I pre-rode a big section of the course last weekend and drove the second half of the rain route yesterday. The Des Moines area had a few inches of rain fall Monday, but despite that, things are looking pretty good. The dirt roads in this area are generally sandy and dry out quickly. There would have to be significant rainfall just before or on race day for me to switch to the rain route.
In general, the majority of the gravel is in good, fast rolling shape. There are however, numerous patches of washboards and new gravel patches that are quite rough. Be prepared to hit these rough spots on descents when you might be going quite fast. Make sure everything fastened to your bike is super secure, or you’ll launch it. Good lighting is an absolute must. Be vary wary of what you cannot see, especially in the shaded sections or at night. Watch your downhill speed on the dirt roads lest you launch yourself Dukes of Hazard style off a bump (It’s less fun than it might sound). If you are using battery lights, make sure that you have more hours of run time than you think you need. Consider mounting a second light just to better illuminate the dirt roads.
The water crossing on 160th was just a mud spot when I went through there Sunday. After a few inches of rain Monday, it most likely has water in it now. I’ll check on it again this weekend and post updates on the Facebook page. Depending on your skills, you may get wet, muddy, or both in this section. This is at approximately mile 26.
With recent rainfall, many of the B roads were showing new signs of tractor traffic and cattle prints. I expect things may not be as smooth on race day as they were last year, and as they have been recently. I’ll have a look again this weekend.
Driving the rain route monday, the roads were mostly dry with some very sporadic damage from the heavy rain. Hard to know whether the counties will try to fix any of this soon, or wait until after the harvest.
There are numerous single lane roads and bridges. All bridges can be slippery when wet, so be careful. If you meet a grain hauler or large farm equipment while on a single lane road, please yield the right of way. This is harvest season; they are working and cannot maneuver around you.
There are numerous cattle ranches on the southern section of the route, and occasionally you might see loose cattle. These two darted straight back through the wire fence like it wasn’t even there.
There are descents where you can top 40 mph on if you put your mind to it. Be very cautious doing that on Holliwell Bridge road. There is a tight, poor sight line curve with a steep ramp. Holliwell bridge is just down the road, and there may be bridge peeper traffic coming up the hill at you, or passing you on the way down. Watch your speed, and stay right rounding the curve. I’ve topped 40 mph on this descent on my fat bike. It’s legit.
With the rainfall, things are looking very green and a lot more like spring than fall. Temperatures have cooled off quite a bit, and hopefully that trend will continue through next week. Watch the Facebook page for more updates next week!