The MGRS events are coming thick, fast, and juicy with Lord of the Springs on September 15.
We haven’t even gotten our hands on the doughnuts or our tires in the gravel at Uncle John’s this weekend, but we’re already forced to cast a careful eye forward to Lord of the Springs. After Uncle John’s, which could hardly be more straightforward, Lord of the Springs is the most diverse course of the season, and that’s saying something after the wide range of surfaces riders faced at The Divide way, way back in July.
It’s almost sort of perfect that these two races come on back-to-back weekends. From pan-flat and insanely fast, firm gravel to a mix of gravel, two-track, and plenty of famous Yankee Springs singletrack, the two races are just about as different as you can get and still slot them both into something called a ‘gravel’ series. Lord of the Springs is a blend of everything we like about riding, including demanding some skills to go along with horsepower in a race.
The course is 37 miles with 2,403 feet of elevation gained, much of it coming in the rolling hills of Barry County, the same terrain that makes the Barry-Roubaix famously tough. The first climb comes at four miles, and it’s not long from that point until the race hits the first of two separate sections of Yankee Springs singletrack. Yankee is home to some killer trails, and nearly everyone on the team has taken on the Yankee Springs Time Trial at some point or another. Just like the TT, Lord of the Springs will also be donating a portion of the proceeds to West Michigan Mountain Bike Association, stewards of Yankee and a dozen other trails in the area.
Because of the singletrack, it’s perhaps the only MGRS that riders with access to both a gravel bike and mountain bike may consider leaning toward a 29er. It’s that debate that will likely keep plenty of contenders up at night as they try to determine which offers the most competitive platform for the race. What you may gain in the singletrack might be lost on the high-speed gravel roads, especially if there’s a lot of crosswinds to open up gaps early. With a winning average speed of 17.8 miles per hour, gearing isn’t so much of an issue, although everyone would almost certainly love to have a 50t if things come down to a sprint.
We don’t have to worry about switching bikes, but we will have to pick wheels. Danny had a great race last year on 3T Discus 650b wheels with Schwalbe Thunderburt tires. Those may be the pick of the day; word on the street is that the torrential rain this week has left huge sections of Yankee, including those used in the race, sandier than ever. We’ve also had really good luck with slightly narrower (by mountain bike standards) WTB Byways in a 47c, and they’ve been a go-to tire for Mike Simonson for nearly all events since he picked up his Exploro.
Last year, Matt Acker won by just under a minute ahead of a trio of strong Leadout Racing regulars on the circuit. Dan Korienek, Tom Linck, and Keegan Korienek couldn’t quite make up enough ground, but the depth of the team could play a big factor in 2018. Danny was off the front early, with only a flat tire costing him the lead and forcing him to burn a lot of matches to try to regain contact with the lead group. He came up short, but he still managed to slide home 12th overall and second in his age group.
Best of luck to everyone racing Uncle John’s this Sunday and we’ll see you at the cider mill. If you’re waiting a week to get back to gravel, we’ll have a recap of the doughnut selection (and a little on the race) up early next week to get you primed up for Lord of the Springs!
Double check the current MGRS standings right here so you know who to chase!