Fall Event Cancelation

It is with sorrow and disappointment that we must announce the cancelation of all Spin the District events scheduled for the weekend of September 17–20, 2020, due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19. The Spin the District team has been hopeful that with carefully-enforced health safeguards in place, the events could proceed in some capacity in 2020. However, the latest uptick in positive tests and hospitalizations in Georgia has proven to be the final straw, as our insurer is now unable to provide the coverage that makes Spin possible. 

Planning and coordinating any event on this scale requires a lot of time, resources, volunteers, and constant communication with our city partners. While September is still a few months away and we hope that the pandemic will slow significantly by then, we can no longer justify the costs and resources needed to ensure the event can meet our own high standards. Instead, we’re turning our focus toward 2021. 

According to the rules of registration, there are no refunds—so we’re changing the rules. After all, no one could have predicted a worldwide pandemic. All currently registered riders now have the following options:

  1. Deferral. Paid and qualified riders can elect to defer their registration until the 2021 event (September 17–19, 2021).
  2. Donation. Paid riders will donate their original entry fee to MTB Atlanta to help build and maintain local trails.
  3. Refund. We are offering to refund paid entries in full, excluding processing fees.

Participants are asked to make their selections by September 1, 2020. Decisions not received by the deadline will default to the Deferral option.

For our part, we’re rolling forward what resources we can in order to come back better than ever in 2021. We plan to start strong with our Spring Criterium series in the spring, followed by our fall events next September. In the meantime, please stay safe out there, and ride on.

Please email us at info@spinthedistrict.com for questions or to request a refund.

100 Free Entries. Because, why not?

by Wayne Whitesides – All things SPIN

Spin the District’s Union City Gravel Gran Fondo is offering free entry to its 100- or 150- mile gravel races! The first 100 men and 100 women who have placed in the top 5 of ANY +50-mile gravel race between September 22, 2019 and September 16, 2020 are invited to register free of cost. Are we crazy? What’s gotten into us? It’s simple. We want this year’s Gravel Gran Fondo to be the toughest yet. The more tough competitors, the tougher the race. It makes sense to us.

If you’re sold and ready to blaze a trail on our course, you can email us now if you’re a Top 5 rider to get your code, and we’ll see you in a few months. (Don’t forget to show us where we can find your results) If you still think we’re nuts, read on for a personal explanation from one of the founders Wayne Whitesides, pictured below (left). (right) Madeline Larsen Pearce – 2019 Toughskin150 winner

Spin the District Gravel Race Free Entry

It’s more than just a gimmick.

I think fellow promoters can agree: gravel riding has officially exploded in the U.S.! It’s happened to such a degree that cycling’s governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale, recently announced they have their “eye” on gravel. In other words, they want to standardize gravel riding events for their profit—and could inevitably ruin them in the process. Overregulation will make gravel events sterile and bland. Yet it is the lack of rules and the uniqueness of rides/events that has always attracted riders to gravel. People ride for the experience and plan their year around specific, story-worthy rides. Those seeking the “path less traveled” do not want cookie-cutter gravel rides that blend together.

The best of the best???

When your event sells out in minutes or becomes so popular that you have to pick random people out of a hat, you are bound to leave quality riders sitting on the sidelines. These riders are left to choose a new path. In doing so, you’re limiting the quality of your field and defining the experience people have. (unless you’re just wanting to ride to ride, we’re not here to judge how you ride the event) Not to mention, lotteries give riders anxiety. ‘Did I get in?’ ‘Did my buddies who were going to split travel costs with me get in?’ ‘Do I need to start scouring the web to buy someone’s golden ticket who can’t go after all?’ It’s a risky line in the sand that promoters are willing to make in order to sell out. Of course, we want to break registration records, but not at the expense of race quality.

Our free entry helps address this potential problem. We want you to know who else got in, and to know you will be standing shoulder to shoulder with the legends of this sport. This is all in an effort to launch your experience to the stars! You spent a lot of money and made a big commitment so it makes sense you want to ride with the best. Even if you are a “Fred” like me just hoping to finish before the time cut, riding with quality riders elevates the experience. Last year at DirtyKanza, lining up next to people I fanboy over and then reading about their epic race battle for days to come is something I will never forget. Just breathing the same rarefied air as female champ Lael Wilcox, or Stentina Howes, and eventual men’s winner Colin Strickland made my 19-hour journey through hell worth every second. Did we mention we already have Ashton Lambie qualified – duh – and signed up to race the Toughskin150? He’s coming with our 2019 Velodrome Champ, John Croom, who’s out to prove he’s got the brass to win our Big A$$ Belt.

