iGranFondo Recap

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Written by: Robert "Bob" Greigg

This is long. Settle in.

The iGranFondo rolled out from Riverside Park at 8am on Saturday, July 22nd (some riders chose to depart at 7am) under some very welcome cloud cover and a race-time temperature of around 80 degrees and fairly humid. The wind was south around 10 mph. Planned by the City of Sioux City, the Fondos are envisioned as an annual event to kick-off each year's Ragbrai.

The 103-milers were called up to the front behind the lead van. I took a quick look around and it seemed there were around 25 people lining up. I was hoping a lot more racer types would've showed. Perhaps next year. Fellow teammates Jeff Kluck, Bill Feiges and Jay Chesterman were there with Cody McCullough rolling up at the last minute. Bill, Jay and Cody each had other commitments so they were only riding on the first part of the trek to Sioux Center.

Denny Anderson, Monte Brent and Dale Hurt were notable familiar faces among other local cyclists that came out. Racers Kevin Limpach and Rich Pearson (Team Kaos) came up from Omaha plus Mike Campie, a former road racer also from that area.

We rolled out easy until just before Stone Park when my teammates scooted past to queue up behind the lead vehicle with the Nebraska 3 already behind it. I rolled up quickly too with some others anticipating the climb familiar to all local cyclists.

The loop through Stone Park had been designated as "neutral" by the organizers in the days before the race. In fact, they gave riders the option to bypass it without time penalty- they'd have to wait to cross the timing strips after the people who'd opted to do it came back down. In hindsight, I'm sure several folks wished they'd bypassed it.

As soon as we hit the park it was clear this ride was "on like Donkey Kong!" Kevin Limpach and Mike Campie immediately went into vertical assault mode and sprinted up the steep hill. Knowing the race started upon crossing the timing strips at the bottom of the park, anyone hoping to make the lead group on Highway 12 had to redline it now or be left behind.

As Limpach and Campie disappeared around the bends with my teammates and a couple others in hot pursuit, I settled into a semi-comfortable pace figuring I'd hook up with them at the top. Luckily, I did. With Cody leading, we plummeted back to the park entrance. Kevin and Mike sat up on Hwy 12 and after a brief respite we got down to racer business.

The lead group was down to 10 now: The Nebraska 3, we five SC Velo guys, Monte Brent from LeMars and Jason Anderson from Des Moines. Soon, we had a steady rotation going that would maintain a 27-30+ mph pace the 14 miles to Westfield.

Upon hitting C38, the rotation died and it seemed we were all satisfied to keep it pretty friendly but quick across the rollers to K22. Cody waved and turned off at the K18/C38 intersection. That made 9 of us in the group. I'd guess we averaged 23 mph for that stretch.

After turning south into the K22 headwind it was back to racing. The rotation started up again and soon we were hammering. A couple miles later Monte said he needed a nature break and pulled off the road. Not everyone heard him but the pace let up for a bit when the paceline fractured. A few minutes later the rotation reformed and we jammed it at 26-29 mph all the way to the city limits. Monte didn't make it back on. Bill and Jay turned off for home. Now we were 6 in the lead.

We leaders enjoyed a police rolling enclosure from Mike's Saloon all the way to Stone Park Blvd. (thank you very much to the organizers). I'm sure drivers watching a police car with cherry tops turning while leading a small group of cyclists down the busiest street in town, Hamilton Blvd., must have been a bit puzzled at the sight.

Back with just the lead vehicle ahead of us on the road to Stone Park, I was starting to feel a little sick in the stomach. When we hit the small hill before the park my legs didn't like it much. Right then, I knew I'd be in trouble on Broken Kettle Road. I got popped near the top of the first hill on BKR past the back park entrance. I wasn't too concerned because we'd agreed to stop at the official aid station at the intersection of Hwy 12 and BKR to reload. I didn't really chase but kept them in sight for most of the way through the hills. I rolled into the stop not feeling too good.

The 6 of us were now regrouped. I did a quick estimate of my chances to hang on with a sick stomach once we got into the familiar hills of K18 and came up with zero. Seeing the guys were kind of taking a long time I decided to go and get busy on a head start. I filled my two bottles and grabbed another for the back pocket. It was starting to feel warmer now and I wanted extra water on board. I told the guys I was going and set off.

I started rolling again and then got inspired with the lead vehicle as my rabbit. The stomach settled down some after a few miles and I started pushing it again while using up the extra bottle by drinking half and dumping the rest on my neck.

I was doing 23-24 mph steady and kept looking for the guys but they weren't coming. I was feeling better when the big rollers of K18 came into view. I made a fast stop for more water at the aid station and asked for a bottle at the roadside. Someone helpfully brought me one and I was off again crossing C38 and heading north all the way to Hawarden with a nice 15 mph tailwind. The hills along this road up to the Akron area have always been trouble for me. I usually get dropped on group rides somewhere along this stretch.

The other 5 still not in sight, I rode hard but at a pace I could handle on these first few big hills. I wanted to hold onto the lead for as long as possible because they'd be coming fast with Kevin drilling it in the hills. I was passing a lot of people who'd left before us now and used some of them in the distance as rabbits to chase to keep me going.

