The Ten Thousand included rolling hills and scenes to keep attention away from cramped legs. © Brian Mark

The Ten Thousand included rolling hills and scenes to keep attention away from cramped legs. © Chad Gregory

Cyclocross Magazine and many of its readers enjoy a gravel ride or race, and this hidden gem might be just what you’re looking for if you’re searching for a scrappy adventure on a cyclocross bike. Check out all things gravel at cxmagazine.com, or make sure to get yourself a copy of Issue 25 featuring gravel rides.

Of the 120 riders who signed up for the Ten Thousand event hosted by Axletree, perhaps only few of them knew how hilly Illinois could be. Advertised as a ladies and gentlemen’s ride, the course sported dirt roads and long climbs, with enough mud to encourage riders to bring their gravel and cyclocross bikes, with a brave assortment of racers using their road bikes.

No one seemed to agree just how long the climbs actually were. Even at the end, bickering GPS records told a few stories, ranging from anywhere between 9,000 to 11,000 feet. The lack of official accounts adds to the charm of the Ten Thousand. In the cycling world where power meters and endless data fields are beginning to become the rule rather than the exception, the course of the Ten Thousand had no markings, one water stop, a single gas station (presumably for the fuel cyclists can consume), and a rough cue sheet.

The rain might have kept some away, but not the dedicated riders looking to finish this first anual event. © Brian Mark

The rain might have kept some away, but not the dedicated cyclocross and mountain bike riders looking to finish this first anual event. © Chad Gregory

To top things off, the race played out like a sadistic Choose Your Own Adventure book from the Nineties. Everyone signed up for the full ride. Riders gathered into teams, and the race pummeled towards the first checkpoint at mile 42. Once they arrived, they had a big decision to make for the first time. They could take the easy way out, and only double their pain by taking the shorter 73 mile route, or they could continue on the full course, finishing with 125 miles.

Akin to the aptly named Lost and Found race, and of course the Dirty Kanza 200, the Ten Thousand let riders discover a great deal of alone time so they could collect their thoughts. The riders all agreed that they enjoyed the sights of canopied roads, distant ridges, and rolling hills.

The Report of the First Annual Race

Second place finisher of the longer route, John Paul McCarthy, gave us the scoop on how the race played out. While the sky appeared dry at the starting line, rain swept through the race on two big occasions, which started to weigh down the gravel roads. Like any good ole fashioned ladies and gentlemen’s race, the riders discovered that one of the roads was water-logged, forcing either dismounts or wet rear ends.

Riders could compete as teams or individuals, and choose their course lengths halfway through the race as well. © Brian Mark

Riders could compete as teams or individuals, and choose their course lengths halfway through the race as well. © Chad Gregory

A little after the first checkpoint, the larger lead group started to dwindle, eventually leaving three riders left. John, Dan Eiten, and Michael Peters played off each other for most of the second half of the race. At mile 105, Peters got a tragic dose of what it means to be in a self-supported ride. He flatted, was forced to pull off and hunt for a replacement, and soon after made a wrong turn in the course. Meanwhile McCarthy and Eiten began tasting victory. Five miles after Peters flatted, Eiten made his move and took off, gravel time trialing his way to victory with a time of 7:52. John Paul McCarthy pulled in only five minutes behind for second place.

Kae Takeshita proved her fitness and handling, arriving only two minutes after third place, and largely dominating the rest of the field that took on the full length challenge.

Check out the folks at Axletree, a non-profit that hosts cycling events and spreads local bike advocacy.

John Paul McCarthy contributed to this report.

Stay tuned for more gravel action on cxmagazine.com.

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