2019 Arcadia Grit & Gravel: Sheppard, Stehouwer Takes Titles
For a cycling community that has grown to appreciate killer singletrack, fun racing, and good vibes, do the vibes get any good-er than today?
Think of it. A bunch of full-grown adults roused themselves from tossled, warm covers and into spandex clothing. With a mist turning into a shower, they loaded up their car with various expensive cycling equipment, much of it vulnerable to deterioration in the damp, and drove from all over the state to race. The radar, it was readily apparent. lied. As Tyler Weston started his three-hour drive, that 10% chance of rain looked promising; as every racer drew closer and closer to Arcadia, the weatherman’s infidelity again drew consideration.
Still, there was a race to run, and a chance for the mudders to have their day. Admittedly, things weren’t nearly as soggy as 2018; the light rain this morning was nothing like the 2-3 days of deluge that preceding affairs last year. There was the loud, sweet singing of wet rotors kissing brake pads, but for most riders, the rain abated in the opening twenty minutes of action.
And it was that opening first twenty to thirty minutes that had an impact. I noticed that the rain had kept plenty of riders in their cars rather than out warming up; so I went and warmed up. When I rode Erdman, the tricky and usually sandy climb two miles in the race, I noticed just a single tire track; no one else had ridden it. Erdman was more sandy than I remember seeing it, and I messed up the line to the point that I had to put a foot down. This was the spot.
After a neutral roll out, the steady rain made the opening two miles a bit more dramatic than usual. With the left turn onto Erdman in view, a few riders moved up, but I was just able to hold the front and pick the line up the first lip of the climb and carry some speed into the second. Looking back, the field was 8 wide; now, if there’s only 1 decent line, that means 7 of those 8 were screwed. I punched it. Jamison Sheppard was picking up what I was putting down and took a pull. I got back on the front over the top and didn’t look back for about a half a mile. although I was trying to karate-chop my front shifter. I couldn’t get back into my big ring, but luckily, 34x11 spins just fine on soggy gravel.
I might have taken some long pulls, but we had the right guys in the right mindset with a good gap. Jamison was all-in, and Sunset Scott was happily pulling through as well. Garrett Jenema, fresh of zero rides in the past five days and a long flight, made the move, too, and offered what he could.
We couldn’t really make out the chase as we hit Taylor Road, but the hulking black-clad figure of Jason Johnson wasn’t hard to miss. Johnson, Tim Pulliam, birthday boy Mike Powers, and a host of others weren’t going to let us just ride away, and our front group took the climb steady, with Sheppard taking the first 25% and me keeping things moving until the final 100 meters. Jamison led into the woods; Sunset asked if he could scoot by; Jamison responded by reminding Sunset and myself that he put three minutes into us at Mud, Sweat and Beers by wordlessly gaping us by 45 seconds in the first stretch of singletrack. Yep, he’s flying.
On the gravel, my drop bars were invaluable in the wind, and I brought Sunset back into contact. As we hit the second section of singletrack, we all knew that if Jamison hit the woods first, it was over. That may as well have been the finish line. He did hit it first, and he did win. Sunset gamely tried to hold the wheel, but a bobble put him in the woods, and we chased to keep the gap respectable. We rolled across the line slapping backs and holding hands, but the really incredible ride of day was already toweling off.
On the women’s side, it was a compact but committed crew. Susan Vigland, Erica Stehouwer, Maddy Frank, SOL World Champ Emma Schwab, new City Bike Shop signing Shannon Kochis…you could have picked a name out of a hat and felt pretty good about your odds. Stehouwer has had a top-notch spring, but on the same token and by the same measure, so have Vigland and Schwab.
Erdman Road opened the first gaps, with Vigland and Stehouwer on the right side of the split. Behind, Maddy Frank and Emma Schwab found a chase group that was actually making up ground until the base of Taylor Road, but the long climb was too much. Even with great rides in the singletrack, the leading duo were pulling away bit by bit, separated by just a handful of seconds and mixed in with a number of Elite and Expert men riders. Again, Schwab ate up ground in the 5 mile second section of singletrack, but just a handful of seconds when she needed to find nearly two minutes to catch her teammate and offer Susan a a wheel in the finale.
Erica stayed clear, but Susan rolled in just over 30 seconds down; behind Schwab finished third ahead of Kochis (who RAILED both singletrack sections), Maddy Frank, and Meghan Sarna, giving City Bike Shop two women in the Elite field.
In the kolo family, Wes Sovis literally shocked me by showing up; his third place age group finish was no surprise, however. When Wes can put down the power, he can fly; it is simply down to how much he’s willing to work to see what else he can do this summer.
Make sure you check out Jamison’s ride; the scariest thing about how fast he was in the singletrack today was that it wasn’t even close to how fast he’s ridden those sections before.
Results are up right HERE.
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