Joel Mason's report on his racing the gravel champs.
Was unable to find pictures - so here you go.
Here are some details from my first experience with gravel road racing.
Only two Cat 4 and two Cat 5 racers showed up for the party. They started the 4's and 5's 30 seconds ahead of the 60+ racers. Mark Considine and another New Pioneer Coop racer joined me, Pasha Kuznetsov, Derek Temperley, and Dave Roll early in the race for a total of six riders. By mid-way through the first lap, Dave had dropped back. 2/3 of the way through the first lap, Pasha went off the front alone. Mark seemed to attempt to bridge the gap, but got hung about half way there. At that point, I just closed the gap to keep us all together, since I knew the other New Pioneer Coop wouldn't do any work at all if Mark was off the front. In reflection, I did most of the work, which makes sense, because I was the only Cat 4 left - all the others had to do was coast to their gold medals. I did not know that at the time - I didn't know that Derek was the Cat 5. Still, Mark did take some nice pulls and Derek took one or two nice pulls which did give me some rest.
So at the start of the 2nd lap, there were 4 us in a group, with Pasha off the front by about 20 seconds. During the second lap, we dropped the other New Pioneer Coop 60+ racer and Mark Considine flatted, leaving only Derek and I together as we came in to finish the 2nd lap. By this point, Pasha had opened up guite a gap and had me feeling a little anxious. I told Derek that once we completed the 2nd lap and turned back into the 20 mph head wind that we needed to put the hammer down and close the gap. Derek agreed. However, after we turned, Derek eased up beside me and said, "I'm sorry, man, I'm redlined. I don't have anything left. You're going to have to do it on your own." So we exchanged thank-you's and greetings and took off. My growing suspicion was now confirmed that I had been riding with the Cat 5. Later, the race official told me that Pasha had 50 seconds on us at the turn for the last lap.
I caught Pasha half-way through the last lap. So as we turned out of the head-wind, I got on Pasha's wheel. Pasha road my wheel most of the way to the sprint. It didn't bother me because we had a strong tail wind and I was not working hard. He started his sprint early, so I eased over onto his wheel and waited. I sprinted around him at the end and took first place. Pasha was the only other Cat 4 in the race, but I see that he took 2nd of 18 Cat 4 racers at Kent Park a few weeks ago. That made me feel a little better. I was just thankful to stay upright, to have some fun, and to have closed that big of a gap in that span of real estate.
I wish someone would publish our overall time. I'd like to see how we faired compared to the big boys. The free sweet roll I received was delicious. I raced my Raleigh cross bike with Vittoria Evo XG tubular tires at a little less than 40 psi. I thought that ended up working well.
All the best,