Spin the District Gran Fondo Belt Polyester100
While Goliath believes he’s a giant and ruler of the office, he’s no match for the belt.

Long story short: It’s part of our trifecta experience

We’re offering free registration to a fourth of our fields for the best of the best to ensure that the quality of our Gravel Gran Fondo is nothing short of primo. Of course, it’s only a portion of your overall experience. Our courses are as tough as nails and guaranteed to challenge anyone, and our weekend experience is second to none. In an ever-crowding market, you have to stand out. We want to stand out with the best and make your Spin the District experience the trip of the year, or dare we say, lifetime!!! 

Are you a top 5 rider? Please email us with at least one top 5 placing from September 19, 2019 through September 20, 2020, and let’s get you on the list. 

Do you want to ride against the best? Let’s get you over to registration (opening February 28). 

Spin the District Husky100 Winners

Don’t forget to connect with us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to keep up with the latest.

Training for a century ride

by Wayne Whitesides – A long-winded cycling nerd

I just returned from a ride across the great state of Iowa. It’s a week-long event called RAGBRAI, or Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. It’s the original cross-state ride, going on its 47th year. I road my first RAGBRAI in 1983 and have been hooked on pedaling two wheels ever since. Today, most states have a cross-state ride and Georgia is no exception. BRAG (Bicycle Ride Across Georgia) has been going strong for a long time now and is always worth doing. It’s a great feeling of accomplishment to know you road your bike from one end of the state to the other. What almost all of the cross states rides have in common, minus the comradery is a 100-mile day, better known as a century ride. Another significant achievement to check off your bucket list.

Getting into town the day before RAGBRAI began, gave us a little time to relax and take in the sights. Just for the record, my wife is always sober, my daughter and I do love pie, and for our friends, the Tharp’s, this was their first cross-state ride.

I have always ridden for the enjoyment of riding even if I’m three sets into one-kilometer efforts at 85% of my max or hill repeats (admittedly, I rarely do hill repeats any more), or in a torrential downpour, or a 107° day riding on gravel in Kansas for 200 miles and 19 hours straight. (See my earlier post.) I ride my bike because it makes me happy. It also keeps me remarkably fit, both physically and mentally. The physical aspect is obvious, but the mental? Riding my bike – any bike – is where I go to get my head on straight. Cycling to me is my church, it’s a state of mind I get in when I ride, where I turn off all distractions and can focus on my life or a particular topic.

Riding across the state for days and hours on end, I spent a good bit of my time, not eating pie as those who follow my InstaFace posts probably assume, but in pretty deep thought actually. I contemplate how best to run my business, get energized over the idea of new pottery projects, or honestly, politics?!?!. This isn’t the place for that so we’ll move along. Mostly during my time in the saddle, I was thinking about this article.

My accomplices for the journey included two 16-year-old’s, my daughter who is on her third RAGBRAI (her first solo ride not stuck on the back of a tandem with her smelly, grouchy dad), her good friend on her first cross-state ride, my lovely wife going on number three, and a good friend who thinks anything over a 30 second effort is 15 seconds too much. (He’s a track sprinter.) They all had to train leading up to the event so that they could ride 100 miles in a day, plus tack on another 400 miles over six more days. How? Well, that’s what I thought about for most of my time leading up to and what I spent most of my days on the ride thinking about in Iowa – that and, of course, fantastic church pie and delicious Iowa craft brews. (More on that some other day.)

The rewards for finishing are endless, regardless of the distance.

How to ride your first century

That’s the topic that probably brought you here and not my colorful, yet probably useless, lead-in. Riding 100-miles in a day is a giant milestone in the world of two-wheeled, pedaling excitement. It’s a big task that can seem daunting and can loom heavy over your head as you begin your training. The good news is that riding 100-miles doesn’t need to be that hard or complex if you plan for it. Heading out from couch to 100-miles is possible, but you’re not going to enjoy it. So let’s enjoy it by following a few pretty simple ideas.

