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    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.

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A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.

Renegade Gent's Race: A Team Effort

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b2ap3_thumbnail_P4050555.JPGThe Renegade Gent's Race is unlike any gravel race I'd ever done. Wait, check that. I've ridden in packs before many times in gravel races and that's exactly what I did at the Gent's race in Ankeny, Iowa on April 5th, 2014. However, the difference here was I didn't have to worry about my little group of 5 trying to destroy each other as the finish line came near. This time the little "band of brothers" were my teammates, our mission was simple..."stick together at all costs and go as fast as possible".

The event was to start at 8:00 a.m. with each team leaving at approximately 5 minute intervals. A loose handicap type system was employed in attempt to even things out. That is to say, an assessment of which teams were supposedly "faster" than others was made by the race directors and thus they were given their starting times according to this "rank". Our team, "The Midwest Gravel Grinders" was slated to go off at 9:40 a.m. about the 42nd team to leave the starting line. It was then our task to move up through the field the best we could before the finish line arrived. Which ever team made it to the line first would be the winner. The "Grinders" all hailed from some of the best gravel states in country, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota. We were eager to hit the dirt!

At last we were under way and tweaking the system so to speak as we searched for the most efficient way to work as a team. It wasn't long before we were rotating smoothly in an echelon formation while a stiff wind hit us hard on the left shoulder. I smiled to myself as I watched the guys work into this riding style without a word being spoken, there was a lot of experience in this group. It wasn't uncommon to feel a handle bar slightly bump into one's hip as a teammate looked for that sweet spot in the "pocket" that the wind just couldn't seem to find. We were riding very close together and cruising comfortably right around 20 mph.

Challenges came to us as fatigue began to creep into our bodies. It was Jim who spoke first requesting a bit of a slow down as our stronger members pushed to pace hard on the front. We'd agreed earlier to leave all egos at the starting line as if any would ever show up among this humble group, but nevertheless we knew honesty would be the best policy. We needed to stick together. Soon, the commands came in short bursts from the group, "quarter mile an hour up", "a bit off", "hold steady at 19.5 mph", the group was formed and working well together and more importantly we never allowed one to find himself alone in the wind. The operation was smooth and rb2ap3_thumbnail_P4050557.JPGunning on all cylinders.

With the race only being 66 miles long it was still easy to see the roles our members played and how we fit together. We were also able to see the competitive edge we all have as we were passed by two fast moving teams. I shared a bit of anger as we watched these two teams move through us, but the mission of sticking together was more important than going on a mad chase, we'd let things play out on the gravel.

The end game was upon us soon as I revealed to the team the mileage we'd covered. It was then that I noticed Jim Cummins quietly churning through the Iowa country side with a slight grimace on his face. Jim had openly admitted that he needed us to shelter him from time to time and that he didn't want to hold us up. I assured him, as did the others time and time again that he was not holding us up, that he was as strong as an ox. But in the closing miles I noticed the team looking after each other as the stronger riders kept an eye on the ones who'd "gone to the well" more than they wanted to. It was a hand to the small of the back on the uphill grade of a struggling rider by one who was fairing better at that time that proved to me that we had gelled as a group. Late in the game, with Jim digging hard to hold his position in the line I noticed an empty water bottle working it's way out of his jersey pocket. I moved up the line next to him and without a word I pushed the bottle back home and resumed my place. "Team work", was all Matt said as I slid backward down the line, he was right. This is where our group was at now, one for all, all for one. b2ap3_thumbnail_P4050559.JPG

Grabbing one more position in the final miles with a pass on the tarmac leading to the finish line secured a 6th place overall finish. We crossed the line together as one rider and although we felt good about our overall place, we felt better about what we did out there "sticking together".

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A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.

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