This in from Neil T.
“This past weekend I rode the Pony!! The Pony Express Gravel Dash in Marysville, KS. There are two distances, the 120 mile & the 70 mile. I went for the 70 mile course. It has been a tough race year for me. Way to many DNF’s. However, this was an awesome race. The city of Marysville does a great job with this event. The morning was cool. In the mid 40’s. We rolled out of town in the dark at 7 AM. The sun quickly rose as we attacked the first few miles. From the start to about mile 12 it was constant climbing. We had a good 1300 feet of elevation climbs there. I really attacked this section hard hoping to get out in the front. I was in a pretty good position, but not exactly sure where. Since we rode with the 120 riders for the first 21 miles I couldn’t tell how many of the people ahead of me were in the 120 and how many were doing the 70.
I was keeping a good pace at about 15 mph through all the elevation. At mile 18 I suffered something that caused me some issues. The spout of my water bottle busted off!! I had taken a sip, went to close it on my leg and POP, it was gone. I had only packed 2 water bottles for the race because it had two SAG stops that had water at them. My first bottle was nutritional drink and my second was water to balance things out.
As we crossed into Nebraska I was getting passed frequently (I didn’t find out until later these were 120 mile riders; the course rejoined.) I also noticed some 70 milers passing me. I pulled into the checkpoint at a decent time, but was in 8th place. I capped off my nutritional drink with water and got right back on the road. This quick pit stop helped me, but now I was all alone. There was no one out there. I wasn’t seeing riders, I wasn’t seeing tire tracks and I started to wonder if I was in first place or lost.
About mile 42 it started to rain. That was not in the forecast. Oh well. It wasn’t that bad, it just caused some issues with seeing things clearly. I passed a farmhouse about 3 miles later and the farmer came out to the road and asked me if I was winning this thing. I laughed as I passed him and said no chance. He told me I was the first rider he had seen. I got this burst of energy after that. Hey, maybe I can win this. I picked up my pace for a few miles and was doing about 17-18 mph. Not to much longer as I was nearing the second checkpoint I hit a sandy patch downhill and about lost it. I also noticed there were two other tire tracks in the sand. I was not in first, but I was in third.
I hit the checkpoint, confirmed the third place position, found out the leaders were 30 minutes ahead (ringers, do the 120 mile course () As I pulled out of the checkpoint I saw the 4th place rider just pull in. I got back at it and tried to extend my gap. Except this is where the climbing got bad again. The next 8 miles were all uphill grinding. I didn’t extend my gap, I lost it. At mile 62 I was caught by the 4th place rider. I was suffering bad at this point. My legs hurt so bad. I was cramping from lack of water and only having my nutritional drink. It wasn’t to long before that rider was a blip on the horizon.
At mile 67 I heard this loud engine rev. It scared me because I thought it was a car right behind me, turns out it was a plane that flew about 50 feet over my head, but in the process I saw that now the 5th place rider was right behind me and I was not feeling any better.
I was passed shortly and they gained a good gap on me. I however could see the 3rd place rider only a half mile ahead. I tried to dig deep and catch up. As we approached the final stretch of road that was pavement back into town the 3rd place rider got a jump out before traffic. The 4th place rider got a little jump before me. As I hit pavement I said, Screw it, I’m going for it. I was going about 22-23 mph down the pavement trying to catch up that gap. As we rounded the last corner 3rd place had just crossed the line and 4th place had about 300 feet on me. I gave a couple of hard cranks and my right foot came unclipped. I WAS SO MAD! I slammed my foot on the peddle and hit it perfect. I jumped out of my saddle going as hard as I could, to just finish a bikes length behind the 4th place rider. After 70 miles I took 5th place and finished within a minute of the third place finisher and a second behind the 4th place finisher. I would have loved to finish in 3rd place, but I can’t be upset at all about a 5th place finish. I haven’t had a race go this good all year. It has been a really big struggle for me. I had a blast and next year plan to go back and give it another try, maybe I’ll get after the 120 miler next time.”