Cedar Cross – 100 Miles of Missouri – “The Cedar Cross is an endurance cycling event covering approximately 113 miles of Central Missouri’s finest backroads, cattlefields and portions of the Cedar Creek Trail. Most of the riding will be on gravel, but there will be singletrack and a few areas where even the most skilled riders will be forced to carry their bikes.”
Competition is encouraged, but the main objective of Cedar Cross is for everyone to have a good time. There are a few rules, all of which JOM and K-Dogg of the Gravel Cyclist wholeheartedly agree with:
- No douchebaggery.
- Bring your own chapstick.
- Have a good time.
- Take pictures so you can make fun of anyone who doesn’t show up.
- Eat baked potatoes drenched in butter and drink beer after finishing the course.
- We’re all family out here, so show some class and hang out at least until the last place rider has finished.
- Don’t be a dick.
- Upon finishing, support the P4 Pub and Grill. Buy all of their food and beer. All of it.
There is a list of the more serious rules, but you’d have to visit the Cedar Cross website for that business.
And, there is the list of “Categories” for the event. We picked a few of our favourites:
- Any rider over 240 pounds – “Curves are beautiful. The cycling world needs more of us deluxe-sized gentlemen and ladies. If you’re over 240, you ride for free. You are my people”. – Free entry.
- Veterans of the US Military//Law Enforcement – Free entry – A very classy move by the promoter, Bob.
- Dudes – “If you pee standing up and you don’t need a special category, this is for you”.
- The women of gravel riding – “Men want them. Women want to be like them”.
- “Bad Ass Mofos .. and Don Daly” – We don’t know who Don is, but clearly he is a Bad Ass Mofo.
- Singlespeed – “Singlespeeders dont care about prizes” and “Because Don Daly will totally lose his $hit if we don’t have a SS Category”.
- “Dudes who are F’ing serious about winning but are too young to have a chance”.
Cedar Cross was first brought to my attention by K-Dogg when he spotted the website, and noted language that resembles our own when we’re not being polite on the internet.
We had to do this race.
Tebbetts, Missouri is a long way from Florida
I contacted the bloke behind the madness that is Cedar Cross, Mr Bob Jenkins, mostly to inquire about the calendar date for the 2016 event – insert blatant cross post to my website’s event calendar HERE. I passed along kudos for the race category names. It was pretty obvious nobody was taking this event seriously.
After careful procrastination, I committed to Cedar Cross on April 22, 2016 and received an email from Bob not long after – he was a little blown away I was making the trip from Florida. I’m more than willing to attend and document my experience at cool and fun events, even if a lengthy drive is involved. D2R2 in Massachussetts and the Vermont Overland Grand Prix in Vermont on the same weekend- no worries, knocked those two out in 2015. Tebbetts, Missouri? It’s just over 1,000 miles in each direction from Gainesville, Florida, so the drive isn’t too bad if you break it up… and there is a nuclear power station on the course.
Perusing the Cedar Cross website, I decided it would be best to take along my Monster CX rig. This machine can deal with single track, even if I cannot… and it is super handy on dodgy gravel roads. I packed the bike, clothing suitable for every weather condition, too much food and a few obligatory spare parts into my vehicle. Once my regular gig (sigh) finished for the day on Thursday, I made haste for destination #1, Chattanooga, Tennessee. I have a long time friend in ‘Nooga, but I’d be arriving way too late to visit on the way out, so a cheapo hotel was required (don’t ask and don’t look at the reviews).
I awoke at a reasonable hour next morning and continued my westward trek towards St. Louis, Missouri, destination #2. Along the way, I made a quick stop at Paducah, Kentucky, which I learned is home to the National Quilt Museum.
Why am I mentioning this? On the same day as Cedar Cross but near my USA base in Florida, Big Head Todd, good bloke and friend of the Gravel Cyclist crew, was promoting the freebie Tour of the Quilt Country III, starting from Trenton, Florida. Trenton has a Quilt museum, so maybe Todd is onto something…
Around 4pm, I rolled into St. Louis with the The Gateway Arch in mind. Ordinarily, I’m not the sort of bloke who goes for touristy bollocks. But, wouldn’t it be cool to take a photo of your bike with the arch in the background? Yes! After parking the car somewhere special, I rode my bike along back streets to find a primo photography spot between the arch and the Old Courthouse. After waiting for the selfie crowd to depart, I parked my bike, stabilised by my portable stand, and took the following photo.
Next stop, Red Wheel Bike Shop in Jefferson City, Missouri for race number pickup… and only 136 miles left to drive!
Packet pickup was a breeze and I had the opportunity to meet some local riders, and a lady who I understand calls herself SuperKate (pictured below). Great people, and a nice welcome to Missouri.
