A gravel race in Iowa in February? What could possibly go wrong?
Well, for the past several years, not much.
Last year, we took an irreverent look at the annual CIRREM gravel event held outside Des Moines, Iowa and found temperatures in the 50s, albeit with a bit of wind. Not bad for a metric century when most folks in the Midwest are stuck inside on the trainer. In fact, the last three years have all had unseasonably warm temperatures.
This year, well that is another story.
First held in 2009, CIRREM got off to an auspicious start. The CIRREM results page tallies historical weather conditions, and it describes the 2009 event thusly, “25-34 degrees sleet/rain/snow windy and wet/soft gravel.”
As CIRREM 2019 neared, race organizer Kent Carlson had a sense this year could give 2009 a run for its money. “I still think that first year had the worst weather to date,” he said a week before the event. “Though I will say if the forecast holds, 2019 could be a contender.”
What was that forecast? The best an Iowa February has to offer.
Said Carlson, “From my weather app: ‘Areas of freezing rain possible. Temps nearly steady in the low to mid-30s. Winds NE at 10 to 20mph. Chance of rain 100%. Rainfall around a half an inch.'”
We will get back to whether or not that forecast came to fruition shortly.
The 2019 running of the CIRREM gravel race was the event’s 11th year. Starting and finishing in Cumming, Iowa, which is located just southwest of Des Moines, the race route is 100km long with nearly a mile of climbing—or 62 miles long with 1,600m of climbing.
Hills? In Iowa? You betcha, said Carlson.
“It is a gathering of my favorite scenic gravel roads in Madison County. People have joked when they come to an intersection they know which way the course goes purely based on where the hills lie. There may be some truth to that comment. The 100km course produces around 5,000 feet of climbing.”
The story of how CIRREM started is like many other gravel events, even if the race founder is not 100 percent sure what the name of his race stands for. “The name was my attempt to come up with something unique and catchy,” Carlson said. “Central Iowa Rock Road Endurance Metric is the best I could muster.”
He continued, “CIRREM was dreamt up by a couple of buddies—Jed Gammell and me—on a typical Madison County winter gravel ride in late 2008. So in February 2009, the idea was simple—get a group of friends out for a long ride slash race during a time of the year when most cyclists are hibernating. That year 25 riders showed up to snow, sleet and rain and windy conditions. Twelve finished.”
Although it was over 10 years ago, Carlson described an experience that sticks with him, probably because it was the most Iowa-gravel-in-February possible.
“After a long downhill descent, the pawls on my singlespeed hub froze, and I had to seek assistance from a friendly farmer watching us lunatics battle the elements from his barn. It’s amazing what needle nose pliers and WD40 can do to get you the remaining 40 miles to the finish. Now looking back, there couldn’t have been a more fitting beginning for CIRREM.”
Carlson and his crew would have been forgiven if they scrapped the idea of CIRREM after that first event and moved it to a month with warmer and drier weather. Midwesterners though, that’s not how they roll.
“We really had no idea this would turn into anything other than some of us were riding year ’round and thought others in the Midwest might want to check out some Central Iowa gravel,” Carlson said.
“The date has stuck because we have grown to embrace the suck of February in Iowa.”
So would CIRREM’s past and Carlson’s experience at that first ride be prologue for the 2019 running of CIRREM? In a word, yes.
The high temperature was above freezing—34 degrees—but that wintry mix forecast by the weatherman came in the form of two-thirds of an inch of rain and an inch and a half of snow.
The gravel roads turned to a solid sheet of ice on many parts of the course. CIRREM offers several categories including fat bike, singlespeed and Masters, and after seeing the recumbent guy handle this descent, laid-back tripod bikes might be a popular choice in 2020.
— Janan Felts (@vivan13) February 25, 2019
The social media posts from the race are *chef’s kiss*
View this post on Instagram
CIRREM 100K gravel race in Iowa. Good start to strengthen the mind game this early in the year. Roads 100% ice for the first 30 miles or so. Lots of falling, but I made it to the finish with 7th in class and 10th overall. Second video is when partner took the smart move which then turned into a solo ride until the finish. 30 degrees, 10 mph winds, ice rink roads, and a little hail and rain makes for a good Sat in Feb. Thanks for the videos @chitowntrashman #cirrem #hesitationisdevistation #winterriding #iowa #iowariding #cummingiowa #cycling #bikelife #gravel #gravelgrinder #groading #groadslikethese @dkbiker3
— Jim Bethea (@JimHatesRunning) February 22, 2019
A comment on this Instagram post might sum things up the best: “There is a dude wearing ice skates … on a gravel road.”
The numbers of the race also tell the story. Two-hundred fifty-four people registered, 56 tried to start, 17 finished. Seventeen!
And someone actually won the race. And was able to kind of, sort of post up.
Kaiti Muelhaupt of Des Moines won the Women’s race.
