The Tour start bright and early on May 27th. I don't think any involved knew what to expect. We had cyclists looking for a hard 1 day ride, a planned 3 day sprint and of course those eyeing the full 1050 miles.
Day one saw a little bit of everything!! We had riders sprinting 270 miles. We had riders calling in with suspected concussions. We had riders touring at a 50 mile a day pace. Some rode through the night. Robb Finegan had to suspend his ride for 12 hours to take care of a family health emergency...returning to the same spot and continuing the next day!!!
Hello Flint Hills Rain - the Flint Hills put on a show. Hard rain. Light rain. Lightening storms. High wind. Hot, humid after sun. It's easy to say "I've seen worse weather" when youre not the one pushing a 50lb loaded down bike. We had quite a few abandonments. The field separated by 100's of miles first to last.
Day three saw the field slimmed down to four and then three as Andy P had a mechanical and stopped his ride.. Many great memories for those who ended early and many more to come for those still on the path back to Emporia. Anticipation built up for what the leaders, Ashton's, time would be. Barring a mechanical he was looking to be home in 4 days!! Of course...rain was in the forecast. Unbound Gravel festivities were building in Emporia...what would the timing be like for Robb and Trisha!
Ashton beat the days rain and finished with a time of 4D 10H 23M!! He had plenty of time to shower and rest up for the days Gravel Hall of Fame dinner! Robb F was rolling hard and I knew Robb was not going to stop again. Sleeping the whole ride in 20 minute naps, he powered through the rain and walked through hours and hours of mud. All in search of the Emporia Zoo's lights. The Finish Line. Trisha was rounding the corner and heading home...with more rain expected.
Robbs Day. Robb rolled in looking fresh and cheery with an eye towards more donuts at 5D 13H 12M. Robb spent the rest of day excitedly telling stories of night time ghosts and goblins as he spent many of the miles in the darkness of the Flint Hills. Trisha was head home unfortunately a LOT of Flint Hills mud awaited her as a reward.
She smiled. She sang. She made friends with a skunk. She walked. Wow...did she walk. The Flint Hills were not kind to Trisha during the final leg of the Tour. I went to bed night 6 with Trisha walking and woke up ready to ride in the Unbound 200 at 4am with Trisha still walking. Pushing. Dragging. Moving forward. I wanted SO bad to text her to just go around the rest of the mud. She'd earned it. I didn't though as that's the challenge. She knew the challenge and she kept moving. She crossed paths, walking, with 1000's of Unbound 200/100 riders for about 4 miles. They were also walking in the mud. The opposite direction. They cheered. I cried a bit when I, myself, walked by her. Expecting a punch, I got a hug and she got 100's of cheers from the Unbound walkers. We use the word epic a lot but honestly...can a Finish over 7 days of Flint Hills gravel riding end any freaking cooler???
Matt Battiston Eli Crifield
Carlos Garriga. Tayla Judd
Joe Kleidosty Asthon Lambie
Trisha Luke Gary Nelson
Bill Novak Luke Novak
Andy Phillips Daniel Prieto
Roger Williams Greg Vaught
+ few other single day riders