Anticipation and Preparation
MF6 was a long anticipated event: I intended to do it as my first gravel experience last year, but finally was able to get in this February.
Due to it’s popularity and 600 participants’ cap, registration process lasted only three hours and many gravel warriors weren’t be able to get in – by the stroke of luck or just beginner’s luck somehow I managed to register, whoah! The hard part was over, or so I thought.
Winter being my most favorite of the seasons, I shamelessly indulged in XC Skiing and Speed skating, unlike the rest of my wheel enthusiast friends who trained hard either indoors on all kind of trainers, or outdoors – commuting daily on their all-weather bikes or enjoying ever so popular Fatty craze. But I was confident that Nordic endurance training will get me to a sufficient fitness level to complete the ride…
Well, I was correct to some degree.
With the Mother Nature bestowing upon us the priceless gift of never ending winter (April’s Snowmageddon, yes!!!), it wasn’t until April 21 when I was able finally to get AWOL from the garage and let it go on communion with still somewhat muddy and even snowy local limestone trails – I should admit: it felt good to be back in the saddle!
I went to the Seven Spokes shop in St. Paul for a special MF6 presentation delivered by Sean, the godfather of this event and actually got really excited after hearing all good things about it!
I revved up my training, eventually doing several long-ish asphalt road rides and felt like I am ready for a big day on April 29.
It’s supposed to be a hot one and everyone suggested intense hydration in days prior to it – not sure if it’s a good strategy.
So, on Sunday morning I arrived in a lovely town of Miesville and observed a very festive atmosphere – all streets were filled with scores of excited riders! After parking in some sort of heavy farming equipment depot, I got myself all equipped and rode to a nearby stadium (the ride’s staging area): excitement was visible in the air!
Sean gave and instructional and inspirational speech to a lycra-laden crowd of six hundred or so, and then we were on our way to achieve gravel greatness.
After the initial asphalt portion, we promptly entered the promised earthy surface and the peleton quickly sorted out speedsters from the rest of us.
Cheerful sun rays and gentle blow of a tailwind made us all very happy, but unfortunately this situation wasn’t prevalent on this day (at least the Sun was still shining bright). After awhile we started feeling almighty blows of head and side winds and we have to deal with it for the most of the ride. Some uphills and minimum maintenance curvy downhills took the most out of me, let the wind situation alone…
Sooner or later we arrived to what became a highlight of the day: the Chimney Rock cheering station with it’s abundance of drinking water, coffee, pickle juice, and snacks provided by the generous sponsors (Maple Grove Cycling & Bell Lap Coffee among others).
By Sean’s instructions, we did a mandatory pilgrimage to the Rock, touched/hugged/kissed it according to personal preferences and received a raffle playing card from the lovely volunteer.
After brief Refueling-Socializing-Layer Management I set out on the remaining 36 miles wanting to finish it rather sooner than later.
Ahead of me there were plenty of uphills/downhills, rough gravel, and the last but not the least – omnipresent all-directional Mr. Breeze gusting to 15-20 mph. Rural areas present many local specifics, that we city folks are not accustomed to, one of them being: “Tractor’s up” – it really cracked me up:)!
After miles and miles of wide open rural scenery, it was a relief to enter the picturesque Miesville Ravine Regional Park – being sheltered for awhile from the brutality of wind blowing hard into your face or side and riding on a winding hard packed limestone – priceless!
By mile 50 riders reached Bleu Dog cafe in Welch Village (the turnaround point), got their dose of finish stretch caffeine fix or energy supplies, and were on their way to the Miesville.
Remaining 6 miles felt more like 12 to me…
…I kept pedaling and pedaling and felt like the finish line is just a object of my imagination, but then when I was almost losing any hope – the lifesaving asphalt made it’s gracious appearance and I just cruised to the town in best traditions of Euro monuments! Sean was greeting everyone and we were smiling (sometime forcibly) and thanked him in our thoughts!
Afterwards finishers were congregating inside and outside of the King’s burger place, getting well deserved adult beverages and traditional American bar fare, exchanging war stories, and a few lucky ones getting their raffle prizes. I met a buddy who I got to ride with last year during Gravel West, and he was a little bit disappointed – one rider in his party got cursed with flats and the rhythm of their team got totally destroyed.
I guess I was lucky for not experiencing any mechanical problems with my bike or physiological with my body. ChocoChia that I brought with me perfectly sustained my energy levels during the long ride, and Dumonde Tech lube graciously given to me by Sean after the Seven Spokes presentation kept my chain happy.
What have I learned from this experience?
This was my third gravel race/ride and my confidence level increased with any following event.
The old axiom that you can’t go around the proper training still applies, but I am glad that my cross country ski/ice skating training in a large degree was able to compensate lack on time in the saddle. Although not cycling-specific, Nordic sports still kept me in a high physical fitness shape and I was able to make a seamless transition to cycling with no problem. It would be interesting to make a scientific comparison regarding cycling fitness between Winter Sports Warriors spending their time outdoors vs Indoor Cyclists accumulating hundreds of imaginary road miles, but sheltered from the elements.
My Big “Merci Beaucoup” goes to the organizers, volunteers, sponsors, and folks of Miesville area – this event wouldn’t happen without you, plain and simple. It’s great to be a part of bustling MN cycling community and enjoy all the benefits and be able to volunteer for the upcoming events or support them in any other ways!
See everyone in 2019!