It was cold and damp when we began and I was very appreciative that I was not a 1/2/3 on Saturday as the day just got worse. We had a good sized field - 40ish?? with Jason and I representing WFR in the race and Derek helping out. After instructions, we rolled out at a rather easy pace - what I didn't realize was that this was due to a headwind that would crush most of my remaining spirit on Lap 2. Jason and I sat on the back, chatting and just staying out of trouble. We rounded a few turns and Jason let me know that the gravel was fast approaching. As we neared the first sector of gravel the pace picked up and at this point I realized I couldn't hang. Ugh.
Alone I hit the first sector of gravel - a seemingly 3 mile long winding stretch of slick crushed limestone. Staying in the truck and tractor prints was like riding in snow - the bike slipping around. Make no sudden movements here! At this point, my 20 year old Vetta 1000 computer lost its feed from the wheel and I was suddenly seeing no speed or distance - just the 174 to indicate my heart was still beating - quickly. I settled in to slogging through it and hoped that it would end. After an interminable distance, I was back out on road. Briefly. My computer sprang back to life. Yeah! The 2nd sector was more of the same, but I think just a straight 2 mile-ish jaunt. I ignored the crust of cement on my water bottles - sucking down Cytomax to keep the legs turning. I must confess at this point that I did something very un-roadie. Under my longsleeve jersey and vest rode my camelback. It was a great decision. I could tuck the nozzle into the jersey and keep it clean. Ah fresh water! I exited the 2nd sector after being passed by the Cat 5 leaders who were battling for a frameset, tapped the brakes to clear the crud from the rims and powered with a bit of tailwind. Hitting the 3rd sector was the worst stretch we'd face. It was muddier and cruddier, but thankfully shorter. Coming out of sector 3 we turned the corner and Lap 1 was complete.
Hitting the headwind - solo - with nobody to hide behind was dreadful. My legs were tired and the excitement I'd had for this epic race was quickly waning. I'd barely kept it up in the gravel on Lap 1. However, as the wind drove me backwards, I began to long for that sweet gravel. At least I wouldn't be fighting so hard. Derek gave some encouragement. I wondered how Jason was faring. Entering the gravel on Lap 2 was just easier - maybe I knew it this time and could better judge the best line. Maybe I'd finally warmed up a little. Though I did find myself stabbing for a 39x25 that my 9 speed cluster lacked - I managed to slip through ok. My legs were beginning to tire and I chugged some Cyto and hoped to ward off the fatigue. I found a rhythm, settled in, and just rode my bike. I was cold, though. Rain spit from the sky. I decided that 4 hours of this brutality was asking too much, and so I made the decision to abandon after 50km. Coming off the 3rd sector, which was growing worse from the battle that was taking place on it, I turned left and headed back to the start. I let the official know that Rider 107 was done.
I'd hoped for a better day. I need more miles in the legs for certain. Flatlandia did a great job putting on a great race in crappy conditions. It lived up to its promise of being epic.
First, though I need to get the mild version, Mad Alchemy is just the thing for these Spring races. Embrocating before the race made a huge difference - overall I was warm. I've had some issues with the Russian Tea version leaving me basically with a mild burn, but i was very very gentle in my application and came through ok.
For the equipment I chose my 9-speed Campy Chorus equipped Bianchi. Largely because I didn't have 25's for tires I rode Bontrager Dual-compound 23's that have proven reliable under crappy conditions. They still looked new after the race. I should have gone with a 13-26 instead of a 12-23 cassette, though. Alone on the gravel I stabbed at the Ergo lever a few times for the 26. I guess I've been on 10 speed long enough to appreciate the bail-out 25 it provides. After an hour's clean-up and re-lube, the Bianchi is ridable again. I'll post pictures of the cement encrusted drive-train. I'm surprised it kept shifting. Probably another advantage to the 9 vs. the 10 speed.
Anyway, I stopped in Hinckley at the Dairy Joy for a chocolate malt. Always a good stop.
That's the scoop.