Crack of dawn the Lincoln crew is off for Manhattan and gravel goodness. Made great time on the way down and was able to make a couple of deliveries prior to the start. We dropped off two five gallon Hopluia kegs and Gravel Conspiracy T-shirts courtesy Spilker Ales and CiTy BiLLy, respectively.
The North wind was brisk and the temps were hoovering in the low 40's around the start of the event at 9 AM. Had to borrow a vest from Matt. Thanks Buddy!
Wicked tandem! Kyle Arnold and his wife rocked out the tandem for a bit (Kyle had somewhere to be by early afternoon and had to bust out early). They're doing Leadville 100 this year. Good luck!
I'm not sure of the official head count, but it was a great showing of the Midwest's gravel conspirators. Joshua, race promoter, found a great spot for the start in Cico Park with ample parking.
Neutral roll out of town with the local boys leading the way.
The first 5 or 6 miles were through town via the Linear Trail. Kinda reminded me of the trail system found in Lincoln.
The group broke up a bit after half got caught by a red light. The rest of the group settled into a good tempo and fought the wind the way out of town. The first 25 to 30 miles were into a healthy headwind. The group did a great job of working together by taking turns up front. The pace was brisk, but there were no attacks in the first 30 miles. Then Mark Smelser moved to the front and ended up getting a gap on the rest of us with a little help from a large steer. Mark didn't realize a loose steer was on our side of the fence. He was first up a rocky climb and went blastin' by the steer on a rocky descent. I spotted the spooked steer and hit the brakes at the top of the descent. The group stopped and watched the steer bounce from both sides of the road a few times until it finally found a low spot in the fence and made a miraculous leap over. I should have pulled out my camera to get a pic. Mark was already up the other side of the climb and put the hammer down by the time the steer made it's exit stage right. That's all Mark needed. He was gone and stayed off the front the rest of the day. Impressive. Mad props for his efforts!
Dan Hughes, Troy and I ended up giving chase and worked together for the next ten or so miles. Troy had cramp issues and backed off the pace while Dan and I worked together to try to reel in Mark.
Dan, Troy and I rolled into the first checkpoint at mile 40 as Mark was heading out. Joshua did an outstanding job with the aid stations. Any and everything you could want was readily available at both Aid Stations. Thanks again Joshua and crew!
The route took us through a couple smaller towns including this one, Wamego. I almost got killed here when a parked car backed out in front of me while I was messing with my camera. Dan was kind enough to holler at me and draw my attention to my impending death. Thanks Dan!
The gravel roads in Kansas are a different beast than the gravel in Nebraska. How? More rocks, less corn and soy, occasional free roaming cattle, and much more remote. Not many farm houses on a majority of the route. A few times during the ride you could see no signs of human intervention (besides the gravel road). It was very peaceful.
Dan chasing me down on his Birthday! Happy Birthday!
This was my favorite part of the route. This pic doesn't do it justice. It was a three tiered climb that crested at the top of a large hill. At the top you could look for miles in any direction and see nothing but rolling green hills. Beautiful.
Upon turning onto Deep Creek Road we came across this abandoned stone farmhouse. I'd like to ride down there again someday and check it out.
Dan linked back with me on Deep Creek Road and we worked together all the way back to Manhattan. We found our way through town and to the finish line together. Mark had beat us there by five minutes. It was a fast and tough 110 miles of gravel.
Troy rolled in not too long after Dan and I. He battled cramps since mile 30 and rode the last 80 by himself. This was his first taste of Kansas gravel. He made great time considering the cramps and rode impressively all day.
Zach rolled in after Troy for fifth place. He lead us out of town and took several long pulls during the start.
Craig rolled in with a couple of the Cycle City guys.
Joe Fox of Cycle City pimpin' the Ira Ryan bicycle. It was dope.
Tom Liebel and a buddy roll into together with wide smiles. Tom got his pic in this month's issue of Mountain Bike Magazine in an article on the Dirty Kanza.
The post race cookout at Joshua's pad. Lots of great food and plenty of recovery beverage. Hopluia!
These guys had a blast and were happy to hit the finish.
Lincolnites, Matt Wills and Jim Fobben at the finish. Matt took the SS win! They both made a couple of stops during the ride to rehydrate with some Budweiser tall boys. Lincoln representin'!
We hung out at Joshua's place for several hours and eventually made our way home with the sun going down. It was a great day! The Gravel Conspiracy is grassroots racing at it's finest. Thanks again Joshua!