Tip #1: Saddle time!

Sitting on a bike seat for 10 hours can be more painful than the actual effort to get you from point A to B. Finding the right saddle and fit is a task all to itself. There are thousands of articles written on both topics, and they are essential. Take the time to read up on the subject of seat choice and more importantly, bike fit. In my 37-year experience of saddle choice, I have seen trends, styles, and my own preferred seat manufacturers come and go.

I’d recommend against the banana seat. Talk with a trusted local bike shop to discuss what saddle would be best for you.
  1. DO NOT assume cushier is better. I hear it all the time and it’s the easy go-to for temporary relief, but believe me, it is temporary. I’m picturing you at a bike shop, you see that superwide, four-inch-thick, spring-loaded cush and think, “Wow that will be so comfy.” The reality is those seats are made for that Schwinn cruiser you had as a kid, where you’re sitting upright and going a few blocks down to the local soda shop – ok, most likely the mall, let’s not date this too much.

    Again, there are articles written over and over about this. Talk to a bike shop and get an experts advice. Most shops even have tools that can measure the width of your sit bones and make a calculated guess to what will work best. Also, don’t assume the most expensive or latest is necessarily the greatest. I use the same mid-level Specialized seat on all my bikes. It’s what works best for me.
  2. Ride what you researched! Really ride it, don’t do a ride or two and start looking for greener grass. As my wife says, ‘it’s just more grass.’ You’ll cuss and swear at your seat for a long time, most likely. Embrace the suck and try to think of other things. Practice getting out of the saddle and give yourself “butt breaks” throughout your ride, (more on this later) but really give the leather you invested in a chance. It will get better.
  3. DO NOT buy a seat pad for the seat you just invested in. The squishy gel or super-soft sheepskin cover can be so, so, so seductively tempting. Don’t give in. Again, it’s a short-term solution giving you temporary relief. It won’t last, and by mile 60 you’ll start to get what I’m saying.

Ultimately, don’t be quick to break up and look for the sexier model.

A good pair of shorts is as good as gold. Here’s a great article on the subject.

Tip #2 – Invest in the gear

You’re committed to riding 100-miles. Hopefully, you just spent the time to get a seat (or you’re devoted to the one you already had) and you made sure your bike fits right. Now you need a few more necessities. A properly fitting helmet should be obvious. Most century rides won’t let you do their event without one. A pair of cycling gloves will go a long way to keep you comfy, two water bottle cages and water bottles (or a hydration backpack if you’re used to using one for running or hiking), and don’t forget your sunglasses.

In my opinion, though, the most important and essential element to your first 100 is a quality pair of cycling shorts. If you’re uncomfortable with the thought of sporting spandex, there are companies now that have the cycling short sewn into shorts or skorts. What they all have in common is a chamois. The chamois a big deal, personally, more so than your seat, in my opinion. Get yourself one good pair, do some research and make the investment. One pair will do at first, wash them after each ride and let them dry out for the next ride.

Finally, cycling shoes are an eventual necessity. You can ride in tennis shoes comfortable enough, but the soles of tennis shoes are not meant for cycling – they’re called “tennis” shoes after all. Cycling shoes have a stiffer sole that allows the energy of your pedal stroke into the peddle, creating more power and making your ride more efficient and ultimately more comfortable. Eventually, check into adding clipless pedals to the mix. The combination of shoe and pedal will make your rides so much more enjoyable. I recommend SPD pedals and a good pair of mountain bike shoes to start. They’re easy to get used to clipping in and the shoes are more comfortable to walk in. With that said, if you had to prioritize your investment for your first 100:

  1. Helmet
  2. Quality Cycling Shorts
  3. Everything else eventually.

Tip #3 – Start slow but ride often

The best and easiest way to get used to riding, and quite frankly to doing your first century ride, is spending time in the saddle. The more time sitting on that now thoroughly cussed out seat the quicker you will come back to speaking terms, maybe even becoming friends, and the fitter you will develop in the process. Don’t push it and don’t worry about miles. If you get a saddle sore, rest it a couple of days, or if you continue to get saddle sores as you increase your training, then think about a different seat option or get a bike fit test done. (more than likely the reason for the sores)

Saddle time doesn’t need to be a 50-mile grind to get your time in. Try three 15-mile rides to start, or four 10-mile rides after work, or go to the gym and get 30 minutes on a fitness bike or take a spin class. Try, though, to get as many rides as you can on your own bike. The goal of this first part of your training is repetitive time in the saddle. Weekends should be a given, but try to go for a short ride Friday night or Monday. Three consecutive days of riding is better than one day of more miles. Days in succession will get you used to and comfortable with riding without stranding you beyond your ability and risking injury from a longer ride.

