The Mammoth Gravel Classic was my first organized gravel ride. I have been looking at gravel bikes a bit, but I am yet to take the big dive and purchase one, so I rode my full suspension 29er. This wasn’t a race and I could use more time on my 29er anyways, as I will be spending plenty of time on it in some endurance mountain bike races this summer.
I had been debating whether or not I would do the full 100 miles, because I want to do a training block prior to the Mohican 100 and riding the full 100 miles in the Mammoth Gravel Classic, would definitely mess up getting a good training block in soon. That being said, I felt like riding the 100 miles, so that is what I did. I can be a bit of a live for the moment guy when it comes to riding.
I headed over to St. Croix Falls, WI a little after 6:00 am to arrive at Cyclova XC, just as they were opening the doors at 7:00am. There is a really great group of people in the Cyclova XC and Woolly Bike Club community and I was looking forward to hanging out with them for the day. Frank Lundeen greeted me as I was coming in the door of Cyclova to pick up my Gandy Dancer Trail Pass. Other people were starting to gather and it was nice to see some familiar faces.
I chatted a bit with a few folks and then headed out to get my bike and gear ready. I planned to enjoy the day of riding. It was a fun ride and not a race, even though I was sure the pace would probably get pushed to a race pace in the front. I even packed a big bag of bacon that I had cooked up the night before, just to munch on along the way. Like I said, I fully intended to enjoy the ride.
The Mammoth Gravel Classic Ride
We all gathered at the lookout in St. Croix Falls, just down the road from the Cyclova XC shop, before heading out of town as a group to kick off the 2016 Mammoth Gravel Classic. We were about 12 miles in before we hit our first bit of gravel and we were moving at a fairly good pace. It was a strong pace, for me anyways, on my full suspension 29er with 2.2″ mountain bike tires among mostly gravel bikes. There were a few other mountain bikers and a couple folks on Salsa Cutthroats with mountain bike tires as well.
The field started to blow up once we hit the gravel as it had some soft sandy spots in it. The pace continued to be pushed at the front and I was working pretty hard to stay on with the lead group. It was a bit on and off for me. I could catch back on during some of the real soft stuff, since I could float through it better and then too much of the harder packed gravel and I would start to fade a bit. I managed to hang on with the lead 5 or 6 guys till about the 24 mile mark when I was really starting to struggle to stay with them. The Mammoth Gravel Classic ride was feeling like an all out race.
The group was starting to break up a bit on its own, when 1 person stopped to relieve themselves, which led to the rest of us pulling off the side of the gravel road to follow suite. I was too slow and missed my chance to get back on with the group, but took off in chase on my own as I noticed another rider, Nate from the Woolly Bike Club, coming up behind me. Within a couple miles a few others came up from behind, including Ben from the Cyclova XC Team, to join us. We ended up working together for the next 10 miles or so until we hit a stretch of pavement, just before Grantsburg, and I started to get dropped off the back as I was enjoying some of my bacon.
I caught back up as we came to the gas station in Grantsburg. The guys that I was with in this chase group all pulled into the gas station to grab some more water or food. I decided to keep going as I had plenty to eat and drink with me and I knew I was working too hard to stay on with their pace anyways. I could use a bit of a soft pedal break and figured I could jump back on when they caught me again. I enjoyed the solo ride for a bit and even stopped to take a few pictures along the way. I was having a nice ride and the bacon tasted good! It wasn’t the best fuel, but I was enjoying the day for sure.
The guys caught back up to me about 8 miles later at mile 44, but they were hauling and I only stayed on with them for about a mile. As one of the guys dropped off the front after taking his pull, I told him to jump in line in front of me cause I knew I would be dropping off the back soon and didn’t want him to get forced off the back with me. I rode solo with them in the distance for a couple miles, before another chase group came up from behind, moving at a stronger pace yet. I made the turn south into the wind with this 3rd group at mile 47 and then let them go a few miles later as we made a turn east on some good hard packed gravel.
I couldn’t keep the pace. We were pushing a pace, that I normally ride on my road bike and I couldn’t maintain that with my full suspension 29er for that many miles. Maybe I could have, but it wasn’t a race and I didn’t want to blow myself up, since I was planning to get some more serious training in over the coming weeks. I was content to ride a more comfortable pace at this point and enjoy the backroads.
