It started out as a simple enough idea: ride two stage games cycling events back to back on the same bike and same tires. I registered for the gravel event on Saturday, and the road tour on Sunday. This should be a test of my fitness as the year progressed. Then work|life became unbalanced, the day arrived, and I flunked the test.
This is my Salsa Colossal build. It happens to be the later version with more tire clearance up front, which is why I thought it would be the right compromise for road and gravel. OK, I have a Surly Midnight Special that would have been aces for this event, but I put some time and money into building this ride and wanted to try it out.
It was a bad choice, but more about that later.
It’s actually a great bike, Salsa improved the tire clearance in the later model, so it will take most 32mm tires. Overall, the build is Ultegra 6800 with a few odd changes: Absolute Black oval 34T inner chainring and the newer Ultegra r8000 front derailleur. The cockpit is a mixture of Thomson and carbon, and it is generally a nice riding bike. To keep it road’ish, I used Look Keo Blade road pedals and Giro road shoes. The tires were Vittoria XN 31mm file-tread cyclocross tires that measured about 33mm wide when mounted on HED Belgium+ wheels. Upon seeing the bike, my friend Josh (who turned out to be the overall winner) commented that I was just adding additional difficulty, and for the first time he has ever known I would be on narrower tires than he was. 🤔
It rained a lot on Friday night before the event, so I was worried that the trail used for the first part of the event would be soft. The trail turned out to be in great shape, it was the sandy gravel roads leading south from Roca, NE that became my undoing. South 38th Street generally rises in elevation towards Princeton, NE and usually is an easy ride. Usually, it hasn’t rained and become all spongy, which for a 240lb rider on 31mm tires means I am carving 1″ deep ruts all the way towards Cortland, NE. This turned into a really frustrating and energy-sapping technical ride to the first checkpoint, and in hindsight, sapped my energy so badly that the return trip quickly turned into a nightmare of cramping and exhaustion.
I managed to finish, with a shitty time of over five hours. I gritted it out because I knew my ass was cooked for the road tour and it came down to whether or not I was going to quit one event or two.
The bike wasn’t the right bike for the road conditions, mostly because the tires were too narrow for wet spongy gravel. On a positive note, despite the exhaustion, I never had to walk it up a hill. The Absolute Black oval ring did improve my climbing endurance. Everything else was a total failure.