|Team DSG Chad Quigley surveys the path ahead for those undertaking Odin's Revenge. (photo by Wally Kilburg)
|Ready to roll to central Nebraska. Yes, it's the Build the Body Ride, not the Already Built Body Ride.
(photo by Chani Groseth)
The gathering of the Odin's gravel clan starts in earnest late Friday afternoon at the old school Walker Steakhouse in Gothenburg, Nebraska. You know the drinks will be cold and the steaks will be fresh, with a stockyards just up the road. Laughter and boisterous banter rock the old dance hall, as friends, new and old, share stories of days past and anticipate the day ahead. Race organizers Chad Quigley and Matt Bergen, and the rest of Team DSG, brief the course, checkpoints, conditions, forecast and expectations. A bounty of swag is scooped up. Folks linger, savoring.
Reluctantly leaving the pre-race social for the campsite, I prepare for the early start while fellow racers and crew filter in. It's another special time, hanging out with the camping sub-clan of the gravel clan. It's a real treat to share the campsite with Wally Kilburg, the professional photographer for the event, and gravel royalty Greg Gleason of Sioux Falls. Too soon, it's time to try to get some sleep before that 4:30 alarm.
But not before I adjust my gear to lighten my load. Greg's enthusiasm persuades me to try something different. I pretty much know how to meter out energy over a long race to finish within typical time limits. But I didn't really know what would happen if I deliberately push the level of effort up a couple of notches from the start. Hit it hard early. Travel lighter. See what happens.
|Riding to the start with Greg Gleason, a great gravel ambassador who happens to be a fast, tough champion.
(photo by Matt Bergen)
Mingling at the start in the pre-race darkness, I search in vain for Kevin Fox, who is just starting a college campus ministry in Omaha and was driving in on virtually no sleep to get here. I had hoped to share a prayer with him, but he is not to be found. Moments before the race starts, I hear a voice say, "Craig, would you join us? We're going to pray." It's Ben Cooper of Team WhiteTail, a small, passionate group of cyclists from nearby North Platte. Build the Body, indeed. Thanks.
We anxiously roll out for about 15 miles of dry, relatively fast gravel roads, before abruptly turning 90 degrees onto what looks to be barely a cow path. It's Brushy Road, our introduction to 35+ miles of "Minimum Maintenance Roads." Time to turn it up a notch.
|You're at Odin's Revenge. Leave those skinny tires and low-spoke wheels at your business park crit.
(photo by Scott Redd)
|Really good idea to hold your line here.
(photo by Scott Redd)
|Rolling on down the highway. Some spots were without ruts and without deep powder. None were without beauty.
(photo by Dan Buettner)
What I now have is a strong start to a very good race, if I can keep my rhythm and focus. Over the next several hours, I ride with a host of others, sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for a few miles. Jeff Bloom, a Lutheran pastor from Lincoln and a fast new friend. Dave Mizzelle of Oklahoma, a compatriot at the Gold Rush Mother Lode a few weeks ago and a fellow survivor of last year's Odin's. Kevin Dogget of Oklahoma, another fellow survivor of last year. Robert Ellis, a single speeder from Missouri and a near finisher last year. Paul Brasby of Team Whitetail from North Platte, another Mother Lode veteran. Marc Pfister, a bicycle frame builder from Colorado and Odin's veteran. All these, and others, helped me steam into Checkpoint 2, 87 miles in under 7 1/2 hours. For me, that's cruising. I'm getting tired, but I'm still feeling good.
|Good representation of much of the powdery dirt at Odin's. (photo by Scott Redd)
|There's my rabbit, a dot on the distant climb. It's hot and the course does not get any easier.
The Team DSG volunteers, with their water, treats, camp chairs and enthusiasm, revitalize me. As I try to visualize the final 36 miles to the finish, a steady stream of riders pull in. Now the energy level spikes, as we encourage each other to bring it home.
A group of six spin out about the same time. It's a great morale boost to ride with others at a time like this and the miles flow again. When we hit a sustained climb, I fall back a bit, but that's okay. I cover over 14 miles in the first hour out of Checkpoint 3 and should finish before dark. The brutal series of long, steep rollers on Gillman Road, at about mile 150, are hard body blows that knock the wind out of my pace. But they do not dampen the spirit. I'm closing in on the finish.
As I time trial the last couple of miles into town, determined to beat the darkness, I see a truck stopped ahead on the road. I soon pass it and wave in response to some kind of shout out. Then the truck pulls around and catches me. "Hey, Craig!" yells out a friendly voice, "Nice race!" It's Randall and Amy Smith of North Platte, who were a big part of my being able to finish the Gold Rush Mother Lode race a few weeks ago. They knew I was out on the course, coming in, and wanted to say hi before driving home. What a treat! That's the gravel clan, taking care of each other. Thanks!
The sun is down, but it's not yet dark, as I float into the Blue Heron Campground to rousing cheers. 180 miles in 15 hours 36 minutes. Well faster than any reasonable expectation. The Greg Gleason inspired strategy of going out hard early had to result in a faster overall time, but it's hard to tell how much. I know that I covered that course on that day as fast I could. And I cut over 5 1/2 hours over the ordeal of last year.
|Always good to see Odin himself, Chad Quigley, but especially so at the finish of Odin's Revenge.
(photo by Merrie Quigley)
|Team DSG Chad Quigley awards a special prize to Jeff Caldwell and his 7 year daughter Piper,
who ripped the 60 mile course on a tandem. (photo by Odin's Revenge)
Finally, a special nod to Jeff Caldwell, a very strong racer who last year broke a derailer less than 10 miles into Odin's, converted to a single speed and caught nearly everyone to finish second. This year, he signed up intent to make another run at the crown. Then his 7 year old daughter asked if she could ride. So, Jeff changed his entry to the shorter course option, a 60 mile ride, and rode it on a tandem with her. Reports were that she was grinning ear to ear at the finish. Nice work, Jeff. Best ride of the day.