The map below is of the 31 mile loop for the Elite, Sport/Expert classes. Click on it and it will also show you elevation. I've photoshoped in a few things in this photo and I'll spend a little time on my thoughts on the route itself:
- The gravel portions of this race are solid. Challenging with lots of little climbs, none that are too long in length but that by no means sparing riders from having their [insert favorite filler] handed to them. The green circled sections are where I encountered some what I'll call sticky gravel sections. Perfectly normal for this time of year with the thaw. County workers were out maintaining the roads and these sections where still ridable given the proper line.
- The Climbs. I highlighted two of my favorites with yellow circles. The climb between miles 9 and 10 is really the courses first course of pain. An extremely short but steep climb only the level off for a few hundred yards for a turn and then a short climb to the top. PAIN, but the legs were fresh at this point. The other climb that I won't be soon forgetting is between miles 19 and 20. Wow. That's all I'll say about that.
- The course is well covered protecting the riders from wind. Today we had a strong 17 mph wind from the west that only came into play in small sections of the course. Some may argue that shouldn't be considered a pro but given the climbs, I think it's a fair trade off.
- NO DOGS. Well there were a few but all were either caged or leashed. I absolutely hate having to go all Kung-Fu on a dog but whenever I have one chase me it's my gut reaction.
- From the website, it states that the race is 80% gravel. Granted the course does make the most out of the gravel available in that area. The sections that I am not thrilled about I have highlighted in red because they are the paved sections. Being that the course is open, meaning traffic rules apply, no real heads up for cars passing through the area and no protection for riders on the paved portions makes for a very dangerous few sections. The spots where the course passes over M-43 aren't really too big of a concern because there is ample amount of shoulder and I don't foresee any issues on those sections. My fear comes if this event is as big as the Kisscross events towards the end of last year. The turn out was great but putting that on the open road is extremely dangerous on the final 5 miles of the course; where I'd say the real 'racing' is going to occur for the leaders. This section has little or no shoulder for riders to lean towards and the road has plenty of turns and hills where automobile traffic could come into play. Meaning that cyclist will have no room even when obeying the two-abreast rule. Although riders sign off that they will obey traffic laws when they sign up, I'm afraid that in the heat of competition some thing bad as the potential of occurring.
The only solution to this problem that I can see for this section of the course would be to have the riders still take Gun Lake Rd but only stay on it briefly taking the Otis Lake Rd [which is gravel] south to west on West Sager Rd. and finish the race by riding a portion of the course backwards.
As for the personal side of the ride. I geared up pretty closely to my Trans Iowa set up and through it all in the back of the tank[changed names from the xBox once I lost one hub cap and decided to take them all off].
This was my handlebar set up with my ghetto q-sheet.
Final distance [31.6 miles] given by Hal the Digital Incite computer.
Overall, it was a great time. I learn a lot through the ride, such as: when I get out of the saddle to climb I move so far over the handlebars that the rear wheel likes to dance around; my handlebar and seat position are dialed; I am still very clueless as to how to properly feed myself before and during a ride [I'd like to say this is limited to cycling, but looking back on my 'athletic' career, I have always struggled as to what eat before an event and often bonked, burned out during games], my legs love to cramp. I seemed to really find my groove by mile 18 but then by mile 21 all hell broke loose. My left thigh decided it hated me and cramped up hard, after a gu packet and pushing some electrolytes seemed to have helped for the short term but needless to say the final 8 miles had it's difficult moments where my right thigh didn't want to be left out on all the fun. I couldn't climb because getting out of the saddle only worsened it. Somehow I was able to push through and stay on the bike except for some of the bigger climbs.
There is so much work to be done in the next two months. Not letting the fear of the unknown for Trans Iowa get me is going to be huge.