About 63 miles in, I hit the Gandy Dancer Trail and stopped to take a couple more pictures. I never stop and take pictures during a race and I do like taking pictures, so it was nice to enjoy the ride and stop for a few photo opportunities along the way. You have got to appreciate the opportunity for a ride like this. Now about the Gandy… It was a full on head wind at this point and even though I was riding full suspension, I would have loved to have a set of clip on aero bars or some drop bars, because I was getting hammered in the wind.
The wind got really bad as I made my way around the airport where the land opened up like the great plains for the wind to barrel through with no obstacles. I had a few guys come by me around the airport, but caught back up to them as we approached the town of Siren. I pulled off to look for a gas station and figured I only had about 30 miles to go and a liter of water and a Monster energy drink should be plenty for the last 30 miles.
I talked with a couple of the other riders that had stopped at the same gas station, but I got split up from them in town traffic headed back to the Gandy Dancer Trail and they were gone out in front of me before I got back to the trail. I was back on the Gandy Dancer, fighting the head wind and the sun was starting to beat down pretty hard. About 8 miles later, I was out of water again with a completely dry mouth and only a little bit of the energy drink left. I had a bit of a headache starting to set in as well. I think it was the caffeine punch and lack of water.
I stopped to take another picture and then came to the town of Frederick around mile 80 and took off into town, looking for another gas station. This time, I bought 2 liters of water! A little tip… I always keep some extra cash on the backside of my phone inside the case for emergencies like this. I refilled my hydration pack with the water and headed back toward the Gandy Dancer Trail.
I had about 25 miles to go at this point to finish the Mammoth Gravel Classic. My seat was starting to get a bit uncomfortable and I found myself standing up to pedal quite a bit. The seat is great for endurance mountain biking, but I am out of the saddle often in singletrack. Gravel grinding was a bit of a different story as I was seated in the saddle grinding out miles for most of the day.
I had a couple other riders come up behind me at one point. I rode with them for a couple miles and then they dropped back and I was solo again. I did come across a few other riders from the 70 mile ride as well, but we were all riding a little different pace and I continued my ride. I came across a couple riders that were walking, they said they were ok and didn’t need anything and again I continued my ride.
A couple miles from town, I came to a road crossing where another rider was stopped and flagging down a car. He said he just had some cramps, but was going to get a ride back. I continued heading down the trail as he was talking with the car. I looked back to see the car take off and him still standing there, so I turned around to go back and check on him. He seemed fine actually, and didn’t appear to be walking funny or anything. I asked him if he was ok and he said he was fine, but had cramps.
I told him to ride with me and that there was only a couple miles left to the end of the ride, it was all down hill and that I would ride to the finish with him. He said he was going to stop and see if he could catch a ride instead. I couldn’t understand it. Ride all that way and then stop a couple miles before the end, where you could pretty much coast back to town… I asked him if he was actually ok again and he said he was fine but didn’t want to ride yet and was going to hang out for a bit and that I could keep going, so I got back on the trail and kept riding.
I came by the Woolly Bike Club Trails and turned down the paved bike path that led me around to the Gandy Dancer Trail Head and back into town. I came down Main Street to Cyclova XC and finished off my first organized gravel ride, the Mammoth Gravel Classic!
Mammoth Gravel Classic Ride Thoughts
My total mileage for the Mammoth Gravel Classic was 104 miles with a moving time of 6 hrs and 49 minutes and a total time of 7 hrs and 13 minutes. I had a total of 14 minutes of gas station stops and photo stops. It was a good ride. Huge thanks to Cyclova XC and any of the Woolly Bike Club folks that helped put on the ride. It was a free ride and Cyclova XC even gave away some free SWAG. Check that out… Free ride and SWAG! That is pretty tough to beat.
This will not be my last gravel ride for sure. I am not ready to run out and buy a gravel bike quite yet, but that is mostly because I am still not sure what type of gravel bike I would be into and my full suspension 29er suites me just fine for the level of seriousness that I plan to ride gravel at. I may need to get some skinnier tires to throw on for gravel events, but I still have some tread to wear out on a couple sets of old mountain bike tires yet.
I hope you enjoyed the ride report. I enjoyed the ride and learn something every time I head out. It is great to get out and ride some new roads and trails! Till next time, keep on pedaling!