Master’s Gravel Racing Tips for Mega Success (probably not) – by K-Dogg

What “Ultra Masters” want and deserve…

Plus helpful racing tips!

After years of cajoling or begging gravel race promoters to add an “Ultra Masters” category (60+) it appears that they have largely relented. It’s just too hard for us flying fossils to compete with 50-year olds and definitely not with 40-year olds and under. Many promoters now realized that any extra entry fees are a good thing and that racing their true peers will attract more of us old codgers as word gets out.

Ten years ago you were lucky to find three categories: Open Men, Open Women and 40 plus. Later came 50+ and in the bigger races, similar age groups for the ladies. Sixty plus is the next logical category. One promoter I know would open a 60+ category if at least 10 of us entered. Less than that and we’d be thrown in with the 50+. Not so optimal.

masters gravel cycling
Dirty Kanza circa 2016

Ultra Masters racers have no need for cash prizes but do appreciate having a unique or silly trophy or swag from a memorable event. I’m pretty sure you could make a trophy out of dried dog poop. We’d all risk cardiac arrest for it. In addition, a unique trophy helps us remember the race. As Ultra Masters, we need all the memory jogs we can get. Did I mention I’m an Ultra Master?

Helpful hints and $hit Ultra Masters do…

  • At mass start events, work the sympathy angle early by walking around with no helmet. Baldness, skull wrinkles and white hair elicit a gentle respect for us from the younger crowd. In addition, you should pantomime a stiff back, cough like you have asthma, mumble something about arthritis, and pointedly rub the liver spots on your forearms. Mention that recent studies indicate that the absence of liver spots indicates the presence of PEDs. I’m sure they are out there even with one foot in the grave.
     
  • At line up, casually saunter to the very front and gently squirm your way in. Be shameless. Smile a lot and act all smarmy. If they glare at you show your ancient yellowing teeth or your too bright dentures and rub your forearms again. I often point to my Go Pro camera and loudly say something like…” Please let the camera through! Smile you’re on Gravel Cyclist!” If they don’t move I say “Old guy racer! I’m not in your race! Thank you!”
      
  • Now, while JOM, Florida Cracker (aka Rusty), Dr Pain and I actually film the race I suppose a few more elder camera operators could squeeze in if not too obvious. Just get permission from JOM and share your footage with GravelCyclist.com exclusively.

    masters gravel cycling
    2017 Middle Georgia Epic, covered in crap
  • Once the race starts, stay near the front as long as possible. I learned in road racing that most crashes and log jams happen mid-pack. Those near the front can pick the best lines through sand, mud, loose gravel, and stream crossings. People will fall in front of you. Please stay calm. Do not leave chainring marks on them. Besides poor traction, riding over lycra lumps is considered uncivilized in most races.
      
  • Never close a gap. There is always someone younger and more stupider to do this for you. If some punk objects to your shirking a turn, clutch your heard suddenly and promise to give him all you can while rapidly fading to the back. He will show remorse… unless, of course, he is a roadie (I divorced that crap years ago).

    masters gravel cycling
    Lurking on JOM’s wheel, 2016 Love Valley Roubaix
  • Never go off the front solo. It is futile. Remember this is a mixed age pack. The youngsters are a lot stronger than you. Their hair is on fire. They will never let you go even if you are that 105-year old Frenchman. Your best bet is to hang on to them as long possible and hope all the other Ultra Masters will burn off before you do.

    masters gravel cycling
    Expert drafting at 2016 Gravel Worlds (out of draft to get this shot)
  • Find a group you can draft. Mountain bikers are the best. They sit bolt upright like billboards and don’t want you to pull. Mountain bikers prefer to camp out on the front. Letting someone take over the front position is considered losing.
masters gravel cycling
Expert drafting. K-Dogg & JOM hiding at the back, 2016 Gravel Worlds

