The Hell of the South: The Lead Up

Earlier this year I decided I wanted to try bike racing. I signed up for Rebecca’s Private Idaho (at the encouragement of my BaseCamp friends), Rexy (because I wanted to do 200 miles), and Ned Gravel (as it seemed like a good, local, first gravel race). Three races of varying lengths and types seemed like a good way to dip my toe in the race scene.

However, in early April I stumbled across an Instagram post from the company Hyland’s. They were looking to put together a sponsored team for the upcoming Belgian Waffle Rides, a series of races designed “in the spirit of the great European one-day Spring Classics”, in places like San Diego and Cedar City, Utah. Intrigued, I decided to apply and didn’t think too much of it. Surprisingly, a couple weeks later, I received an email welcoming me to the team! They weren’t aiming to put together an elite “win everything” team, but instead a great group of folks excited about racing. After mulling it over for a couple days, I accepted! Soon after a snazzy new kit and sweet sunglasses arrived in the mail, along with some wonderful samples of their famous leg cramp tablets and muscle therapy gel.

New kit day! (also, not my bike 😅)

I signed up for the Cedar City, Utah course which is touted on their website as promising “unparalleled punishment for entrants along a 125-mile course, which features roughly 6,000 feet of undulating climbs, at an average altitude of 5,800 feet, with off-road terrain that harkens to the teeth-rattling cobblestones of Europe’s most grueling races.” They also specify that, ‘”the course has a variety of different surfaces; gravel, single track, rocky trails, sandy sections and even some asphalt and bike paths”. I was definitely intrigued.

The race took place almost three weeks after RPI, which I hoped would give me ample time to recover, train a little, and be rested and ready. After RPI we returned to Boulder to find a spectacular autumn unfolding. After a bit of rest, both Paul and I took advantage of the amazing weather and headed out on a number of rides. I even did a group ride — the Rapha Women’s 100km — with a bunch of lovely folks!

Before long it was race weekend! We drove out to Cedar City on a Thursday, making the 9 hour drive in good time, and checked into the hotel. Happily there was a Chipotle nearby which made for some good, quick eats before we crashed for the night. Friday morning I woke up to join the Hylands Team for a shakeout ride, getting my first taste of the course over about 25 miles. The first several miles were on pavement and fast gravel – fun riding for sure!

Pavement cruising with the Hyland’s crew [credit: Paul Thomas]

However, about two thirds of the way through we hit sand. Not really sand patches, which is what I’m (sort of) used to, but long stretches of sand that I was definitely not as confident in. And near the end we came upon a “DANGER” sign. I noted it, but didn’t really take it seriously until I rounded the corner and saw the path turned into nothing but a pile of river rocks for about 60 feet. Everyone in front of my rode through, so I followed suit (while in my head repeating the phrase “I cannot fall on the shake out ride, I cannot fall on the shakeout ride”). Apparently just behind me someone opted to carry their bike through, and everyone behind them did the same. We finally returned to the expo, and I realized I was going to be in for a BIG DAY.

A relatively chill afternoon included wandering around the expo (where Paul got to eye some shiny new Canyon bikes), a bike cleaning and check, and a pre-race meeting. From there I headed out to a delicious team dinner a little ways out of town. A great chance to hang with about 20 other Hyland riders and staff members in a beautiful outdoor setting!

Hyland’s Airbnb hang out with a fantastic outdoor patio in a rural area a few miles outside of town [credit: Hylands]

I drove home before it got too late, and we headed to bed around 10PM. However, before we could get to sleep there were a huge BANG outside our window. Lights came on and Paul jumped up to look out the window. Nothing. A few seconds later, BANG BANG BANG! Gun shots? Fireworks? We couldn’t see anything. And who sets off fireworks at 10PM on Friday, Sept. 24th?! A quick Google search turned up nothing. Many more bangs led us to think it must be fireworks, but it seemed odd for a random Friday night, and so late! Still puzzled, (and definitely not able to sleep), we walked out of the hotel a bit farther, and finally saw the firework show directly overhead. Fireworks going off like a 4th of July finale that wasn’t going to end. It was pretty incredible. I saw some ladies sitting near the pool across the way so I asked them if they knew what was happening. “SUU homecoming” I was told (SUU being Southern Utah University).

Oh.

Okay.

Fine.

Several more minutes of fireworks later and the show was over. 10:30 PM. Well. To bed again.

And then it was race morning.

Author: cartwheelsandcake

Cyclist, climber, hiker, trail runner, back country skier, dabbling mountaineer Lover of cake, chocolate, brownies, and sweets. Excellent napper.

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