Yesterday was my first gravel event of the year. The Open Range Gravel out of Pratt, KS. I signed up for this one in the more casual 100k’ish distance to use as a learning event. And I definitely learned things (that’s foreshadowing).
The race started cold (40’ish?) and windy. However, the wind was strongest early on when it was at our backs and the temp was well into the 60s by the time I [finally] finished.
The course was awesome and even the shorter route I did had some really fun stuff to ride. I got a taste of some of the longer course route as well — accidentally — more on that later (more foreshadowing). The ride across the ranch was absolutely fantastic and just the right amount of technical to have a ton of fun but keep the speed up.
First, I thought I’d really want a beer when I crossed the line, but the chocolate milk I was handed definitely hit the spot. It paired well with some Pringles I had left from the break stop 🙂
Second, the gearing changes I made after last year’s final race worked out well. This course wasn’t super hilly, but when I needed the low gears a few times, I really appreciated having made the updates. Only time I had a grumble was in the long flat downhill stretches where I ran out of gears to go faster… but how often does that really happen on a gravel race? If I ever decide I need to be super competitive I’ll have to scrap the 1x for a 2x setup, but until then this works great and is low maintenance.
I also switched to a wider and bit more aggressive front tire (700×42 WTB Raddler) and was very happy with how that worked for me in the sandier sections of the course. Felt like I had a lot more control and was able to ‘steer through” the worst of it this time. No panic moments. All in my head or did width matter? I really don’t care, I’ll take it either way.
Wearing a new kit? Wash it and work in the chamois a bit first! ‘nuff said on that… This was my first ride in my new Wattie Ink Gravel Collective Project kit and overall it worked out great. Really like the pockets on the side of the legs. You can tell from the pictures above that it is pretty distinctive too.
More importantly: From now on I print the cue sheet out on good ol’ fashioned paper and tape it to the top tube or tuck it safely into a back pocket. Just in case.
Why? Well, we had a break area at the halfway point. When I jumped back on my bike I wasn’t paying much attention and just followed a group back out to the road. My navigation computer kinda did me dirty and just went blank. Didn’t tell me I was going the wrong way, but just didn’t tell me anything at all. I figured I’d be OK as long as I kept other riders out in front of me to follow.
Sadly, after 5 or 6 miles I didn’t have anyone in front of me and realized bad things were happening. Wandered around a bit before I spotted some riders diving down into another ranch run. Caught up to them and realized they were all 200K course riders. A quick chat confirmed I had left the break area and went the wrong direction. 🙁
So that was a 16 mile and 1 hour’ish oopsie when it was all said and done. And a couple really big hills climbed that didn’t need to be climbed (but hey, my new gearing choices worked out great!).
I rode pretty hard for the second half of the course once I was back on track. Remember that tailwind I mentioned at the beginning? Well, headed back to the finish line it was now a head wind. Thankfully not as strong as it had been, but definitely helped to burn the remaining matches.
When it was all said and done I finished 66th out of 130 riders in my event. Unlike most of them, I rode 85 miles instead of 69 so I guess mid-pack doesn’t feel so bad factoring that in.
If I play with the math and estimate the time my mistake cost me, I think I would have been right around 25th. Doh.
As things sit now, I plan to be back next year for a redemption ride!