This past weekend was the Ken Woods Memorial Road Race in Cannon Falls, MN. This race has become a staple in the Minnesota racing scene and, for many, signifies the official start to the road racing season. The 21-mile loop encompasses rough roads, wide open farmland, and plenty of wind.
This was my first year racing the Ken Woods race. Everything that I had heard about previous years was that it is always very windy and very cold, making it very miserable. The day of the race came and much to everyone’s surprise, the weather was perfect. With a high of 76 degrees in the forecast with very little wind, I thought I had lucked out. Keyword: thought.
The time came for the start of my race. As I was looking around, I knew that there were some strong riders in my group and I could still feel last nights Bandit Cross race in my legs. It would be hard to keep up with them and stay towards the front for the two laps (42) that we were about to ride. The whistle blew and everyone was off on the rolling start. The rolling start began with me having pedal difficulties and by the time I was able to catch up to the group, I was already in a bad position. Starting in dead last, I knew this was going to be a tough race for me.
The group rode over the first 10 miles of rough roads, facing brutal headwinds that you would only notice in the wide open farmland. With an average speed of 17mph, the race was off to a slow start. I was biding my time in the back of the pack until the first sign of an attack. I knew that would be the only way I could advance my position in this large of a group. Finally, the leaders took a corner and they were off. The rest of the group followed suit, with me right behind them. I passed about half the pack and was seated right in the middle when the attack slowed. As the pace mellowed out a bit and a few more climbs popped up, I was able to advance to be in the top twenty-five percent. Then came the climb right before the finish. I reached the top and I was out of gas. I was out of gas and all I could think of was that I had another lap left.
After crossing the finish line to begin our second lap, the lead group sped off and I was left with a handful of other riders, and another large group not far behind. No matter how hard we worked together, we couldn’t catch up to the others, though they were in our sight for the majority of the rest of the race. We battled the wind and rough roads together and chatted a little bit in between to break up the suffering.
I may not have finished at the top of the pack (27th/50), but this was still a great day of racing. I rode a solid 42 miles through the Minnesota countryside, put myself through challenges, and met some new people that I hope I’ll see again throughout the season. All Photos courtesy of David Gabrys.