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Leland: We Would Say 'Epic'

The Leland Kermesse was one of the hardest things i've ever done on a bike. there are two things that truly define the race: wind and gravel. both were in ample supply today.

the race was slated to be longer than last year's edition, with the Cat 4s doing 100km (approx 62 miles). last week's Hillsboro-Roubaix was the same distance, and i wasn't about to make the same mistake and not finish this one. all the preparation i made to do a very proper warm-up went to pot when we finally arrived, after a few detours. when we stepped out of the car, a cold northerly wind belted us into shivers. i registered as quickly as possible, got my bike set up and determined riding the trainer would have been far too uncomfortable. i spun up and down the roads leading into Leland for a while and lined up with the 4's sooner, rather than later. i had a decent spot behind Hemme and Ben. soon enough, we were off.

the course started off on some very fresh tarmac, some of the nicer surfaces i've ever been on. the wind came at the peloton from the side, and i thanked myself for choosing shallow-section rims for today. the deep carbon riders were waving side to side in the crosswinds, but everyone managed to stay upright if not quite in the right lane. i held ground in the top 1/3 of the field and filled as much space as i could, determined to not be on the wrong end of the accordion around the turns. we made a turn north and the pack buckled under the headwind to a crawl. i stayed in the field and did my best to keep my legs fresh for the inevitable attacks.

a few miles in, we took our first left turn onto the gravel. most of the transitional areas between gravel and pavement were extremely soft and deep, sending many of the first riders into disarray. an Iron Cycles rider lost his footing ahead of me and the field carved through the squishy gravel around him. as i passed, i suddenly saw, out of the corner of my eye, another rider heading nearly perpendicular to my direction. i tried to avoid him but we collided, sending me down across the gravel and into the grass shoulder opposite where i entered the road. another rider, with little steerage or brakes, crashed into my bike and into me, with one XXX rider attempting, but failing, a bunny hop over my body. i stood up, bruised, but surprisingly not broken. the Specialized Tricross i set up the week before was still in seemingly perfect shape so i picked myself up and kept going.

the rider who ran me over picked up and we worked a bit through the punishing wind and gravel, back onto pavement at the always-welcomed flag of the flemish lion and what seemed to be a nice respite ahead on a southbound turn onto more gravel. we cornered, and suddenly were at breakneck speed with the tailwind. we were behind the main field by no more than a half a mile. then, i glanced down at my stem and realized i didn't have my Garmin unit attached anymore. not wanting to sacrifice an expensive piece of equipment for a race i was unlikely to win, i turned and headed back to find it. i passed Joe from Super Ape, who had just flatted, and he informed me that the pit truck had seen it and picked it up. In turning around, i lost any hope of regaining the field! somewhat dejected but not willing to quit the race i headed back down the road.

i caught up with a few riders who had not hung on, and we worked a bit down the road into the second lap. through in the second lap, everyone dropped from us except Daryl from Cuttin Crew. we paired up and echeloned for quite a ways, picking up Ben VC, who struck a pothole and very nearly ruined his rear wheel. Ben eventually dropped on the mechanical, but Daryl and i kept it up, enjoying the ride and putting in the effort that the race deserved. the second lap fell, then on to the third, then onto the fourth lap. we exchanged electrolyte pills and what meager calories we had, and kept cranking.

the road was largely empty, save for some packs from other fields that had the benefit of more than just two people. we kept our distance, knowing that as long as we finished we'd be ahead of much of our race— if only because we finished. the war of attrition saw dozens of riders on the side of the road or dropping out. i needed to finish the race and do it as strong as possible. the old rally racing adage "Press On Regardless" kept turning over in my head. i kept my legs turning the pedals and after a while they were doing it on their own. i could feel them, but only in a detached sort of way.

after the most grueling gravel-into-headwind section on the fourth lap, we started catching more and more Cat 4 riders. up ahead were Jeremiah and Isaiah from Half Acre, Avi from Cuttin Crew and Lew from Rhythm Racing. we charged together into the southbound gravel. i could feel my legs ignoring the pain and some new life entered them, knowing that the end of the race was so close.

