A fairly talented and diverse contingency of Duluthian gravel road enthusiasts traveled southwesterly, across the windswept cornfields of middle Minnesota to partake in the Dirt Bag gravel road race. Comprised within this Northern troupe were several major players of whom carry great status amongst or within their respective fields of influence. Namely, the indefatigable world traveler, Rich Hendricks, who has done more for crushing rocks into gravel than any Alabamian chain gang; the bold and brave archaeological/journalism professor John Hatcher, who has put decades of both meticulous and dangerous work into finding the fabled lost bicycle of Erik the Red of Norse legend; the renaissance man, Jeremy Kershaw, one of just two or three that can claim to have skied, run, and biked the Arrowhead 135 (earning a DBD patch to boot); the unconquerable Mr. Ek, a throwback to a simpler time when a man was judged by his propensity to suffer under stress, under a load, doing work for days and days; and the odd-man out, a Mr. Farrow, a lowly unscrupulous aged man that spends the bulk of his idle dayz secretly planning the untimely demise of his daughter’s pet man-dog, Loki.
As dawn broke and they entered into Minnesota’s 6th District via three automobiles—the domain of presidential hopeful and darling of the Tea Party, Mrs. Michelle Bachman—there arose a collective sense of orderly patriotism, security, anti-immigration, and civic pride amongst the refined men, whilst the unprincipled one could only day dream of applying sorted Machiavellian tactics to the impending gravel race.
Upon arrival at the starting point the Northlanders set about individually to determine the proper ensemble to wear so as to complement their various physical attributes, given the relatively cool temperatures. For Ek , the sponsored one, the decision was simply a matter of selecting the appropriate Hi-tech Salsa-brand of stylish clothing that would afford just the right measure of both warmth and breathability, but for both Kershaw and Farrow it was a more complicated equation involving matching a hodge-podge of “lost&found” items, hand me downs, and duct-taped booties. Farrow is somewhat self-conscious of his weighty figure and yet has been told, more than once, that he looks “dashingly sporting’ in crimson, so he went with his predominately red outfit, including his red long underwear that he found abandoned near a local ski resort some years past. It is worth noting that to his chagrin, Farrow was completely upstaged by a strikingly good looking Flander’s roadie festooned in a brand new and brilliantly fire-truck red costume from head to toe to carbon bike. Those near to Farrow in the peloton recalled that the old curmudgeon was green with envy and jealousy as the large group of riders lined up to begin their battle. One participant remembers the old man complaining, “I wish we had a carbon-tax on these roadie guyz and their carbon machines…we could pay off the federal debt!”
Fast starts are always hard on old men as it takes considerable time from them to initiate their respective “mojos’ and so there was a collective sense of disapproval from the elders when the impetuous youth from Rochester, Drew Wilson took off like a flash of lighting down the first gravel road encountered. When eventually reeled back into the fold, an elder was heard scolding the unbridled youth in no uncertain terms, “Drew if you would just learn how to ride smart you’d be able to win these races!”
From the get-go, the pace was decidedly fast and then all hell broke loose when the locals invited their unsuspecting guests into a series of deadly sand traps. These barriers had the effect of causing several seniors to experience rapid heart palpations, thus prompting Farrow to exclaim to the nearby Kershaw, “Strike me tent! I am ready to meet my Maker!” As the locals seemingly floated through the quicksand, the rest groveled. Such is the state of gravel road racing!!!! Oh the shame of it all. No respect for the seniors of the sport.
Sensing weakness, the charge lead by the Revolution Cycle squad increased in ferocity... then suddenly as if they realized their insolence, their bad behavior, the pace slowed just enough to allow a few of the luckier stragglers to catch back up to the lead group. Yet the damage was done to poor ravaged Kershaw; a crippled shell of a once proud man weakened from a troublesome addiction to foot running. Left languishing alone against the persistent headwinds of farm country, he is said to have wept the tears of a rider that had forsaken his velo-craft for the lonely life of a long distance runner. He, too wept, one can surmise for the precipitous downfall of the once great Brave Buffington…a man endowed with unequaled potential in the cycling world, who then gives it all up to skip through the forests with other like-minded fleet-footed pedestrians only to suffer the physical and psychological declines associated with that lonely and inglorious pursuit. A tragedy of epic proportions!
The lead group, twenty or so strong was thus comprised of the survivors of the sand dunes and the strong Saint Cloud riders. The tempo slowed a bit as some of the riders took time to become reacquainted. Bell complained of the frustrations involved with peeling layers and layers of old wall-paper off of a recently acquired 1970s ranch-style home and was reminded that Hitler was once a wall paperer. Farrow grumbled incessantly on the topic of how hard it is to murder a family dog without being found out, whilst the Deathrider rightly castigated a youth that publically admitted to being ignorant as the peculiarities associated with the new extra-wide Surly fat-bike.
Once again, around ninety minutes into it, the locals lead their unsuspecting guests into another insidious trap. This time the ambush came in the form of a long and hilly section of severe washboard type terrain. The incessant rattling and shaking caused the elder men to lose control of their aged bladders…Among the victims, Farrow wept as he soiled his red shorts... Whilst the depraved opportunists took off leaving all but eleven racers, seven of whom were indigenous to the area. Oh the shame!
Horkey is off the back! Then there were but nine leaders including Beuning, Loosen, Muyres, Bell, Scad, Wilson, Ziemer, Staifenberg, and Gritman. They road well together for the better part of fifty miles and it came down to a last desperate sprint up a hill that put Wilson on top. Any student of the game could not be unimpressed by Wilson’s effort for on paper there were others that boast more winning credentials. Yet the youth perhaps listened to his elders, road the smart race, and made the right moves when it counted…so it goes.
Giving a courageous solo chase was a forlorn Mr. Ek, but the head wind was too much even for this hard and brave man and so he was eventually caught up by a well motivated chase group comprised of Skarphol, Nikodym, Hurl, Fry, and others including the floundering Farrow. J. Fry was the inspiration and thus the driving force behind a fast second group that was buoyed by Hurl and Skarphol, both of whom took turns with Fry in keeping the pace high and optimistic.
But alas it was not to be for the leaders finished a good fifteen minutes ahead of the chasers…such is the way of cycling in the modern age!