Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Team JTree rider Jon Roobol gives us the scoop on his race from earlier this month!

Michigan Mountain Mayhem Gravel Grinder – 45 Mile
October 3, 2015
After a long summer learning how to ride a bike with drop bars again, I was finally able to ride my new Trek Boone 9 in a timed setting (that wasn't Strava), and I had great weather and a fun course to do it on. The Gravel Grinder is in its second year and this is my first first time racing it. The turnout was fairly small, but the group start kept the roll-out engaging. The start to this race was unlike any I had done before. As a mountain biker, most races that I do are races of attrition; the first guy sets a hard pace and everyone holds his wheel as long as they can or until they think they have the legs to go around and stay ahead. This rollout was an easy 15-16 mph for the first 4-5 miles, on paved roads. Yes it was into the wind and yes having a tight group to draft in was nice, but it was excruciating to go that slow on a cross bike on paved roads. Chitchat in the group had many of us voicing our consideration to get out front and drive the pace. Well, I finally did.

As I came around the leader, I wasn't going much faster than the group, and I had it in my mind the leader would grab my wheel and the pace would pick up. Next thing I know, I look back and I have a 50 yard gap on the field. Well, shit...What do I do now? After hanging out on my own for a few miles, a few riders fortunately also decided they had had enough of the pace and joined me out front. We drove the pace and established a gap, but after the first of the big climbs all but one of us was back in the group.

I sat near the front until the next climb, glad to had shelter from the wind for a bit. And then the climb came. This is a 2 mile climb with an elevation gain of 500 ft. As you approach, the road is straight, and right in front of you is a scar through the forest of a 2-track logging road that looks like it goes straight up the hill at about a 30% grade. The guys that had done the race last year took the opportunity to tell the new guys that we go straight up that 2-track. Jackasses. Fortunately the road took a right-hand bend and we stayed on pavement. Not that it was all that much better. The leaders launched an explosive attack a mile into the climb and I jumped out and did what I could to stay near the front. Small groups formed and dissolved as we continued the climb before reformed as we crested the top and started into the rough roads that started to lead back toward the finish line.

It was mostly downhill now and the pace picked up. I was well back from the leaders at this point but still sitting well somewhere near 10th. The race took us down logging roads at this point but it felt like singletrack as you had to use the entire road to avoid sandpits, sticks and mud. More than once I had to jump of the bike and push or carry it through sand that was too deep to ride through. I found myself alone when the road opened up again, but I was able to catch limpets of the group in front of me when the road straightened out. I put my head down and pushed to try to close the gap …. and soon regretted it as a woman in an SUV pulled up beside me and told me I missed a turn at the top of a hill a mile back :(

Around I went and picked up the course again after watching rider after rider make the turn I had missed while I climbed back up the hill. Adrenaline does interesting things to the body, and I'm quite sure I had pints of it coursing through my body by this point. It was an all out effort for the last several miles as I did what I could to pass as many riders as I could.

I finished the race exhausted and on the verge of cramping, yet giddy and excited at the same time. What a fun race! The course was fun and challenging, my Boone performed great, y Infinit nutrition was dialed in, and the competition kept me on my toes. I ended up in 17th overall and 3rdin my age group and ready to come back again next year.