141 miles, +9k elevation gain Steamboat Springs, CO 09:06:34 5/24 32/83 252/428
When I registered for this race I had never raced before and had only owned a bike for about 6 months which I had only been on a few times. I guess that made it my 'A' race :D
I also decided that I should probably get a gravel bike, race and do some actual outdoor riding (97% of my riding is indoors). So, I bought a gravel bike (Canyon Grail), raced (Chino Grinder & Williams Road Race) and registered for one challenging outdoor event a month leading up to SBT GRVL.
I traveled to Steamboat alone and the drive was 12.5 hours. I broke it up over 2 days. I arrived in Steamboat the Wednesday (08/14) prior to the Sunday (08/18) race. I wanted a few days to acclimate to the altitude and preview the course. The day I arrived, I rode an out and back on the last 10 miles of the course. I next decided I wanted to feel the two major climbs firsthand. One being at approx. mile 24 and the other at approx. mile 95. The rest of the course I drove by car taking notes along the way. By Saturday I had ridden or driven all but 3.5 miles of the course so on that day I took a quick 30 minute out and back spin on that section. Preview complete.
The first day I rode (Wednesday), I felt great. Mind/body tired of the two days of driving and elevation not physically affecting me yet. The second day (Thursday), which was also the longest mileage planned, was a struggle. Energy was low and legs were moody at best. Come Friday, the third day I was in Steamboat, I felt great again! My power was back and so was my mental focus.
Some things I noted on the course was that it was fast and more pavement-like than gravel. There were a few areas I highlighted as difficult but in comparison to my only other gravel experience, it was still 'roadish'. Most of the climbs were rolling and seemed more gradual than intimidating.
Race morning came and I decided to ride to the start. I was slower getting out the door than I had planned and ended up arriving with only 5 minutes until the gun went off and still cramming my breakfast in. I worked my way up the pen best I could without looking like a total jerk. Temps were in the low 40's and I was scrambling to get extra layers off and discard any non-race items I had. Very hectic and stressful few minutes. Not how I wanted to start. Was a neutral start out of the pen and briefly thru town. I was able to jockey to a better position but it was short lived. Within the first few miles began a section I had preplanned to be cautious on. The section was 3-4 miles with deep gravel on a gradual increasing grade. I backed off and began drifting back.
The next section was on a narrower road with rolling hills and powdery dirt atop hard pack. Dusty but not difficult. Reached mile 26 and I was finally to a section that I had ridden. By the time I finished the first 'lollipop' I felt settled. Next up was what I call the backside of the course, and that’s when I came across fellow Team Stages teammate, Sam! I had seen her briefly in the roll out but we got separated. It was a welcome sight and good to see a familiar face and have a quick, breathy chat.
By the time I reached the second and final 'lollipop' the temps were heating up. The leaders had whizzed by, already headed back and that was really cool. I knew this part was long and that I just had to hold steady and then I could send it home. I got thru it but struggled a bit more than I hoped I would. Mile 95-100 I felt I lost grip on my mental focus. When I hit the last planned aid stop at about mile 120, it brought the spirits up. I was also pleased to see that my power was holding steady.
I finished and it felt great to be done. But so far, I haven’t found that ability to leave it all out there. Unfortunately, I come back feeling like I left a little meat on the bone.
Overall pleased with my performance and walked away with a great experience and a super day. The course was beautiful, and the race was so well organized. Steamboat itself is an awesome destination with a little bit of something for everyone. This was the inaugural event and only my 2nd race ever. (Technically 3rd but my 2nd gravel event). I have been riding a little over a year and I hope to add more experiences like this. Plus, it was like fan-girl weekend!! I got to share the course, meet and have conversation with some of the best in the business!! Riders that I look up to. There were world tour racers out there for crying out loud!! An experience I won't soon forget, that’s for sure!