The Angry Horse event, while a bit under attended in my opinion, was well put together this year. There were three events that could be chosen from: The 120 mile option, which was well beyond what I even considered doing; the 45 mile option, which I ended up going with; and a 10 mile option which was lower than I was looking for. They started at 7:00 a.m., 8:00 a.m., and 9:00 a.m. respectively.
I arrived shortly after 7:00 to the staging area, went and checked in, had some of the food they had available, and then prepped for the ride. Once the starting time was near they gathered us all together, gave us a basic rundown, and then turned us all loose.
This was my first “gravel ride” so I didn’t know exactly what to expect so I had set a goal to finish in four hours or less. The course started out on a decent gravel road then turned left and headed onto the gravel roads of Bone. They quickly became very wash-boarded out, not very surprising considering this event took place so late in the year when most gravel road maintenance is not even being considered, which made going a little hard. I spent a lot of time looking for sections of road that were a decent combination of flat and hard rather than bumpy and loose.
The elevation profile, to me having come from only riding paved roads prior to this, was a little deceiving. It was slated at right near 4,500 ft but I didn’t realize how much harder the same grades on gravel would be. There was one climb in particular that was a bit demoralizing, the combination of washboards up it and the 11% gradient had me wondering what I had gotten myself into. Once I cleared the top of the climb there was a descent that I was looking forward to right up to the point where I hit some washboards going roughly 30 mph. I lost one full water bottle across those in addition to no small amount of the confidence I had been feeling. I wondered then if I should have been riding a mountain bike and if someone behind me would loose control and careen off the side of the road into the creek that was a fair distance down off the side of the road.
After meandering through the hills for around two hours the sun that had mercifully been hiding behind clouds all morning decided to come out. I was in the bottom of a canyon riding a section of road that was somewhere between river rock, hard pack dirt, and giant holes when I felt it suddenly heat up. The “covered” portion of the ride in, out, and between trees was over by this point so I was left with the dry, wilting grasses along side the road in the heat.
With 8 miles to go I popped out onto the paved section of the Bone road. I was so glad at this point to be on pavement I swore to myself that I was never going to do another gravel ride again. Spending the last 37 miles looking for a semi-comfortable part of the road to ride on was more taxing that I had expected. I was nearly limping in to the finish at this point when I looked over my shoulder and saw two people closing on me. I hadn’t seen anyone since about mile 15 on the “wall” climb and he was ahead of me. I knew that there were two people ahead of me and that if I could just keep my pace I would be able to podium.
I put my head down and pulled in my elbows and settled into a pace I felt that I could maintain for the last thirty or so minutes and just went, making the most of the descents that were spread through the closing miles. All was well until the last climb. I was spinning in the awesome gearing on my bike when my legs decided now was the time to really throw a wrench in things. I bailed off my bike, straightened my legs a little, and started walking up the hill so I didn’t loose as much time. I was basically limping up the hill at this point, stealing glances over my shoulder, and generally just trying to keep moving. My legs freed up just in time to hop back on and get going ahead of the one person that caught me. I heard him behind me and just before the crest he passed me.
I pushed a little and caught his wheel and let him pull me for a handful of minutes. He knew what I was doing but was too tired himself to do much about it. I did it for right around what I felt was “fair” and then pulled around him just in time to ride down the hill to the Bone store. I made use of every extra pound I had on him here and what I had left in my legs to open a gap and then did the best “sprint” I could up the next hill to put a 30 second lead on him. I wrung out the rest of my legs on the way down to the finish line to cross those 30 seconds ahead of him and ultimately finish in 3 hours and 29 minutes, a full 31 minutes faster than my initial goal was.
The trophy is unique and I am glad I was able to get one. The event was well done. There was talk of changes for next year already, including talk of staging it early in the year which I think could be great. They could nearly bill it as a “tune-up” event for the Crusher. I expect that changing the date from the same day as Lotoja would increase attendance too. The weather this time of year, as evidenced Saturday, is typically mild so that was a big plus. I think that overall the event was great and I plan on attending next year. Who knows, maybe I will be able to do better.