Oscar Choi. Armageddon (1998).
|Nothing like having a legendary professional capture the moment at the Gold Rush Gravel Grinder.|
Thanks, Randy! (photo by Randy Ericksen)
You're not ready. You know how to do this.
It's too much. Break it down.
You can't do this. You've done harder.
You should take it easy. You always do the hard thing.
This is nuts. You got this.
No, this really is nuts. Too late, it's started. Now I'm going to finish.
|Gold Rush Race Directors Kristi and Perry Jewett, photo bombed by the irrepressible Jay Petervary.|
What was I thinking? I haven't ridden single speed on a long gravel race since 2013. This is nuts.
Friendly voices, some familiar and some new, break through the internal clutter and redirect my thoughts. Hey! Hi! At the start of such an endeavor, it's always great fun to reconnect with friends and to reach out to friends you're just meeting. This morning, it's downright therapeutic. By the start of the race, I'm ready to enjoy whatever the day brings. Just ride.
|Old school Roddy Dowell from Missouri at the start, about to learn them young-uns a lesson!|
So, this is what the day is bringing. OK. Well, I know enough to take my medicine and settle into a manageable pace. It's going to be a 10-12 hour day, mostly spent climbing nearly 70 miles up to O'Neil Pass and then shorter, but much steeper pitches up to Cement Ridge Lookout. The weather is perfect in the mid-sixties, with little wind and clear skies. The roads are hard packed and dry. I know the route well. It doesn't take much imagination to see that this can be a good day.
|The long, lonely day of an event volunteer taking pictures of passing riders.|
I believe this is renowned photographer and artist Les Heiserman.
A couple of steeper pitches on Moskee Road reward with a welcomed descent before turning south again, now onto Grand Canyon Road. The meat of the climb starts now. Ahead lies almost 20 miles uphill without a break. Almost all the way to the O'Neil Pass Checkpoint. Well, alrighty then.
|Gold Rush Gravel Grinder winding its way along Moskee Road. (photo by Les Heiserman)|
I check in at the Trail's Head Lodge, a supporter of the Gold Rush since its beginning. Off to the side in a dimly lit dining room quietly sit a couple of racers nursing cold drinks and a couple others nibbling at hamburgers. All that sounds good, but I'm not all that thirsty or hungry. I'm normal tired, for such a time, but ready to roll after filling a couple of water bottles.
Instead, I decide to support the Lodge by at least buying a Snickers bar and sit down for a minute to enjoy it. Almost immediately the other racers strike up a conversation, which not surprisingly is both engaging and encouraging. That's the gravel clan, taking care of each other. The burger monsters are Kurt Letellier and Dusty Oedenkoven of Pierre, taking a well deserved break and sorting out a plan to get to the finish line. They're strong, and determined, and they'll make it.
Now it's downhill on School House Gulch Road, then the touristy Roughlock Falls Road and finally paved Spearfish Canyon Highway. I'm spun out on much of these last 20+ miles, so I casually coast and contemplate the day.
|Heading home, on the long descent of Roughlock Falls Road, ready to flip the final page of cue sheets.|
I finally finish right at 10 hours, which translates to just over 11 miles/hour total time and almost 12.5 miles/hour riding time. That's a strong ride for me on a single speed on this course, and almost an hour and a half faster than I rode in 2013. It also gets me to the party at the park in time for the buffet and awards ceremony. It's a good day.
Why a single speed Gold Rush? Gotta do it, every now and then.
One of the many variables in preparing for such an event is choosing a gear. I kept the analysis simple by sticking to what's worked for me over the years. It goes like this. 42x16 for fixed/single speed commuting in town. 42x18 for cyclocross. 42x20 for long, hilly gravel.
At the inaugural Gold Rush in 2013, I pushed that cyclocross 42x18 gear and paid dearly. Afterward, I switched to a 42x20 to finish the hot and hilly 2013 Gravel Worlds and to finish second place (out of four single speeders) at the 2013 Odin's Revenge. Since then, I've ridden gravel geared. For a simple single speed conversion for this year's Gold Rush, I left on a compact double crankset and set up a 34x16 single speed, which is essentially the same ratio as a 42x20. That gear worked great for me.