If you’re going to have a 2020 race season, why not cram gravel and cyclocross all together, amIright?
Originally the 2020 Robidoux Quick n Dirty was scheduled for June, but alas, like many events, they decided to move the date (vs. cancel, which was appreciated, until cyclocross was confirmed to be happening, which leads to “OMG I gotta race two opposite disciplines in the same weekend!”). I’ve known about this race for a few years now, but this was the year I’d make the 90 minute journey to Gering, NE to race it. Why I never knew Gering was so close, I’ll never know! I chose the 65 mile (aka 67 mile) distance for this year, as I slowly work up my ability to race longer distances and times.
After racing CycloX Valmont in Boulder on Saturday morning, I hightailed it back home for lunch, a shower, and a quick cuddle session with my kitty cat before heading to Nebraska. This was not ideal, and I was exhausted just thinking about another 90 minute drive after 3 hours total in the car going back and forth to Boulder. It’s not like the 2020 race season snuck up on me, but it still felt like that as I tried to remember what I all needed to bring.
I awoke Sunday morning to some pretty terrible wind that had awoken me several times during the night. If there’s one thing I don’t do, it’s pay money to race in wind in a state that isn’t Wyoming. The smell of smoke was in the air from the rapidly exploding fire near Laramie, and I scrunched up my face even more. I just didn’t wanna. But alas, I kitted up, packed up my tent, and headed out to McDonald’s for some breakfast.
As I’m sitting in my car enjoying my latte and trying to wake up, I realized my gravel bike looked really funny… dammit, my seat bag was missing! I totally forgot I had taken it off and put it on my commuter bike when I did a longer ride with it a few weeks earlier. I tried not to panic at the idea of racing 67 miles without a tube. I always have a pump in my camelbak which was helpful, and I had a CO2 (with no inflater head). I pulled my giant multi-tool out of my race bag and put it on my “whiskey barrel” bag on my bike. Well, at least I had some stuff? I am tubeless, but this is goathead country. Ugh. Not ideal. Totally not ready to race bikes this year!
After a quick rider’s meeting, we lined up for the started. Technically there was about a 50 minute window for each race distance to start, but it seemed like most wanted to roll out at 8am, especially for those wanting to ride in a pack to hide from the wind. The start was first, and I stuck with the lead group of men for about a mile or two before dropping off as I felt the day before’s cyclocross effort. This put me solo for about 25 minutes until a group of four caught me.
It was good to ride with Steve, First City Dudes, and “Omaha” for awhile, as we cruised with a slight tailwind. Shortly before Aid 1, First City Dudes both flatted, and the rest of our group splintered off as we hit the first sustained climb of the day. After a fast downhill, it was time to turn into the 20mph sustained headwind out of the west, which was painful. Nothing like pushing 10mph into the wind, on a downhill. These miles were probably the most demoralizing, but I guess the perk is everyone was going slow (except for one guy that flew past me on aero bars like there was no wind).
After the headwind stretch from hell, it was time to mash down the highway for a few miles, with a climb. More demoralizing slow speeds down the pavement, but I felt the climb wasn’t bad. Once I hit Aid 2 (I never did stop at an aid station), I got a second wind, and also lots of recovery thanks to some fast sections. Steve, Omaha, and my friend’s son, Bryce, caught back up to me and we formed another group for several miles, until they all dropped me once we turned into the headwind again.
More mashing and trying to stay motivated and well fed as I headed up Carter Canyon towards Robidoux Pass. I had heard about the “super steep climb,” but I was relieved to see it was actually quite short. Whew, to the top. Now it was time to enjoy about 14 miles of flying so fast with an awesome tailwind – so fast I’d have to break for cattle guards as I didn’t want to die. I probably could’ve pushed harder, but it was nice to just spin lightly and enjoy going faster than 9mph for once.
One more stretch of northbound road into the crosswind, and then it was time to fly into the finish.
4:42:10, 67 miles,1st place for women (and about 15th overall). Whew!
I crossed the line, found some shade, and got my aching feet out of my shoes as quick as possible. Grabbed a beer out of trough, admired Ashton Lambie’s quads and Lauf, and found some friends.
Overall, wind aside (which is an uncontrollable factor), this was a great course and race! The roads were in great shape, despite the warnings about conditions – barely any washboard and not loose at all. It was definitely necessary to either have navigation on a GPS, or a cue sheet as the course was barely marked, but I think this is pretty common for gravel races due to the large sizes of the courses. I had no issues with using my Garmin and the TCX file. And honestly, the wind was manageable. I’ve ridden in worse, at least mentally.
Nutrition wise, I played with a different strategy. Usually I try to feed with a SIS gel every hour, but this day I did every ten miles starting about 18 miles in. I used my Camelbak Chase Vest with a 2L bladder of water with 300 calories of lemon Tailwind mixed in (which was about the one hour mark). I consumed 6 SIS gels, a combo of regular, electrolyte, and caffeinated ones. This seemed to work out well, but I think I might’ve needed more frequent gels to keep the energy levels up. Robidoux also served as a my shake down for The Dead Swede, which is coming up in two weeks, and that course has more climbing (and more frequent as it’s filled with rollers), so I’ll keep feeding strategies in mind.