Monday, April 16, 2012
Durango Gravel Grinder 2012
Well I only wish there had been a start line. The weather man scared the absolute hell out of everyone with a forecast of 90% rain/snow, so I was the only person to show up at the 7AM start. There was actually one other person out there - Brian Trebus started at 9AM and got in over 100-miles as well, but we never ran into each other.
At Durango Joes, I ordered a small coffee and waited for other cyclists but none came. I looked at the light gray sky and saw no dark gray so I rolled out to loop 1 and had it all to myself. I saw a ton of deer and some patches of blue sky opened on CR 125. The roads were in great condition as the county did the spring dirt road maintenance and several sections were recently graded and mag-chloride treated. In fact CR 136 was smooth - and not full of hub deep ruts like last season. I finished the ~70 mile loop in 4:15 time and then started out for loop 2.
Loop 2 was when I noticed the winds picking up, and after I got through the Horse Gulch I thought perhaps I should just ride the loop in reverse direction since I was the only one out there and I had just done this loop the previous Sunday. It also would mean that when I hit CR 510 and the killer hills that the wind would be at my back. Now that is some good thinking! All worked to plan until I got near the gas plant and it the snow started.
It came down sideways as the wind kicked up really bad. I was dialed in for the clothing - had on my Assos thermal tights, Showers Pass jacket, and even had my neoprene cycling gloves in my pocket if needed. I put on the Showers Pass cycling hat, but missed one small component - ear protection. The snow was wet and clod and my ears frozen big time. I took turns covering one ear with my glove hand, but the storm got really bad. I almost got blown off the bike a couple of times and in a moment of fear, I thought it was time to bail. So I headed back to town and the snow turned to rain. It was still miserable at Elmo's Corner, but by the time I rolled on 160 back by the Ford Dealership it stopped. In fact the sun poked it's head out when I rolled back to the Gulch parking lot. Doh!
I went home, cleaned up and watched the skies the rest of the day. It was mostly clear until around 5-PM and then we got a lot of snow. I most likely would have finished in this and was on track to do the whole 160-miles in a little over 10 hours. Of course though the little storm I got caught in near the gas plant was heading in the direction I would have been cycling, so I may very well have been in that mess for a couple of hours if I had not bailed.
Durango is a relatively strange town when it comes to cycling. It is a mecca, but it seems at times to lag behind. Dave Harris warned me that the ultra-endurance scene was non existent in Durango before we moved here, and he has proven to be mostly correct. The concept of a early season gravel grinder is certainly out of the ordinary for this town, while exploding in popularity elsewhere. This town has a long and deep tradition of people riding on their road bikes "nose-to-tail" up to the passes to prepare for the Iron Horse this time of year. Like the song says, It ain't me, I ain't no USAC cycling son.
I'm torn about closing down the DGG - as the Dawn Til Dusk Race was - again - affected by rain/snow (shut down after 2 hours) and the promoter has said they will look for a new weekend to do this race. If the DGG survives and stays on this 2nd weekend of April, then it has to go up against the Bike Polo tournament and the a local road bike race. 3rd weekend of April may be best, but that is really pushing my limits of desire to ride a cross bike on dirt roads, as singletrack is open that time of year!
The DGG can be ridden any day of the year from my house, out here in the fields. That may be best for this. The exodus is here.