by Mike Jones, Team OAM NOW Cyclist
As gravel road racing becomes more and more prevalent, I decided to get in on the inaugural Rock Road 50/50 in Traverse City. This race offered a 50k, or a 50-miler, both starting and finishing at Timber Ridge Resort famous for it’s VASA ski trail and, of course, the finishing point for the ICEMAN!
I checked with my secret TC sources to find that both a cross and a 29’r should be taken to the race. I had all intentions on riding my cross with some new skins on it. They had a lot of rain in the days leading up to the race and the course felt pretty packed (sand rules in TC). We met with the eventual winner, Aaron Beebe, on the scouting ride and found that the course was very soft and muddy and that a 29’r was the way to go. I’m pretty thankful I had both with me.
At the start, it looked like we might miss the rain, but during the National Anthem it opened up hard and didn’t stop for the whole race! At that point, the course was truly muddy with grinding sand added in. The start was vicious as my glasses were so wet I could hardly see. The big horses like Wakeley, Beebe, Simonson, et al were really pushing the pace on the VASA leadout. By the time we reached gravel roads, there was a break of about 8 followed by myself with some Einstein and Hagerty boys chasing hard.
The course was not easy gravel roads; these roads had obstacles in the form of off camber ruts that warranted a “warning ahead” sign at the top of a hill. TC’s Hal Bevier tried to warn me, but then succumbed to the danger himself crashing right in front of me (glad to report he was okay). Eventually, we ended up with just three of us chasing the break, myself, the always impressive Don Fedrigon (winner of the first ICEMAN) and one very tough young Jason Whittaker who was on a fatty!! I have never been in any race, even on a mountain bike that had as much grinding noise as was coming from our bikes that day. My disc brake pads were completely gone by the end of the race.
Don and I gapped young Jason with a couple miles to go and I held on for 11th place overall which I was very happy with! They were was the wettest, nastiest conditions I have ever raced in, but I can’t wait to go back and try it again. As gravel races continue to grow in popularity, this is one to check out.
For the full results, click here!