This weekend kicked off the 2010 spring classics with the Ragnarok 105 in Red Wing, MN. Last year with my focus on Tour Divide I decided to ride loaded to the race, camp, and then take in the event. It was an opportunity to test out my gear and the skills required to deploy it as well as train with a load. My setup looked something like this.
This year I decided to take in the race in a similar manner, this time testing my TransIowa setup. I'm not ready to divulge the full setup, too much needs refining. It did however, look something like this.
Kits were a marked change from 2009 to 2010, but I still decided to ride down to Red Wing for the race. Friday afternoon I put in the 80 miles to Red Wing, weaving my way through the farms and state land, eventually finding the descent into Welch Village where I stopped for ice cream and coke. This being a training race my plan was to ride straight through the week, no rest before the race, determine what my limits were and how my fitness is trending. Thursday was a 'work' day at the trails, we've got lots of prototypes to be riding and they just have to be ridden. So I made the sacrifice and put in 50 miles on Thursday. Total miles for the week were 260-270 before the 105 mile race.
Friday night Sean "The Mailman" Mailen and Ryan "Fryn Porky" Horkey drove down and met me at the hotel. After dinner and pre-race prep we were lights out by 10pm. Saturday morning came quickly, but I felt better rested than last year, where I camped in Jake's backyard and was kept awake by the neighbors dog. After a granola and fruit breakfast we made our way to Colvill Park for the start of the race. The mood was mellow and good hearted, one of the reasons I keep coming back to these events.
Sean, Ryan, and I lined up for the start taking our places with others we knew would be in the lead group. The Duluth boys were there (Sir Eki and Charlie Farrow) Charly Tri, Dave Pramann on a Pugsley, and many others. These people are the second reason I come back to these types of events. If you're going to spend hours on a bike with someone, it ought to be someone you like.
The rollout was paced until we hit the dirt, giving everyone time to settle in and relax. Once we hit gravel the pace car pulled off and our speed hastened. We approached KOM #1 and the climber's race was on. I sat in and watched it all play out. Between KOM climbs there was a ton of chatter between racers. Many of us haven't seen each other in several months and it was our opportunity to share our 2010 plans and ask how the winter was.
KOM climb #2 approached, we encouraged Sean "The Mailman" Mailen to attack and take the win. Having trained with the Mailman I knew that he could deliver and take the KOM's should he want to. At the top of KOM #2, he missed a turn and corrected quickly. Sir Tim Eki corrected quickly but slipped up on the gravel and ended up on the floor. He quickly recovered and was back on the bike.
KOM climb #3. I had noticed the field spreading on #2 and planned for an attack off the front. I knew that if I attacked Ryan, Sean, Ek, Tri, and Farrow would come with. I didn't know who else would come with, but I knew a group of 5-10 could work together to gap the field. Quickly the group formed and we turned onto pavement, giving us greater opportunity to attack. We worked together for several miles and our gap to the chase field widened. We continued working together, albeit a bit sloppily.
On the final KOM climb a B-Road that we had descended last year I bottomed out my front wheel on a rock. I knew what was coming and pedaled on until it had gone flat. I unpacked my kit and quickly changed my tube. As I was inflating the chase group approached. They passed and I wrapped up my kit, repacked, and chased them down. I rested with the group for a few minutes and then tried to put together a chase. Several of the group attempted and worked for a few minutes together, but it quickly fell apart. I found myself off the front working solo to reel back in the lead. I soon realized that it would not be so and fell back in with the chase group, hoping to catch them at the checkpoint.
As we approached the checkpoint I made the decision to get in and out quickly in hopes of catching the lead. I found myself riding solo along the Zumbro River, dreaming of fish and peering around every corner for the sight of their wheels. For 30 miles I chased into the headwind catching glimpses of the leaders periodically, but never closing that original gap. I fantasized that they would see me and allow me to get back on this being a gentlemen's race. It would not be so.
Twenty miles out I turned onto 350th and began a climb that would have me rethinking my chase. At the top I made the decision to pedal in at a rest pace. I had accomplished what I came to do and had chased hard enough to know what would transpire if I kept chasing through the climbs. So I stopped for a nature break and put a bit more pressure in my front tire. The chase group caught me quickly and I fell in with them resting and happy to have riding partners again.
Together we approached the climbs, stringing out and rejoining at the top. I was spent, my legs exhausted, I struggled to do any work in the group around the 10 mile mark. I sat in and rested for the final climbs, taking in as much nutrition as I could, hoping to regain an ounce of the energy lost and get an advance on the post race recovery.
Once back on pavement and in town we rested through the traffic and stop signs. On the final approach back into Colvill the attack began. Larry Sauber took a long pull and I chased, being passed by Ted Loosen for an 8th place finish. I was fine with this finish. Confident that I would have been in the lead group without the flat. Happy with how my body and mind responded to the chase.
The Ragnarok 105 crew put on an incredible event. The dirt roads and terrain that the course traverses are absolutely beautiful. These guys work hard to bring us this experience and for that I want to say Thank You!