Heading into the 2015 edition of the Gravel Metric, many of us on HAC identified a target time for completing the course. This gave us solidarity and a carrot to chase. And for the first time since I started doing this event in 2012, I knew that I would have teammates with me to face the unforgiving gravel and dirt roads of Dekalb because we had a common mission.
With field sizes increasing year to year and the neutral roll-out extended, I was worried that our group would get split up. However, just a few miles in and we were all there, taking pulls and getting settled. We wound around, up and down, and got used to the Plinkoing© of our rear wheels in the gravel.
The air was cool and clean. Some earlier rain minimized the gravel dust. I thought of many things while in the saddle: a song from the radio, my Mom, my wife.
A group of four identified ourselves as wanting to finish this thing in 4-hours (shop to shop), but we picked-up three more teammates along the way. The sense of pride I felt as we moved as one far surpassed any result I could potentially snag as an amateur bike racer.
Several bits threatened to break-up our group: flat tires, bottles ejecting on washboard sections, throbbing legs, and varying skills on the off-road. But each time the waning member fought to get back on, and/or the rest of the train either encouraged or waited patiently for everyone to regroup. We made it to the mile 40ish checkpoint as a six-headed monster, with the seventh close behind.
I've learned that the Gravel Metric is just starting to heat-up once you make it to the forest maze (mile 30-34 or so). Afterwards, it's one hard punch after another as it sends b-road upon b-road in the rider's direction. Riding through these sections takes total commitment and trust in your teammates, as the person in front picks the best line possible between ruts, holes, and mud puddles. And each time we did just that, without a single crash in our group.
After the final b-road came the headwind. I looked down at my computer and saw 10mph. "Oof." That's the knockout punch and the thing that sends riders backwards. But here's where you find out what you are made of and how amazing it is to be part of such a great team. With out group mostly intact, we hacked and heaved our way through that wind. I saw the Dekalb water tower, knew that we were only a few miles out, and exploded. The final two from our group rode away and I settled into a state of dejection, one more amongst the dead on Gurler road. But then I saw them both sit-up, wait for me and we finished it together.