Finally! First gravel race of the season was this past weekend: The Dirty Edge Gravel just outside of Fruita, CO. Where’s Fruita? Just west of Grand Junction. Western slope territory. High desert. And a super fun place to visit.
Tl;dr: My conditioning wasn’t great. I wanted to finish in the top 50% and under 2.5 hours. I finished 49 out of 100 — but at 2:43 for time. Read on for more!
First off, I have to say that this area is a lot of fun to explore and be a tourist. Mrs. AdultOnset and I drove out Friday afternoon (4 hours from our part of Denver), got all checked into our delightful hotel (Balanced Rock Inn) and walked the 3 blocks to downtown where we immediately found three micro-breweries! It was then I knew it was going to be a great weekend. And I should mention that while Fruita is just West of Grand Junction, Palisade (aka wine country) is just East…
So yeah… there was some beer, wine tasting, and even mead tasting on Saturday. All in moderation, of course! Still had to ride Sunday.
We also spent a few hours up in Colorado Monument National Park which is always beautiful. I even did a little shakedown ride up top just to get my legs stretched a little. (Last time I was there we pedaled up into the park. Epic!). If you’re in the area, don’t skip it.
OK, let’s move on to the race details. (Strava link)
Sunday morning we loaded up coach and a teammate in Fruita and headed out to the starting line location. Not sure of the distance, but guessing 10 miles or so? The location is a park (I think it was North Fruita Desert park) chock full of camping spots and a wide variety of trails. Not going to lie, we were immediately envious of all the sprinter/adventure vans all over the place!
The weather: Low 50s and that’s not normally a big deal. But the wind was blowing and there was a slow drizzle and occasional rain drop thing going on and it. was. damned. cold. getting ready. I ended up wearing my base layer, a jersey, my cycling vest, cold weather arm sleeves, and then a long-sleeved jersey over top of it all. At that point I was out of things to put on.
The good news about the weather is that once the race started we weren’t even a mile down the road and the rain stopped, the skies cleared, and we got some sun.
Here’s where I admit to a pretty big mistake: I knew nothing about the course, but I had a route map. A couple days before the race I took a look at the map, switched view to “satellite” mode and got the impression the route was all on gravel roads.
Man was I wrong. 🙂
After a brief warmup which even included a rare stretch of asphalt, we jumped onto what I would call a jeep track. Definitely not a road. Some rocks to dodge, some steep drops and pitchy little climbs. I loved it and a blast.
About 5 miles of that and I had to stop and pull off the long sleeve jersey and cycling vest. I was definitely on the verge of overheating. What I had left served me perfectly for the rest of the ride.
Rest of the course was pretty great. Beautiful rugged scenery and I’m not sure I ever saw a motorized vehicle beyond a couple guys on dirt bikes towards the end. Some crazy steep downhills around miles 8 – 9 to watch for, then an 8 mile out and back climb into some “foothills” where the final mile was a pure bitch. I even had to get off the bike on the final climb and do some hiking it was so steep!
That out and back stretch of 8 miles destroyed my plan for 2.5 hours. I just didn’t plan for that much climbing and there were a fair number of sand traps in the corners. In fact, on my descent one of those sandy patches threw me right of the road and into the dirt berm on the side. Didn’t drop the bike though!
After that final descent there were just a few more miles to go and, again, my lack of prep caught up with me. I was thinking it was pretty much downhill the rest of the way.
It may have been predominantly downhill, but there were a few very punchy little hills left to deal with. But after that, we hit a fast home stretch.
As you can see in the picture, I was a little loopy crossing the line. Mrs. AdultOnset was calling my name, but I just couldn’t find her. (In my defense, she was wearing a truckers cap which is a bit out of character!)
I mentioned earlier that my goals weren’t too lofty for this one. A new job a couple months ago (and knee surgery end of last year, I guess) has been eroding my training time and my conditioning just isn’t at a place I’m happy with (and that’s on me). But I knew I could do this sucker and just wanted to be in the top 50%.
Finished 49th out of 100 finishers. 12th out of 18 of my age group (as usual, I must comment I’m surrounded by some really tough old guys in my age group!), and 36th out 62 for men. Pretty meh, but this may have lit the fire to get back to focusing on training. I hope.
Regarding equipment (and some notes for future me): I ran the 37 WTB Riddler tire front and a 36 WTB Vulpine rear combo that I liked so much last year. 42’ish lbs. pressure. Even though I totally guessed wrong about the conditions, this combo really did work quite well for most of the route.
If/when I do it again next year (I really want to come back in better shape and seriously tackle this sucker!) I will probably just swap the rear for another 37 Riddler and drop air pressure into the 35’ish range. I spun the rear on some of the climbs — I’m sure partially because of the higher air pressure and partially because that rear tire doesn’t have a ton of knobs. It is more for hard packed stuff.
This had been the only race I signed up for this year, and it definitely ignited the spark, so I sat down last night and registered for FoCo Fondo and Garmin Gravel Worlds again. Stay tuned 🙂
3 replies on “The Dirty Edge 2023”
Proud of you son!
Great writeup. Makes me want to ride it for sure except for all the hard stuff like sand traps and having to climb off bike. 😁
Another Proud parent ! You did make it sound like fun. Good job !