Greigg 3rd, Cork 5th at iGran Fondo

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Written by: Admin.

This is long, settle in.

July 20th was the date for the 2nd iGran Fondo. This year's nearly 100-mile ride/race is promoted by the City of Sioux City as an annual kick-off event to precede Ragbrai. Each year's ride will start in Sioux City and end in the Iowa tour's starting town so the route will change annually.

This year the ride began at the IBP Ice Center and ended at River's Edge Park in Council Bluffs. The route was slightly downhill as it paralleled the Missouri River south on Highway 75 until turning east through Mondamin and toward the Loess Hills. From this point, the route would skirt the bluffs through Missouri Valley to Honey Creek where riders would encounter the first real hill, then on to Crescent for more hills before the descent to the edge of Council Bluffs.

The 7 AM start time conditions were quite humid but only 70 degrees. The wind direction would vary at no more than 5 mph for the duration with a forecast high of 85.

SC Velo road racers Ben Cork and Bob Greigg lined up with fellow roadies Greg Gleason (CPC), Eric Tudor (unattached) and Dale Hurt (unattached) along with 42 other starters of widely varying abilities.

Not long after a brisk warm-up pace was settled into, a rider on a time trial bike and full aero kit with Camel Back surged past the front of the group on an apparent solo quest. Time Trial Guy was not to be seen again until much later.

When Bob looked around and found that the group was already down to about 20 faster riders, he set about organizing a paceline. With mostly inexperienced riders in the group, it took some patient instruction and encouragement from the racers until a fairly good rotation was established. Soon the pace would increase from 25 mph in single file to 27-29 mph in the rotating paceline with each rider taking a very short pull at the front before being replaced by the next overtaking rider. The paceline would be active until Onawa.

The bunch then splintered with about half the guys stopping along the road for an agreed "nature break" after leaving Onawa. It took a few miles of pursuit after restarting but eventually all the others who had kept going were reeled in one-by-one by the reforming paceline group with the last hold-out, Greg Gleason, being reabsorbed at Mondamin.

Headed east now and into a slight crosswind for about 5 miles, some weaker riders were dropped. By the time the route turned south again, the group was down to perhaps 10. From here on, the rate of attrition would continue to increase on the slightly rolling road to Missouri Valley. The average speed to this point was nearly 27 mph.

Over a race this long it's not difficult to carry enough food but it is problematic to carry enough water. If a rider stops to refill at an aid station and no one else does he'll get dropped so some carried 3 bottles and up to 4 bottles but most guys had 2 on their bikes. A few arranged bottle hand-ups from helpers in follow vehicles. Greg Gleason offered Bob this support before the race started from wife Kit and son TJ who would follow the race to provide water for Greg at various intervals. The well-practiced TJ later provided a flawless hand-up for Bob.

Don Cork, father of Ben Cork, was also following the race and provided full bottles for Ben and one for Bob from the unofficial SC Velo "team car." His vehicle with hazard lights flashing served as a much appreciated buffer between the riders and passing traffic.

It was just outside of Missouri Valley that Time Trial Guy would be caught after about 75 miles in the lead. He followed the group that had now been reduced to 6 or 7 until he was left behind before Honey Creek.

It was the hill going out of Honey Creek that would later prove to have been the decisive moment of the race. It was here that the last of the non-racers would disappear but it was also the point at which the cream would rise to the top among the 5 leaders.

Although new this year to bike racing, 23-year old Eric Tudor has quickly become known in the tri-state area as a very talented cyclist. He came into the sport from a background in track and cross country running at Dordt College. It wasn't an aggressive attack but Eric made a gradual acceleration on the first actual hill of the entire course which caused difficulty among the others. Greg quickly saw a good wheel and jumped in behind. Ben, Bob and Dale Hurt each followed but quickly had to settle for a more reasonable pace.

After cresting the hill the chase would be on to catch the 2 escapees before they reached the next hills starting at Crescent. The 3 worked and chased to close the gap but perhaps due to tired legs, could not get any closer than about 20 seconds deficit. Out of Crescent, Eric and Greg would again increase their lead. Although kept within sight, their lead became insurmountable. Ben, Bob and Dale were now racing for 3rd place.

After an abrupt turn onto a narrow road adjacent to a golf course, the trio saw that a doe and fawn had just crossed the road ahead. Standing on the roadside opposite, the fawn startled when the riders came up on the pair from behind. The fawn started to dart back across the road but slammed the brakes and u-turned before any mayhem could result.

Over one last short but hurtful hill it was a fast descent to Council Bluffs. Although back to flat terrain, the route did not get easier. Here, riders had to contend with heavy local traffic. The streets were not blocked off (which would not have been practical anyway for a route that traversed the city to end near the river).

A 3-minute stoplight was almost the undoing of the 2 leaders but luckily for them, they made it through the intersection before the chasers were also caught by the same light.

A couple miles later the route passed the casinos and into River's Edge Park. There was some maneuvering for position to sprint now after a right turn into a large parking lot and onto a riverside road that led to the finishing area and a bit of confusion. The finish line arch wasn't visible from a distance because it was located in a smaller parking lot on the other side of a bridge.

As soon as the arch came into view, Bob quickly accelerated, rounded the sharp corner and crossed the line in 3rd. Dale finished 4th and Ben, only 17 years old, capped a very impressive performance in 5th.

Greg and Eric had their own bit of difficulty with the hidden finish line a couple minutes earlier. They had agreed to try and cross the line together but with the sudden turn Greg would cross over in 1st place with Eric in 2nd.

Despite a lot of rough roads and having to negotiate city traffic at the end, it was a very fun ride overall and a very fast one with an average speed over 25 mph for the 99 miles.

Ben Cork's recap here.


-Posted 7/22/13