Most likely, the more miles you repeatedly do, the less likely you’ll get sore and the more fun it will be. I’m going to be 100% honest; the first month isn’t fun at all. Sorry, you can punch me at the start of the Union City Gran Fondo in September.

A bit about saddle sores before we continue

Riding sore at first is very common. There is, however, a difference between being just generally sore around your saddle region to having physical/open sores from riding. Being a little “raw” and sore is simply part of the game, your initiation into riding. My wife calls it the “fire down below.” Your first temptation is to stop riding and wait a few days or a week, but this only prolongs the inevitable. At some point, you have to fight through it. This is why shorter riders more often are better.

A saddle sore, on the other hand – blisters, cuts, or bad rash – is a different ball game. Stop riding and take care of it. Desitin works really well at night, and use it during a ride if you feel a sore coming on. It protects and heals. Many riders now swear by Chamois Creams or Butt Butter. There’s a lot of choices, and they work to varying degrees to prevent or curb saddle sores. Take lots of precaution to protect your nether region, but 9 out of 10 times, if you keep riding the pain will go away. Your bones and tissue around the saddle just need to get used to riding. Even the most harden rider will have to go through the break-in period again if they take extended time off the bike.

DON’T FORGET TO TAKE BUTT BREAKS. Get off the bike completely, or learn to get out of the saddle when riding. I like to ride for 10 or 15 minutes and then take a butt break by getting out of the saddle and coast with one leg pointing down and stretch, I then switch legs down and stretch again, all while coasting. My breaks are only for 10-15 seconds, but those seconds make a significant difference over time. Especially if you’re riding a rail trail with few hills where you’re naturally not getting out of the saddle to climb a hill or stop at a stop sign.

As you train, slowly increase your speed the last 15 – 30 minutes from the end of your rides to help push your abilities without stressing about bonking too far away from your stop point

Tip #4 – Time to turn it up a notch

The Spin the District Union City Gran Fondo is September 22, so how far out do you need to start training? It’s August 4th, as I write this, so honestly, two weeks ago or longer would have been the ideal time, but don’t worry, we can still make it happen. Getting used to your saddle should take two to three weeks. If you are riding three times a week, then you’re well on your way. By the end, you shouldn’t be worrying about your seat as much, and we can now start to increase your miles. Ideally, two weeks prior you should be ready and feeling strong enough to get out for a five to six-hour ride (65 – 75 miles depending on your pace).

So let’s lead up to that number and ultimately the big day.

Week Zero: Take your bike in for a tune-up if it hasn’t been ridden in a while.

Week One: 3 days at least one hour each day, don’t worry about pace or distance.

Week Two: 3 to 4 days at least one to one and a half hours each day.

Week Three: 3 to 4 days with one day being at least two+ hours.

Week Four: 4 days with two days at a minimum of two to three hours.

Week Five: 2-3 days – take a mini-break. Try for an hour each ride, or a little less if you’re pretty sore. Do not not ride. You’ll regret it.

Week Six: 3-4 days with one day at least four hours. Go out the next day for at least an hour. Don’t forget to bring snacks or stop mid-way at a convenience store to refuel.

Week Seven: 3-4 days with one day going for a five to six-hour ride. Find a comfortable place to do it. Rail Trails, like the Silver Comet Trail, or a relatively flat bike path. Six hours would be preferred, but we all have a busy life. Again, ride the next day regardless, to smooth your legs out. You’ll need to stop for more water and to refuel at least twice.

