2012 Gravel Metric

Veni, Vidi, and then I was Vici’d.

What an awesome ride.

Weather was a scorcher.  It was in the nineties all day…started around 90 at 9, got up to a high of 98.  On one asphalt road, BPaul’s bike computer reported 111 degrees.  It was toasty.  Toasty enough that if my legs grazed the top-tube on the Vaytanium, it was hot to the touch.

Pics that I show on the blog today are from a variety of sources.  Some are mine, some are unattributed on Facebook, some are from Jon Schratz, and some are from the incredibly talented eye of Sir Chad, from the Brown County adventures.  (Not Hand of Midas.  The other Chad).

North Central Cyclery is the host of the event, and had the whole crew ready to help.

Had a HUUUUUGE turnout.  Over 200 riders.

The Vaytanium was ready to rock.  I was sporting 4 bottles, given the weather conditions.

I was also sporting the 700x35c Continental Cyclocross Speeds.  With about 3,000 miles on them, they’re just not wearing out.  Here’s the seatpost mount bottle cages:

Here’s Nice Jeff, shooting the breeze with Ben Berden.

Ben was super-nice, very easy to talk to, and a great guy to spend a bit of time with.  More on that later.  He was out riding for Clement, and there were a TON of bikes sporting Clement’s new line of gravel-oriented clinchers.

Crowds amassing:

Ross, taking waivers:

Mudge, getting on his game face:

Nearly everyone at the shop rode the race.  Ah-mazing.

We had an incredibly orderly lead-out through town this year.  Right down Route 38, then up Annie Glidden Road, and then left on Twombly.

Cyclists had both lanes.  They were running red lights, swinging through corners without stopping…wait–it’s not what you think.

DeKalb’s finest lead the way, providing a much-appreciated escort out of town.  Here’s Nevdal and Tobie, at the head of the pack.

Smashing new NCC kit.

When we eventually got to Twombly, and it turned to gravel, things got real.  Here’s yours truly, mixing it up with Ben, the professional cyclocross racer.

I believe this is his ‘game face’

Actually, I’m not sure we were mixing it up.  He was just waiting for a nice spot to pass.

The lead group, early in the race:

That’s Dan Eiten up front in the NCC Kit, and I’m about 3 bikes back.  But then again, that’s only a couple miles in.

I’ll do the ride review first, and my personal experience later.

Terrain was varied.  Paved, gravel (tons of gravel), dirt, creek crossings, etc.

Some riders had difficulty with the creek crossing.  The good line was far to the right, and it was a straight shot across, and then a little 5″ curb jump to get out.

Other lines were not as successful.

This is Ben, enjoying a leisurely ride in the country.

I rode a while with Rick, the organizer of Barry Roubaix (who complimented my B-R water bottle before I knew who he was).  He was riding this beautiful Steelman cross bike:

He was a great guy, and was riding strong.

But this is what much of the ride looks like:

Or this:

The Vaya makes any surface just a little bit better.

Part of the ride looked like this…although with no rain, it was totally dry and super-fast.

And after that, I didn’t take any pics on the ride.

Here’s the aftermath:

That’s salt.

The Vaytanium rocked it hard.

It was an awesome ride.  Hard, hot, fun.  North Central Cyclery was the consummate host, and Dan and Tobie killed it on the ride.  There should be more pictures forthcoming…I’ll link some in when they’re available.

As for my ride, I rode as well as I could, and am happy with how I did.  The first 5 miles of actual “racing”, I was on the lead group and felt strong.  That was 20-22mph on loose gravel.  A number of guys went down in the pack (and on the day, there were a few injuries and some heatstroke).  With all of the gravel riding we’ve been doing, I felt totally comfortable, regardless of how loose and sketchy the gravel was.  I also knew enough to watch the road ahead, and when it got loose, I would get in a track.  The guys I saw went down did so for predictable reasons…they rode into gravel that was unrideable at 20mph, lost control, and wiped out (usually while over braking with their rear brake).

The first 15 miles, I felt pretty darn good.  I was rocking the Paul-o-ton with BPaul, running a nice rotating 2 person pace line into the wind.

