Friday, June 28, 2019

Solstice From The Dark Side Of The Moon

Hello, is there anybody out there, is there anybody there? Is this thing even still on?

It's been a few since I've posted any new content but there is a reason for that, the last few weeks have been Solstice 100 Gravel Grinder stuff almost all day, everyday when not working or sleeping.





It's been so crazy this spring with rain, flooding and road closures that we didn't even finalize the routes until the Monday before the race and that was only after a few of us split the two routes and we rode both the 100 and the 50 on the Saturday before the race. Last year we were riding the course in March and finalizing the routes shortly there after, crazy what a little liquid sunshine will do to throw a wrench into your best laid plans. Hell, rained on us a little bit while we were doing the pre-ride, so nothing was cut in stone even then.



We did make some new friends while scoping out the route, I gave them a quick run down on what we were doing out there on an overcast Saturday, gave them the deets on the Solstice and even offered them all a free entry if they wanted to come ride. First guy said he was way too slow and didn't have the time or energy for 50 to 100 miles in one day, the others... well, they had the speed and the energy but in the end they were just too chicken. I think the first guy could have sewn up that DFL trophy had he decided to ride, cool guy really, super laid back.


With the routes mostly hammered out on Monday it was time to get busy on the labor intensive cue sheets. Believe me folks, they seem like the simplest things in the world, and I'd garner to bet most people don't even use them, but each line has to be manipulated. Not rocket science but it's a ton of hours in the making. I thought I was actually ahead of the game and had them almost done by Wednesday, usually we don't release them until the day before or two days before so I was golden. Then the files got corrupted, all three of them and the only three files on the drive that wouldn't open... holy shit balls! Several attempts to use recovery tools were used, a slew of curse words were said before giving in and accepting fate. Then it was back to the grind stone starting all over, it was such a desperate time that I had to take a day off of work to make sure they would be ready in time but in the end I think they came out pretty good. I can't really complain too much, the time I spend on the Solstice pales in comparison to what Joe puts in over the course of a year. If Joe is the face of the Solstice, I guess that makes me the ass.







Photo Jun 21, 6 18 26 PM (1)

Check In on Friday at Cycle Works is always a good time, all of the stress from the planning and preparing stages are done for the most part and you get to let your hair down and greet all of the riders. A lot of time it's like a big reunion as you might only see some folks once a year when they ride the event.


It was also Joe's birthday and we got a surprise from the Gibson family in the form of a birthday cake with a pooping caterpillar on it.


I'm pretty sure it was not intended to be a pooping caterpillar but one misplaced dollop of brown frosting, a few gravel cyclists and some adult beverages and you get a pooping caterpillar cake for your birthday. We sang a rendition of Happy Birthday that probably had dogs in the neighborhood diving under beds but it was a heart felt rendition.

Photo Jun 21, 8 29 02 PM

After Check In a few of us headed out to grab a bite to eat at Cactus before retiring for the evening. I'd never been to Cactus before but I'd definitely go back, good locally sourced Mexican food and way better than the former Chevy's that used to occupy the space.




In the wee hours of the morning on Saturday we descended on Malcolm and began to setup, unload and separate supplies for SAG stops and get things organized for day of registration. I kid you not when I say it takes a small army of volunteers to make these events what they are, I might be biased but I think we have the best volunteers there are and Jamie does an excellent job recruiting and organizing her small army.



About an hour or so later folks started showing up in earnest and were met with an overcast morning sky devoid of sun or blue, seems like it was a repeat of last year as far as weather the pattern went. I believe we delayed the start last year by 30 minutes, we would double that this year due to weather.





As if on cue, the rain started shortly before we were supposed to start. It wasn't a down pour as much as a heavy drizzle but it was accompanied by lightening and that meant we would need to delay the start of the race, riding in the rain is part of the gravel life but lightening is a whole other beast. To their credit all of the racers took it in stride and understood why we had to delay things as they scrambled to find any dry spot to hide and wait it out.



As I mentioned previously, we ended up delaying the start for an  hour so just a few minutes before 8 am we got everyone lined up, Joe grabbed his Red Solo Megaphone for some last minute words and then Kevin gave a blessing for the ride. We were ready to go!



A little pre-start joviality to help ease the jitters, yep racers aren't the only people that get that feeling before a big event. Michael McColgan was one of the three photographers on course and is pretty handy with the camera, as are Tracy Murray Hoffman and Virgil Horne Jr. the other two great photographers on course. Don't let Jamie fool you either, she's takes a mean photo on that iPhone too.




