Cuba turns out to be the prettiest Missouri city I’ve never visited. So when my friend, Renee Hahne asked if I was riding in the Cuban Gravel Crisis, I went straight to Google to find out where it was. The Mural City and a gigantic rocking chair. Count me in. I hadn’t ridden in a gravel race since my DK135 (alternatively known as my 2016 DK200 DNF) and, since the weather was looking rather epic and registration was only $20, I thought the CGC 50 would be a great way to end the season on a high note.
What an understatement. It’s closer than you think. We loaded up our gear in Renee’s truck and left Columbia, MO at about a 4:45 pm. We’d made it Cuba’s Hood Park with sun light to spare and I watched uselessly as Renee backed her camping trailer into the spot we would be spending the night. I had packed my tent cot and Renee would be sharing her travel trailer with our other travel companion, Jenny Clark. One of the many perks of registering for CGC (I’ll enumerate those shortly) is free camping. Hood Park also serves as the Crawford County Fairgrounds and features hot showers on site, as well as many poll barns and other enclosed structures which you’re allowed to camp under if the weather is crap. That’s a pro tip. Since packet pickup/registration was already at the park, the only thing left to do was drop back into gravel grinder jibber jabber mode, for which there was no shortage of participants. But wait! We were getting fed too?!?!?! Only because it’s such a sweet deal, and I don’t want the deets to get buried at the bottom of this race report, I’m gonna tell you what your twenty bucks gets you right now: -Three expertly marked courses with .gpx files, cue sheets and numerous aide stations stocked with your favorites. I was told one of them even had a trampoline for the entertainment of future grinders. -Sweet T, race sticker, gels. -Dinner at the park. And not just any dinner, a real human being made chili, potato soup, home-made bread and hotdogs for us to eat around the campfire. -Free camping and with hot showers. -Oodles of raffled goodies. I won an awesome Lezyne bike light that I plan on telling people was my prize for being overall champion in the Belgian Drafthorse division, ages 40-44. -Beers and other treats at the finish.
And so now I can get to the ride. I liked the fact that we middle distance racers got to sleep in a little. It always seems like I’m making a mad dash do the SSS (sh*t, shower, shave) in order to get to a race that starts at 6 am. At CGC the 50 and 20 mile races started at 9 am, so at 6 am I was sleeping the slumber of a carefree child. Renee and I had coffee, chatted it up and then leisurely headed over to the start at 8:15 am. At nine bells, someone’s talented daughter sang to our Stars N’ Stripes like a boss, and then we rolled out. After a short stint on pavement the crush of gravel was soon hissing beneath my tires. I won’t bore you with a mile by mile breakdown of my ride, but know that the landscape was of the breath-taking variety that put a smile on the face of this mediocre gravel rider which typically only results from birthdays, winning lottery tickets and an old Farah Fawcett poster. Alternating between sylvan meadows and undulating hills, it was the only race this year that I wished had never ended. It really is very pretty in that part of Missouri, and the gravel is pretty damn exceptional too: I noted no fewer than three shades—red, white and even a blue. Huh, just like Old Glory herself! I never felt lost, thanks to some big blue arrows, and an aide station always seemed to be just where I needed it. I made sweet love to a chocolate donut at mile 35. My wife doesn’t need to know this.
I came in to the finish a little earlier than expected. Renee was already there and wound up taking 2nd in the women’s 50. Jenny was still out riding the 100 so I had some time to partake in the festival fare at Cuba Fest. When life offers you Frito Pie, you eat it. Jenny came in around 3:30 pm and wound up taking 1st in the women’s 100. By my account we all came out of that race winners. Peculiar, indeed, how my last gravel race of the year would wind up being my favorite. CGC helped me get my mojo back. And I’ll be coming back next year, 30 pounds less fat and probably riding the 100. Special thanks the Josh Brown, Mrs. Brown and all the other people who made this event so special. My hope with this race report is that you will know your efforts are appreciated and that your race is wicked badass awesome. Craig Lycke, #82.