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Friday, January 20, 2017

2012 Odin's Revenge - Seeking

After five years of hosting Odin's Revenge, the friendly folks at Team DSG recently announced the end of that amazing 180 mile gravel race. Saddened by the news, I wrote a blog post last month entitled The End of Odin's Revenge - One Rider's Retrospective. It was well received, but just didn't seem enough. So, I'm writing a post for each of the five Odin's Revenge races from this rider's perspective, along with the race report of my four finishes and links to race reports by others.

I did not ride the inaugural race in 2012. However, discovering the existence of Odin's Revenge almost a year later, I marveled at the compelling reports and pictures of that race. A self-supported, 180 mile race over unmarked, technically challenging, remote prairie gravel and dirt roads in the heat and wind of mid-summer Nebraska. Revealingly, only six racers finished out of the twenty-eight starters. This was grass roots bicycle racing at its core, with a nasty streak of adventure, route finding and self-sufficiency. And long enough and hard enough to present a real challenge for me. The saga of the 2012 Odin's Revenge sparked my imagination and triggered my exploration of grass roots gravel racing, with memorable road trips to Gothenburg, Nebraska the next four summers.

For a race report of the 2012 Odin's Revenge by gravel veteran Matt Gersib, go to his blog. 2012 Odin's Matt Gersib.  

The following is a copy of the 2012 Race Report from the website.

Following that race report is my post on the Black Hills BackBone blog about the impact of that race, published in December 2015 as part of a series entitled "A Journey to Gravel Races."

2012 Odin's Revenge pre-race gathering. (photo by Odin's Revenge)

From the Website:

April 30, 2012 / 2012 Event
The dust is still settling on the Inaugural 2012 Odin’s Revenge gravel race. The terrain and weather in Western Nebraska proved treacherous for those who took the challenge this year. Of the 28 riders who were brave enough to take the starting line, only six were still on their bikes by the end of the day.

The morning began with a cool fog and the distant rumble of thunderstorms to the South. Within a few hours, the morning gave way to high humidity and triple-digit temperatures. The stifling heat began to take its toll as rider after rider dropped from the roster. Although, only six individuals finished the race, many individual tests of strength showed that this field had strength of character in spades. It’s the shared suffering and respect for each other’s efforts that take a group of cyclists and makes them a community. Gravel Racers; Thanks for allowing Odin’s Revenge to become a part of that community.

A full account of the events is in the works, but for now this will have to suffice. More pictures and commentary can be found at the Odin’s Revenge Facebook Page.

From the BlackHillsBackBone Blog:

Having bailed from a misguided plan for a big production 24 hour mountain bike race, I tasted a gravel sample at the inaugural Black Hills Gold Rush. Now, I'm eager to experience the storied MidWestern gravel scene. For several years, I've followed on the internet the groundbreaking TransIowa and its progeny Almanzo and Dirty Kanza. Those big races were done until next year. What else is out there?

The start of the 2012 Odin's Revenge gravel race. Looks like a mismatched group of bike geeks that I'd like to join.
(photo by Odin's Revenge)
At that time, searching for unsanctioned, under the radar, grass roots gravel races would be hit or miss. That is, except for Gravel Grinder News, an obscure website started by TransIowa guru Mark Stevenson, aka Guitar Ted, as a clearing house for folks to post their gravel races. It quickly becomes the de facto online calendar of gravel races all over the country.

Mike Marchand, Corey Godfrey and Matt Gersib lead the way at Odin's Revenge 2012.
(photo by Odin's Revenge)
These gravel races are popping up like dandelions all over. Many are in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa,  Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska. None are very close to Rapid City. Then I spot Odin's Revenge in Gothenburg, Nebraska, about 350 miles away. That's a haul, but less than almost all the others.

The race itself looks interesting. 180 miles of gravel and dirt roads in central Nebraska through country that I had driven past many times, but never stopped, let alone explored. The course pictures show miles of rough roads and surprising scenery. This looks good.

Race volunteers check out conditions of a Minimum Maintenance Road in advance of Odin's Revenge 2013.
The prerace pictures stand out even more. Folks on Friday night gather around a campsite with picnic tables and pop up tents. A mixed group of 28 racers await the start, straddling everything from front suspension mountain bikes to cyclocross bikes to old road bikes. The 2012 race recap reveals that only 6 of those 28 starters actually finish the race, due to the difficulty of the course and the heat. Now, that sounds like my type of race.

I send in my entry form - a post card. Who still sends post cards? You do, if you want to race Odin's Revenge.

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