JOM’s Red Clay Ramble Race Report – 2014

Hosted by the Bicycling Club of Milledgeville and the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Habitat for Humanity, the Red Clay Ramble is a 56 mile gravel road bicycle race / recreational ride.  RedClay161 riders signed up, with 43 racers, and 118 cyclists in the recreational ride.

To my knowledge, four cyclists made the trip from Florida for the event.  K-Dogg, Jim Phillips and I (JOM) represented Gainesville, FL in the race, and a gentleman whose name I forget, drove from Clermont, FL.  To him I say, many thanks for the M4 bolt loan.  Without it, we would only have footage from one Go-Pro camera.  More on that later.

Before the Race Started

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JOM with K-Dogg Yowamushi Pedal

Typically, K-Dogg and I skimp a little on the accommodations, meaning we stay in hotels two star or less.  We may be cheap, but we’re not easy!  I must give kudos to the Days Inn Hotel in Milledgeville, GA.  Our room was huge, clean, cheap, and comfy.  Win!  The morning coffee was spot on too.  The lady who staffed the hotel in the morning confessed to being an ex bike racer.  K-Dogg and I were a little skeptical at first, until she threw out details of her custom Reynolds 531 frame, Weyless seatpost, and other details.  I was impressed.  In hindsight, I should have interviewed her.  It’s not everyday you meet a cyclist of the lady gender who raced during the 1970’s.

After the usual weight loss sessions in the hotel room :), we headed to the race start and arrived in plenty of time to snag a nice parking spot, sign in, and collect our race numbers.  All that remained was to pump tyres, attend the pre-race meeting, and relax until race start.  Unfortunately, attaching my forward facing Go-Pro camera didn’t go well, as the bolt that attaches it to the handlebar mount went on walkabout.  Thankfully, the gentleman from Clermont I introduced earlier, had a spiffy bolt which I borrowed for the race.

Race Start

K-Dogg, Jim and I positioned ourselves nicely on the front row.  Arriving a little early always helps to secure a primo start position.  Everyone was very friendly, so there were no pushing and shoving contests for start placement.  That sort of bollocks is a total pain in the arse at road races, and something I don’t miss.

RambleStartWhilst standing around, we took the time to appraise our fellow racers.  Typically, you do this in a covert fashion, and mumble notes under one’s breath to a teammate, or to anybody else who cares.  There was a local team of four or five riders who concerned us, as well as the red hot favourite, Mr Brian Rogers.  And some other blokes.

The race volunteers issued their countdown, and everyone rolled out in a mellow fashion, maintaining gentlemanly (gentlepersonly for P.C. types?) conduct until the brief neutral section was over.

A bloke wearing a fluoro yello jersey bolted from the gun, along the right side of the gravel road.  It was an impressive looking move, but I figured it was doomed to fail.  Approximately 30 seconds later, he did fail, and was never seen by the race group again.

Dismemberment

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Most honourable K-Dogg San. Ohayou Gozaimasu!

Is what happened to the field when the first serious hill was taken at speed.  A group of 40 riders was rudely split in half, courtesy of the tempo pace set by Brian Rogers.  I was doing my best to avoid doing any serious work this early in the race.  As it was, my legs were very displeased, yet to waken.  There were still in la la land back in the hotel room, along with that dream I was having.

This course was hilly.  The hills weren’t overly steep or long, but there was a lot of them, and they were being ridden fast.  Blokes from the local Georgia team, Craig Bailey, Brian Rogers, Shey Lindner and others whose names I don’t know, were all taking solid turns on the front, trying to shred the field early.  With each new hill, groaning could be heard from behind, as one by one, the field reduced.  K-Dogg and I were sitting pretty, throwing in a turn here and there, and generally contributing to the workload.

15 Miles In

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JOM left, Road Bike Guy right.

The group was reduced to about seven or eight riders.  One of the guys in our grupetto was aboard a road bike.  Having ridden events like Rouge Roubaix on a machine similar to his, I didn’t think too much of it, but knew he could be in trouble on some of the longer downhill sections, depending on his skills.  Road bikes with 25mm or 28mm tyres would have been a good choice today, if you were riding solo.  When you’re hauling arse behind three or four riders, your field of vision is non existent, and you cannot pick your line.  A cyclocross bike with the right tyres was the perfect machine for today’s course conditions.

K-Dogg and I are gentlemen most of the time, although we were spotted drilling it hard on a few of the downhills to make life difficult for others.  I don’t know if the gentleman on the road bike was ridden off the back?, but I know he suffered the misfortune of a tyre puncture.  As is the nature of these races, you need a lot of luck too.

Bridge of Death

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The Bridge.