we turned left to head to the finish, and despite saying earlier that i didn't want to sprint, i asked our small group if they were in for a good finish after all, and we leaped to our feet. i took the sprint from Isaiah by a bike length and pantomimed a winning flourish across the line (to some jeers as well as cheers). i was spent, and was at odds between just crumpling into a ball of pain or spinning out as best i could. after a quick moon pie handup from Heenan (i think, i was dizzy), i fortunately decided to spin it out.

after that i collapsed. it was not only one of the hardest things i've ever done but one of the most awesome as well. i survived the war of attrition for 38th out of 95 starters. 28 out of those 95 didn't finish.

Flatlandia put together a race truly deserving of the word "epic" that i am sure to remember the rest of my days.

 -Chris Jensen

Prize Parity at Flatlandia Kermesse

We're proud to announce that Half Acre Cycling is stepping up to sponsor cash prizes for the Women's Category 4 race at the <a href="">Flatlandia Kermesse,</a> bringing the women's 4 to parity with the men's 4 payout.

We believe every race should strive to make women's events on-par with the men's and provide full prize parity at all times.  We're happy to work with Flatlandia to make this possible at one of the first big events of the year.  Whether you're a man or woman, show your support for an awesome event with prize parity-- c'mon out and <a href="">race the Kermesse!</a>  If you're not a racer you can still support this great event by volunteering. 


Leland Ker-messy

"Flatlandia": did a fantastic job throwing a great road race with a fun course on Saturday, but mother nature did what she could to make it really live up to the title "spring classic."  Tim and I made the trek west to endure wind, rain, lightning, and flats, and to get to the finish line with muddy butts and big smiles.

It was my first road race ever, and I was surprised that the women's 4 field started with the men's 5.  I guess it is a good thing, since the 6 of us in the women's field were barely enough to create a windblock, but it meant that you hung with the guys or you just didn't hang.  On the neutral leadout, we women were in the back, and I rode with my good friend (and honorary teammate) Amy.

We crossed the start line and... hey, where did everyone go?  By the time we crossed the start the men had jumped and we were left behind.  I burned more matches than I should have trying to bridge up in that first upwind leg, to no avail.  29 miles to go.  Solo.

The wind was so strong that you had to lean into  the crosswind and the howling reached jet engine decibels.  Luckily just the first part of the course was upwind and the rest was just a fast flight back to the start.  I put my head down and just said, "get to that upwind corner."

The gravel that was supposed to be such a factor in the race was short and had several good, easily rideable lines.  Yet, my first time over it, "TATI rider Joe": was standing by the side of the road with a flat.  (Here's where, if this was a novella, we'd call this foreshadowing.) I pulled over, yanked my flat kit out of the saddlebag, threw it at him, and continued on.  (That's what trail riders do, but I was later told that roadies don't do this.  Can't imagine why...)

Lap two just plain sucked.  Putting all I had into the pedals, I was going just 9mph upwind.  Didn't see anyone but a few stragglers the whole time.  At the start of lap 3 I just told myself, "one more upwind.  Just get there and your work is over."  (More foreshadowing, that.)  So, head down, I just kept pedaling.  I hit the upwind corner - yay! - and bam!  You guessed it.  A flat.

I asked some passers-by for a kit.  They didn't even get what I was asking for.  I went to the nearest corner and watched lightning begin to roll in as I thought about my options.  I just needed to get back to the finish.  Luckily about 5 minutes later a kind fellow with an Ireland jersey on (Forgot his name!  eep!) pulled his car over and traded me a fancy Easton wheel for my crappy one and I was off.  Then the sky opened up.

I looked around me at the lightening striking the nearby fields and the rain driving in the blustery winds.  Now this is a spring classic.  The gravel was wet before I hit it that last time, and it was fine for riding but made my finish mucky and sandy and forced me to, for a second week in a row, double-wash the kit.  5th of 6, but medals went 5 deep, so I guess it was a winner.

Tim, me, and Amy, photo from "Amy.":


 -Julie Popper