TL:DR – It was really windy. I didn’t get lost this year, met some good people, finished, and had some fun. In spite of the wind. Seriously.
As promised last year, I went back to Pratt, KS for another round of the Open Range Gravel race. Things were very different this year — but not entirely in the right way. But I didn’t get lost this year so that’s a huge upgrade.
I think this overheard quote sums it up best, “Yeah, it was really windy out there but at least I was going uphill.”
Holy [expletive deleted], it was crazy windy this year! Even at 8 AM the winds were already in the mid 20s, and it only went up from there. Gusts were in the 40s! Once or twice, I had gusts that I swear literally moved me and the bike sideways on the roads.
Temps were good. Started in the low/mid 50s and finished around 70. A little overcast but enough sun. That aspect of the weather was wonderful.
And, just like last year, the course was fantastic. Good variety, some fun challenges and I love the jeep trail across the ranch. So much fun! Overall, it seemed like there was a little more sand out there this year than last year (I think?) but that keeps you awake and paying attention.
Stats: I finished 54th out of 152 (and there were almost 30 DNFs). Definitely an improvement over last year. My age group is beastly, I only managed 17 out of 41. Got more work to do there, but still happy with the finish.
I started the race with Coach Jenn and another teammate, Leslie. Because I’m a bit of a brat, I’ll brag that I beat my coach by a bit over a half hour. 🙂 However, she won her age group — and I think finished top 4 for all women. Pretty awesome for her second gravel outing! (here’s a link to her synopsis video)
Leslie was the smart one. She looked at the wind on Saturday morning and declared she would be done at the halfway point. Wise woman.
More about that wind:
The wind was mostly out of the Northwest, sometimes switching more West, sometimes more North. Kept it interesting… First half of the course is mostly traveling South or West. South was fantastic! West was painful! You quickly learned to try and get some small pace line action going with other riders — that really helps in that sort of wind. Normally I avoid such things, but in those conditions my personal rules became much more liberal…
Midpoint of the course is a long push on paved highway going East, which was glorious and fast. But after that we turned north and the final 30 miles were all north or west and predominantly uphill. It was, perhaps more than a little, soul-crushing. But you just put your head down and keep digging.
With 14 miles left I finally caught up to a fella named Marty and we got a little paceline going and that helped get my head back in the game. A mile or 2 later we picked up Zak and then things really got cooking. A couple of other guys came and went in there, too. The wind was still strong, but you could get a little respite when not pulling. Marty fell off after 6 miles or so, but Zak and I went on to finish side by side.
Oh, and I should mention that Zak is (obviously) a bit younger than me. And riding with one leg — the other was in a prosthetic clipped into the pedal. And Marty won his age group of Men 70+. Gravel riders are super tough and sometimes I’m just proud to be allowed to ride along with ‘em.
And finally: Did I mention that it was windy?