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Sunday, June 16, 2019

Every Rider Has A Story - 2019 Gold Rush

Listen to any cyclist at the 2019 Gold Rush Gravel Grinder and you'll hear a compelling story. On that day, 300 some cyclists willingly rode from the comforts of the tourist town of Spearfish on messy gravel roads into the cold, wet, and wind of a nasty spring squall in the Northern Black Hills of South Dakota. Whether striving to ride the 70 mile Gold Dust, the 110 mile Gold Rush or the 210 mile Mother Lode, all pedaled into that weather, on to those roads and up those Hills. Their reasons were their own, but they shared a kindred spirit.

To see what's out there. To see what's within. To face the day as it unfolds.

Since the race, I've started to hear some of the stories of other riders. Everyone endured an endless winter that curtailed planned training. Everyone overcame obstacles just to get to the start line and then to actually start riding this thing. Everyone was cold and wet. Everyone had mud everywhere. Everyone suffered out there in those conditions. Everyone has a story to tell.

Irrepressible Robert Cota cheering on all the riders spinning up some early rollers on Homestake Road west of Spearfish.
I second that emotion. (photo by Randy Ericksen)

In a day of stories to be told for years to come, however, the most compelling story I know is the ride of Lucas Haan. 

As most cyclists around the Black Hills know, Lucas is a free-thinking engineer/beermeister who infuses boundless energy, enthusiasm and creativity into hosting the Black Hills Gravel Series, as well as spearheading a variety of other community-based cycling endeavors. He's a force of nature making our cycling community better for everyone and seems to know by name everyone in the Black Hills who has ever pedaled a bicycle.

Lucas also is a talented cyclist who registered for the Mother Lode, despite being a novice to endurance racing. Analyzing like a School of Mines engineer, Lucas obsessed over the details of the course, learned hydration and nutrition, tweaked his new Black Mountain Cycles MCD, and planned a full slate of training rides leading to the June 8th race. Like everyone else, however, weather, work and family commitments conspired to truncate the number and length of those rides. Race day crept closer.

Now, cyclists are notorious sandbaggers about their claimed lack of training, but I seriously doubt another registrant for the 210 mile Mother Lode could say this. Shortly before the race, Lucas had not yet completed a 100 mile bicycle ride. Not this year. Not last year. Not the year before. Not ever.

That's nuts. Who does that? Who signs up for a race like the Mother Lode right out of the endurance racing blocks?

Just two weeks before the race, Lucas finally recorded his first century: a paved road hammerfest with some local fast guys. Lucas avowed that they took a few long breaks and that he was a little tired, but otherwise felt good to go for the Mother Lode. That's not exactly a conventional training plan, but it certainly revealed some latent abilities.

Lucas Haan on the wheel of Christopher Grady in the early miles of the 2019 Mother Lode.
(photo by Randy Ericksen)

On race day, Lucas steamed onto the gravel with the lead group and steadily powered up the 70 miles to O'Neil Pass in under 6 hours. That's a strong start for anyone. Although his Scandihoovian motor burns very hot, even Lucas was a bit chilled at TrailsHead Lodge in his lightweight wind jacket. Seeking solutions, he ate some grub and bought several chemical foot warmers, before dropping into the Central Hills for that big 100 mile loop that eventually climbs back to TrailsHead Lodge.

Lucas insisted that the sun came out for some of that loop, but I think that was just his disposition working to convince his hands and feet that it really was getting warmer. In any event, after dark the temperatures plummeted into the low 30's for his final climb back up O'Neil Pass. Some racers saw snow. At TrailsHead Lodge, Lucas saw newspaper as insulation and created a makeshift puffy jacket for the frosty descent in Spearfish Canyon. The rookie goes old school.

Lucas cruised into Spearfish shortly before midnight to become a Mother Lode finisher on a brutal day. And his time of 18:49:49 earned third place in the Under-39 age group.

Amazing. Simply amazing.

Congratulations, Lucas. I can't wait to see what's ahead for you.

Lucas Haan celebrating his finish of the 2019 Mother Lode.

Here is a sampling of Randy Ericksen photographs of other cyclists out there braving the elements in the 2019 Gold Dust, Gold Rush and Mother Lode gravel races. Each has a story to tell.

Wet, wind and cold, right from the start of gravel on the Mother Lode.
Lead dog Nate Keck avoids the spray of wet gravel on the early miles of the Gold Rush.

Homestake Road rollers introduce Gold Dust riders to wet gravel.

Zach Stone taming his bucking bronco on the Gold Dust.

On the Gold Dust, Erik Lindquist suppresses his ever-present smile for the mud-covered, gravel grinder look.

This spring's latest look - mud splattered white.

On the Gold Dust, Casey Bergstrom flies off Cement Ridge in search of more mud.

Climbing into the clouds toward O'Neil Pass. I'm shivering just looking at that damp cold.
This photograph captures the day. 

Finally, here's a link to Randy Ericksen's album for more pictures from that day. 2019 Gold Rush Photos by Randy Ericksen.

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