This year the neutral start headed south and west of Malcolm, the pointy end of the Solstice 100 was filled with most of the whose who of Nebraska gravel right now and they looked eager to get this thing going.




15 minutes later it was time to line them up and do it all over gain for the Solar Fiddy racers, the intensity on their faces was no less evident and with only 50 miles to ride the start might have been a little bit quicker than the 100. At one time I thought some of them were going to end up sitting in the tuck bed if they didn't pull up a bit.

Photo Jun 22, 9 04 57 AM

With both races off into the Nebraska countryside, Joe and I had exactly 2.5 minutes to relax before we had to get moving to setup the SAG stops in Garland and Brainard; it's a good thing all that college partying finally paid off and we were able to gulp down a Lazy Horse's Watermelon Radler in no time at all.





Photo Jun 22, 10 50 46 AM

With Garland and Brainard successfully unloaded and set up it was off to the optional oasis at mile 91 or 45, depending on which race you were doing, at Branched Oak Farm. The view from this spot was breathtaking, on a clear day like Saturday you could even see the Capitol Building in downtown Lincoln. A person could get used to that kind of view over their morning coffee.




We were snapped back to reality when one of the volunteers said that the fast Fiddy racers had just gone by and didn't stop, well poop! We hopped in the Sprinter van and raced to get back to the finish before they did, actually passed them up on our way back, these guys were flying. Top three in the 50 finished in just under 4 hours and were all within a minute of each other, this was a much closer race than the 100 ended up being. Ian Kiddo took the win and created a power shift in the family I think when the old man, Scott Kidoo, came in fourth. The student has become the master!


While the 100 wasn't nearly as close of a race, they were still flying. Ashton took the top spot, finishing 100 miles in 5 hours and 17 minutes, Robb was 11 minutes behind to take second and Josh rounded up the podium about 20 minutes after that.


Women's Fiddy podium was Sydney, Abby and Kat, they were flying as well coming in about 20 minutes after the men's podium finishers.


Lynnly, Kari and Kimberlee took top honors in the women's Solstice 100, all way faster than I can do 100 miles. Lynnly crushed it in 6 hours and 46 minutes, Kari 40 minutes after that and Kimberlee an hour after that.



The coveted DFL trophy this year came down to a photo finish, all three guys dismounted and walked their bikes across the line but the camera was able to deduce which one crossed as the last rider in.

There are a ton of photos that I took and those can be found HERE if you're so inclined to browse through them.


So, a little back story on our newest award we handed out this year. We have a friend, Doug, and his wife has been battling cancer for a little over a year now; A battle I am sad to say she is not winning this time around. Amy is in hospice care currently and they are making her as comfortable as possible for the time that she has left, cancer really can suck big fat bag of donkey balls. About a week before the race I pitched an idea to the group about coming up with an Amy Schmitt Courage Award that we would give out to the rider that we felt showed the most courage either getting to the race or while out on course. They all thought it was a good idea so we ran it past Doug and Amy and they gave us the green light as well. Joe fashioned this plaque and the award was born.



Doug was on board with the award being presented but what he didn't know is that we had all already decided that he would also be the first recipient of the award. I am pretty sure he was not expecting or prepared for it when we handed it to him. I can't imagine the amount of pain and tears that have been shed this year in the Schmitt household, I can't think of anything more difficult than deciding that fighting is no longer the best option. We were all pretty amazed when Doug and Amy decided that Doug should go ahead and race in the Solar Fiddy. Riding time hasn't been a whole lot this year, saddle time has been replaced with Dr. office chairs; bike rides with chemo sessions. Not exactly the recipe for getting ready for 50 miles of gravel but there he was at the start and there he was at the finish, while not the fastest time turned in that Saturday; it was a huge victory. We love you and Amy, Doug, you guys are always in our thoughts during this difficult time.

This is an award we will continue to give out each year, next years recipient will probably be more difficult to determine most likely. But maybe not, unbeknown to us at the time of the race there was another racer and his family also battling cancer. You can read his story HERE. It's a great story and Eric has a great writing style, he composes while I butcher the words. Give it a read and all the other posts, you won't be disappointed. If you know of someone deserving of the award, drop us a line on our Facebook page and we will try our best to pick the most deserving recipient next year.

I'm going to close this out with a little video taken by Kevin's daughter on an iPhone, those first roads were a bit rough and Joe's driving has always been stomp and brake but she did a great job keeping everyone in frame.