Brian West of Winterset, Iowa, the poster-upper above, won the Men’s race.
Results for all categories are below.
2109 CIRREM Gravel Race Results
|Men open||1||310||West, Brian||5:02:34.0||Winterset, IA|
|Men open||2||314||White, Ande||5:20:10.0||Omaha , NE|
|Singlespeed||1||246||Osborn, Jeff||5:22:58.0||Clive, IA|
|Men open||3||203||Kappelman, Joshua||5:26:19.0||Cedar Falls, IA|
|Men open||4||150||Farris, Joe||5:33:07.0||Altoona, IA|
|Fat bike||1||279||Shadravan, Darvish||5:55:42.0||Ankeny, IA|
|Men open||5||283||Slaymaker, Todd||6:03:27.0||Des Moines, IA|
|Singlespeed||2||224||Magie, Josh||6:03:30.0||Ankeny, IA|
|Men open||6||284||Stender, Mark||6:23:56.0||Asbury, IA|
|Men open||7||207||Kelsall, Mike||6:24:28.0||Plainfield, IL|
|Fat bike||2||133||Cerda, Juan||6:43:12.0||West Des Moines, IA|
|Men open||8||298||VanDis, Jon||7:13:49.0||West Des Moines, IA|
|Fat bike||3||289||Sumpter, Scott||7:25:06.0||Ankeny, IA|
|Fat bike||4||267||Rood, Cory||7:44:25.0||Peosta, IA|
|Women open||1||240||Muelhaupt, Kaiti||7:54:59.0||Des Moines, IA|
|Fat bike||5||216||Ledbetter, Cole||8:37:02.0||Des Moines, IA|
|Men 50+||1||157||Fox, Todd||8:43:51.0||Johnston, IA|
|Fat bike||149||Falck, Steve||DNF||Des Moines, IA|
|Men open||299||Ventling, Adam||DNF||West Des Moines, IA|
|Men open||101||Adams, Charles||DNF||Cumming, IA|
|Men open||102||Alexander, Eric||DNF||Plainfield, IL|
|Men open||115||Beauchamp, Jamie||DNF||Ankeny, IA|
|Single speed||122||Bonzer, Zach||DNF||Des Moines, IA|
|Women open||123||Borst, Jennifer||DNF||Ankeny, IA|
|Men open||124||Breeden, Cody||DNF||Ankeny, IA|
|Single speed||127||Brommel, Colby||DNF||Des Moines, IA|
|Men 50+||136||Corcoran, Jeff||DNF||Des Moines, IA|
|Single speed||137||Costello, Jordan||DNF||Johnston, IA|
|Fat bike||148||Faas, Daniel||DNF||Marshalltown, IA|
|Fat bike||155||Foutch, Eric||DNF||Grimes, IA|
|Men 50+||162||Gawley, Mel||DNF||Ames, IA|
|Men 50+||165||Gonzalez, Lucien||DNF||Minneapolis, MN|
|Men open||168||Greenley, Joseph||DNF||Urbandale, IA|
|Men open||169||Grelk, Dennis||DNF||Donnellson, IA|
|Men open||175||Handlos, Chris||DNF||Des Moines, IA|
|Men 50+||198||Jones, Randy||DNF||Minneapolis, MN|
|Single speed||205||Kayzar, Jason||DNF||Brookfield , WI|
|Men open||208||Kimpson, Jonathan||DNF||Clive, IA|
|Women open||211||Kraft, Kelcie||DNF||Des Moines, IA|
|Men 50+||215||Kyhl, Christopher||DNF||West Des Moines, IA|
|Men 50+||222||Loomis, Shawn||DNF||Ames, IA|
|Fat bike||233||Miller, Tim||DNF||Ankeny, IA|
|Men open||236||Moehn, Matthew||DNF||Pleasant Hill, IA|
|Men open||237||Monahan, Justin||DNF||Grimes, IA|
|Fat bike||254||Puls, Tyler||DNF||Clive, IA|
|Fat bike||255||Reed, Jennifer||DNF||Charlotte, IA|
|Men open||258||Rehkemper, Robert||DNF||Urbandale, IA|
|Women open||266||Roccasecca, Katherine||DNF||Urbandale, IA|
|Fat bike||268||Rourk, Tim||DNF||Johnston, IA|
|Singlespeed||273||Scholbrock, Jason||DNF||Des Moines, IA|
|Men 50+||293||Thompson, Wade||DNF||Ankeny, IA|
|Singlespeed||297||Valigosky, Zack||DNF||Des Moines, IA|
|Men open||304||Wannell, Scott||DNF||Des Moines, IA|
|Fat bike||308||Welch, Christopher||DNF||Des Moines, IA|
|Singlespeed||313||White, Kyler||DNF||Johnston, IA|
|Fat bike||320||Wrabek, Aaron||DNF||Ankeny, IA|