This year began with a full-on assault on gravel. I was already awaiting a custom steel cyclocross bike from builder and overall great guy Nate Zukas of Zukas Cycles in Augusta, GA.
My plan was to race all the UltraCX races this year, starting in February with Southern Cross. This race is well organized and always presents a fun but challenging course. My new bike was perfect, but my fitness and loss of the bulk of my nutrition at the beginning of the race made for a hard day. Not to mention the cold, wet conditions would be harbinger of the rest of the season.
I got a break a couple weeks later with a race that is always a good time, and not just because it’s put on by my team. I raced Killer 3 (now the Knot) on a singlespeed full rigid, which is how it really should be done. I also seemed to have some gas at the time this picture was taken.
April brought me back to reality with Barry Roubaix in Hastings, MI. This race is huge- like 3500 riders huge. The event was very well organized and the town and surrounding area was very supportive. But back to the epic part- It was 20 something degrees at the start and the gravel roads were frozen. I was in great shape and positioned myself near the front. We were screaming up and down nasty gravel roads when I got pushed into a gravel rut and went flying at 30 something. On frozen gravel. But I didn’t die- someone actually did for 25 minutes before being resuscitated (not on that crash). Epic. This is how I started the race:
This is somewhere near the end. I loved that thermal skinsuit and only got to wear it once.
So since I obviously lost all sanity at that race, I thought I’d try the Pisgah 111k. I had a new MTB, was in decent condition, and thought “hey, why not?” Mind you, it had been a wet spring in Pisgah and the trails were in terrible condition. It was also raining on race day. I’ll just say that I really did not enjoy that race. But this pic of me is pretty cool, and pretty much depicts what I was doing for much of the “race”.
Oh, and did I mention that I’m a USAC official and motoref. Through this, I got the opportunity to work the US Pro Cycling Championship in Chattanooga as a motorcycle marshal. I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet some pros and see them in action up close- both the cyclists and my fellow officials. I really hope I get the opportunity to expand my experience and knowledge with this event again next year.
With June came more racing- the Hilly Billy Roubaix in Morgantown, WV. This is a really fun race in a great town. I really enjoyed this whole experience. The race is surprisingly hard- a lot of short, sharp climbs. I started to feel like I was just climbing all day long. But hey, moonshine and bacon at the finish line- how can you go wrong with that?
Yes, I even did a road race. The Double-Down in Kershaw, SC is a great all-day event on a great course. I even got a chance to get some more experience learning some judging tips between races. Win-win.
July brings the ever-popular ORAMM. I didn’t have much in the way of aspirations for this race, just a time that I wanted to meet. That is, until the bottom dropped out on Kitsuma. And I crashed. And I broke my drivetrain. And I had to run my bike through the finish line. Oh, and I lost the shadesI was wearing in the previous picture. Really not a good day.
I’m still not exactly sure why, but I entered an off road half-marathon- the Francis Marion Dirt Dash. Chad Hoffa of Eagle Endurance puts on some great races out in the forest, so I wanted to give it a try. It was great fun, even if it was running, and I plan to do more.
September is a busy month in gravel racing, starting for me with Pisgah Monster Cross Challenge. I was really looking forward to this race, until they reversed the coarse and sucked a bunch of the fun out of it. Regardless, it’s still a good time and a really good warm up for more racing.
The next week brought Three Peaks USA, the third stop in the UltraCX series. This coarse was very challenging to me last year, and I really baselined my entire setup on this race. A couple of the harder (read dangerous) sections were removed and I found it to be a more balanced course. Unfortunately I was in terrible condition by this time after dealing with some health issues in the late summer. Evidently, I was also tired of having my picture taken.
To close out September, my team put on the hugely successful Hell Hole Gravel Grind- a two (and a half) day stage race. This was a first-of-it’s-kind event and went over very well. It’s held on the endless gravel roads of my home training ground in the Francis Marion National Forest. I look forward to seeing this event grow. I wish I could have raced, but riding the moto was fun too. Brian Fancher snapped this; my favorite shot ever of me working.
Speaking of working, I also worked as a USA Cycling official for the first time this year. I worked 15 races this year plus USPRO, HHGG, and a couple apprenticeships. I really enjoy giving back to the sport I love and working with people who share my passions. I look forward to doing much more in 2014.
I want to send out a huge thanks to Mt. Pleasant Velo | Cycling Team, Piggly Wiggly, BANa Rehydration Drink, Ride Bikes, VCRC Bike, Feedback Sports, Maxxis Tires, Anne Moore Endurance Coaching and everyone who suffered through long rides with me for the support. None of this would have been possible without the support of the great folks around me. So the year didn’t turn out exactly how I wanted, but hey- I learned some valuable lessons and had some great experiences, so it really was a great year. Now bring on 2014!