Monday, August 26, 2019
Race Report: El Bandito (Gravel Race, I think. 70k)
This race is part of Substance Project's Cannondale Gravel Series. They had 140k/70k/40k options - I did the middle one (also the most popular).
It's billed as a "gravel race" but it's more of a hodge-podge of everything - an absolute hoot.
I'm working from memory/Garmin but here's a bit of an inventory...
Ski Hill - The race started with this insane ski hill climb - I guess if you're starting at a ski hill, might as well use the ski hill? It was too steep for me to ride for sure, and everyone I saw. Maybe guys at the front did it.
Unassumed Road #1 - Immediately after that was an unassumed road - which was a road in name only. Rutted, broken up, steep, you couldn't possibly traverse this with a vehicle. It was a bit sketchy, I had to walk a little due to people around me walking more than anything.
Short on-road section - short, paved, hilly
Unassumed Road #2 (@3k) - Another rutted, broken up, steep "road".
Paved Road - this went on for a lonnnnng time. Roadie stuff, drafting and trying to stick with the pack. Lots of hills. I had a hard time keeping up on the hills, but kept managing to get back on the descents. At least until...
Monster Starkville Climb (@15k) - lonnnnnng monster climb. Straight up, steep, long, high. Paved. I lost everyone I had been with and found myself alone. Shortly after I managed to catch up with one guy (gravel for a bit), but lost him pretty quickly after.
Unassumed Road #3 (@21k) - this one was in better shape and quite fast, but sandy. I saw some folks ahead of me finally, they struggled while I excelled, managed to catch up and get some draft on the road sections after.
Paved Road ... until.......
Unassumed Road #4 (@28k) - this was described as a "walk up" on the map. 25% grade, so yeah. Walk up. Long, almost 10 minute trudge up a rocky hilly trail.
Paved Road for a pretty long time - a super fast and fun descent, followed by a lot of paved road. I didn't have much help until a guy who had been changing a flat caught me. I took his wheel, and together we bridged up to the group ahead! This was huge, it was such a long section, having folks around really helped.
Unassumed Road #5 (@37k) - this went straight from high speed drafting into a sand pit. I was lucky I was near the front, I was able to glide through it while the other half dozen in our group floundered and walked and stuff!
Paved Road ... a stiff climb right after the beach, all by myself. A couple guys passed me but I didn't sweat it, I knew there were more folks behind that would hopefully catch up and help. Except they didn't, other than one dude - so we took turns (mostly me wheel sucking) until the aid station.
I stopped quickly at the aid station and then got going again really quickly - figuring the group would catch up. They didn't.
At 49k was another monster climb. Apparently only averaged 7%, but man, it was wicked. I had to dodge back and forth just to keep momentum. One person caught and passed me, but that was it.
Ganaraska Forest (@50k) - this was proper double/single track! I passed the one person near me and left everyone in the dust. Lots of sand had others tentative I expect, but I was slippin' and slidin' and loving it.
Best of all I still felt strong. Legs were sore but not tired. Properly hydrated. Just strong. Caught one other guy near the exit of the forest.
Paved Road Again (@57k) - lots of hills, some pretty tough. At the top of one of the tough ones I looked back and saw 2 people at the bottom... ack! I knew they saw me, so I was the rabbit. Next crazy hill, same thing.
The last 8.5k were the same as the first 8.5k... except I totally forgot about Unassumed Road #2, so I thought I was on the last section! It was not a good surprise to exit to more paved road and hills. Also you forget the hills you go down, they seem much bigger on the way up. Looked back, the two people were there again (I was at top of hill, they were at bottom) - so they were at least keeping up... gave me some motivation to finish strong.
I killed it on Unassumed Road #1 in reverse, road the whole thing. Then back up and down the ski hill... a little walking, but road a lot more than I'd have expected.
Finished - 68.5k - done!
Great race, fun, well organized. A little heavy on the paved roads, but enough sections of other stuff that it didn't bother me too much. Also they were so tough with the hills.
I always forget the crowd this guy's races attract. Very few anklers, mostly people on teams. Makes it tough for an unaffiliated hack like me sometimes!
Definitely will do this one again.