Gravel Worlds – The unofficial Gravel world championships of gravel racing is an annual event held in Lincoln, Nebraska. The race is typically held in late August, and as expected with this time of year, temperatures along the course are likely to be rather hot… and tree cover in the Midwest USA, not so much.
The lads behind Gravel Worlds, the Pirate Cycling League, describe this event as a tongue-in-cheek homage to the real deal road racing variant of Worlds.
But if history is anything to go by, there are some seriously bad arse riders who make the trip to Nebraska and the chance to win the coveted Gravel Worlds rainbow fleece.
- Open Men, 0 – 49 years of age (JOM’s category… zero chance).
- Open Women, 0 – 39 years of age.
- Master’s Men, 50+ years of age (K-Dogg’s category… did we mention he’s 61yo?)
- Master’s Women, 40+ years of age (Mrs K-Dogg’s category)
- Single Speed Men
- Single Speed Women
- Fatbike / Cargo Bike / Recumbent Men – This has to be the funnest category.
- Fatbike / Cargo Bike / Recumbent Women – Ditto.
So… K-Dogg, Mrs K-Dogg and JOM of the Gravel Cyclist crew decided it would be a good idea to attend this event. Also of note, two other cyclists from Gainesville, Florida have signed up for Gravel Worlds, and we hope they show – Dr. MSG and someone who has yet to receive a mention on Gravel Cyclist, FrOzzie – aka Francois, the Frenchman / Aussie.
The Gravel Cyclist trio decided after knocking out the 2016 Dirty Kanza 200 on our first attempt (K-Dogg won 60+ and Mrs K-Dogg took 3rd in Women’s 50+), we figured that 150 miles of Nebraska gravel surely couldn’t be as bad as Kansas, right? Err…
Saturday, July 16, I roped Mr and Mrs K-Dogg into a training ride of 120ish miles of dirt, gravel, pavement, sand and heat. With the combined heat and humidity resulting in a max heat index of around 100 degrees Fahrenheit / 37 degrees Celcius, this would be a good opportunity to begin acclimatizing for the heat of Lincoln, Nebraska and Gravel Worlds. After all, our own temperatures at the moment are hovering around the low 90’s Fahrenheit with a bunch of humidity, making everything feel hotter than it really is.
To make life a bit easier on K-Dogg, I created a route that began on his side of town… so he had no reason to complain about driving anywhere to start! I’m a nice guy like that 🙂 To be honest, I wasn’t too keen on driving anywhere on this particular weekend either.
202 kilometres / 126 miles were on tap, beginning in Gainesville, Florida, and would take in the quaint towns of Micanopy, Evinston, McIntosh, Raleigh (not really a town, more like a blip), Williston, Bronson and Archer, before turning back to Gainesville.
For something a little different, we decided to check out the Barr Hammock Preserve, a seldom used by most cyclists trail that rolls around a lake and a Prairie on the outskirts of Gainesville.
It proved to be a tough and bumpy grass workout. Anyone who races cyclocross knows about the added resistance of grass, but this little out-of-the way distraction was worth it. Parts of this trail are a known ‘Gator hangout, but unfortunately, none were spotted.
Nearby Micanopy and Evinston are towns with a little history, and feature some lovely and quiet dirt and gravel roads. Micanopy is best known for its appearance in the Doc Hollywood movie and the Invitational, whereas Evinston, is known for its historic country store / post office that still operate to this day, built in 1884.
It didn’t take long before our trio reached the blip town of Raleigh, Florida and home to our first rest stop. All of us were carrying extra hydration on this ride in the form of Camelbaks or Platypus bottles, stashed into our jersey pockets.
The heat and humidity of this ride would be a major factor and as such, I planned a route with plenty of opportunities for store stops to refuel. Riding long miles at this time of the year in Florida – and elsewhere where summer is being experienced – I cannot stress how important it is to remain hydrated. Link to helpful urine colour chart for the purposes of hydration HERE!
Between the towns of Williston and Bronson, Florida is what I like to think of no-man’s land. These roads feature some nice rolling hills and are mostly devoid of tree cover. Perfect training for the gravel roads of Nebraska, but a veritable oven if you choose to ride your bicycle around this area in the heat of summer.
Around this time, Mrs K-Dogg informed us she had just entered her “Dark Place”. You can hear more about the “Dark Place” here – suffice to say, Mrs K-Dogg wasn’t feeling so great, so we dropped the tempo a little as she sat in the comfort of the draft. K-Dogg wasn’t feeling too spritely either, and chose to ride mostly in my draft. On the other hand, I was feeling A-M-A-Z-I-N-G (to quote K-Dogg during our 175+ mile suffer fest in May), but as is usually my luck, these feelings happen on training rides and not race day, which is when K-Dogg excels… and usually kicks my arse.
The second store stop in Bronson, Florida couldn’t come around fast enough. Bronson was about 90 miles / 148 kilometres into the route, but all of us were just about out of fluid… see earlier points about the importance of hydration.
With so much heat and humidity and calories being burned, a huge 44oz (1.2 litre) soda aka Coke with a bit of lemon and ice is one of the most amazing things ever. The nutrition inspectors will totally disagree, but speaking from experience of riding a few long gravel events – sometimes you have to do whatever works! Sugar and caffeine are a winning formula, at least in my opinion. 🙂
Not long after we began the final leg of our hot and arduous journey, a typical for Florida afternoon summer rainstorm appeared ahead. For a short time, we skirted it on the dirt, gravel and sand roads northeast of Bronson, as flashes of lightning and booms of thunder echoed about. But, it was inevitable that we would be doused; it was just a matter of time when.
For once, a stroke of luck! The rain waited until we were on pavement before truly letting go. Temperatures dropped immediately, and our dirty selves, covered in head to toe with sweat encrusted grime were washed clean.
Unfortunately, due to the nature of this potentially dangerous storm with lighting, we chose to head home taking the fastest and most rapid route possible. We cut off approximately six miles of our journey; a small price to pay to live to ride another day!
With a month to go at the time of writing for Gravel Worlds in Nebraska, we still have plenty of training to do… stay tuned.
For those so inclined, JOM’s Strava data from the ride can be viewed HERE.
Thanks for reading!