For those of you keeping score, the #BTriders recently completed the Mammoth Gravel Classic in St. Croix Falls (Wisconsin) on Saturday, October 5 and The Filthy 50 in Stewartville (Minnesota) this past Sunday, October 13.
The Mammoth promised 3 options – 35, 70, and 100 miles. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to the hype. Adam Turman and I rode the 70-mile race and our experience was less than expected. And quite honestly, it wasn’t really a gravel race.
First off, to call an event a gravel race, the majority of it should take place on gravel; but 50 miles of the 70-mile course was paved. The other 20 was a mix of sandy river roads, limestone, and grassy off-road. If there was any actual gravel, it was few and far between.
On top of that, the weather was overcast and drizzly. It wasn’t as miserable as Heck of the North, but since it took place on the following weekend I was less than excited to ride in more wet.
The silver lining of the pavement was discovering mid-ride that my rear derailleur pulleys were shot. So and any time spent off the pavement required me to stop frequently to put the chain back on. And the wet conditions did make the sandy stretches more dense and easy to ride.
But the real drag was the event management felt like it was pretty much phoned in. We had less than two-dozen riders start the 70-mile ride. There were no numbers and the cue sheets were poorly designed. Additionally, there was no visible starting line or significant pre-race experience. And when we finished, we literally had to go back into the shop we checked in at to ask if there was an official finish line – which there wasn’t. In fact, the guy at the counter seemed almost oblivious to the fact there even was a race and obviously wasn’t tracking finishers (much less times).
Don’t get me wrong, it was a free event and it was nice to have somebody else plan a ride for us. Plus, it had to be rescheduled from the Spring due to weather, which may have played into things. But considering the experience we’ve had at other ‘free’ events this year, this one was kind of a let down.
On the positive note, we did make a new friend and got to ride our bikes. So we’ve got our fingers crossed that this year’s event was just an anomaly.
The Filthy 50 was another story all together. This race was awesome! Not only was it a legitimate gravel race, but it also overlapped parts of the Almanzo 100 course. Plus, it was incredibly well organized and the turn out was fantastic. We had several #BTriders show up and a lot of other friends as well. And frankly, we couldn’t have asked for a nicer day. The sun was out, the temperature was perfect, and the Fall colors were coming into full effect.
The most disarming – or maybe dis-legging – part of the event was my personal fitness. I felt pretty damn strong when we rode Almanzo, but my legs struggled with this race. I’m not sure if it was a mental lapse in thinking that “it’s only 50 miles,” a lack of fitness compared to Almanzo, some changes in lifestyle habits I’ve been making, a faster pace, or a combination of forces; but I’ve never had my quads cramp up like they did (and on the biggest hill, no less).
Soldiering on, we never dismounted our bikes. And coming into the finish was a struggle until we could see and hear the cheers and encouragement from those that finished before us. But that’s the experience we ride for – people that love riding their bikes showing love to others that ride bikes, regardless of skill level. And so we quickly put our gear away, changed clothes, grabbed beers, and joined everybody else at the finish line to cheer on all those that finished behind us.
When it’s all said and done, gravel racing is all about fun, friends, and fellowship. And the Filthy 50 delivered in spades. This is definitely a race we’ll consider returning to and one all of us will surely recommend to others.
Thank you Trenton and well done!