Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Winter Endurance

Photo Feb 18 2023, 9 35 36 AM

Last Saturday was the inaugural Gravel Worlds Winter Endurance put on by the Pirate Cycling League and it was a doozy. About a week before the race we were enjoying temps in the upper 40° to the upper 50° range so it was looking like the winter part was going to be missing. Then Mother Nature decided to dump several inches of the white stuff on us a just few days before the event to remind everyone we are still in the grips of winter. Several inches of snow would have been great and the perfect conditions for a fat bike for the race but that was also not in the plans, around these parts we are used to curveballs and that's what we got. After the initial snow the temps climbed back up that mercury making sloppy and muddy conditions for the race more of a certainty than a possibility. The day of the race we were supposed to get into the 40° range again and early on in the day too so slop it was going to be whether you liked it or not.





There was some debate by me about pulling the plug Thursday heading into Friday, I mean nobody really loves riding in sloppy conditions, but late in the afternoon on Friday I decided to quit whining and just deal with things as they were. Suffering is temporary but the memories gained through struggling together with friends lasts a lifetime. So it was early Saturday morning we loaded up the bikes and headed north to Lincoln and Schilling Bridge where every Gravel Worlds event has started and finished for the past several years. I was pleasantly surprised to see that most if not all of the folks who signed up also decided to give it a go. Misery loves company after all. 


Photo Feb 18 2023, 9 56 50 AM

The starting line on Saturday was about as different from the starting line in August as you can get, fat tires, winter gloves and ear warmers as far as the eye could see.



Had a bit of a computer snafu right at the start of the race and I watched the entire field ride away before I could get it taken care of and get on my way. Nothing like giving the field a minute head start on you... even Jason had to comment on the PA system that I was currently in last place as I fumbled to get things right.



Temps were still fairly chilly at the start so there was ice on the roads and this was a good thing for me as the start was less of an all out sprint and more of a sketchy amble which allowed me to quickly weave my way through most of the starters and get into a decent position before we hit the gravel. Since temps were chilly to start and would be warm at the finish there was no "right" way to dress, you'd either be cold to start or warm at the end. Likewise there wasn't really any correct tire pressure that would be great for the entire race, you could air down for grip on the snow and ice but you'd sacrifice speed, keep the tires pumped for speed and you risked losing tractions in slick spots. I opted to dress for what it was going to be like later wearing shorts and a vest, I also decided to chance it and run tire pressures that I would run on dry gravel and I think that paid off as the day went on. I tend to slow down if I get too hot and the added pressure in the tires rolled fast and still managed to provide enough grip on the roads. 


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Photo Feb 18 2023, 11 37 39 AM

I hadn't set out to race the Winter Endurance but the Pugsley was rolling fast on the Coronados running about 12-15psi and the legs felt strong so I went with it. I found myself in Malcolm at mile 20 near what I figured was the pointy end of the peloton since the place was almost deserted when I got there. Not normally finding myself in this position I wasn't entirely sure what the protocol was so I grabbed my lottery ticket, posed for some Us-ies and got scooting out of town in under 10 minutes. With only about 13 miles left after we departed Malcolm and still feeling good I kept the pace as close as I could to what I was doing coming into Malcolm. It was working so far so why mess with it and if I blew up I figured I was close enough to the end I could manage to limp back if needed. 


Most of the roads were in pretty good shape all things considered, some snow, some wet spots and a little soft at the intersections but more than ridable. That was until we hit NW 33rd at mile 27. It was a miserable MMR about a mile long and slicker than Walrus snot on an ice flow, saw lots of folks swerving left and right and left again, a few hitting the deck and even more hoping off and walking. That was the worst mile of the entire course, even the Pugs struggled a little on it and I almost went down once but saved a full Nestea plunge by sacrificing the left glove to the mud gods by sticking it out and keeping myself mostly out of the muck. After that I stopped trying to follow tracks and found that the still snow covered edges were much more smooth sailing for the fat tires.


