Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Gravel Rouser

For anyone not familiar with the infamous Gravel Rouser, it is a 4 day stage "race" in the Athens area sponsored by Athens Bicycle. (I put race in quotes because while it is somewhat competitive, it is kind of like in Whose Line Is It Anyway, the points don't really matter). This would be the fourth year in a row that I planned to attend all four events, racing where I could, helping where I could, and riding the rest. If you enjoy riding your bike in a semi-competitive environment,with a not-too serious attitude, with some level of a party atmosphere, in March when you can get wet and cold and muddy, then you really need to put this on your calendar.

Thursday - Escape the Asylum
Thursday's stage was a cyclocross race at the Ridges, that is, the old Athens Lunatic Asylum. The property is now owned by Ohio University, but back in its day, was well know for lobotomies. It was open from 1874 until 1993. Perhaps one of the better known residents was Billy Milligan. The facility has a fascinating and depressing history. Anyway, Joey set up a pretty dandy course around the grounds that included grass, broken walkways, and some brick roads. Unlike a true CX race, there were not any barriers or steps. Still a fun one mile lap. Under clear skies and cold temperatures  I started in the middle somewhere and it only took about a lap for everyone to find there spot. I managed to overtake a few riders on the course with my singlespeed Monocog. After first banging bars with Ryan Curtiss, he sat in behind me for a few laps finding where he was faster. With about 1-1/2 laps left, he passed in one of those spots and I was unable to get back around. Finished 5th (Fun fact: Blood tastes like metal because of its iron content. Some studies also show that intense exercise can increase pressure on the lungs, which allows red blood cells to leak into air sacs, possibly causing that metallic taste. The first hard effort of the years can hurt.)

Around the old heating plant.

Friday - Basswood Time Trial
And the rains came. Friday's event was a downhill time trial. I am not fast going downhill. I mentioned to one of the young riders that I have to go to work the next week. Plus, I volunteered to be the starting timer which meant I got to pull down the flagging on my way down the hill so I had a good excuse to go slow. And it rained. The trails were slick, It was cold. I even went to the local sporting goods store and bought a rain jacket. Everything I had was covered in some degree of mud bu the finish. At least there was some food and beers at the shop afterwards. This one night was about the social aspect of riding far more than the racing.

A nice sunrise to start the day.

Saturday - The Gravel Rouser Classic
Saturday cleared up, some, kind of. The temperatures were a little more mild, but it started foggy, a brief rain shower, a little sun at one point and ended cloudy with increasing winds. I helped get the group of 63 riders out of town and through the major intersections. Then it was grinding out the back road miles via King Hollow to Lake Hope. There, most riders headed up Irish Ridge where they would join the trail at the 4 way and compete in a XC time trial. I headed up the reverse way to make part of the course and finish time for the race. I am happy to help but standing in the woods for an hour + sure zaps the legs for the ride back to Athens. After timing, we headed to the snack stop. This year it even included some Ridge Runner coffee! I pounded a cup and put some more in one of my bottles for the ride back via Moonville and another long climb back in to Athens Co. I think I ended up with around 45 miles, while races put in more. The event ended at Jackie O's taproom where there would be Kiser's BBQ waiting.

Ready to roll out.

Somewhere near King tunnel.

Great group of guys to ride with.

Sunday - Grab n Git
So this used to also be a doughnut party. That was nixed this year in favor of grilled burgers/dogs/chips. I was sad. The Grab n git is a ride through the city of Athens to find various checkpoints and perform whatever test or task they had for the riders. The route is free and open, up tot he riders to figure out the best way. I have to say I started out flying. That was, until I couldn't find the second checkpoint. To make up for lost time, I ended up riding up Terrace Drive, a climb that was once included in Bicycle magazine's 100 best local climbs. I managed to gain back about half of my lost time and came in to the finish at 4th place. But, since the score is also dependent upon the scores at each stop, and since I was the unluckiest rider in the top 5, I dropped to 5th overall.

Finishing also meant I received another Wolfman Award (given to though that finsih all 4 events).

The Wolfman Awardees
My bikes are still muddy and I am still tired. Can't wait until next year.

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