Evil roadie tricks. Don’t use them unless you have to…

I once won a race by yelling “Car back!” in a crit. The dude had it coming. Four of us formed the winning break but he refused to do any work so he could get all the primes. He deserved it but I still feel bad after 30 years. Gravel cyclists don’t need to do that. Unless somebody deserves it.

masters gravel cycling
Post 2016 Gravel Worlds, L: JOM, R: K-Dogg

Don’t jinx it

If you find yourself the only Ultra Master in a younger field rejoice but never gloat to yourself that you have this race in the bag. I did that once at the second edition of Red Clay Ramble a few years back, JOM and I found ourselves in the winning break of four with a huge gap near the finish. All of us would be on a podium. “JOM”, I stupidly said. “How does it feel to own this race…we just have to hang on and the race is ours!” “Shut up K-Dogg…you’ll jinx us!” He said.

Soon after that I had three or four flats in a row, ran out of spare tubes then rode back in a truck. An hour later JOM was on the podium. I was in the back of a pickup truck. You can relive this glorious tale in great detail courtesy of JOM’s 2014 Red Clay Ramble Race Report and the accompanying video! (JOM’s editing skills have vastly improved since then).

See all y’all out there!

K-Dogg

16 comments on “Master’s Gravel Racing Tips for Mega Success (probably not) – by K-Dogg

  1. K-Dogg,

    I can relate to all of this as a 55 year old with more than average wear and tear on my chassis. If you are planning your calendar for next season, just know that promoter extraordinaire J.R. Petsko has had a 60+ Category for the Hilly Billy Roubaix for three years now. Wouldn’t that giant lump of coal look good in your trophy case?

    Smarkeaux

    1. I love that race! I did notice the new age group group and hope to do it again soon.
      Last time my brakes failed early on but managed to finish.

      1. We are so in for 2020!!… if you recall, I had to play on-course camera person in 2017 because of that broken collarbone I was toting around.

  2. This is awesome and right on the mark! Funny as hell too!! I am soon to be 63 and completed the DK 200 this year and will be at Gravel Worlds 150 as well! I love this sh!t and although any podium is not likely in the cards, having an Ultra-Masters Class would be great. Us old farts can band together and raise a little hell out there and mess with the youngsters! I can hang my Handicap Parking Tag next to my number bib!

  3. Saluda Roubaix went 60 plus site unseen April 2019 to accommodate Vietnam Veterans and will continue – top 5

  4. Nice one, K-Dogg. Hope we get to team up again soon.

    Birdman.

    p.s.
    Glad you didn’t give away all our secrets.

  5. K-Dogg
    Very funny and informative.
    The Strava gravel club (CVGCC) we have here in Central Vic au, now has 200+ members and there’s talk of holding races……I’ll be insisting on a “nearly 60” category

  6. Hey, what about us 70 plus riders? Did the DK200 in 2012 and 2013 before they had the half pint. Been doing the 100 since 2014.

    1. Dan,
      I don’t plan to push for a new catagory every year. Too much work. I’ll just go ahead and train to beat that 105 year old Frenchman in the hour record. The velodrome will, of course, be open air and covered with gravel and potholes.
      K-Dogg

    1. Don’t forget those 69 year old guys who kicked your but this year will probably kick it again next year.

      I’m just sayin’

  7. Funny piece!

    More seriously: I’m surprised at the competitiveness of the 50-59 age category; in one race last year, I finished only 7th in that category, but was faster than every single rider in the 40-49 group. And in a race just a couple weeks ago, a 60+ rider finished on the podium. wtf?

    My theory is that, by this age, most people no longer have kids at home, they’re comfortable having interests apart from their spouses’, and they are economically secure; hence they have time for serious training and the money for nice gear and for travelling to races. So, older might be faster for some.

    But I agree with some of the other advice, even if it was offered with tongue-in-cheek. In a tough race, I will draft shamelessly and take every other advantage I can steal from other riders. The one advantage of age is experience, and it has taught me some useful strategies.

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