This weekend had a host of events all biking related. We want to give every event it’s due so we are going to spread the recaps across two days. First up, racing the Dirty Benjamin.
Wow, we knew that it was bound to happen at some point, but finally we had a nice day for a biking event! After a roller coaster week of weather, Saturday’s Dirty Benjamin 100 turned out to be just the right temperature for a day of crushing gravel.
The race, which started in Chaska, just outside of the Twin Cities area, was quite a contrast to the Almanzo 100, but shared many of the same characteristics (and characters). The Dirty Benjamin is the third race in the Almanzo Gravel Racing Series and is by far the race with the least amount of climbing, but most creative routing of the races thus far. For better or worse, the official CTC bike of choice for this event was a freewheel single speed geared at a respectable 46×16 gearing. This combo was just enough to keep up on the flats, and not get completely dropped on the hill climbs.
Due to the overnight rain and sunshine for most of the day, this gave us a variety of gravel racing conditions. After the neutral rollout through the streets of Chaska, the beginning of the ride started off at a brutal pace thanks to the efforts of Chis Skogen and a few others, luckily this was over wet and packed gravel, the easiest of all racing surfaces. After the sun came out and we made it a little bit further out into the farm country, the wet packed gravel turned into dry loose pack gravel, which if you have never experienced can feel a lot like trying to pedal through sand. With far fewer racers allowed into this event, you had to desperately cling to the small groups of riders that you could find, otherwise, it meant riding solo, possibly for long stretches of the race.
Some of the interesting routing choices for this event: a jaunt through the woods, just after the halfway point, which required cyclocross dismounting skills for several course obstacles. Charging through an off-road ditch to get from the woods and back onto the gravel. Perhaps our favorite was the ride through the half-finished suburban development, and on a paved walking path which abruptly ended, requiring riders to once again demonstrate their off-road skills through tall grass, weeds and “Brraappp” mud.
The finish of the Dirty Benjamin was both gratifying and delicious. The fine folks of Kings Wine Bar catered delicious pork sliders, with a side of Snickers bars, ice-cold beer and Coca-cola, the perfect way to end a perfect day for riding.
We have to thank the organizers and all of the volunteers for making this happen, what a great event!