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My First Gravel Ride at The Day Across Minnesota

Rider: Jensen Esteves

A 240 mile ride that starts at midnight and goes from South Dakota, across the state all the way to Wisconsin on gravel roads. Other than the trails in the NY/NJ area and a couple off-road rides that I’ve done in California, this was first real ride on gravel. I mean how hard could it be right?

The trip had gotten off to a rough start with our flight being cancelled due to weather and we got put on a flight the following day. This meant that we had one less day to get my bike all set up, gather supplies and rest. By the time we got to the starting point I had been awake for 20 hours.

There were 150 riders signed up and most of them being locals. The race is split up into four different sections and in the beginning of each one, each ride is given cue sheets with directions to the next checkpoint. I decided I’d ride with my friend Carolyn whom I had met few years ago as a fellow Pactimo Brand Ambassador. She was letting us stay at her house and I thought it would be weird to ride on my own or with strangers. Plus with the race starting at midnight, navigating would have been a real challenge for me. Riding with her and one of her friends proved to be a good decision for the first 5 hours because it was so dark I could only see as far as maybe 20 feet in front of me.

we started riding at midnight. it’s now 9 am and we’ve ridden 120 miles of gravel roads

A post shared by Jensen Esteves (@jensenn) on

I spent the first hour learning how to ride and trying my best to stay upright. It was a little nerve wracking since I couldn’t see that far ahead and found out that I had over inflated my tires and was having some issues when the gravel got loose. After a while I got the hang of it and was picking off riders in front of me one by one. I was feeling good and 5 miles before the first checkpoint my rear went over a knuckle size rock and a some time later I could feel every single rock and knew I had a slow leaking flat. I didn’t want to stop in the dark to change the tube so I rode those last few miles standing up and putting as much weight as I can on my handlebars. We made it to the first checkpoint where I put in a new tube, ate some snacks, pick up the next set of cue sheets and we were on our way again.

The next 100 miles were pretty uneventful but with some spectacular views. Morning fog over lakes and fields, fiery sunrise and endless stretches of gravel and farmland. I soon passed my longest ride ever and was feeling really good. This was probably the best that I have kept up with making sure to stay hydrated and eating. But around mile 170 there was a stretch of road about a block long with newly laid down sand. The sand was about 3-5 inches thick and I decided I could ride through it. I made it all the way through, riding the edge and trying not to fall into the roadside ditch.

I must have tweaked my left knee cause the next section was on paved road but I started feeling this sharp pinch on the top inside of my knee cap. I tried to stretch and ride it out but the pain kept getting worse. I decided I’d ride to the next check point at mile 183 and by the time I got there my knee had swelled up and with another 57 miles to go, I decided to stop.

I’m pretty disappointed to not have finished but definitely glad I had made the trip out. The Minnesota cycling community was very welcoming and the event was very well organized. I plan on going back next year.

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