Week Eight: The big week. Ride mid-week and again the night before easy if you’re able, just to flush your legs out. Get plenty of sleep and prepare yourself for a long day in the saddle, maybe 10hrs or more. Prepare your gear two days in advance and by the Monday before make sure your bike is in good working order. (Give yourself time to take it into a bike shop for a tune-up if need be).

If you have more than two months, replicate week three and/or four depending on how much time you have. Always try to take the fourth week easy and give yourself two weeks between your six-hour ride and your century day.

Tip #5 – The big day

First, don’t stress out. You have all day to do the ride. Enjoy it. Chances are you are doing an organized century or gran fondo event like ours, put on by a club or promoter and chances are they will have AID stations along the route. Find out where those AID stations are and try to plan to stop every 2 hours. On the average, you want to drink one large bottle of fluid an hour, preferably with some sort of electrolyte mixture in it. (Nuun, Gu or even Gatorade.) If it’s hot, plan to drink more. The key is to stay hydrated. If you feel thirsty, you’ve waited too long. The AID stations, sometimes referred to as SAG stops, will have water and most likely some sort of energy drink and simple snacks. Take some time to finish off any bottles you have or drink some more while you’re there. Refill your bottles, grab a bite and head out. If the AID Station doesn’t have snacks, be prepared to bring some energy bars with you, maybe even some bananas. (Peanut butter sandwiches are the poor man’s energy bar.) If there is no support stop, try to find a gas station on the route every two hours. Try to think about how you felt on the six-hour ride prior and gauge your effort off of it.

The ride will most likely have a time cut-off around 12 hours; that’s a little over an 8 mph average. Plan your stops accordingly to make sure you have time. Plan on taking a bit more time at your mid-day AID stop. I recommend stopping for ten minutes every two hours and twenty minutes at the mid-day stop. That’s roughly an hour and twenty minutes of stopped time, giving you ten and a half hours of maximum ride time or 9.5 mph average to get home.

Ride at your own pace. It can be tempting to try to jump in with a group that’s going a little faster. For your first 100, chat all you want with other riders, but if they start going faster, slow things back down. If they want to ride with you they can go at your pace. Don’t be afraid to send them on their way if they keep upping things on you while you’re talking.

That’s really all there is to it. Once finished you’ll already be thinking of your next big ride!

Don’t forget to get off the bike and take a few breaks. Just not too long. Nappy nap time can come the day after.

#6 If this wasn’t long enough already

A few additional ideas to make the training more enjoyable.

  1. Finding a place to ride when starting out can be a challenge if you’re not entirely comfortable. In Atlanta, the Silver Comet is an ideal location. It’s flat, not overly crowded and well maintained. If you don’t have a Rails to Trails path close by, try to find other bike-only Paths or bike lanes. If nothing like that is available where you live, you have to find something. In the city or suburban neighborhoods, that might mean just finding a few less-traveled blocks to create a circuit or a sub-division loop that you can repeatedly do until you are more comfortable venturing out. Look at websites like Ride with GPS or Map My Ride or even google has a bike route feature to gain knowledge of safe routes.
  2. Find a club to join. In Atlanta, we have a lot. The Metro Atlanta Cycling Club (MACC) or Sorella Cycling for women are two excellent choices. Both have group rides and MACC does a superb job of helping new riders learn to ride in a group with others.
  3. If you’re a little more experienced and comfortable riding in a group, find some area group ride that fit your time constraints and ability. It really helps the time go by.
  4. Once you’re satisfied with your results, try to up your pace when you go out next. Spending the last thirty minutes of your ride pushing yourself is a great way to increase your endurance without putting a lot of risk on your journey.

Finally, the Spin the District Union City Gran Fondo – September 22 – has a lot of ride distances to choose from. Don’t fret if training isn’t going as well as planned. Maybe try our 10, 30, or 60-mile options this year. You’ll gain experience without undue pressure and you can come back next year more prepared. Oh, and if you’re feeling really sassy, we have a 60, 100 and 150-mile gravel options too, but that’s for another discussion.

You just road your first century ride. Enjoy the pie (or insert your own delicious reward. You earned it).

Back from Dirty Kanza – Bring on the Toughskin150!

by Wayne Whitesides – crazy event marketing guy

L5 Flyers & Piedmont College representing. Women’s Cat 3/4 Hapeville Criterium Podium. Just one part of four Spin the District cycling events this year in the the ATL Airport District.

