There’s a first time for everything, even amidst an activity that you have done for over two decades. For the last weekend in April 2019, my wife and I packed up the car for our first family trip centered around bike racing, the inaugural 3-day Cascade Gravel Grinder in Bend, OR. Our 21-month-old Director Spotif sat patiently in the back seat as we finished loading the last of the gear – the familiar bikes and spare wheels stacked up against the ceiling, with the less familiar Pack-n-Play, stroller, story books, extra diapers and cargo bike piled underneath.
As regular road racing seems to be going the way of the Rock ‘n Play (sorry, parent joke), the new road racing, that is, gravel racing, seems to be realizing its own manifest destiny. In any case, it’s still road racing in my book because it happens on drop-bar bikes with skinny-ish tires. The roads are rougher but the bikes are smooth. The Cascade Gravel Grinder was touted as the first gravel omnium event in the country. An omnium is a multi-day event similar to a stage race, but instead of tracking overall time, riders score points based on their result each day. The rider with the most points wins. I just hoped the points I might win in the bike race would balance out with the points I needed to spend to get the family to come along.
The plan and outcome went as follows:
Day 1: 7-hr drive to Bend, set up shop at guest house, jump in 5-mile prologue time trial. The dry washboard was a wake up call compared to the damp dirt of Bellingham, and the car legs were good enough for 5th.
Day 2: 70-mile loop through the dusty sage and pine near the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, clean up for a cargo bike ride an afternoon picnic at Drake Park. An early morning gave way to a blistering pace across the sage land, zipping around in the lead group and 3rd on the day.
Day 3: 67-mile loop outside of Sisters, OR at the foothills of the Twin Sisters and Mt. Jefferson, load up for a visit to great grandmother’s house. A good start was thwarted by drawing the short straw in the rocky road pace line and popping my tire. After fixing, and despite a few KOMs during the chase, I was unable to make it back to the lead group, and rolled in for 10th.
Day 4: travel home, admire faint tan lines, tally our lessons learned
Family + bike racing works as long as everyone can accept that only about 80% of their needs can be met. For those too young to accept, the others must work an extra 20% harder to keep the wheels on the wagon 😉
To whomever is racing, the fitness required isn’t just about the racing, but also about the post-race activities. You’ve got to have fuel left in the tank to be useful!
Again, to whomever is racing, make the effort count! Any time wasted on course is time lost with family!