Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Dubuque Gran Fondo

Well, here is a link to all of the pictures, and here is a link to the results. I came in second, so take everything I say with a grain of salt that a cyclist with no skill who only rode one bike ride in July beat a whole bunch of people who are actually good, including a category 2 cyclist... so obviously I had a good day.

We started off and there is a picture of all of the Free Flight cyclist, I'm the tall one (tall one may also be interpreted to those unfamiliar with sarcasm as "the shortest of the group") on the left side of the picture without a helmet on.

What to say…
The very rag tag team.
Friday night before the ride I went to the local bike shop and bought a new pair of 700c x 28 mm tires, because I've rode enough gravel on my 23 mm wide tires to know I would get a flat tire. The difficulty is it takes more work to keep that much mass rotating.

We started off, I was just behind Greg Lemond for a few seconds before hammering up the first hill, Mt. Carmel. People were going back and forth, but I ended up with the second fastest time. Then we rode up 3rd street, then North Grandview, before heading onto Heritage Trail. I knew this seven mile timed section was my weakness, so I aimed to draft as much as possible. We got off to a slower start, little attacks here and there, with most just trying not to go too hard. Finally at the little road crossing at mile five I made my attack, but Evan did too, and his was strong enough he got away and I couldn't catch him. I ended up getting tired for 6-8th place on that section, slower than many of the group we rode with.
Covering Evan's Early Break (He's a lot better than me)
I like the picture above because I'm down on the drop handlebars, drafting, while he is up on the bars and leading. Who's putting out less energy? He may be a lot better, but in this flat section he only beat me by eight seconds in seven miles.

Shortly after the Heritage Trail timed section we started to hit serious gravel. I don't really like riding on gravel. After going down one hill a guy from Chicago who was behind me said, "you looked like a jet ski weaving back and forth." Fortunately, I never had a flat tire and I never went in the ditch and I never fell off. Three pretty big accomplishments for like six sections and close to 20 miles of gravel roads.
That's me, out there grinding it out, alone.
 Aside from the timed sections I really just rode easy. The goal was to get to Potter Hill as rested as I possibly could, so I probably rode 40 miles of the 70 alone. I really like the above picture because it shows a lot of my training in a nutshell, me out there doing my thing, thumbs up, with nothing else around.

The stop at the Field of Dreams was nice. I always like visiting that place. The movie is good and it's cool to see the set, plus there are almost always kids out there playing, and let's face it, it's cool to see kids running around. It's too bad you don't see grown ups running around more often… When's the last time we played tag?

Then some more gravel roads and riding alone...

Going into Potter Hill, seriously 200 meters from the start of the timed section the inside of my right thigh cramped up! I rarely if ever get cramps. However after 57 miles of bicycle riding including a few hills, lots of gravel, and some really hard peddling, I think my body said, "time for a time-out". So I stood around and stretched for a few minutes before deciding I was ready to hammer for five minutes up the hill. Another man who stretched for a bit started just before me and this is me passing him in the last section where sitting down was possible.
Enroute to having the best time on Potter Hill
I'm now #2 on the Strava .7 mile Potter Hill climb, behind Wes, a professional triathlete. Only the two of us have cracked 11 mph on that hill.

I wasn't supposed to win my age group. Evan on the left of the picture is by far a better cyclist than I am, but I think he worked too hard in the 30 miles between timed sections two and three and I got him on the hill. I came in second overall so I didn't win the bicycle, but I won an eight pound sausage. Funny story, I made the joke, "hey we're all the same height" because we were standing on a podium, but even then those two guys were taller than me. They both have to be over six feet. (Shameless plug for Live Healthy Iowa!)
That sausage made my arms shake it was so heavy! (I'm not joking.)
I waited around to talk to Greg LeMond. The guy still has it. He's put on a few pounds but most of it is muscle, his calves are more defined than mine. It was funny, there were only three timed sections this year, and he said in his opening speech for the awards, "you could have ten or 15 timed sections!" I could hear the race organizer Dan thinking, 'Greg, be quiet, it's not in the budget.'
Meeting Greg LeMond
So what did I think of it? It doesn't have to be fun to be fun. I had a great time, but that is biased because many of my friends rode it, and I won an eight pound sausage, and almost a $2,000 bicycle. There was too much gravel roads for me, personally. Heritage Trail was no problem, but the gravel roads were torturous, each one became progressively worse. I mean, one section of three miles of gravel torture is cool because it makes a difference in the bicycle and tires you choose, but 20 miles, with none of them timed is not so fun. I would like more timed sections. There is a category 4 hill, Bankston Park Rd Climb, which would be great, then you could have a king of the mountains award, plus an overall award. Also, a sprint finish across the 3rd street bridge or on the pavement before Field of Dreams would be cool, then you could have a sprint winner. If the goal is to keep lots of gravel, then at least put a timed section on a gravel road, maybe going up to five points road. I like having a variety of competitions. Advertising could have been better too. Not a whole lot of people knew about it.

One of the reasons attendance was sparse is the sheer cost of bicycle racing. In addition to the multi-thousand dollar bicycles many of us ride, I paid $100 for a few timed sections. That's a lot more expensive than the standard running road race. In the new global economy, fewer and fewer Americans can afford the expensive hobbies like bicycle racing. I am rich and it makes me sick, so I try to win bicycle races because I have that opportunity. I think with less gravel, maybe a lower cost to do the not timed for competition (perhaps $25 instead of $75 for that option) it would be more highly attended.

Would I do it again? Probably, but that's like asking if I will run any given race or attempt any given mountain again. I don't know where I will be in a year's time or what other priorities I might have then. I had fun. It wore me out. I like the idea of a social ride where we all go after the same race segments. It was a good day.

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