It’s been a fast two months for me with racing, training, marketing, and promoting all things cycling. I’m back from a trip out west and now getting ready for our next cycling events – East Point Velodrome races and the Union City Gran Fondo & Gravel Grind.

It was a cycling party in the streets!

Before I go further, I wanted to briefly comment on the first two events we put on in the ATL Airport District. Spin the District, it’s called, kicked off our second year this May with a two-day criterium race series. We filled the streets of Hapeville and College Park, Georgia with a stacked field of quality riders (from 24 states and 13 countries, thank you very much) and threw bigger parties than ever. (Fond memories of tacos and crawfish!) It was a magnificent sight to see such great racing happen in my backyard. Adding the Hapeville and College Park Criteriums to the national caliber USA Crits Speed Week Series was just the boost we needed. Next year will be bigger and better still, so mark your calendars for the first week in May. Also, be on the lookout for an overdue proper recap of the weekend.

Soon after the criteriums ended, with close to 3,000 training miles in my legs and the beginning of a stomach bug, I packed up my gravel bike and gear into a 32-foot rental camper with six of my buddies. (Jason “TrailDog” Hanlin, Dan Raudebaugh, Matt Connors, Jason Linscott, Jacob Dearolph and Dennis Decker were all there. No, none of them caught the stomach bug.) We were headed west for Kansas and the 202-mile gravel race known as Dirty Kanza.

Planning for a race while training for another.

I should mention that throughout this experience, I was thinking about the Toughskin150, a mixed-gravel race that I have been planning that will be part of the Spin the District Series coming this fall. (Check it out here.) I was inspired by ultra-gravel races like Dirty Kanza, Super Skaggs, and the Belgian Waffle Ride, and the painstaking route planning for the September event comprised most of my training leading up to leaving for Kansas. And painstaking it was, both figuratively and literally. I took great pains to develop a grueling route to bring in souls looking to dig deep and fight off their inner demons to finish, scouring Google Maps and gravelmaps.com for every hint of loose road surface, then driving around and around hunting down roads that link up to create a safe and desirable course to meet the standards of my inspirations. And I felt great pain in the process, having now ridden pretty much every speck of gravel within a 100-mile radius south of Atlanta.

Work or play? How about both!

My “day of work” ride to check out the ToughSkin150 route. 1) Unincorporated Yellow Dirt, Georgia 2) The lollipop route Dirty Sheets 3) My new favorite place to ride – Heard County, about 40 miles south of Downtown Atlanta

I’m a partner at the advertising agency that is creating all the design and marketing material for the ToughSkin150 and all the Spin events, and a week before we left to race Kanza, I selfishly declared a “day of work” was necessary so that I could go out and “test” the route before announcing it. (It was technically true!) Of the proposed 160-mile, 10,500-foot-total-elevation course, I had enough time (10 hours) and energy to do 120 miles and 2,000 feet short of the total climbing. After that day, I headed west wondering how in the hell I was going to get another 6 hours out of my legs in a day and finish Dirty Kanza and/or holy hell was my Toughskin150 route just too hard!?!? (More on the Toughskin150 and our crop-length counterpart Husky100 in future posts. Back to the Dirty Kanza.)

What kind of sick twisted event are you going to?

The promoters of Dirty Kanza had developed a gravel course that appeared on paper to be the toughest challenge since the race’s inception in 2007. It was a northwesterly course that would mean strong headwinds in the mid-day sun, but a nice tailwind for the last 50 of the 202-mile day. The challenging route also included 10,000 feet of constant up and down rollers and a lot of B gravel roads. In Kansas and most of the Midwest, you have paved roads, standard gravel roads, and B roads, which are gravel/dirt/sand/grass roads that get little-to-no maintenance and are typically only used by farmers—and even farmers avoid them when they can. Some B roads are little more than two deep ruts separated by tall grass.

The weather had been horrible for weeks prior, the Arkansas River flooded, and reports from all the gravel blogs were that the start town of Emporia was underwater and to expect plenty of “peanut butter” mud on the course. Peanut butter mud! Luckily, the course dried out just in time and there was little mud. I still don’t know what peanut butter mud is like, but after riding over the dried-out B roads with 12-inch-deep tire ruts, I don’t want to find out. There’s no way I could’ve finished the peanut butter version.

