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.

Last year's CIRREM was really nice. 2018 CIRREM Gravel Race. © Jeff Corcoran

Last year’s CIRREM was really nice. 2018 CIRREM Gravel Race. © Jeff Corcoran

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.”

This year's CIRREM conditions were cold, wet and icy. 2019 CIRREM Gravel Race. photo: CIRREM

This year’s CIRREM conditions were cold, wet and icy. 2019 CIRREM Gravel Race. photo: CIRREM

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.”

CIRREM has plenty of hills. This year, they were covered in ice. 2019 CIRREM Gravel Race. photo: CIRREM

CIRREM has plenty of hills. This year, they were covered in ice. 2019 CIRREM Gravel Race. photo: CIRREM

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.”

Riders who sign up for CIRREM have to be ready to embrace the suck of February in Iowa. 2019 CIRREM Gravel Race. photo: CIRREM

Riders who sign up for CIRREM have to be ready to embrace the suck of February in Iowa. 2019 CIRREM Gravel Race. photo: CIRREM


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.

The social media posts from the race are *chef’s kiss*

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 open1310West, Brian5:02:34.0Winterset, IA
Men open2314White, Ande5:20:10.0Omaha , NE
Singlespeed1246Osborn, Jeff5:22:58.0Clive, IA
Men open3203Kappelman, Joshua5:26:19.0Cedar Falls, IA
Men open4150Farris, Joe5:33:07.0Altoona, IA
Fat bike1279Shadravan, Darvish5:55:42.0Ankeny, IA
Men open5283Slaymaker, Todd6:03:27.0Des Moines, IA
Singlespeed2224Magie, Josh6:03:30.0Ankeny, IA
Men open6284Stender, Mark6:23:56.0Asbury, IA
Men open7207Kelsall, Mike6:24:28.0Plainfield, IL
Fat bike2133Cerda, Juan6:43:12.0West Des Moines, IA
Men open8298VanDis, Jon7:13:49.0West Des Moines, IA
Fat bike3289Sumpter, Scott7:25:06.0Ankeny, IA
Fat bike4267Rood, Cory7:44:25.0Peosta, IA
Women open1240Muelhaupt, Kaiti7:54:59.0Des Moines, IA
Fat bike5216Ledbetter, Cole8:37:02.0Des Moines, IA
Men 50+1157Fox, Todd8:43:51.0Johnston, IA
Fat bike149Falck, SteveDNFDes Moines, IA
Men open299Ventling, AdamDNFWest Des Moines, IA
Men open101Adams, CharlesDNFCumming, IA
Men open102Alexander, EricDNFPlainfield, IL
Men open115Beauchamp, JamieDNFAnkeny, IA
Single speed122Bonzer, ZachDNFDes Moines, IA
Women open123Borst, JenniferDNFAnkeny, IA
Men open124Breeden, CodyDNFAnkeny, IA
Single speed127Brommel, ColbyDNFDes Moines, IA
Men 50+136Corcoran, JeffDNFDes Moines, IA
Single speed137Costello, JordanDNFJohnston, IA
Fat bike148Faas, DanielDNFMarshalltown, IA
Fat bike155Foutch, EricDNFGrimes, IA
Men 50+162Gawley, MelDNFAmes, IA
Men 50+165Gonzalez, LucienDNFMinneapolis, MN
Men open168Greenley, JosephDNFUrbandale, IA
Men open169Grelk, DennisDNFDonnellson, IA
Men open175Handlos, ChrisDNFDes Moines, IA
Men 50+198Jones, RandyDNFMinneapolis, MN
Single speed205Kayzar, JasonDNFBrookfield , WI
Men open208Kimpson, JonathanDNFClive, IA
Women open211Kraft, KelcieDNFDes Moines, IA
Men 50+215Kyhl, ChristopherDNFWest Des Moines, IA
Men 50+222Loomis, ShawnDNFAmes, IA
Fat bike233Miller, TimDNFAnkeny, IA
Men open236Moehn, MatthewDNFPleasant Hill, IA
Men open237Monahan, JustinDNFGrimes, IA
Fat bike254Puls, TylerDNFClive, IA
Fat bike255Reed, JenniferDNFCharlotte, IA
Men open258Rehkemper, RobertDNFUrbandale, IA
Women open266Roccasecca, KatherineDNFUrbandale, IA
Fat bike268Rourk, TimDNFJohnston, IA
Singlespeed273Scholbrock, JasonDNFDes Moines, IA
Men 50+293Thompson, WadeDNFAnkeny, IA
Singlespeed297Valigosky, ZackDNFDes Moines, IA
Men open304Wannell, ScottDNFDes Moines, IA
Fat bike308Welch, ChristopherDNFDes Moines, IA
Singlespeed313White, KylerDNFJohnston, IA
Fat bike320Wrabek, AaronDNFAnkeny, IA