Gravel Epic(ness)

I promise, after this report, I will do my very best to avoid the topic of the Gravel Epic race.  It’s finally come and gone so this should be my last time writing about it for awhile.  And, not a moment too soon in my opinion!  I’m tired of thinking about it.

 

Last week was pretty much all about gravel in one way or another.  Recently, I’ve been missing the mtb so I headed out to Jacksonville on Wednesday to get some early trail riding in before meeting up with the Cycle Analysis group at 6.

 

I hadn’t ridden the Beekman trails for awhile so I parked at the trailhead and started climbing as I made my way across town to the Britt trails.

 

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Beekman isn’t much by itself, but if you tie it together with the other couple trails on your way to Britt, it can be pretty fun.

 

 

Knowing I didn’t have a lot of time by myself, I climbed up White Oak and looped my way back down Petard before meeting up with the Cycle A group.

 

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I made a quick side trip to visit my old place on Cady Rd. Hello, Mr. Manzanita.

 

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The clouds were forming in the afternoon and by the time it was dark, the first raindrops in months were falling.

 

 

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Upper Canyon Vista

 

 

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Jacob and Andrew contemplate our next move.

 

It felt good to get some single track under me.  Now, if only we could get just the right amount of rain to make the trails a little more tacky and a little less dusty.

 

While I’ve never hidden my personal dislike for actually racing Cyclocross, I openly admit I enjoy watching it.  Thursday night was the final race in the Brewhaus CX series so I went and heckled racers, chatted with pals, and shot this very manly photo of Jacob as he sported his favorite jersey.

 

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Jacob finds great pleasure in rallying the mass of humanity that has come to witness said race with his boyish good lucks, booming voice, and impeccable choice of attire.

 

 

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Not everything at the race was as purty as Jacob.

 

After taking a break from riding Thursday and Friday, I was itching to get back at it when Saturday, and the Gravel Epic, FINALLY rolled around.

 

It had rained pretty good the night before, but by the time the start of the race drew near, the sun was out and temps were in the 50’s in the little town of Waldport, OR.

 

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The number plate signified my overall standing in the Oregon Triple Crown series. I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure that number would be bigger if there was a 4th race. Read on…

 

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These races never start on time. In fact, occasionally, one might find himself with ample time to take a selfie. This time with Bryan and Destry.

 

The race finally underway, 100 or so of us started climbing immediately as we quickly left sea level behind.  3 miles later, we left the pavement behind as well and started a fast climb up a rocky, bumpy, double track that usually costs at least a couple riders time due to pinch flats.  I was one of those guys a couple years ago, but survived fully inflated this time.

 

Eventually reaching more pavement, I had Destry right in front of me (Bryan was long gone), as we started the first big climb of the day.

 

Going into the final race, Destry was only 2 places behind me in our age group.  While my fitness level at the first race 3 months ago afforded me a 16 minute lead over him, he and I finished less than a second apart at race 2, and I knew his training had been MUCH better than mine since then.  I was gonna have to work hard to keep him from catching me in the overall time standings.

 

Yeah.  So much for that.  7 miles into the race and Destry was out of sight.  10 miles in, my legs were making it clear I probably wouldn’t see him again till the finish.  My only hope was to ride steady and hope he got tired.

 

 

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This being my 4th time competing (term used loosely) in this race, I’ve come to appreciate the gorgeous scenery at the same time I’m suffering for hours.

 

With every climb, I felt my legs getting heavier and heavier.  By the time I reached the biggest climb of the day, a nearly 12 mile slog of an ascent known as The Ogre, I was questioning why I do these things to myself.

 

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The clearcut about halfway up The Ogre.

 

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The race has almost no level terrain. It’s virtually all up or down. So much FUN!!!  Thanks for the photo, Jacob!

 

Up, down, up, down.  On and on.  Leaving the final aid station with 60 miles behind me and 13 painful miles ahead of me, I began the final big climb.  I had nothing left in the tank and I simply kept spinning the pedals because there was nothing to do but try and finish so I could lay down and cry.

 

My time last year was just seconds over 6 hours so I was pretty bummed, though not surprised, when I crossed the finish line with a time of 6:18 and some change.  I just knew Destry had closed the gap.

 

But, where was he?  I saw Bryan as I crossed the finish line, but no Destry to be found.

 

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I said it had rained the night before. It made for a really angry drivetrain and a really dirty me before all was said and done.

 

More than ready to get out of my cycling gear, I went straight to the car to change.  As I made my way to the line for my free post-ride burger, still no Destry.

 

20 minutes or so later, he appeared.  Coming the wrong way to the finish line.  Somewhere along the way, it seems some jerk had moved one of the arrows meant to guide us through the maze of remote fireroads and the group Destry was riding with ended up all the way out at Hwy 101.  In other words, 9 miles out of the way.

 

Whether he would have closed the time gap between us or if I had just enough left in my tired, little legs to hold him off, we’ll never know.  Regardless, he was kicking butt as he left me on that first big climb and deserves props for laying down the hammer!!

 

So, that’s it.  The last big race of the year for me.  I’m still undecided as to whether I will try for a 4th Triple Crown jersey next year.  Right now, I feel a little burned out.  On the other hand, it’s so much fun hanging out and competing with such good guys.  Who knows?

 

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Bryan thought my tan was pretty hot so he asked me to pose for a post race pic back at the KOA cabin we used as our weekend headquarters.  Note the life-giving goodness of my own personal Keurig in the background.  Thanks for showing me the way, Ruth!

 

All in all, last week was yet another fun one and I can’t thank the guys that I hung out with over the weekend enough for making this year’s trip to the coast such a blast.  Thanks everyone!!

Aaron Mock

Local cyclist, crazy mofo, and good-natured masochist, Aaron Mock, is a Team Cycle Analysis rider with a penchant for taking the road less traveled. Sometimes, that isn’t the best choice. Follow his weekly blog series for the latest on his never-ending escapades and exploits!

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