I enjoyed a rewarding experience as I defended my title at the 2012 State Gravel Championships. I have no particular skill set or appreciation for gravel racing, but I really can't resist entering in races that are close to home and will feature smaller (personal) battles. I thoroughly enjoy races that test my personal capabilities and use them to motivate and/or guide my workouts, while extending my enjoyment of maintaining my fitness.
This race was 4 laps around a 7 mile circuit. The Cat 1,2 and Cat 3 divisions were supposed to be 5 laps, however, me and teammate Paul Deninger were the only two entries. So, congrats, another Gold Medal for me, as Paul was claiming that he had been eating too much cheese lately and was just going to try and hang on to my wheel. I can never tell if he is serious or not, but in this case he wasn't kidding. The real task, then was to help teammate Jason Rettler win the Cat 4 division, while also trying to be the first one to cross the line, as every category was racing together.
|Early in the race with Paul Deninger using his 'cheese weight' to help propel the group down the hill.|
I was feeling great, and pedalled to the front at the get go. What seemed like soft pedalling ended up launching me off the front. I didn't want to ride across bumpy/sketchy gravel alone the entire event so I tried to slow down... not happening. I couldn't seem to ride at a pace that would keep everyone together. I got frustrated quickly and decided just to pedal at an engaging tempo and see what happened.
After the first lap, I turned around to see that there were really just about 6 people still with me. Paul and Jason were amongst the group, so it was looking good. An unfortunate soul from Mercy Specialized made the selection. His name was Ben, and he was a Cat 4, so Jason still had some competition.
|Paul, Jason, Ben, and myself, after the field dwindled down about half way through the event.|
Paul suggested to slow down and ride tempo so we could 'practice team tactics'. I tried to slow down, but I was having trouble finding the motivation, so I eventually just kept pedalling at the cadence I felt I could maintain the entire race. There were quite a few rollers and a strong wind which added a bit to the intensity. A section of the course had 'fresh gravel' which meant we were getting tossed around as we traversed it.
Paul eventually fell off the pace and it was down to me, Jason, and Ben. Jason understood his goal was to stay on my wheel, as I felt quite sure that Ben was going to fall off the pace, which would present Jason as the Cat 4 Gold medal winner. That plan worked perfectly, as Ben fell off the back with about 10 miles still left in the race.
I was sort of getting anxious with Jason on my wheel, and suggested that I was going to up the tempo toward the last half of the lap, so I didn't have to think about him being behind me anymore.
After the race, he mentioned that his heart rate went up to 195 bpm at times. Paul thought his heart rate monitor might be malfunctioning as well, as it was up in the 180's. He also re-iterated the amount of cheese he has been eating lately. I guess I was feeling good.
|"Thumbs Up"... as I concluded the 2012 Iowa State Gravel Champs and enjoyed another great day in the saddle.|
Well, that was a nice way to cap off the 2012 racing season. I am not planning on racing cyclo-cross as I want to focus on my psychology degree this fall/winter. I am also working on trying to achieve 'full-body' physical fitness, so don't be surprised if I start to look a bit 'bulky'... it will hopefully be from body-building, not from cheese eating. Thanks for reading... I hope that my efforts to document the Midwest Bike Racing scene are inspirational and/or informational.