Miles 29 through 31 were straight into a blustery headwind that was no joke with probably 20 mph steady winds and gusts maybe up to 25 mph. I saw a few folks crack on that stretch and put a fair amount of time on those whose legs decided they had had enough. I was still feeling pretty strong and decided to keep the pace despite the insistent winds and I gained a bit of ground doing that. To put it in perspective, I was almost even with the fat bike guy that finished after me coming into mile 29 and I put 7 minutes on him at the finish over the course of those last 4 miles.


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Photo Feb 18 2023, 2 12 59 PM

I was glad to see the finish and to be done riding, legs were definitely telling me it had been way to long since I'd done any serious riding on the Pugsley.

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Photo Feb 18 2023, 1 11 40 PM

Dave killed it and managed to walk away with fist place in the Men's 50k Fat Bike division!

Winter Endurance (629)-(ZF-8362-73874-1-002)

We waited for others to come rolling in and then headed in to clean up and grab a bite at Schilling Bridge. All in all it was a great day, as I mentioned Dave pulled out the victory and I managed to end up at 5th out of 27 in the Men's 50K Fat Bike division. That also ended up being good enough to finish 10th out of 75 in the over all standings for the 50k division, fats and skinnies, men and women, young and old alike. I'll take that any day.


Thursday, February 16, 2023

Is this Heaven? No, it's Fairbury.


Hard to believe it on a cold and snowy day like today but just a few short days ago we were experiencing temps in the 50-60° range with very little snow on the ground. I personally was hoping that trend would stick around and we'd slide into spring without much of a winter. 



Sunday might have been the warmest day of the weekend despite the overcast skies so we decided to venture out for a couple dozen miles or so before the Super Bowl kicked off.

Photo Feb 12 2023, 2 59 04 PM


Selling the house last March and taking up the small town life is probably one of the best decisions I've made in a long time, maybe ever. I know it's not for everyone but to be honest Omaha, for all the things it has do to, it wasn't really my cup of tea and it never really felt like home. After taking a job in Lincoln and falling for a small town girl who just happens to be a real life Farmer's Daughter, staying in Omaha made less and less sense. If you want to destress and simplify life moving to a place with less than 4,000 people will do that quick. It also doesn't hurt that gravel is literally a tenth of a mile from the front door and not just some gravel but an endless sea of gravel goodness. I haven't had to drive to ride gravel if I didn't want to in 11 months!




Anyhow, back to the story at hand. As I've said it's been a fairly mild winter this year, even the MMRs were almost completely dry on Sunday and we had the roads to ourselves. I can't recall seeing any vehicles out and about once we got out of town. That's not all that unusual around here but I do think the Super Bowl or more specifically the Super Bowl parties helped. 


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Photo Feb 12 2023, 2 45 32 PM

That's not to say that we didn't run into any of our neighbors, they weren't all that happy with our selection of bridges to stop at for the customary bridge beer. Didn't help that I offered them some either, they wanted nothing to do with or our beer. It's a shame, that Speedy Donkey is a pretty tasty barley pop if you ask me. 

Photo Feb 12 2023, 4 08 13 PM


We got a bit of a late start on the day, lazy Sunday and all that but we managed to get in a decent 31 miles and still made it in time for Kickoff. Life has been good, cheers friends. 


Tuesday, February 14, 2023

My Coffee Brings All The Bikes To The Ride

Photo Feb 11 2023, 9 30 36 AM


It wasn't too many years ago that if you would have offered me a coffee I'd would have turned you down flat, and with a look of disgust on my face. Coffee is definitely an acquired taste and to be honest one that I probably haven't fully mastered yet since some might consider my cup of Joe to be a cup of creamer with coffee in it rather than the other way around. Regardless of how you take your bean juice big crowds always seem to form when we do an in town ride with a coffee stop or two on route. This was the case on Saturday, with the Bike Swap and benefit for Kupo going on later that afternoon a shorter less arduous ride seemed like the way to go.


