Don V. Kelly
The 2017 Cuban Gravel Crisis 100: Building Character One Damn Hill At A Time
First, as a "tester" of a ride, the Cuban Gravel Crisis 100 just does not disappoint. Last year's ride was a harsh introduction to gravel cycling for me. You can read my post here.
This year, I was there with a four-man BB-63 squad comprising Steve Z, Phil S, the ageless Dr. Jim and yours truly. Like my ride last year, this was the first formal gravel ride for Steve, Phil and Jim. Talk about baptism by fire. Phil goes about 225 pounds and Steve about 190 pounds.
The day could not have been better for riding. 32 brave souls took off for the 100 at 7:00 a.m. Perfect weather, spotty light mist preceded the event, but the course was dry. The course was its reputed torture-fest of steep nasties, with a little shallower gravel than last year (thank you!). The first 40 miles are hilly, but tolerable. Between miles 40-60 the pain factor goes up and you start getting worn down. Miles 63-70 have some demoralizing steep SOBs that will have you struggling to stay upright on your bike. Between miles 70 and 100, the barrage of hills slows down. This year was about enjoying the ride with the group and I am proud to say all BB-63 starters finished.
What I am about to say next does not stem from Missouri pride or a desire to root for the home ride. I mean it objectively and I would welcome the input of other CGC100/DK200 riders on the topic. To me, I consider the CGC100 harder than the Dirty Kanza 200 (at least when the DK 200 is dry). I feel I get to compare, as I did the Dirty Kanza 200 this year. (My second formal gravel event. Nothing like building up to the pain!) When I completed the CGC100 last year, I was physically depleted unlike any other epic ride I have done. My caloric crave was so severe, I drank two root beer sodas at the finish. Then after resting, I bought a 32-ounce orange fountain soda on my way out of Cuba. The only way I could have ridden another five miles is if it were all downhill and I had a gale force wind at my back. This year, I took it slowly so we could all ride as a group and have a good time. I finished in better condition, but still very fatigued.
As I said, I did the DK200 this year. Here is the link to my 4-part report. here. Look at my face in the posted photographs during the ride and at the finish. That is not the face of one defeated by an epic ride. The Dirty Kanza is truly a great ride, but it is more a battle of attrition by distance. The DK200 hills are hard in numerosity, but are not debilitating like in the CGC100. Because of the steepness of its hills, 100 miles of the CGC 100 is an all out assault on your body.
Here are some other assessments of the ride. They are all positive. The checkpoints and their crews were marvelous. Here is Phil at the first stop.
The volunteers could not have been friendlier and the choices were abundant. The honey bun at the first rest stop held me perfectly with my nibbles of Lenny and Larry cookies until the 62-mile convenience store stop. The clerk at the Conoco store at the 62-mile stop had free ice cold bottled water for us. (Super thanks!) The 82-mile rest stop was a blast, with beer and hot dogs. I cannot tell you how tempting those hot dogs were. They smelled great - and I do not eat red meat but for about 5-6 times a year. I deferred having one - only because I was thinking what that little doggie might do in my stomach on the next steep hill. A-plus on the support.
The CGC folks also get another A-plus on course markings - big patent blue arrows at all important points. Other event planners please take note and emulate.
So here is a BB-63 challenge to local gravel riders. Get out there and train and show up next year. Let's see 100 riders at the start line at next year's CGC100. Yeah, I know it's cyclocross season, but the CGC50 has grown immensely. Its big brother, the CGC100, should too.
Thank you again Cuban Gravel Ride. I had a blast again. You made Missouri proud.