*Guest Post by Jake Anderson. Photo Credit’s go to Les Heiserman “path les Traveled” unless otherwise noted. Thanks to Les and Perry for sharing his beautiful work as I was unable to actually witness the race and he captures it much more beautifully then I ever could!
Saturday June 8th, 2013 the 1st annual Gold Rush Gravel Grinder took place. But before we get to the story of the race let’s rewind to Friday night. I headed to Spearfish, South Dakota to pick-up my race packet. True to form, the night before all of Perry and Kristi Jewett’s events is a good time, catching-up with old friends and meeting new ones and this race was no different. We all knew deep in our hearts that the next morning, when we would lined up at the start, like so many of us had in past for Perry’s other race, the Dakota Five-O, there would be no time for catching up. The only kicker, this time it wasn’t a mountain bike race. This was a 110 mile gravel grinding race!
That night, as we carb-loaded on spaghetti (and maybe a few brews for some of the gang) at the Crow Peak Brewery the sky became that dark, ominous black color. You know, the color that lets you know hell is about to be unleashed. To say it rained is an understatement. But it “rained” and I thought, “Oh this will make tomorrow’s race kinda tough.” With the sky still puking water, Rochelle and I dashed home to Rapid City to get my bike ready. Earlier in the day I got the bad news that my rear hub was missing an O-ring and not rideable. I still needed to change out the wheel to my back-up set. After a NASCAR-worthy wheel change it was off to bed. And it was still raining.
5 AM came early, especially on race day. I awoke to the sound of a light drizzle and immediately wondered about the course conditions. If it had rained like this in Spearfish there was a mud-fest in store. As we drove north it appeared as though it had already started to dry out. Maybe the conditions wouldn’t be so bad. We pulled into Spearfish with partly cloudy skies and cool temperatures. It was starting to look like a great day to race. So I readied my body and mind for the next hour until General Custer fired his pistol signaling the neutral role out. After 4 miles the 120 rider field reached the point where the pavement turned to gravel. It was time to race; the game was on!
I was feeling good, the legs felt good, the body and mind felt good. As the field headed towards the Wyoming state line, a strong headwind kicked up. I thought, “If this wind does not let up, it’s going to be a long day.” I and a small group led the way into Wyoming as the wind worked against us. I eased my pace and started looking for my buddy Tim. We had planned to ride and work together. Let me interrupt this tale to tell you about Tim. Tim is a bit over 50 and I’m 33. Usually he is right in the mix with the top guys. He is fast and a great training partner. But this year we haven’t managed to get out together near as much as in past years and I could tell he was feeling it.
The miles to the first first aid station flew; I refilled my bottles and grabbed quick bite to eat. I was ready but still no Tim. I hung around and about 10 minutes later he rolled in. We were only 32 miles in and he already looked worked. We got him some water and food and away we went, headed to Trailshead Lodge and aid station #2. As we rode and the miles ticked away Tim finally started feeling good and I was still on my game. I pulled out my last que sheet, expecting the next aid station to be just around the corner only to discover that it was 10 miles further than I thought. A moment of panic set in. I had 10 miles to ride and no water left.
No water wouldn’t have been bad for the guy that used to be a camel and not need water but these days I drink a lot. As I chugged along the dehydration started to creep into my legs and I began to wonder if I was going to make it to Trailshead with enough left to finish this race? I rolled into Trailshead on fumes and quickly grabbed water and some potato chips. As I felt the water and salt entering my body things started to come around. This time Tim had waited for me and it was good to be back riding with friends.
We picked up our last set of que cards and headed towards the last climbs of the day. Off we rode and the miles ticked down. Soon we arrived at the last big climb of the day, a steep, twisty road that leads up to Cement Ridge Lookout Tower. Tim started climbing and soon he pulled away from me. I thought to myself, “I am just going to sit and grind out this climb.” So sit and spin I did. I rounded a corner there was Tim…walking. He had given up riding as the climb had become extremely steep. I continued to sit in the saddle and spin away. After a few more moments of pain, I reached the summit and knew that soon the ride would be over.
We descended a long, technical ATV trail from the lookout tower and as we neared the bottom my front tire felt really soft. A flat! Tim and I did a tube change and soon we were back rolling. Fatigue was starting to really get to Tim again but I hung with him to motivate him. After a while we reached the final, much appreciated descent. A few more miles of gravel and then pavement. Tim and I arrived at Roughlock Road and Tim told me to ride on.
Knowing that when the roads tip flat or slightly down hill I excel and excel I did. I flew down the 15 mile sprint to the end. But this ride wasn’t over yet. As I round the last corners I felt that pesky front wheel going flat…again. I turned right and nearly lost the bike to the ditch. The tire had gone really flat. 500 yards to go, there would be no NASCAR tire changes this time. I rode it in on the rim. Finally, it was done,110 miles and 8000 ft of climbing.
A huge thanks and kudos goes out to Perry and Kristie Jewett for hosting another awesome race. These two sure know how to put a guy through hell and back and still leave him with a smile, begging for more. I’m looking forward to the Dakota Five-O this fall and will definitely be back for another serving of gravel at the Gold Rush Gravel Grinder next spring.