Photo Feb 11 2023, 10 20 59 AM


Before the coffee stop though was the bridge stop and you know what goes with bridges, well, trolls but also beer, beer goes with bridges. You might be saying that 11 am is a bit too early to crack one open, I'd say you should get down off your high horse... it's really hard to hand you a beer and we don't want you to fall off. Miller Lite isn't exactly my beverage of choice but when you don't bring your own you take what is offered... and TBH I'd rather have a ML than most IPAs, so there's that.

Photo Feb 11 2023, 10 24 33 AM

Rode the latest steed on Saturday a bit less loaded down than I plan to ride it on it's new adventures but a shakedown ride was in order before doing it for real. Still need to load the bags on Grover, yep every good bicycle needs a name and Grover seemed app for this one given the color way, and give it a good ride that way but in due time.

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Photo Feb 11 2023, 12 03 58 PM

Rock-N-Joe was the choice for Saturday, as it has been for many a Saturday coffee ride. There certainly are "better" coffee stops in town but Rock-N-Joe servers up a tasty cup-o-Joe, they have a good selection of pastries and sandwiches aaaaannnnnnnddddd they aren't nearly as busy or crowded as some of the more popular joints. When you're rolling almost 20 deep you need a place that you'll find ample seating at.

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After the coffee stop several of us headed over to Zipline for the Bike Swap and Hot Wheels races to benefit Kupo Mleya. Kupo was murdered just before Christmas last year over a minor accident, losing someone you know and care about is always tough but to lose them in a senseless act just adds to anger and frustrations. I didn't know Kupo all that well but I did have the opportunity to talk to him several times when he wrenched for Cycle Works and The Bike Rack, he was always smiling and always helpful. He will be missed and the void he leaves will be felt by anyone who ever met him I am sure, he just had that kind of personality.


Thursday, February 9, 2023

So Low or Solo


Last Saturday temps were nearing 50° around these parts which means that riding, if you can, is a must despite it being the middle of the brown season. Jackie is still rehabbing her shoulder so rather than heading up for the normal Saturday shenanigans I stuck close to home and decided on a solo adventure. Great thing about living in a small town is that gravel more than abundant and never far away!


Photo Feb 04 2023, 1 26 12 PM

That furry little prognosticator says we have 6 more weeks of winter, maybe he's right but the extended forecast right now says that he's full of poop and to be honest I am okay with that. An early spring wouldn't hurt my feelings at all and there have been a few other unusual indicators that maybe the rat is wrong. Just the other day, for example, I saw several flocks of geese heading north in formation. Not sure geese subscribe to the Punxsutawney Spirit or pay much heed to The Weather Channel so maybe they didn't get the memo or maybe they know something we don't know. 


To remind me that winter might not quite be done yet, there were several roads still covered in ice and snow in the shade. More than a few still had copious amounts of mud spanning them also, had a route all planned out but gave up on it after about 3 miles and decided to create a ride on the fly based on roads I could find that were dry. MMRs are fun when dry but a nightmare when you add even a little bit of moisture. 



Also managed to make a fur friend along the way, definitely an outdoor Tomcat as he had the scars to prove it on his face and upper body but he was friendly enough despite life's best efforts to beat him down. Farm cattin is a rough life.


Speaking of life being a bit more rough than it has to be, during my journey on Saturday I happened to roll passed a friend's parent's farm who unfortunately had a house fire the night before and lost almost everything in the house and garage. Hadn't intended to pass by, honestly wasn't even sure where the house was exactly since it was only listed as south of Jansen in the news but seeing it first hand really struck home how quickly life can change on you. I know many of you might not know these folks but they sure could use a little help if you happen to have something extra to give this month and their daughter and future son-in-law are gravel family. Below is the link to the GoFundMe that has been setup to help them get back on their feet, anything would be appreciated I am more than sure.