by Chris Locke of the Skull-n-Bones Gravel Challenge
Sunday morning 3 of us made the drive to Stewartsville to participate in the Filthy 50. Tod Griffith, Pat Ross and myself all took a leg of the driving and it worked out perfectly. I ended up waking up just in time to not mess everything up. I grabbed all my gear that I had laid out the night before, jumped in the car, and shot out the door. Driving through Weyerhaeuser I realized I didn't have the cue sheets that I had printed out for Tod and I. I turned around and got the sheets and got back on the road. I arrived in rice lake to pick up Pat at Walmart about a half hour late. Then we quickly loaded up the car and got on the road again to Menominee where we piled into Tod's truck for the remainder of the trip to Stewartsville. We arrived with plenty of time to sign in and mingle with our fellow gravel compatriots. Lots of these people I had not seen since Almanzo. Half or the fun of these events is just catching up with old friends that you don't see every other weekend. I saw Sveta Vold and congratulated her on her recent Merrag and touched bace with Mr. Skogen as well along with a lot of the guys that came to the Skull-N-Bones in September. It was a great gathering of people.
At about 9:40 things started to coalesce, everyone started to congregate in a group in the parking lot. Race director Trenton Raygor spoke through a megaphone out of the back of a pickup truck. After an informative pre-race briefing we rolled down a short stretch of pavement then Trent waved us past and the gravel began. The pace quickened and the race was on. The start was fast and the sun was shining, it looked like it was gong to be a beautiful day for a ride. The wind was gusting and it was in our faces but that's the way you want it if you're going to have it. If your into the wind on the way out you will have it at your back on the way back in. This is also where the aerobars on my Fargo came in handy. I would crouch down and hammer through the gusts. After about 20 miles a thick cloud bank rolled in. The temp dropped and it was obvious this would be the story for the rest of the ride. Just before the rest stop at about mile 30 I hit a small amount or of rain. It wasn't much but it was just enough to make you think you were about to get drenched.
In the small town of Fillmore we found a great rest stop at the Fillmore Methodist Church. My gears were clattering because I neglected to apply lube before I left home. I was relieved to see there was a trailer with a bike mechanic. He had everything you could possibly need. Along with mechanical help there were refreshments and bathrooms available. The church was a very welcoming place to warm up and stretch out. After Fillmore Tod, Patrick and I were back together for a while. We were now in a river valley with towering rock walls on either side it was a beautiful ride through this section meandering along the river for a few miles. Then came the climb out of the valley and we were back in the fields with the wind to our backs. It was at this point my legs began to cramp up. I had bananas with and a bottle of Gatorade so I slammed some of that down and it seemed to help. After a while it happened again. I had never had problems with this before so it was annoying and frustrating. The last 15 miles went smoothly I was finally through the cramps, so I thought, and town was in sight. All was perfect until I was about a mile from the finish. I could see the croud and the supermarket. I could even see Trenton giving hi fives as riders finished the race. It was at this point I felt my legs begin to tighten. Push through I thought. Just push through and finished the race.
It was a great experience. The roads and the landscape were beautiful. The gravel in southern MN is nothing like we have around here in northern WI. It is hard packed and very fast. It feels like you're riding on concrete at times but so much better. I would encourage any rider it give the Filthy 50 a shot. If you have never ridden gravel before it's a great way to get your feet wet. As for veteran gravel racers it's challenging enough to make us happy too. I can't wait to do it again next year.