One of the gravel roads on the route. At least 95% of the course was at least this or worse

I’ve gotten this far and realized some of you may still not know what Dirty Kanza is and why I’m yammering about it. Well, Dirty Kanza (just Kanza for short) is the country’s premiere one-day gravel bicycle race. It has a 100, 200 and now 350-mile version. For most, the race is more within yourself than against another rider, and finishing the race is a huge achievement. The event is held in the Flint Hills, which are notorious for giving riders fits with flats and mechanicals. For those of you saying, “Kansas is flat,” you’ve never seen the Flint Hills. And as I mentioned, the B roads are a bit of a mess, though extremely fun!

What makes it especially hard, though, is that for the most part it’s “Self Supported,” meaning you are in charge of you; food, water, and repairs are managed by you and your crew only in two designated support areas. Support was not allowed on the course. If you broke something you had to fix it. If you ran out of water, good luck. For the 200 mile version, support came at miles 64 and 150 this year, plus a water-only stop at mile 120, and an unexpected-but-appreciated water-only stop at mile 90, provided by pro cycling team sponsor EF Education. (Thanks, y’all. I needed it.) Between those stops, you needed to carry enough food and water to get you to the next point. For me, that meant adding an average of 12 extra pounds of gear on my bike and back. I estimated I’d burn 7,000–8,000 total calories and go through 14 liters of fluid (roughly 21 water bottles). In the end, I needed way more water, and I lost my appetite early on—a terrible combination. I know I didn’t come close to replenishing the calories burned. A rookie move.

The Emporia Theater is a true treasure. In our pre-race riders meeting we were instructed to line up based on how we thought we’d finish, hence our view from the start. If there is a next year, I won’t be so far back. I spent the first two hours slowly moving through the field.

For the 200-mile event, we were among 1,205 riders randomly selected through a lottery from around 3,000 applicants. Our fellow riders included some of the best road pro men and women and gravel specialists from around the world, with the likes of World Tour riders Taylor Phinney, Peter Stetina, Lachlan Morton, Alex Howes, Kiel Reijnen, and last year’s winner Ted King. Some of them suffered from numerous flats, but they all got the beatdown in the end by gravel specialist Colin Strickland out of Austin, who broke away from the group with 95 miles to go and completed the course in a record 10 hours — hours upon hours ahead of me. Equally impressive was female rider Amity Rockwell, from San Francisco, who finished in just under 12 hours! For them, this truly was a race, and from what I’ve heard it sounded pretty epic. (I recommend the Velonews article “Commentary: A perfect battle at Dirty Kanza 200” by Fred Dreier. It’s an inspiring read.)

While Dirty Kanza is of course about fitness and stamina (our event was 200 miles in one day after all), it’s even more about mental strength. You need to know how to fight off the uncontrollable urge to quit, the inner demon I mentioned earlier. Even the pros had to dig just as deep I did—just a lot faster.

Then again, for me, coming from a velodrome/track racing – sprinter – background, anything over one kilometer is too much. Granted, it’s as fast and as hard as you can go, so it’s not exactly apples to apples. I had also retired from racing a few years earlier, so I restarted my training and mental preparedness from scratch, 20 pounds overweight and 48 years young. I suffered! I suffered like you can’t imagine. Or maybe you can. My little stomach bug decided it wasn’t quite finished with me, and the heat and lack of shade took a huge toll. This was the hardest and dumbest thing I have ever done.

The leaders come flying through. I’m probably coming over the first hill off in the distance.

My goal was to finish in a lofty 15 hours, not accounting for temps that would reach 107° according to my cycling computer, or the… ummm… health issues I’ll save for another article. I hobbled in at a very proud-yet-humbled 19:17 with Trail Dog Hanlin and Dan by my side, whom I caught up to in the wee hours of the night, both going through their own struggles. My whole party finished, all five of us who raced. Matt powered through first in 15:45, and Jason L was right behind in 16:08. We all have a tremendous amount of gratitude to Jacob and Dennis who came along to give us support. They quietly and effectively kept us moving by keeping our equipment running and in order, cooling us down, forcing us to eat, and most importantly pushing us back out to finish without really saying anything. We could not have finished without them. I cannot thank them enough. (And here’s a nod to all the support crews. You all rock!)

