First up, a visit and tour of Quality Bike Parts and more importantly an opportunity to meet 'Kid' Riemer as well as the rest of the Salsa crew, these guys are the "salt of the Earth"! They made us feel right at home and welcomed us with open arms.
A training partner (Rich Hendricks - a.k.a The Human Map) told me that when I got to QBP it would be nothing like I had envisioned. Wow, was he right! This place is a MAJOR operation and clearly someone stayed up more than one late night trying to put all these systems into play. Mostly, Amy and I were struck by how the company really seems to care about their employees. They are offered what seemed to be a multitude of lunch and common areas complete with ping pong, natural light and even a masseuse. Hey, they're even given credit for riding their bikes to work! All I get are comments like, "you're crazy, why would you do that?".
The place appears to run like a well oiled machine. To the left is just a snippet of what really goes on. Amy and I got a chance to see some "sneak peak" Salsa goods where I was forced to keep the camera holstered or I might find myself pushing up daisies some where. Don't worry, the masses will soon be able to see what we saw and boy it's pretty.
That night some Rockin' was in store with legendary, mega stars - BON JOVI. Any one who really knows me, knows that I've seen and followed the band since I was in 12th grade when they did their "Slippery When Wet" tour. Once again, they didn't disappoint. A 23 song set full of classics that every one on this planet has sung to themselves in their car at some point were played. These guys are pros!
Friday night we found ourselves at one of Red Wing's best little restaurants and one of our favorites. The Lucky Cat Lounge is super cool and the food is amazing and real, not the Apple Bees chain type food. We're talking some real organic pleasantries here.
Saturday morning meant race day. The Ragnorak 105 or what we call the "Trans Iowa's dirty little secret" marks the start of the season and really gives riders a chance to test themselves against the competition.
I'll admit I was a bit nervous going into the race and wanted to represent Salsa the best that I could. I should add that this year's "Rag" seemed to be STACKED with top notch riders. Some of these heavy hitter included, last year's winner, Charlie Tri, my training partner - Charlie Farrow, last year's T.I. winner- Joe Meiser, last year's "Rag King of the Mountains winner - Larry Sauber, Dave Pramman, Jason Novak and a multitude of other talent.
My plan was simple, get into the "break" at all costs and feel out the competition for the King of the Mountains that consisted of 8 point scored climbs. I would make sure that I was included in the break away no matter what and that meant I would abandon hopes of winning the KOM if I had to. However, the new Salsa was climbing well and I felt light on my feet. I got a few late jumps and ended up chasing on some of the climbs, but felt I was able to close in on the leader when I needed to. Things
went well in this department despite some mishaps. More on this
Ryan Horkey, Tim Ek, Charlie Farrow
The break was initiated by Joe Meiser if I recall. We were about 25 miles into the race cruising comfortably among about 40 riders. I had scored in the first two climbs, but in a hideous fashion. I came up late on the first climb chasing last year's winner, Larry Sauber. It was clear that he felt me coming and began to dig deeper, he stole a glance back when I approached his wheel. We were about three feet from the finish cones when he over corrected to avoid the cone causing his front wheel to wash out. He was thrown side ways in an instant at which point I T-boned my left shoulder into his rib cage with a deep resounding thud. I still can't believe we didn't go down. This was just one of those things that one can't foresee, it happens. I'm not sure which one of us won that climb. It was then next one that had me concerned.
The second climb saw Salsa's own Sean Mailen making an early break and getting away alone. He looked strong and smooth as he gained ground on myself and the field. Again, I was late, but I went after him anyway. I closed the gap, but was red lined in the process. As I attached to his wheel I felt that we may be making a wrong turn at the top of the hill. Yes!, we were going the wrong way. Sean noticed at the same time and quickly corrected the mistake. His sudden adjustment caused me to correct quickly in order to avoid hitting his back wheel. Immediately my front wheel wash out and I was on the deck, HARD! I remounted and settled for 3rd.
The break came soon after. Some effort from 7 strong riders quickly separated us from the field. Out of sight from the main field left myself, Joe Meiser, Charlie Farrow, Charlie Tri, Sean Mailen, Ryan Horkey and John (Fargo, N.D.) riding comfortable and clear. The pace ebbed and flowed for the next 30 miles and at times I worried that it was too slow and we'd be caught by the field. Charlie Tri assured me that attrition was weighing heavy on the field and with the amount of climbs that made up the "Rag" we'd be fine. Some where in this mix Joe Meiser dropped from our little clan with a flat. We were sure we'd see him again, soon. It was not to be. Later, a member of our group saw him chasing alone among the corn stubble fighting the wind like a man possessed and bent on re-joining the group. There was discussion about ratcheting up the pace in order to ensure that he stayed alone. I reminded the group that if this strong man was able to catch us, then we should let him. Alas, riding alone in the wind against six guys working together is a feat not many can over come. Joe would finish behind our group.
After leaving the check point the miles began to pass and I felt the battle for the KOM deep in my legs. I began to worry that my hopes of winning the climbs would haunt me in the latter stages of the race. I went to the "darkness" as I tried to stay in the back of our group, hoping to recover. I went into the race very light, two water bottles for each leg meant to take me 50 plus miles and very little food. I was paying the price for being hell bent on going fast. My training partner, Farrow looked strong as he pulled the group for extended periods of time, while Tri remained hard to read as he looked tired at times, but soared at others. I was hoping for the best regarding the finish and was satisfied with winning the KOM, which I was fairly sure I had done.
Silence took hold among our group as we widdled down to 5 with John from North Dakota popping off the back. The finish was 10 miles out and soon this chess match would become a full on war. I knew Tri would be the one I had to watch. When he went, I would go. I was determined to bury myself in order to hold his wheel. The question was, how tired was he? As we approached the last major climb of the race I saw Tri positioning himself on Ryan Horkey's wheel (who had emerged as a very strong climber late in the race). I knew things were about to blow up! I dug as deep as I could to move up among the group, passing Farrow and Mailen on the climb I was in reach of the now 2nd place Horkey. I watched as Tri summited the climb and rose from the saddle to initate his break. Horkey gave chase. Once I was in position to begin my assault Horkey had 100 yards on me as did Tri on him. I immediately went low on the bike and tested the Chili. Horkey was holding steady and I wasn't able to gain any ground until the descent where I took huge chances. The two strong men in front of me looked impressive as they opened up 40 mph completely geared out through this long descent. I was doing the same and I was reeling in Horkey. I knew if I could hook on we might be able to catch Tri, not to mention Tri was appearing to be slowing on some of the lighter climbs that we approached. I moved passed Horkey in order to take a pull when he commented, "Go get him". "You're coming with me.", was my reply. With no words spoken we began to work together as if we'd ridden side by side for years and we were pulling Tri back in. We rode carelessly through the town of Red Wing with competition trumping safety at every intersection. Soon Tri was just seconds ahead, but so was the finish. I went passed Ryan for a pull when I recognized that the finish area was just ahead. I stayed out of the saddle and launched my final attack. Sustaining 27 mph on the flats and slight upgrades is how Ryan and I finished our race. Amazingly, my final push was enough to keep my counterpart at bay, but not enough to catch the now two time winner, Charlie Tri.
Charlie Farrow, Tim Ek, Charlie Tri
I was very happy to finish 2nd overall, approximately 10 seconds back and win the KOM. Now, some rest and relaxation before the big dance, the Trans Iowa in two weeks.
Amy and I right after the finish.