In Iowa, there are roads you take your most trustworthy friends or worst enemies down, but you don’t route a race down them. I have done my best to route this race down roads that are in reasonable shape for bike traffic. If I have not taken my bike or my truck through it, it’s not on the route. (The truck is probably the higher standard. My kids have nicknamed it “MY PRECIOUS”). So be advised, if you come upon a road that is massively torn up by road construction, a bridge with huge gaps in the planks, a flooded road, or something you’d need to bushwhack to get through, please double check that you are on route. A race day contact number will be emailed to you. Do not proceed through anything that appears questionable without clarifying it with me, and never proceed into a situation that you deem unsafe, or beyond your skill level even if it is on route. You are responsible for you, and your personal safety is the highest priority.
I have seen the entire route over the last several days, either by bike or by truck. There were a surprising number of roads that closed recently, and those have all been edited out of the course. Rhea Rd. is under construction in Union County, and recent progress on that project severely impacted the 150 mile route. Checkpoint 2 has been relocated, and the entire second half of the 150 mile route has been moved south of Lorimor. Sadly, that means the old red schoolhouse, infirmary, and a very cool double track road are now no longer on the route. There is also a 0.3 mile section on US169. There is a large, wide, well maintained gravel shoulder. YOU MUST RIDE ON THE SHOULDER here, not on the pavement.
Packet pickup will be held Friday, October 5, at Madison County Winery from 4-6pm. in the outbuilding next to the tasting room. Please make every effort to check in Friday! If you must check in Saturday, please be there early! Saturday morning check in will be held at the winery from 4:30-5:30 am. We roll at 6am sharp!
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. Continue reading “Course Conditions 9/27/17”→
I drove the entire course over two days this past weekend. It is dry, dusty, and fast. A lot can happen to these roads in a week, and many are showing damage from the tractors and heavy truck traffic during the recent harvest. Remember, you are responsible for you, and you must pay attention and navigate with care. A second headlight for the B roads is not a bad idea, especially for the 200 mile riders.
The C stores have all been alerted to your impending arrival, and are looking forward to meeting you. You must make it to Orient before the store closes at 7pm! That is mile 130 of the 200, and mile 100 of the 150.
I have a few final edits to the course, and then the cue sheets and GPX files will be emailed out to you. The B road creek crossing on 160th street has been re-routed. It did dry up, but it turned into the mud pit of despair with no decent way to cross it. This was otherwise a great road, I am sad to have to leave it out.
Here is a selection of my favorite course photos taken over the last year. The entire route was put together during my wanderings while training for Race Across the West. I have ridden it forward and backwards, in good weather and in bad. I’ve fallen off a few times, walked many miles, broken one derailleur, and trashed a few tires. It has been a grand adventure, and I hope you all enjoy it.
Registration closes 10/14. Race day is 10/29 6:00 a.m.
This event is entirely self supported. Volunteers on the course are only there to monitor your progress, and checkpoints are in the middle of nowhere. Your only opportunities to resupply are at the following locations.
I am excited to announce that the start and finish for the Spotted Horse Gravel Ultra will be Wildwood Hills Ranch in St. Charles, Iowa. This is a great organization, with a mission I am proud to support, and in a beautiful location.
“Wildwood Hills Ranch is a 400 acre non-profit facility, set in the scenic hills of Madison County, just south of Des Moines. Founded in 2001, the ranch exists to transform lives and strengthen communities by providing healing, hope, and God’s unconditional love to children and at-risk youth. Free summer camp and year round retreats are offered to at-risk children ages 8 to 18. Kids are immersed in a fun, safe environment where character, leadership and teamwork are modeled and taught.”
October is a beautiful time to ride gravel in Iowa. Planning the route for this event has been a joy and an adventure. I have wandered as far west as Monteith, and within shouting distance of Missouri. The course will not be finalized until next year, but it will be 200 and 150 miles of the best big hills, small towns, old barns, rickety bridges, and B roads that I can find. Lots more information to come soon regarding the venue, registration, checkpoints, lodging, etc.