Somewhere along the course, was a pick-a-plank type bridge.  The promoters were very nice to warn us way ahead of time, notably at the rider’s meeting, and with a very prominently placed sign.  The front bunch had thinned considerably, so everyone had no trouble taking the MIDDLE line over the bridge, and up the following climb.  Brian Rogers took this opportunity to test his legs a little, to see if anyone could follow his mild acceleration.  Nobody followed, at least for a short while, and nobody liked it.

Craig Bailey punctured a wheel shortly after traversing the bridge, but his tubeless spooge seemed to have temporarily worked.  He rejoined us a little later, then, he disappeared again.  My understanding is a massive nail was his tyre’s undoing.

29 Miles In

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You know you’ve been to Georgia when…

I was beginning to feel my legs a bit, particularly my hamstrings.  To make an awesome excuse, I’ve been working on a yard project at the house of late.  Loading, unloading and spreading a $hitpile of mulch around my yard wasn’t the best move, late on Thursday evening.  Needed another day of recovery.

Our group was down to four riders.  Brian Rogers, Shey Lindner, K-Dogg and yours truly.  K-Dogg announced to me and I quote, “it’s a great feeling knowing I have the 50+ race pretty much wrapped up”.  I thought to myself… “dumbarse, you’ve still got 25+ miles to race, anything can happen”.  I was on the “Virtual Podium” for the Men’s Open Race, but I kept most of those thoughts to myself.  I knew my legs were dodgy, and I knew it was a matter of time before something gave out.

31 Miles Complete

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THE moment I dropped. K-Dogg looking back. Bitch.

In an attempt to bluff those who remained in the front quartet, I continued pulling through whenever I could, hiding signs of weakness.  These guys probably saw through my pitiful ruse.  Brian and Shey had tribal knowledge.  K-Dogg and I, we did not.  The JOM show came to an end after I completed a magnificent turn on a somewhat long downhill.  Brian bumped the tempo hard on the climb that immediately followed.  Incidentally, this climb was the longest and steepest climb of the day.  One second later, I was out the back door, grovelling along on a 34 x 27 gear, watching those blokes scamper away.  Bollocks!

Twenty Five Mile Time Trial

This is what I resigned myself to.  The last bloke to drop before me was either blown, or had a punctured tyre.  Either way, I was certain he wouldn’t be far behind, so I couldn’t squander whatever slim lead I had.  The podium was a possibility, and I was determined to take a spot.  Having zero tribal knowledge, I couldn’t ride all out, meaning a Zone 4 / Zone 5 heart rate effort was required.

Team Mate in Trouble

I came upon K-Dogg and the follow car a few miles later.  The car was parked in the middle of the gravel road, all passengers had exited, watching K-Dogg fix a punctured tyre.  I’ll wager he regretted his speech from earlier in the race.  I was hoping the Dogg would fix the dodgy tyre quickly, remount, and start chasing.  Every minute or so, I would turn around to see if he was coming, in the hope I could slow down a little.  My plan was, divide the workload with him all the way to the race finish.  Alas, I never did see him.

Red Clay Rambling

For the remaining 25 miles of the race, I used various methods to maintain my effort and motivation, and distract myself from leg pain.  Methods included:

  1. Self verbal abuse (chop chop biatch, WTF – another hill?, etc).
  2. Staring at the Garmin purple line, and number of kilometres remaining.
  3. Consuming Gatorade, shot blocks and bananas, and convincing myself everything tasted really good.
  4. Knowing I’d never hear the end of it from K-Dogg or myself, if I gave up a podium spot.
  5. Obsessing about NOT getting a flat tyre.

Finish and Podium

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Finally, the finish line.

The suffering was worth it.  I rolled across the finish line for 3rd fastest overall, and 3rd in Men’s Open.  Sub three hours too.  Results are here.  I was particularly stoked to be sharing a podium with Brian Rogers and Shey Lindner.  Both of these guys are bad arse riders, but humble and respectful off the bike.  Things may have been different for me if some of my fellow competitors didn’t suffer flat tyres, but good fortune is an element of gravel racing.

Punctures Galore

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Men’s Open Podium. Brian Rogers – 1st, Shey Lindner – 2nd, JOM – 3rd.

I am sad to report my teammate from Gainesville, Florida, K-Dogg was a DNF :(.  He suffered not one, not two, but three punctures in total, all of them on the rear wheel.  By the time he sponged a fourth tube from the follow car, it was pretty much over for him.  The valve stem of the fourth and final inner tube was too short to work with the rim.

At the time of writing this blog article, the Dogg has embraced tubeless technology, and will be sans tubes at the next race.  It only took about 14 punctures and a race loss to convince him.

1988

Jim Phillips, also from Gainesville, had a very respectable finish.  More impressive than his finish was the fact this was Jim’s first race since 1988.  That’s right, NINETEEN EIGHTY EIGHT.  As in, the twentieth century.  Kudos Jim!  Thanks also for your photographic contributions.