Around mile 20, my strength started going, but my technique was still good.  I know exactly what happened, it was totally predictable, and I learned from it.  I didn’t ride as hard as I could have–but I know what I could have done and I’m comfortable with it.  I also am very pleased to have picked a sustainable pace starting at that point, and riding to the finish.  There’s no point belaboring what was really a slow result for me–it is what it is, I know why it happened, and hopefully, it’s a stage of life that’s behind me.  Live and learn.  Notwithstanding that, it was still a really fun ride.  Wind was out of the SSW…the ride started going generally Northwest, then generally southwest, then east, south, east, south, north (out and back), and then generally Northwest.  There was a nice tailwind on much of the way back to the shop, which was greatly appreciated.

Lessons Learned:

1.  Did not need 4 water bottles.  Too much unnecessary weight.

2.  At the start, get behind guys you know and trust.  It was totally reassuring to be behind Dan and Tobie.  I knew their riding, they were predictable, and I could be on their wheel without worrying that I was about to go down.

3.  No matter what, stay on another bike.  Riding significantly faster with a rotating pace line is easier than riding alone and going slower.

4.  Practice gravel before the race.  A lot.  I had done this, and was totally ready for the gravel.

5.  Practice single track on your cross bike.  I had done this as well, and felt totally comfortable in ruts, dirt, creek crossings, hopping obstacles…totally comfortable.

6.  Have fun.  The extreme parts of the Metric are what make it memorable.  Last year, it was hail, lightning, and flash flooding.  This year, it was blowtorch heat.  Some of the paved roads, with a hard crosswind, felt somewhat akin to a convection oven.

At the end of the ride, I was wasted.  Wasted, as in when people ask you if you’re ok, you say, “No.”  But some great friends at NCC took care of me, and with a little water (some in a bottle, some from a hose), I recovered quickly.  It was a great ride.  If you missed it, put it on the calendar for next year.  Thanks, North Central!

I’m experimenting with a new “ceramic” chain lube and I’m not sure if I like it or not.  I’ll have further thoughts on that in the coming months.  For now, it’s time for a little more post-race R&R…back to the grind tomorrow.

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20 thoughts on “2012 Gravel Metric

  1. Dean:

    Good ride & write-up!

    I’m curious how nutrition went for you. I have a feeling it was a greater obstacle than many realized, and wonder–with your dietary guidelines–how it went for you.

    Jeff

    • Nutrition was a huge issue, and it was the definitive issue for me, this year. Due to unrelated issues, I was having a hard time keeping food down. After some refreshing cold water at mile 20, I puked around 24, and thereafter couldn’t keep anything down. That’s the bad news. The good news is that I know exactly what happened, and why, and can hopefully prevent it from recurring.

  2. Hi Dean,

    Nice ride report. Happy to report I didn’t fall off crossing the creek. Came close a few times on gravel – need more practice. Prefer the tarmac.

    Paul C.

  3. The aerobars can in handy a few times. The riders I couldn’t get in my back pack, I strapped to the aerobars ;)

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  6. Very nice writeup. I rode the GM on my generic (Nashbar frame) touring bike with Ashton Brackett wheels from Pedal and Spoke in North Aurora — fenders, rack trunk and all. Loved it — finished in the early afternoon, after taking a few longer breaks under shade trees. I carried three bottles on the bike, and three in the trunk, and I went through all six of them between stops! Could not believe how much I drank on Sunday. nuun to the rescue. Great event!

  7. Great write up, to an Amazing Event! I Had an awesome time, riding with like minded (somewhat insane) people all enduring the terrain, wind and heat. You could see the look in riders faces of the shear focus and single minded though of getting thru the ride, but not so much that a friendly hello, was ever missed. And the shared camaraderie was evident with riders coming and going either offering a daft, or me doing my best to do a pull at the front when I could. After making it back and cooling off under the hose, I felt as alive as I have ever felt, knowing I put my best effort in an endured an epic ride with a bunch of great people. Super Big Thanks! Goes out to the whole crew at NCC and all the people who manned the check points and set the coarse up, without them the event wouldn’t be the same. thanks Andy

  8. Nice write up. Curious about the seat post bottle cage mount. Who makes it? I could use something similar for long rides.

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