Gravel: Land Run 100

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We are just back from one of the most phenomenal cycling weekends in the history of things with round wheels, the Land Run 100 in Stillwater Oklahoma. Land Run, its name a comemoration of the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889, is a 1oo mile gravel bike race. Nobody can do a better job of telling the story behind the event better than the founder himself, Bobby Wintle - click the button below:

 Four of us, Bill Leibman, Stu Garwick, Justin McBride, and Jake Huber loaded our bikes on the back of Justin's Jeep-mobile and made the 10 hour drive to ride this epic gravel race now in it's 6th year.

 Celebrating our arrival in Stillwater at the Iron Monk Brewery - Jake, Justin, and Stu

Celebrating our arrival in Stillwater at the Iron Monk Brewery - Jake, Justin, and Stu

While some of us were wondering how we were going to pull 100 miles of gravel riding out of our winter weakened legs, Jake and Justin were eyeing high finishing spots in the single-speed division; These guys are tough enough to go it without gears, and given the red-dirt hill studded terrain of the course they would have to hit it hard.  The rest of us were content to set our sights a little lower, as in let's ride hard enough to make it challenging but not so hard we whack the fun out of it.

 Hot enough to to crush it on single-speed bikes? Heck Yeah!

Hot enough to to crush it on single-speed bikes? Heck Yeah!

Along with the interesting collection of people and bike, are some of our favorite bike industry friends - not so many that it looks like a trade show, but enough to add some interest. 

 Stu and Bill's bikes lead us to their the mother ship

Stu and Bill's bikes lead us to their the mother ship

The people are what make the event, and it didn't take us long after arriving to start making connections with people we know from our own Ten Thousand Event, or our Frost Bite 40, and others who come out from Chicago to ride with us in the big gravel hills of the Driftless area between Freeport and the river. We linked up with the Chicago folks to do a recon of the course the next morning, the day before the race.

 Route recon started with a stop at a local shop for a proper Cappuchino

Route recon started with a stop at a local shop for a proper Cappuchino

After a casual start on Friday morning, we met up with the group at the coffee shop for a little shot of energy before heading out to ride about 20 miles of the route.  Allison had mapped a course that would give us a good idea of what was in store for us on Saturday once the race started.

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Recon group rolling out of town

The recon ride was only 20 miles but revealed a lot about what lay ahead - lots of hills and lots of gnar. More importantly, it gave us all a chance to dial in last minute equipment adjustments, find the right tire pressure, and make sure things are working well.

 Jake and Justin tweak their set-ups on the recon ride

Jake and Justin tweak their set-ups on the recon ride

Back in town after the ride we also managed to link up with John Watson of The Radavist, a leading blog site covering the gravel scene. John was there to report on the event and seek out some of the more interesting bike set-ups. He did a really nice shoot of Stu's bike.

 John Watson did a great photo shoot of Stu's new Moots 

John Watson did a great photo shoot of Stu's new Moots 

You can check out some other cool Land Run rides shot by John, and his own very excellent reporting on the event at theradavist.com -  The full shoot of Stu's bike is here: 

The pre-ride meeting on Friday evening, unlike many such meetings was actually full of energetic fun with a minimum of dull rules and reminders and a lot of enthusiastic music, poetry reading (yeah, right!?!), all highlighted by Bobby and Tyler rocking the old John Denver classic "Country Roads". 

 Tyler and Bobby gettin into Country Roads

Tyler and Bobby gettin into Country Roads

We were up early Saturday Morning to kit up and get to the start line for what we knew would be a tough day in the gravel. Temperatures to start were in the low 40's, headed into the 60's later in the day. With Skies a little overcast, the day turned out perfect. Our winter-hardened northern bodies would not have fared well if it got a little too hot and sunny. The crowd lining the street buzzed with nervous anticipation; everyone making those last minute checks of bike, gear, mind, body and clothing. And, of course, trying to ease themselves toward the front of the field of about 800 riders.

 Lining up for the start, high on anticipation and adrenaline

Lining up for the start, high on anticipation and adrenaline

At precisely 8:00 am, the boom of a cannon (another nod to the heritage of the Land Rush) started the slow roll out of Stillwater, the pace gradually accelerating to launch us into the gravel about a mile from town. Enveloped in a cloud of dust we hurtled down the steep hills, trying to fling ourselves over the next hill and grinding away on the longer ascents.

 It's Red, and rocky, and steep, and beautiful, and...

It's Red, and rocky, and steep, and beautiful, and...

 Just the right amount of sunshine

Just the right amount of sunshine

The ride with everything: Salsa Cycles, whose presence at Land Run was pervasive, is doing a promotion this year called "Chase the Chaise" at 5 big gravel events. I know, you all have a chaise lounge in your sitting rooms so I don't have to explain. The idea is to stop on the course and have your picture taken on the chaise to earn a patch and entry into a drawing for a $250 gift certificate to District Cycles in Stillwater.

 Justin trades a spot on the podium for a spot on the chaise - Didn't win the gift certificate either

Justin trades a spot on the podium for a spot on the chaise - Didn't win the gift certificate either

Most gravel events operate on the premise you are on your own; no support, too bad for you if you forgot water or food. Land Run is similar in its setup, but very different in its execution. At about mile 50 the route through Guthrie featured a party like street scene and the official bag drop for those who planned ahead. A couple of us hit the local Taco Bell for bean Burritos to fuel the second half of the ride. On course, The Red Dirt Jeep Club was out in force patrolling to offer help if needed. Some locals on the route had water ready at the roadside for anyone low on juice. At mile 77 a little road side oasis had water, snacks, beer and to remind us it was St. Patrick's Day, shots of Jamison.

 Half a cup of beer and a shot of Jamison ignited the rest of Bill's ride

Half a cup of beer and a shot of Jamison ignited the rest of Bill's ride

We rolled the final 25 miles into Stillwater feeling good but attacking the hills with a bit less elan, saving some energy to celebrate at the finish.

 The four celebrating after one of the best rides ever

The four celebrating after one of the best rides ever

I have been telling people this was one of the absolute best one-day cycling events in my 40+ years of cycling. The route was more than entertaining, it was like a huge amusement park for the entire 106 miles. It was more than challenging, with the the sharpness of the hills, a few boggy spots, some sand traps, gnarly gravel, some double and single track - all tough. It was more than beautiful, it was spectacular. The people were great, a lot of really good experienced riders with gravel honed bike handling skills, great attitudes; not a single fun hater in the crowd. One thing about Land Run that is impossible to miss is the extremely high level of unending energy and enthusiasm infused in the event by its founder and organizer, Bobby Wintle. It's contageous and we all caught it. What might be overlooked is the sophisticated level of organization of this event in a cycling genre that prides itself on looking un-organized. When that cannon goes off at precisely 8:00 am, you just know that a whole lot of people had to do a lot of things exactly right to make that happen. Many thanks are due Bobby, his wife Crystal, the staff at District Cycles, all the volunteers behind the scenes and out on course, the city of Stillwater, and all the local sponsors. Hope to see you all next year.

#districtbicycles  #unlearnpavement #landrun100. #visitstillwater

At FBC the owner and staff have a passion for cycling – we all ride to help you ride better. Come and see us in Freeport at 120 South Chicago in Freeport to find out how we can help you get full enjoyment out of your cycling experience.