The Gravel Worlds p/b Lauf True Grit gravel race in Lincoln, Nebraska attracts some serious gravel talent but still manages to not take itself too seriously with an organized, grassroots approach.
One need to look no further than the podium prizes given to the 2018 Women’s and Men’s winners. With the event put on by the Pirate Cycling League, it only made sense to offer cutlasses to the woman and man who navigated the gravel seas the fastest.
After her monster 2017 gravel campaign in which she won the Dirty Kanza 200 and Gravel Worlds, Alison Tetrick faced several title defenses in 2018. After learning about the cutlass available to the first finisher in Lincoln on Saturday, there is likely no repeat title she wanted more.
Tetrick was not the only rider gunning for the win at the 150-mile race. Kae Takeshita (Panaracer/Stan’s NoTubes p/b Bicycle X-Change) just missed out on winning in 2017 when Tetrick beat her in a sprint, and she too wanted to grab a second title to go with the one she won in 2016.
The two top 2017 finishers were also joined by emerging gravel star Amity Gregg (meteor X giordana), who finished fourth at Crusher in the Tushar and was looking to get on a podium at the race in Lincoln.
The Early Action
The Gravel Worlds course is known for its fast-rolling, pea-sized gravel and fast speeds. Early on in Saturday’s race, the course facilitated a large group of nearly 50 riders at the front where Tetrick, Gregg and Takeshita sat in the mix while keeping tabs on one another.
Around mile 15, a decisive split of the three top women’s contenders occurred. Tetrick kept pace with the lead group, while Gregg and Takeshita found themselves with a small gap to the fast-rolling mob.
“There was a left turn, then a right turn and somehow Kae, this dude and me ended up off the back,” said Gregg about the early shake-up. “I was like, oh surely this guy will chase back on, but I didn’t want to work to close that gap because I was with Kae, who won the other year I did it two years ago.”
As Gregg and Takeshita sized each other up in the chase, Tetrick stuck with the lead group that was hammering north of Lincoln on the dry Saturday morning.
When the race hit the Otto Pond Checkpoint One at mile 58, the Women’s race had taken the shape it would carry for the rest of the morning and early afternoon. Tetrick entered with the massive lead group that was chasing six male riders who were off the front.
The Gravel Worlds course featured a relentless number of small climbs and rollers that took their toll as the miles added up. Between the highpoint of the course in the town of Loma around mile 33 and the first checkpoint, Gregg put pressure on Takeshita with the climbing skills she displayed at Crusher in the Tushar.
Gregg had a small lead on Takeshita entering Checkpoint One and used a quick turnaround to get back on the road with a small gap on her rival. It was a gap for second she would not give up over the next 90 miles.
A Special Prize Awaits
The chase group stayed fast and cohesive for the first two-thirds of the race, and Tetrick was right there with it. With about 50 miles to go, the group started to splinter with Tetrick holding a sizeable lead on her two primary chasers.
“This course is a little more conducive to drafting and more of a group mentality,” Tetrick said. “And honestly, with what’s been going on my life lately, I was really happy to have friends around me, even though they didn’t know me. I sang a lot to them. I don’t know if they appreciated me singing, but I had a lot of songs in my head. I was just happy to be out there riding my bike.”
Mile 112 had a special feature amid the suffering at the Randy Gibson Denton Wall QOM. Gibson was a member of the Pirate Cycling League who was tragically killed while riding the gravel roads of the Gravel Worlds course last year. Climber’s jerseys were presented to the first woman and man to conquer the steep climb 110-plus miles into the race.
Tetrick captured the jersey, which she received from Gibson’s wife Christy and daughter Sofia at the awards ceremony Saturday night. Sofia Gibson also gave a touching tribute to her father and popular member of the Lincoln cycling community.
Behind Tetrick, Gregg used the relentless series of rollers to expand her gap back to Takeshita. As the field thinned out, both Gregg and Takeshita faced a number of miles riding solo.
After the race, Gregg said she stayed focus on riding as hard as she could despite being alone. “I do a lot better with a chasing mindset and an ‘I’m being chased’ mindset, so I told myself if anything happens, if Ali has a flat, if she has a mechanical, if she ends up alone, maybe there’s a chance. It’s a small chance, but it’s a chance. I just kept trying to reinforce that.”
After leaving Checkpoint Two at Mile 128, Tetrick faced a much smoother cruise to the win than she did a year ago. She finished the race in a very fast 7:39:50 with an average clip of 19.6 miles per hour. Tetrick’s finish smashed her 2017 pace of 18.2 mph and finishing time of 8:13.
“It was a good day on the bike,” Tetrick said about her win. “All the best roads Lincoln, Nebraska and beyond have to offer, so it was awesome.”
Tetrick’s second-straight win also came with a prize she was coveting. “I told Schmidty, who runs this event, I think this is the year of the sword. I am winning a legit sword tonight. I was so excited when I saw that yesterday. They were like, ‘Did you see the sword?’ and I responded, ‘Don’t talk about the sword.’ I didn’t even think about the sword until about eight miles to go when I finally said, ‘I’m getting that sword!'”
Gregg used her chasing mindset to stay strong in her chase of Tetrick. She finished the race in second with a time of 8:13:03. Takeshita rounded out the three-woman podium with a finishing time of 8:26:10.
The podium finish was one of many Takeshita has taken home during her memorable 2018 gravel campaign. “I’ve traveled to a lot of states with the team. It’s always really exciting to meet up with the team first, seeing the team is as much fun as the race itself. I’ve made a lot of new friends going to different states to race. It’s been really exciting.”
Full Women’s results are below. Stay tuned for a Men’s race report on Monday.
Women's Results: 2018 Gravel Worlds
|37||Diana M. Posadas||13:54:26|