On Saturday, nearly 1400 racers took to the start at the largest-ever Lost and Found gravel race, contesting 45, 65 and 100-mile distances over the forgotten dirt roads around Lake Davis in Plumas County, California.
For the Pro Men contenders, the race was not the same flat tire game as we saw at the front of the Pro Women’s Lost and Found 100-mile race, yet just as in women’s race, the final climb would test the nerves of the eventual winner.
Young and Experienced
Heading into the final climb of the 2018 Lost and Found Gravel Race, Tobin Ortenblad found himself in the final four riders with companions who were a decade or two older than him. Yet the 23-year-old racer boasted the most experience racing the rocky, rutted roads of California’s Lost Sierra.
Ortenblad has raced every Lost and Found since the inaugural 2014 event, where he finished eighth. After winning the 2015 edition and then struggling with his CO2 inflator in 2016 and cramping in 2017, Ortenblad was motivated to utilize his four years of race experience to take back the title from two-time winner Carl Decker.
Chris McGovern, Ortenblad’s coach, said his client was likely the strongest in 2017, but that strength didn’t end up translating into a win. This year, McGovern and Ortenblad were hoping to change up the race strategy by racing smarter and saving energy for when it mattered most.
The Plan Comes Crashing Down
Crashing wasn’t part of the strategy, however.
“I crashed pretty early on,” Ortenblad explained. “I must have been going 35 mph. I went down pretty damn hard.”
Ortenblad briefly saw his chances of taking back the Lost and Found crown ride up the road as he picked himself off the ground, but other than a lot of lost skin and a minorly-bruised ego, he was still ready to race and quickly recovered to rejoin a group driven by fellow cyclocrosser Anthony Clark.
Clark was pushing the pace on the first climb, just as he would do all day, whittling the lead group down to eight, just three miles into the race. While the group would swell to 12 after a long pavement stretch, at mile 50, on the day’s biggest climb, Menso de Jong and Clark set off the fireworks.
Their efforts shed more than half the group, with notables including Cody Kaiser and CXM contributor Tim McBirney falling off the pace, eventually leaving only Ortenblad, Decker and Sandy Floren to follow the two aggressors. Floren was dropped on the descent, and the final four was formed.
A Decisive Final Climb
The four stayed together for the next 40 miles, but as they neared the final climb, Ortenblad studied his competition.
Decker and De Jong were already sounding the alarm they were cooked, but Ortenblad was wary.
“I know they’re not feeling it only once they are dropped,” Ortenblad admitted. Could they be playing possum?
Clark however, wasn’t playing any games. He kept powering away until it was clear Decker and De Jong weren’t bluffing. Suddenly there were just two.
“I was sitting on Anthony, as he seemed like he was content just to go hard, but I knew I had to make something happen on that [final] climb,” Ortenblad recalled. “Anthony was just rolling hard all day. The guy is just going so good.”
With just the two top-level cyclocross racers left, and four miles to the finish, the leaders were back in their autumn comfort zone and were thinking about the minutes, not hours, left to race. It was the bell lap and time for a decisive attack.
“It went super steep, then flattened out, then steep again and then there was just a little lull, and [Clark] hesitated and I just went,” Ortenblad recalled. “I knew it was about a minute and a half or two minutes to the top, and I knew I could probably roll that to the finish. That was it.”
The years of experience had paid off. “I think I raced smarter,” Ortenblad explained about his different approach and result compared to 2017. “I didn’t sit in, and if you flick me through, I won’t skip a pull, but if you’re just going to sit on the front, I’m not going to try to ride two-up with you.”
“I was putting a lot of pressure on myself because I really wanted to win it,” Ortenblad told Cyclocross Magazine with a smile after his fifth Lost and Found finish.
For the second year in a row, Ortenblad used that self-imposed pressure to show he was the strongest guy in the race.
Only this year, he proved it at the end.
2018 Lost and Found Men’s Race Notes:
- Menso De Jong, third place at last year’s Dirty Kanza, opted for West Coast gravel this year and finished fourth, while Geoff Kabush, second last year at the Lost and Found, switched places with De Jong and took his third place at the 2018 Dirty Kanza.
- Ortenblad raced one of the Santa Cruz Stigmata cyclocross bikes he race in Europe, equipped with a Quarq power meter but didn’t look at it much because he said he didn’t “dictate the pace on the climbs” but would glance at it during pulls to make sure he wasn’t “going crazy.”
- Ortenblad received advice to run narrow, 33mm file treads, but raced his Vittoria Terreno Mix 40mm tubeless tires, at 32 psi front and 33 psi rear. Stay tuned for a profile of his winning machine.
- The course changed for the third straight year, and Chris McGovern, the race’s co-founder, believes the promoters will continue to mix in changes each year to keep the experience fresh.
2018 Lost and Found Pro Men's Results - 100 Mile
|4||Menso De Jong||2001||5:38:21||3:23/M|