The course is 7 miles long with pretty much rolling hills for the first 5 miles and then the last 2 miles are where the bigger hills come in.
Heading into the first lap we were joking about just rolling the first 2 laps together and go all out on the 3rd, but quickly that plan changed. I dropped back to talk to the other mountain bike guy to find out what his fitness level was and what kind of threat he might be. The group was rolling along really well together until we started hitting some hills, I was up front with the only singlespeed guy in the group and we pulled the others around, there was only 9 of us in the 4 or 5 different categories that were on the road and the mountain bike class was the biggest with 3. We get to the west section and that is straight into the wind, and being as I was up front I was doing most of the work, I tried to drop back a few spots but seemed like noone really wanted to come through. Turn onto the final stretch with all the climbing and I think on the 2nd of 4 hills is when we started to lose people off the back, by the time we got onto the 2nd lap we were down to a group of just 5, the guy on the single speed, 2 60+ guys and Landon and myself both on mountain bikes.
I tried to get the others to work on this lap to just put more time in between us and the others, but didn't get much interest in that, so I continued to set the pace at the front and tried to sit in if I could on some sections to conserve energy. This lap would be pretty uneventful as the 5 of us rolled along the countryside, no attacks, no one really falling behind we just stayed where we were at. Legs were feeling good on the hills and towards the end I would put in a few little digs on the hills to see if anyone else in the group would be going with, and John Adamson was the only one to really keep with me. Going into the 3rd and final lap we had a small gap, maybe 15 seconds, and I was ready to go, but he informed me that he would be going with, but not working at all since his teammate Landon was racing against me, and he wasn't attacking a teammate. So for a little while I kept going and decided it would be more fun to wait for the group and battle it out at the end. Sat up and within about a mile of that time the guy on the singlespeed had gotten a flat so he pulled off to fix that, now we are down to 4, John makes an attack and I decide not to chase him, I probably could have bridged up to him, but since we were about to turn into the headwind I wanted someone's wheel to sit on. So thats what I did, got onto the wheel of the other 60+ guy and sat there waiting for the final right hander leading us into the climbs again. We get there and now it is on, Landon comes charging from behind on the first hill and I follow right on his wheel, second climb I put in a small effort to only have it matched, and realized it will be best to wait. On the 3rd climb Landon tells me he is fully expecting me to pull away from him on the final climb and once we get to the bridge it is on, so we get to that point and now I am up front and he is on my wheel, I don't attack on the bottom part of the climb, but you can start to see the barn where the finish line is so I give it a little more, he follows, and then once we hit the 200 meters to go sign I decide it is full on sprint time, put my head down, pick up one gear at a time and don't look back.
Ended up 2nd overall for the group, and got my 1st Win since returning to racing in 2006, felt really good, and to know that I have the legs to attack and recover pretty quickly was awesome. I did get some crap from my wife for beating an old guy, but it's all good. Headed back to registration to change and get my medal, and my prize, a plate of homemade Cinnamon Rolls from Landon's wife, they are so good.
So I am the 2011 Iowa State Gravel Road Race Champion in the Mountain Bike Open Class!!!