Michigan Gravel Race Series: The Lowell 50

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Lowell 50

We’re deep into the gravel road race season here in Michigan just as the MGRS heads for yet another stop in Grand Rapids. 

It’s barely April, but somehow we’re already three races into the 2019 MGRS schedule, and there’s no break in sight. After kicking things off at the Waterloo Grit’n’Gravel, it’s been non-stop each weekend. The Melting Mann and Dirty Thirty are both in the books, and this weekend’s Lowell 50 sees yet another event in west Michigan. It’s early, but there are plenty of familiar faces on already established high up in the series standings, and this weekend is a perfect chance to bank some points before Barry-Roubaix.

We say it at both the spring and fall editions of the Lowell 50; this race is a heart breaker. No matter if an early break stays clear or a  bunch gallop decides things on the line, there is always about thirty riders who leave Fallasburg Park thing that if just one or two little things had gone their way, they could have won. A bit less headwind, a bit more cooperation, or a bit less of both, and the day’s victor can be decided. It’s not a sprinter’s race or a climber’s race; it’s an opportunist’s race where luck matters in equal measure to legs.

After one early climb, much of the race comes down to getting in the right move as the course heads steadily north, often into a head or crosswind. A break with the right mix can go clear, and often does. With teams looking to plant a top rider in the move, the first thirty minutes are positively brutal, a non-stop game of attack, chase, and try again. Squads with more than a few riders can keep sending fresh bodies up the road, while lone riders have to play their cards carefully to be in the right place at the right time.

If that headwind is a bit too much, the rolling hills in the final 10 kilometers provide real estate for racers to push the sprinters to the limit. The final mile is all pavement, but with a long and frustrating look at the finish, even some of the most experienced racers have opened up their sprint too early and came up 50 meters short.

Sean Kickbush is heading down to fly the colors for 3T Q+M, looking to build fitness and confidence before a busy spring campaign that includes the Whiskey 50, Belgian Waffle Ride, and even another attempt at an Xterra.

We’ll let you know how the big man does at Lowell and take a look at who’s heading to Hastings for the Barry-Roubaix on April 13 next week! Can Simonson keep his Psycho Killer 100 crown?