T'was a pretty speccy day to go out and ride 90kms of the gravel and dirt roads up and around Mt Disappointment last Sunday. The good weather meant that fears of last years absolute mud bath disappeared, but I was assured that the Dirty Gran Fondo (DGF) would still be wet, muddy and very, very dirty.
It was my first DGF and I wasn't really sure how to prepare. I sought out some sound advice from some Curve riders and DGF podium getters: Lisa Jacobs (soon to be racing Curve wheels), Alby (Allan Iacuone) and AJ (Adrian Jackson). Both AJ and Lisa chose to ride a MTB - but nope not me, Curve Cycling Grovel CX all the way. Lisa and Alby advised me to change my front chain ring down from a 44 tooth to 36 - nup, I kept the 44 but at least I changed the rear cassette from an 11-28 to an 11-32. AJ advised to run at least 50 PSI and carry a minimum of two spare tubes - hmm not quite 50 PSI, more like 40 PSI but yes, I took some advice and carried two tubes. It should have been three, but still thank Christ I had two.
There were at least four Grovels on the chilly morning start line. One was just a frame that Curve was giving away in support of the event, which together with my Grovel made the journey to the start line in the luxuriously heated "Curve Man" Cam’s BMW. The other two Grovels had a much tougher trip. Gareth (Rider #74) left Brunswick at 4am on his black Grovel for a "cruisey" 60 km commute to arrive at 7am.... crazy right?!?! While the extra special Titanium Grovel, ridden our very own Jesse Carlsson, left home at Saturday at 1pm and rode a mix of gravel and bitumen for about 280 km before coming to rest in Wandong at 3:00am to sleep in what could only be described as a shiny rubbish bin liner. Why, you ask? Because Jesse is preparing for the 7,000 km TransAm race across the USA... all unsupported! (Race starts June 6, stay tuned for more in the next couple of weeks).
Back on the start line there was a large mix of CX, MTB and mongrel bikes ready to get out on their chosen 35, 65 or 90 km adventure. Then... Bang the race was on! It was a wild affair. In MTB, CX or road races, you can usually rely on the rider in front of you to hold their line or at least follow a predictable course. This all went out the window as different machines picked different lines through the wet and muddy first few kilometres.
The climbs quickly split the elite from us weekend warriors. They were all doable but I probably should have taken Lisa's advice and gone with a 36 tooth chainring upfront. Even on the start line she was screaming at me, "What?? 44 tooth! You're mad!?!" With that said, the SRAM CX 1, worked a treat and the Avid BB7 SL mechanical disc brakes felt great, adding further bravado to my ride.It soon settled down nicely and I managed to stay with, what looked like, a top 20 group. I began to get a feel for the recent Grovel mods made in the lead up to the event. I ended up opting for 30mm wide Curve Carbon MTB wheels with CX Tyres. I love these wheels on my MTB, and as it turned out they were amazing as CX wheels - the Schwalbe Rocket Ron tyres setup tubeless had plenty of grip and gave me confidence in the, at times, slippery conditions.
Here is Tobias charging to his 2nd place in CX on his Curves CX/29er by 30mm Tubeless Setup
But as this confidence in my machine grew and I rocketed through a nice flatish downhill section (see it on strava), my tyres couldn’t handle my exuberance and gave up. I had burped both my tyres and had to stop to re-pressure and re-seal both front and rear. It wasn't a successful repair and after another frustrating few kilometres, I had to get out my two tubes (thanks AJ) and fit them to both front and rear.
It was mentally taxing watching many of my friends and foes ride past me. But, what I love about riding events like the DGF, is that everybody who had passed asked me if I was OK; checking if I had everything that I needed to finish. What a good bunch of peeps. Buoyed by rider goodness, amazing scenery and air in my tyres, off I trekked to finish.
I jumped in with a nice group of riders and charged the final 20 km of roads. Instead of taking it easy on my soft tyres on the final technical downhill, I had to bomb the descent flat out! The result? A pinch flat out front. A big thanks to rider generosity, as someone spared me a tube to get home.
YAY! After 90 km and 4 hr 11 min I crossed the line. Sure, there were a few tyre mishaps but still a smile on my dirty face and a nice sense of achievement. AJ on his Curve MTB wheels finished 4th (MTB) and Tobias Lestrall (Rider #5) on our CX/MTB setup finished 2nd behind Paul Van Der Ploeg in the CX Category - he had better luck with his tubeless CX setup running some heavier tyres and more pressure. Gareth P on his Grovel crossed the line in only 4 hr 20 min and a weary Jesse Carlsson came in at around 5 hours riding his fully loaded touring / road setup (with tri bars and all). Jesse and Gareth both reported that their Grovel performed exactly as expected... and now was my chance to give one away.
As riders relaxed as and the band played, it was time for Jesse and I to pick a winner. While some great reports of generosity and heroics came back to the tent, it was a real mongrel of a bike that just stood out from the pack. It was a well loved single speed clunker with dual chain rings (???) on the front. Rider number 823, Alisder Neemo battled his way through 65 km on this beast and he deserved a Grovel.
"I was very surprised to be picked out. Stunned but massively pleased. It's funny timing because I've been thinking about a bike that sits somewhere between a CX/MTB and a road/tourer and this looks like the bike. Really looking forward to building it up!"
A huge thanks to Big Hill Events for allowing us to be involved from a rider and sponsor perspective. We just want to bring you good times and adventures through of the products we provide, and the DGF did that in spades.