Sunday I rode in The Gravel Metric, a wonderful event put on by the special folks at Axletree. Last year I had a lot of fun at the ride and was looking forward to riding again this year. The weather was in the lower 60º’s F with some sprinkles to keep the dust at bay. The gravel seemed quick, but I’m no gravel expert. Bloomington Normal, the area I live in doesn’t have any extended gravel. I rode the course in four hours and eleven minutes last year. That was too close to breaking four hours to not make a goal of it for 2015, so I did just that going into the ride.
Fast forward, I hit my goal, and rode the course in three hours and fifty-three minutes. One of the side effects of that was pain, another was no time to take out my phone and capture any photos during the ride. It’s a hard choice for me to not take any pictures at an event like this, but I had my head down pedaling this day.
I rode with the first chase group of about fifteen people behind the leaders for the first twenty or so miles. The group I was in became pretty organized for a five or ten-mile stretch and we bridged up to the lead group. Matches were burned, but now rolling with the lead group we were about thirty or forty riders. There were a handful of miles of recovery in drafts. I had worked hard, but felt good. It felt like an accomplishment to be riding with the leaders. About a mile before the grassy double track of pain the leaders started to ramp up the speed into a stiff headwind. I was a causality of the increased pace, and had to ratchet it back a notch. Watching my heart rate sit a few percent below max for miles on end half way through a four-hour ride was a bit scary.
After the grassy double track I jumped around between groups for the remainder of the day. There was some serious head wind of at least ninety-four miles per hour or so it felt from about mile about fifty-five until a few miles before the sixty-eight mile finish line. Those miles ticked by slowly and painfully. I was in my head and matches were being burned. I rode back into North Central Cyclery tired, but not quite cooked. I was happy I cracked the four-hour mark.
I can’t say enough good things about the event and the great people who make it possible. The course is challenging. I think it was harder than the sixty-two mile Barry Roubaix Killer Gravel Race I rode earlier this year. It’s hard to write that because there was about five thousand feet of climbing at the Barry Roubaix but the combination of more gravel, more exposed wind, and challenging terrain make the Gravel Metric feel like a harder ride to me. The course is filled with mostly gravel and a mixture of grass double track, farm dirt roads, a creek crossing, and a railroad you have to climb up and over. I love it. Axletree puts on great events. The registration before hand and the day of were top-notch, the merch was of good quality (Purist bottles, American Apparel shirts), great designs all around, and super cool things like the bandannas with course info printed on them. Axletree practice what they preach. Events. Advocacy. Awesome. They excel at all. The events they put on are items on my calendar that I look forward to, the advocacy is inspiring. Check out a recent contribution of helping get helmets on heads that can use them. They are awesome!
Ride data, ouch… Full ride data.