In Closing

Overall, this is a fantastic event, which supports a great local charity and the local bicycle club.  It is an event I would consider doing in the future.  The course was very well marked, and there was almost no chance of getting lost.  TrophyThe promoters and volunteers were very friendly, and appreciated us making the trip from Florida.  The beer, drinks and chow spread post race were greatly appreciated!  If the promoter reads this, what was in that keg on the right side of pickup truck bed?  It was bloody awesome… mmmm.

Thank you!

RACE VIDEO COMING SOON.

18 comments on “JOM’s Red Clay Ramble Race Report – 2014

  1. Nice write up Jayson! This begs the question, what was your tire choice for this race?

    I was in the 1st chase group until I punctured my rear tube at mile 21/22. I also had the joy(sarcasm) of hearing K-Dogs tire go BOOM as they tried to inflate. Like a shotgun!

    Looking forward to the video, I was the one talking to you before the podium asking if you were going to Pisgah Monstercross.

    1. Hi Mike,
      My tyre choice for this race is my perennial favourite – the Michelin Jet, configured tubeless. The label reads it is 30mm in size, but in reality it’s about 34 – 35mm. Superb tyre for this sort of terrain. Another favourite of mine is the Clement Explorer MSO, in 40mm, with the highest TPI count. Runs great tubeless as well.
      Poor K-Dogg…

      1. Congrats on the podium finish! What tubeless wheel set do you run? I have a non disc cross bike and would like to get a tubeless wheel set to run 35mmish sized tires. All the best

        1. Thanks for the kind words! For this race, I was using an American Classic Hurricane wheelset. It’s a piece of cake to setup tubeless. Not the lightest wheelset option, but I need a wheelset to survive the rigours of this type of racing. I am still a huge fan of non disc cross bikes.

    2. Even though my 3 flats were frustrating I really enjoyed the whole scene.
      Racers, promoters and volunteers were all awesome!

      There must be something uniquely sharp in those Georgia rocks that cause snake bikes.
      I have never had such bad luck. I am joining the Aussie Bastard Jayson
      and Dr. Pain this Saturday at Savage Monster Cross on 4.0 tubeless tires.
      I got religion at the Red Clay Ramble but we will see if my faith is justified in the holy spooge. Can’t be any worse.
      K-Dogg

    1. Jim,
      The bike I was riding that day is a Roark Ti CX frame, out of Indiana. The frame is not advertised as such, rather it wears “YOUR MUM” badging, which obviously is a little cheeky 🙂 I’ll probably post an article about that machine, and a few of my others pretty soon.
      JOM

      1. Ah, I remember your bike now – apologies for the confusion. I meant to ask you about it knowing there was some “cheekyness” behind the name. Look forward to the article and seeing you on more of Georgia’s fine gravel (I prefer “hardpack”).

  2. Your comment “a road bike would have been the fastest choice for a solo ride” was spot on. I was on a road bike and in these conditions it’s a fast option. But in a rotating group, I think the cross bike is a better choice and less risky from a flat perspective (as I confirmed at mile 10). Congratulations on a strong finish and thanks for a good write-up. Hope to see you next year.

    1. Hi Robert, you must be the gentleman I referred to as the Road Bike guy. What size tyres were you using? Had I gone the road bike route, I would likely have chosen the Hutchinson Secteur 28mm tubeless road tyres. I have used these in the past with good success at North Carolina events such as Boone Roubaix, and Tom Dula’s Revenge.

    2. Robert, you did really well (6th?) considering you were on a road bike and flatted. You passed me on pavement like I was standing still and I was cruising in the low 20’s. I was really jazzed to see you flying by on a road bike – well done!

  3. I know those roads! Steady pace, watch my line, you guys seemed surprised! I was surprised, but I know those roads and I knew I was capable!

  4. JOM – Thanks for the nice comments about the race and the people putting on the event. I was the ride director and the route planner. It took a lot of work by many club members and folks from Habitat to make it come together.

    Congratulations on your podium spot. Although I was driving a SAG truck during the event, I was excited to see so many people enjoying riding the roads I’ve been riding and mapping for a couple of years now. I hope we can keep the Red Clay Ramble going for years to come as well as the “Monthly Grind” series of free dirt/gravel road rides in various locations around middle Georgia. So many dirt roads and so little time!

    I’ve enjoyed looking around your blog and look forward to reading more of your ride reports and your thoughts about gravel roads and the bikes and gear for riding them.

    1. Hi Benny,

      I’ve organized a much smaller version of your race, so I can only imagine how much work went into it. I too love mapping limerock / dirt roads here in the Gainesville, Florida area, so it’s great to see another gentleman with the same passion. This genre of cycling continues to grow, which is fantastic. I am looking forward to riding in your neck of the woods again, hopefully in the not too distant future.

      Jayson (JOM)

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