|All the roads were saturated from days of spring rains that reluctantly relented just before the start.
Some pave, a lot of gravel, some dirt, here some sand. It all stuck to everything.
Socked-in steady rain greets me as I pull into the pre-race festivities at Five Rocks Pavillion, a nice outdoors amphitheater in Gering, Nebraska. Unfortunately, a week of windy, cold rain petulantly persists past its forecasted finish, and well past its welcome. The announced field of 105 registered racers winnows down to something less than half that at the pre-race. As racers huddle around a shelter, Race Director Matt Hutt announces that a 20 mile chunk of the course is actually underwater and the rest is soggy, sloppy gunk of gravel, mud and/or sand. The solution? Detour around the parts underwater and slog through the rest. Well, all righty then. The group soon disperses.
I meet the effervescent Matt Hutt, sign in, devour a stone-fired pizza, study the modified course map, and consider a game plan. Not much to analyze, really. Unless this weather improves quickly and significantly, this race looks to be an all day slog in 35 degree windy rain. So, just stay warm and dry until the start, decide then the quantity and quality of layers to pile on, and head out to take on the day as it comes. Not much more to it.
|Waking up to 37 degree drizzle and steady winds. At least the hard rain stopped during the night.
|"Hey! Craig!" shouts a familiar voice at the chilly start. It's the one-and-only Jeff Caldwell of Team White Tail Racing
out of North Platte, here with compatriot Luke Meduna to take on the Robidoux on a fattie. Great to see you guys!
|Starting out on good gravel. Just more than a little saturated. Like those clouds.
But wait. There's some blue. I think.
We pedal south and east on well developed, relatively flat gravel roads that, if dry, would be very
fast. But dry they are not. Even on 40 mm Schwalbe G-One tires, I ride seemingly rim deep in gooey gunk for much of the first 20 miles. At least one race ends with a broken derailleur in a particularly nasty mud pit. It's that kind of day.
No one is in any danger of getting lost. The few turns are well marked and staffed with volunteers cheering and clanging cow bells. The interaction is fun and lively, but eliminates what little navigation skills the course may otherwise require.
|Turning uphill and upwind into the Wild Cat Hills on firmer gravel, turning to sand.
|Imagining life as a trading post entrepreneur in these hills in the 1840's.
|The sand holds a week's worth of rain, but is firm enough so it feels like flying.
This hill generated a speed of 40 mph for this back-of-the-packer.
|Yep, that's pavement over Mitchell Pass in Scotts Bluff National Monument.
And, yep, that Black Mountain Monster Cross bike is all blue underneath that fresh coating of gunk.
|Crossing the finish to a high five by Race Director Matt Hutt, who unfortunately is just out of the picture.
|Here's Race Director Matt Hutt, showing some mud, but little other effects, from riding the entire course with everyone.
Nice work, Matt!
Matt Hutt and crew created a fine event and overcame the challenging conditions with good cheer and good judgment. Well done.