Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Iowa Wind and Rock - The Gravel Family Steps Up

The King is dead! Long live the King!

In 2005, Mark Stevenson and Jeff Kerkove cooked up a mind bending endurance bicycle race called Trans Iowa, sparking a grass roots movement that continues to change the face of cycling. A Gravel Pilgrimage. After the completion of Trans Iowa v14 earlier this year, Mark announced the end of this pioneering event, leaving in its wake hundreds of gravel events of all kinds all over. And just ask a Trans Iowa veteran about their experience. What a legacy.  Trans Iowa v14 - The Last Lap.

Mark Stevenson (orange cap on the left) with final instructions and well wishes to racers at the start of Trans Iowa v14.
But wait. No Trans Iowa? That's a big crater on the endurance cycling landscape.

Sarah Cooper, Dennis Grelk and Steve Fuller recognized the significance of this loss to the cycling community and stepped up to do something about it. Highly accomplished endurance cyclists all, they banded together to create Iowa Wind and Rock, a new event crafted in the spirit of Trans Iowa.

Here is part of their announcement from their website.

"For 14 years, Trans Iowa, one of the most difficult gravel races in the U.S., took place in Iowa at the end of April. It was difficult not only because of the terrain, but also due to notoriously fickle Iowa weather, and the challenges it required riders to overcome just to make it to the starting line. The end of Trans Iowa in 2018 meant that a unique chapter of gravel racing history closed. As Iowans, Trans Iowa finishers, and people who enjoy stretching personal boundaries, we didn't want to see this unique opportunity for people to challenge themselves disappear. Iowa Wind and Rock is NOT, nor will it ever be Trans Iowa. However, we want to provide people a similar challenge - A free, 340ish mile, cue sheet navigated, late spring, Iowa event that allows entrants to challenge themselves, expand their boundaries, and allow them to see what they are capable of." Iowa Wind and Rock.

Whoa. Slow down. This is worth noting. These folks would not have to do this and certainly would not have to do it this way. Sarah, Dennis and Steve each have raced successfully at high levels over many years. They could easily leave this alone or trade their panache for cash. That's not happening here.

Iowa Wind and Rock represents an enormous commitment of time, effort and money from Sarah, Dennis and Steve, as well as from their families and friends. Nonetheless, they decided to create this event, in the spirit of Trans Iowa and with Mark Stevenson's blessing, to offer the cycling community a similar boundary-expanding experience. And they offered it for free. Guitar Ted on Iowa Wind and Rock.

Wow. Awesome. This is the Gravel Family. In action. Doing what needs to be done. And doing it right.

Thank you, Sarah, Dennis and Steve.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Staying Out of Rome

It's a great time to be an endurance cyclist, with freedom to choose among hundreds of events of all kinds all over the country throughout the calendar year. Freedom. The quantity, quality and even the very nature of events that exist truly depend on you, the cyclist, for attendance and support. Choose wisely, so as to support that which you actually support and not support that which you do not.

Pell Duvall and Scott Redd fording the water crossing in the 2014 Almanzo Royal gravel bike race.
Yes, I took this picture during the event, while I waited for everyone to safely cross.
Here's a recent incident highlighting the stark difference between a USAC sanctioned cycling event and a non-sanctioned event. LoToYa, a 206 mile USAC sanctioned endurance road event marketed as "road race" to categorized, licensed racers and a "cyclosportive ride" to others out for a challenge, disqualified three finishers, at least one of whom was a cyclosportive rider. Two were disqualified for "Selfie at finish line" and one for the "Obscene gesture" of flipping off the finish line itself. Selfie-Disqualified. Cue social media outbursts from all sides.

In the USAC world of sanctioned, licensed road racing, the thick rule book apparently includes a ban against using a cell phone during a race. With large packs of racers often fighting for each position, such a rule makes sense. Applying that rule to a cyclosportive rider documenting the accomplishment of finishing such a ride, with no one else in sight other than his riding buddy, does not. But it's the USAC's world. They set and enforce their rules. Live with it, or leave it.

Start of the 2018 Trans Iowa. In addition to starting in the dark, a finisher of Trans Iowa rode all day, through the night and into the next morning. In contrast, the LoToYa Race Guide says, "Riding after dark is unsafe and creates an intolerable risk." Both race directors have earned the right to create and manage their event their way. You choose what to support.
My take-away is simple.

If you enjoy competing in USAC sanctioned races and rides, know their rules, follow their rules and have fun. You're supporting their rules, their officiating and these outcomes by paying to attend events with USAC sanctioning. If that's your thing, go for it.

On the other hand, if you enjoy challenging yourself in endurance cycling events without the bureaucrats' rule book, instead look to non-sanctioned events, know each event's rules (probably not very many), follow those rules and have fun. And be sure to share all your pictures with everyone.

There's plenty of opportunity for everyone.