Last November, in a moment of weakness (insanity, boredom, quest for something different), I signed up for the Castell Gravel Grinder April 5, 2015. Because I am (or will be) in good shape, I signed up for the Full Grind (100K). That was November, right after completing the Tour de Gruene Time Trials. Well, February sheds a different light on things, so I asked guru Dan Pedroza what I had gotten myself into. I was hoping for some advance info on what the gravel roads would be like, other than what was on the website. He said I should do the Holey Roller, February 28 starting in Smithville, and that would give me a good idea.
I should back up a bit. When Kurt and Nic were here the last of January running their 100 and 50 mile races, I helped crew. Part of that involved using the mountain bike to get between check points. We found out that it didn't shift well, and the rear brake was soft. What can you expect, it had been hanging upside down in the garage since 2008, when I rode the Katy Trail.
The suspension wasn't quite up to snuff either. I took it to the bike shop and had them work on the shifting, and ignore the suspension and brakes. The bike only had a few rides in my future, so I saw no point in going to the expense. After getting the bike back I decided perhaps I should test it before Castell.
Average temperature in Austin for February 28 is 68F degrees. When I left the house this morning it was 34F and drizzling. The weather forecast for Smithville, only 60 miles southeast of Austin, was 38F and cloudy at 9am. Regular readers know I moved my minimum temperature to ride from 40F to 50F earlier this year. Of course, that refers to training rides. This may have been a race for a few of the guys, but for the rest of us, it was just a ride. Anyhow, I packed on all my cold weather gear, with my wet weather gear neatly in the Camelbak.
As I pulled into the start area, the car registered 38F degrees, and I hadn't had any moisture on the windshield after Bastrop. The bike travels with the saddle down, and when I adjusted it, mis-calculated maybe half an inch too low. We started shortly after 9am, and I was pretty sure I could do 12.5 mph average.
We took the highway about a mile to the entrance to Buescher State Park, then through the park and up Old Antioch Road. This route is basically north, and the wind was out of the northeast. True, not a stout wind, but it was still cold and in your face. The fast guys were out of sight even before the turn into the park. I tried sticking with a small group of guys, but they were just a bit faster, and I
Another leg into the wind, then another sharp turn putting the wind at our backs. I say "our" but I was by myself, with a rider in sight ahead and one behind. As I dodged rocks and ruts and holes, the thought crossed my mind that with another 30 degrees of heat and a blue sky this would be a really nice ride. As it was, I comforted myself with the fact that I was properly dressed for the weather and it wasn't drizzling. It only took about three hours before my fingers weren't freezing (in their long-fingered gloves).
League Line Road was straight, downwind and paved. I picked up the pace some more. Pretty soon I devolved into a mantra: "only 8 more miles" "only 7 more miles" etc. I had stopped every hour or so for sustenance, and had my Camelbak for water, so my energy-level remained pretty high. On my second stop I managed to lose my map and turn-by-turn instructions, so was quite grateful for the turn markings (either actual signs or paint on the road). The downhill back to the ranch generated my top speed of 33.6 mph, and I finished off at an even 11 mph.
Thanks to the Bicycle Sport Shop for putting this on. But after today, I can tell you that for Castell it will be the Half-Grind (50k).