Just over a week ago I embarked into unchartered territory on two wheels at the Old Man Winter Bike Rally & Run up in Lyons, CO. This event, also known in the cycling world as a gravel grinder, was a mixed of paved, dirt roads, and off-road terrain. I remember mentioning this to some of my triathlete friends and they usually follow up with the question…”do they cancel if it snows?” Heck no. In the world of gravel, off-road, and cyclocross, there is no such thing as cancelling an event because of snow. The white stuff actually makes things more interesting. Which then leads you to believe that people that do these types of events are not skittish AND they know how to operate their equipment.
From these people, I’ve learned how to do things with a bike and push myself outside my comfort zone even further…and boy has it been worth it!!! Being able to go off-road you get to see some pretty crazy stuff. The Old Man Winter course took us through some roads I was very familiar with during my IRONMAN training days, but then down dirt roads that I never dared explore on my triathlon bike. Those roads lead us to open spaces filled with farm animals and far less traffic, both of the cycling and motor vehicle variety. Another plus.
Coming out of the mass start I got caught in a pack of cyclists riding everything from cyclocross, mountain bikes, and even fat snow bikes. I was more than happy to get sucked into this peloton of misfits…and the humming whirl of our wheels as we rode down the highway was music to my ears.
After various ups and downs, sharp and wide turns, the course dropped us onto REEB Ranch. Right before entering the ranch, I saw what resembled cyclocross course tape, which got me excited. In this short loop I got to practice some of my CX skills. There were ruts, soft dirt, loose rocks, and all sorts of other things to navigate. My ass puckered up a couple times with a couple close calls, but I was happy to get through it and bump into my buddy Brian at the aid station. We chatted for a bit as I eyed over the offerings at the aid station. Clif Bars, water, pickle juice, cookies. All looked good, but I was looking forward to the pork green chili they were serving up at the finish.
Even though there were riders far stronger and faster than me, many offered words of encouragement as they passed me…especially the ladies. The spectators were great too!! Michael Robson of WeAreButter and Private Parts CX (my first CX race) was out with his tent cheering on all the riders. I even got a hup hup from him as I rode by.
The tasty pork green chili at the finish was worth rattling my bum on unpaved roads for the better of 20-ish miles (total course was 50km). Riders were throwing back beers, hanging around the fire pits, and sharing stories of their day. It was definitely a fun introduction to gravel grinding for me on a perfect February day in Colorado. Can’t wait to do it again!!!