.


How tall was that hill we climbed really, well it's not often in Nebraska that you can see a town that is about 8.5 miles away. That grain elevator to the best of my calculations is Schuyler and we were on road X, yep it was more than your average Nebraska roller.




Rolled into czech point one with plenty of time to spare, I'm not sure if they had cut off times last year but they stressed it this year so it was good to see that we were cruising along at a pace that would get us where we needed to be well before we needed to be there. Drink the water at your own risk however.


Since we had a little extra time, we toasted one to Chrome Christ in the St. Mary's cemetery across the street. It was our first holy ditch beer and it tasted simply divine if I do say so myself.




Leaving the czech point we started the MMR sections in earnest, when they are good they are smooth and fast rolling but when they aren't they are just a rutted, jarring mess. The MMRs on the Sto Mil this year were the latter unfortunately, I was glad I had the plus tires on most of them.



Blessing's sister setup an impromptu SAG stop with food, ice and cold Coke; she was the MVP that day and it was a nice surprise and refreshing.


Purple Fargos for days, just a small and extra small away from having a full size run. It's also kind of fun to see how everyone customizes their bikes once they purchase them, three different Fargos and none of them are set up exactly the same.


Rolling into David City, it was tempting to forget the race and go cruise the Midway at the Butler County Fair and find a deep fat fried Twinkie or some sort of meat on a stick and just sit in the shade and people watch. We also would have had enough time to find a good turtle and enter the turtle race that started at 2 pm... heck the way we were going, maybe we could have entered the turtle race. Nah, we were actually cruising along pretty well, right around a 13 mph average still at this point not blazing fast but also not super slow either.



In David City was also an optional Oasis in the form of a gas station on the corner of O street and Hwy 15. Todd and I expected to find some pizza there to eat but we also found Sarah, which we didn't expect to find but we were glad we got to chat with her a bit before she took off down the road. Todd and I stuck around a bit longer to finish our pizza and cokes, this is why I am not a racer, racers don't stop for cokes and pizza mid way through a race but I've tried racing on nothing but gels, blocks and drink mixes and let me tell you, nothing tastes as good as greasy pizza 60 miles into a 100 mile gravel race.




Leaving out of David City, there is a pretty decent section of relatively flat gravel, probably 8-10 miles, which is good for digestion and just cruising along before you get back into the hills and MMRs. 10 miles goes fast when it's flat and it was pretty uneventful.



There was quite a gathering at czech point 2 by the time we got to mile 80, looking at the Garmin we were still riding well in advance of the cutoff times for the course, so we took a bit more time here than we probably should have. Otis was even nice enough to share his tots and fried pickles, those hit the spot pretty good. I didn't feel like I could eat anything substantial but a few tots and fried pickles were just the ticket. Once Todd was done smooching on Isabel, we decided it was time to move on and finish the last 20 miles so we could but this race to bed.




The last 20 miles made up for the 10 miles of flat that we got coming out of David City, I'm not sure if the hills were as bad as they seemed or if tired legs made it seem that way but it was just one hill after another and some of the roughest MMRs we rode all day were also in this section. Of all the parts of the body that ended up being sore the day after, the hands ended up being one of them which isn't usually the case on gravel. Caught up with Joy out on course and Sarah again as well, always good to find friends and share a little suffering with them.


I always like finding these little churches in the middle of nowhere that still seem to be thriving and well cared for, the Plasi Church has been here (in one form or another) for 142 years but has burnt down and been rebuilt twice. The church here now was built in 1934, the third church to sit here in this very spot and it's been there for the last 84 years, that's a fair piece of time for a building out in the country.



The last MMR of the day was probably the best one, I guess you should always go out on a positive as that's what people will remember most when they think about the MMRs. There was also this cool bridge in the last 3 miles as well, I think we crossed this one last year too maybe but I was so spent that I barely noticed it. This year we stopped for a bit and just enjoyed the day, I know we were only 3 miles from finishing but it just seemed like a good place for a break... would have been a perfect spot for a bridge beer if we had one on us. After a few minutes we did get back on the bikes and finish it out together in just a tad over 8 hours of rolling time, not too shabby for 100 miles of gravel.

This years Sto Mil was a much better event for me, last years was just horrible as far as wind went and it just beat you down, almost half the field didn't finish last year. This year only 11 of the 70 riders were unable to finish. For me personally, I managed to cut 3 hours and 15 minutes off of last years race time; that's no small amount of time and I was pretty surprised that we were moving that fast this year or that I was moving that slow last year. Looking at the numbers I did manage to also gain about 3 mph on the average mph for the race, like I said most of that could be attributed to the difference in the weather but I also felt fresher this year which definitely didn't hurt. Last year was the first year I got more serious into gravel racing and already had 3 or so races done by the time the Sto Mil showed up on the schedule, my legs were not used to that kind of output that early in the season and they showed that they were not happy by not really showing up for the race last year. This year I still felt like I had a decent amount of energy left in the tank, not that I wanted to keep riding but I could have if the course had been longer.

Photo Jul 22, 4 34 43 PM

I also wasn't as physically beat up this year, I thought that the Ergon saddle was the best fit for me but after getting the Fargo I started to really dig the shape of the stock WTB Volt that was on it. I wasn't crazy about the weight or the excess padding of the Volt however but for a stock saddle it was good. I talked to Swanson, who is now in international sales for WTB, and he sent me WTBs new fit system for measuring to see what size saddle I needed. Most fit systems are uber confusing with gel pads you sit on or tape measurements on your "sit bones" and I never felt like I was getting it right as there was a lot of room for error or interpretation if you weren't doing it just right. WTB has a great system, it's not yet out in the wild so I won't go into details but I used it, told Swanson what the magic number was based on that fit system and he in turn shipped me a Silverado Pro saddle in the size the system said I should use. The fit was spot on, my backside hasn't ever felt as good at the end of a 100 mile race as it did on Saturday. Sure there was still some soreness but none of the chaffing that has plagued me the last couple of years, no screaming in the shower when the water hit me because my butt had been flayed of it's skin. I know that WTB has been around a long time and their saddles, or saddles of a similar shape design, seem to adorn a lot of bikes as the stock saddle but the jump from that stock saddle to a high end WTB saddle is night and day. Sometimes the tried and true is better than jumping on the latest and greatest, I'm sold so far on the Silverado Pro. I'm going to ride it a bit more and test it again on Gravel Worlds but if the results are similar, there will be a few less Ergons atop my seat sticks and a few more WTB saddles there in the near future.

As always I be remiss if I didn't thank Cycle Works for being such a great shop to ride for and a great member of the Lincoln community as a whole, they do an incredible amount of great things in and around Lincoln. I'd also like to thank the SMNDFBR crew for continuing to be a rad group of folks to ride with, those Saturday rides are a blast and help make races like this a bit easier to finish. The other half gets a huge high five also, not many people would be okay with the amount of riding I usually try squeeze into a week and it doesn't go unnoticed.

If you haven't signed up for the Sto Mil, you really should. It's a well organized race, the scenery is top notch and at $0 you really can't beat the price. Thanks Ryno, Russell and Gina for putting on this event.