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Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Journey to Gravel Races (part 1) - An Awakening

Cara's former high school track coach, Paul Hendry, often said that you don't find your event in track, your event finds you.  That's grass roots gravel races for me.

Three years ago about this time, I was looking ahead to the upcoming year for mountain bike races to pencil in the calendar.  Gravel races were not even on the radar.  I still considered myself a mountain bike and cyclocross racer, even as any real racing, or even training, slipped further into the past.  A thought shot across my mind.  2013 marked ten years since my last 24 hour team relay mountain bike race.  Is that possible?  Really?

We somehow survived the 1999 24 Hours of Moab, which sparked a new approach to riding and racing.
Craig Groseth, Dan Cook and Mark Almer.
Back in 1999, I teamed up with best riding buddies Dan Cook and Mark Almer, added new friend Rick Dutson, and entered our first mountain bike race, the 24 Hours of Moab, as a 4 person relay team.  We cranked, crashed hard every lap, wilted in the afternoon, froze at night, broke bikes and bodies, kept pedaling and somehow finished far above expectations.  A weekend like no other, and the start of five special years highlighted with quickly increasing speed and technical ability, regular group night rides and a dozen 24 hour team relay races.

Some of our team at the 2001 24 Hours of Adrenalin at Winter Park, with Kelli Cook on the microphone.
We repeated our age group win on the course and our support team won the Best Pit Area.
By 2003, times had changed.  The 24 hour race scene started to wither, as the big production events like the 24 Hours of Moab and the 24 Hours of Adrenalin grew stale to many.  I managed to fit in two 24 hour team relays, but Dan had moved his family to California and we were preparing to move to Rapid City.  I still rode a bunch, but lost focus on any specific training.

Team IronClad of ChristianCycling.com at the 2005 24 Hours of Moab featured 10 race teams, 50 volunteers, a ministry of free food and mechanical service to anyone in need, a sofa lounge to relax, and a Sunday morning worship service with a praise band.  We were essentially the church for a temporary town of 4,000 people camping in the desert for the weekend.

When we moved to Rapid City, the Black Hills sported a vibrant cycling community that supported a variety of races and events, including a new 50 mile mountain bike race, the Dakota Five-O.  I eagerly jumped in, but with a different approach.  As part of an overall shift to a more simple, sustainable lifestyle, I hang up my go-fast Specialized StumpJumper Pro racing hardtail and convert my original mountain bike, a rigid steel 1991 Specialized RockHopper, to single speed.  All on the trail is new again, with a back to basics bike and a refreshed, relaxed mindset.

Time passes.  Oh, I occasionally enter a local race and putter through.  But my cycling becomes a daily commute to work, a weekly mountain bike ride or two, and an occasional road bike ride through the Black Hills.  Almost all single speed or fixed.  Losing speed and mentality for racing, but loving the ride.  All good.

Now, it's end of year 2012, I'm staring at the calendar, realizing that it's coming up on 10 years since that last 24 hour mountain bike race.  I miss those, especially the experience of sharing an entire  weekend of racing and camping with all those friends and their families.  What to do.  Hmmn.

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