I finally saw the guys coming. My legs were tiring now and knew they'd be on me in a couple miles. I was really pleased to make it past the Akron area before being caught. The chasers had broken up a bit. Kevin zoomed by. Then Jeff, then Mike. Soon the tough old bear, Rich (60 years old!) came up to me.

We talked a little bit but told him I was hurting and that I didn't have much fight left to chase. I tried to go on with him for awhile but then sat up and settled into my own pace again. I used up much of that extra bottle dumping it on myself now and then. Jason Anderson wasn't there now so there were 4 guys plus me strung out on the last stretch to Hawarden.

The Hawarden Golf Club was right on the edge of town. I finished off a bottle in anticipation of stopping there for more. The other four had stopped and I came in soon after. I bought a couple bottles of water, filled my empty up and stuck the other bottle in my pocket. After pre-riding the course I knew the last 20 miles would be very tough so I wanted extra. When I saw Jeff was going to toss 1/3rd of his Coke I asked him for it and gulped it down.

I rolled out with Kevin, Mike and Jeff. Rich took a long stop. Jason rolled in just as we left. Soon after, I tried to eat some of the food I usually consume on long rides but my stomach didn't want it so I spit it out. I'd gotten up early and had a good breakfast so wasn't too concerned about bonking. Trying to hang with them was asking for it to happen, however. That's the last thing I wanted so I let the other guys go and concentrated on holding onto 4th place in survival mode.

A few miles later it was getting hotter and I used up the cold bottle on my head and neck before the descent into the river valley. I knew 2 bottles would be fine for the last 15 miles.

The climb out of the valley isn't as long as the descent or as steep but it still hurt plenty with 90+ miles in the legs. The rest of the way (east) to Sioux Center would be a lot of little rollers now but the uphills were longer than the downhills and the wind was from the right.

Soon after clearing the climb from the valley I was pleased to see my youngest brother David come toward me in his mini van. I'd arranged for him to pick me up after the finish and suggested he could see me on the course if he backtracked from Sioux Center. I waved at him and he turned around. He rolled alongside for awhile and I asked him to leapfrog me the rest of the way in. So a few times he rolled up on my left and we'd talk awhile and that was very encouraging. He stopped a couple times and took pictures of me.

I pushed on. A lot of riders there for the start of Ragbrai were on the road now. They were coming and going from dipping their rear wheels in the river. I'd use someone in the distance as a rabbit and tried to keep it moving. I kept looking back for Rich figuring he'd be coming soon but ended up never seeing him again until the finish.

With about 8 miles to Sioux Center I was very surprised to suddenly see my teammate Jeff standing on the left side of the road on a gravel driveway with his bike laying on the ground. I assumed he'd had a mechanical and yelled to him asking what he needed as I approached (thought perhaps he had a flat and no extra tube). He just shook his head and said something like, "I'm done" and waved me on.

Now I was 3rd on the road. This inspired me so I kept drinking a lot and kept pushing it as much as possible. About 3 miles out I was really hurting and feeling the miles. I asked my brother to find the last hill when he passed by again. He went up ahead for awhile and then turned off the road. One more hill, he told me. I looked around for what seemed the 50th time along here just to make sure Rich wasn't closing. Nobody was coming so I felt relieved. I rolled down the last hill into the west end of town but kept on pushing it.

I was a bit anxious now about the finish line because I wasn't exactly sure where it was. All I knew was it was "behind the mall." However, I soon spotted the small signs guiding us in and kept on looking out for them. There were a couple turns through a residential area then into kind of an industrial area. I turned a corner and spotted the finish arch behind the mall. What a relief. I rolled across in 3rd (out of water now) and immediately sat on the sidewalk in the shade for the next 30 minutes not really wanting to move.

I was happy to see Jeff roll in just a few minutes after I'd sat down. Then awhile later Rich came and a few minutes after that Jason rolled in. Kevin Limpach had won followed by Mike Campie in 2nd. Turned out Jeff was suffering from heat exhaustion. Otherwise, I normally wouldn't ever beat him since he's a lot better racer than me. The heat will get to the best of any of us.

Thanks to my brother, he had my cooler with drinks and brought my bag with clothes to me. We all sat around and told "war" stories and an attractive reporter from the Journal interviewed some of us but ended up not using any of it. She was more interested in Ragbrai, not a bike race, I guess.

My appetite returned after I'd cleaned up but my feet and my ass (from sitting on the side walk) were aching badly but otherwise I was feeling pretty okay. Jeff rode with us back to Sioux City. He recovered okay but couldn't eat anything until after getting back. I'd never raced 100+ miles before so it was a pretty satisfying thing to accomplish. My forecast for the race was accurate and Kevin averaged over 22 mph. The results afterward were a bit mixed up with some people who didn't ride the whole distance listed at the top and Jeff's time wasn't recorded accurately. A couple guys who'd left at 7am finished within our times. Here's the top results:

1. Kevin Limpach (Team Kaos) 4:39:15
2. Mike Campie (unattached) 4:46:44
3. Bob Greigg (SC Velo) 4:47:16
4. Jeff Kluck (Sc Velo) 4:50?
5. Vince Beggs (Alexandria, VA) 4:52:25 (7am)
6. Mark Ramsdem (Leavenworth, KS) 4:52:27 (7am)
7. Rich Pearson (Team Kaos) 4:55:50
8. Jason Anderson (unattached) 4:58:27

-Posted 8/1/12