Burleigh County Cup Gravel Race - 3rd place finish
Author - Blair Drader
121 km, 1323 m elevation gain
Saturday July 16
Race weather forecast called for spotty rain showers, a strong ESE wind, and highs of +34 C. I brought a spare set of wheels with Panaracer Gravel King SK tires but decided that the quicker rolling Gravel King tires would be faster.
The organizers called for racers to stage at 7:55 AM and gave us safety information, and let us know what sections to take extra cautions on. The skies opened up and rained on all of us so the start was delayed a few minutes.
We had a neutral roll out through the Hetletved farm lane onto the gravel roads and rolled out as a group up some rolling climbs. Once we made the turn South the race was on.
I jumped into the front group of 15 or so riders and started the tunes. Game plan was to stay at 250-275 watts and keep it in Z3-Z4 for the first part of the race. Well Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train and Pantera’s Cowboys from Hell woke up the legs and I rotated with a few other riders and likely pushed too fast too soon. It wasn’t long and our group split and we had 8 riders left in the front group.
During sign on Friday I ran into David from Bismarck. He mentioned a segment called the "15th Street Shitshow." Well you knew when you were on it as it was a back road that you would need a truck or ATV on. It had waist high grass, rutted wash outs and super slick mud. I had a couple of low speed crashes where my tires slipped out.
The sand trap segment was next and was super challenging to climb the sandy dirt road with the slick Gravel King tires. I had to hop the back wheel a couple of times to keep moving forward. A couple riders dropped off the back of the group in this section and we were down to a group of three. One rider had a loose bottle cage and the other had a flat tire so they decided to stop. I figured it was too early to solo on so I stopped and straightened out my shifter and cleared the mud from my drivetrain. A couple of riders caught up to us so we were a group of 5 again.
We proceeded to attack the hills with about 375-400 watts on the punchy climbs and hit a gap with Jasper from Bismarck, Jake from Colorado and myself again. We stopped at the drop bag station to grab bottles. About 60 km in I felt a stitch in my legs and thought I was in big trouble. I watched Jasper and Jake ride off and I was dropped. I was having connection problems with my Bluetooth headphones so the music stopped. My power meter disconnected so I was using perceived exertion to judge my efforts. My heart rate monitor was showing 40 beats per minute high. I tried to peel the banana that I had with me but it was not ripe and snapped instead. Things were not looking good.
I stayed focused on the task at hand and drank some Nuun Endurance that I had in one bottle and ate a Clif Kidz oatmeal bar. The leg cramps were starting to go away and I began to see some of the Sippy Cup riders ahead. One by one I would catch and pass. I was excited to see some pavement as we hit highway 1804 and the paved Double Ditch path as my tires roll very well on pavement.
We turned off the highway onto a soft, sandy, gravel climb that was super steep and grueling as we approached 85 or so kilometers in. I passed through the farm for the last lap at 97 kilometers and mixed up another bottle of Nuun Endurance, dripped some Mucoff Dry chain lube on the chain and got going again. My legs woke up and the last 25 kilometers flew by. I didn’t catch the lead two riders and I didn’t get caught either.
It was a great course with a mix of every terrain surface possible. The organizers and volunteers did a great job with the event. I congratulate all the riders that signed up to support the Burleigh Country Bicycle Cult in their efforts to build and maintain trail. It was a tough race in the heat.