Next week, I’ll write a detailed play-by-play of my day and the struggles I had and witnessed along the way. Of the 1,205 riders who started, only 852 finished. Fighting the cutoff times in the latter half of the day, I saw most of the non-finishers strung out along the way. I felt and suffered with them. For most of us, just putting one pedal stroke in front of the other was all we could muster.

Even though I spent ten hours swearing off the race and silently cursing out the promoters for not having a third aid station, I now can’t stop thinking about doing it again.

Bike racing, training and promotion. All part of the job. It's really hard not to love what I do. Here's a little recap of my journey to race one of the hardest one day cycling races in the country. I went through all the emotions to finish. Read on to find out how it all went.
19 hours later. We all finish Dirty Kanza. L-R) Matt Connors, Jason Linscott, Dan Raudebaugh, Me, Jacob Dearolph, Dennis Decker, & Jason Hanlin

Kids Racing at the College Park and Hapeville Criteriums

We’ll have kids races both Saturday and Sunday.

Bring the kiddos out to be part of the action and start their racing career off right. Just before the pro-women head to the line, we’ll kick off the evening races with two show-stopping events for the next generation of racers: 1) those who have been riding a good bit and 2) those who are just starting out. It’s all for fun, but pride and participation ribbons could get the best of your youngins. :slightly_smiling_face:

3:30 Rider (parent) meeting to get things organized
4:00 Rider call ups (or children round up)
Race 1: One lap blast: Children who’ve been riding and feel confident to complete one lap of the approximately 1/2 mile course.
Race 2: Straightaway Sprint: Tykes with trikes, training wheels, and striders line up for a mad dash from one loving parent on the starting line to the other parent (or loved one) on the finish line.

The more the merrier and the faster they tend to go.  Don’t forget their helmet!

Saddle Up for Cyclo de Mayo

In Hapeville, a Criterium and a mechanical bull go together like tacos ‘n margaritas. The exciting street races of Spin the District will zip alongside Hapeville’s Cinco de Mayo Festival on Saturday, May 4, 2019. Go ahead and throw your hands in the air and wave them like you just don’t care because this will be THE BIGGEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE! Cheer on some of the fastest cyclists in the country: scream, holler, show ’em those crazy muppet arms. Then stroll over to Jess Lucas Park and hop on the mechanical bull to scream your little heart out as your long-cherished bull riding dreams come true. The cyclists won’t be the only ones going fast. Let’s see who stays in the saddle the longest.

Here are all the muy importante details:

  • 11am–5pm
  • Jess Lucas Park (680 S. Central Ave, Hapeville, GA 30354)
  • Sombreros Mexican Cantina will serve up food & alcohol
  • Free to play! Inflatables for the kiddos and a mechanical bull for the adults!
  • Live music from Mariachi Amigoz de Taylor Fuentes (12–2pm) & Conjunto Alazzan (2:30–4:30pm)

We’re so excited and we just can’t hide it! Looks like we have some training to do. See y’all in May!

The Crits Just Keep On Comin’

Do we seem a little smug this year? That’s because Spin the District is pleased as spiked punch to be featured as part of USA Crits, a series of Criterium races around the country that attract the speediest of the speedy speed racers. Criterium races are the backbone of American bike racing, taking place on urban streets in the midst of fans and partygoers, and utilizing a very specific set of skills—skills that are scored and ranked differently from other types of racing, with races-within-a-race and special victories for riders to compete for. But what really sells us on a Criterium is that the race itself is only the half of it. The energy and excitement of a Criterium comes from the spectators and revelers who come out to enjoy the food, drink and camaraderie. We love us a good Crit, and USA Crits is the final word.

So when you see us out there, join in our little victory dance, because ATL Airport District is beyond proud to have our own Criterium races recognized—not just as part of the esteemed USA Crits lineup, but as the finals of USA Crits Speed Week. It’s a Criterium-packed week of races in different cities around the Southeast, and the excitement will come to a head right here in Hapeville and College Park, where the week’s winners will be determined. This is big, y’all. We’re gonna need to learn some new dance moves.