I cruised back to my hotel for the evening, gorged myself on food and tried to get a decent sleep. After all of that traveling, I was pretty knackered.
Race Day – Tebbetts, Missouri
There isn’t much in Tebbetts, Missouri – the Wikipedia entry echos the same sentiments.
Cedar Cross brought the small community to life, along with a cast of characters.
Bob Jenkins loves America, so naturally, someone has to recite the National Anthem… except in this part of Missouri, it’s done Jimi Hendrix style by a dude with a guitar and amp, from the balcony of the Katy Trail Shelter. Awesome.
After the anthem played out and everyone donned their helmets, the race kicked off at around 8am. I grabbed a spot near the front (nobody fought me for it) in the interests of cycling journalism :), and began filming the race.
As the lead vehicle rumbled along, the group received another Cedar Cross welcome from one of Bob’s lads, with a double bird flip. Cheeky bugger! The group remained neutral until the first roller hill was encountered, at which point a rider from the Big Shark team? from St. Louis launched a hard attack.
My legs never do well when the going gets tough early, and with bugger all sleep and a bunch of driving behind me (remember, it pays to have good excuses), I quickly found the tail end of the front group.
At some point during the early miles, Don, referred to earlier in this posting was briefly on my wheel. Also of note is the classy numbering system used at Cedar Cross – paper plates. No expense is spared! Don had his own special paper plate, whereas I had #9. If I return for 2017, I kindly request JOM 🙂
It was pretty obvious these guys all had tribal knowledge, so I hung back – mostly not by choice – and stayed with the front group as long as I could. When one thinks of Missouri, one thinks of flat roads. Wrong. This area of Missouri is stacked with hills. They are non-stop and very tough. You have been warned!
Mayhem ensued at the first creek crossing, which caught me completely by surprise.
Invariably, I faced a choice. Keep suffering in the front bunch and risk blowing up, or “sit up” and ride my own tempo. After all, there was some single track on the course, and I would likely need every bit of petrol in the tank to cope with that. So, I “sat up” and began tapping out my own tempo. You could say I was dropped, but “sitting up” is the correct vernacular. Readers should probably check out the Gravel Cyclist Dictionary.
Like the distant glimmer of a mirage in the Sahara desert, I caught sight of Jeff and Steve. This duo had also “sat up”, unceremoniously ejected from the front bunch. It took several miles of hard chasing to catch them, but the effort was worth it. Working with two riders is easier than riding solo.
At the base of a very steep hill, I was right on their tail. However, this hill kicks up to somewhere around 18%. Remember, Missouri is supposed to be flat. Uh huh.
The timing was less than optimal, but I used the uber low gears on my rig to catch and join the lads.
United, we worked well together, swapping turns and sheltering from the stiff crosswind that plagued our trio. Jeff and Steve had zero navigation computing power on board, so I was deemed the navigator. The front group was long gone, but we were ticking along at a nice tempo and making good inroads into the 114 miles of Cedar Cross.
Single Track #1
At around 25 miles in, we encountered the first section of single track. At first, it was easy. Wide open horse trails that meandered across a lush green field. Then, it got a bit trickier when we entered the woods.
Possessing zero tribal knowledge, zero MTB skills and a desire to avoid crashing, I tip toed through the woods with Jeff and Steve for company.
Bob, I suck at single track. I hate you Bob.
Thankfully, Jeff and Steve appeared to be lacking in technical skills, and we exited the first single track sector together.
The gravel roads resumed, and our trio continued with the task at hand. Then, the unexpected happened on a relatively straight gravel road known as Bob Veach Road. Steve went airborne and I believe flipped over his bars. I had little time to react and went down, smashing my left knee hard into the gravel road… with 87 miles remaining and more single track still to race. D’oh!
Collecting ourselves, I hopped around with a bashed up knee, cursing and carrying on, while Steve assessed the damage of his wheel, which had two broken spokes. We determined that a stick had gotten lodged in Steve’s wheel, causing a wheel lockup and resulting crash.
Our trio had just ridden past a Cedar Cross sag vehicle?, so I assumed Steve would abandon and take a ride back to the start, and Jeff catch me a little later. I informed the lads I was going to try and continue, mostly to see how my knee felt – I have knee pics but they aren’t that impressive.
Figuring I wouldn’t see Steve until the finish line, I was surprised to be joined about 20 minutes later by Jeff and Steve. By some miracle, Steve’s wheel was almost true! Visibly shaken, Steve did a stellar job to press on. My knee was feeling a lot of pain, but a tingly sensation emanating from the epidermis layer helped overcome that a little. The dirt and blood may have helped as well. I didn’t drive over 1,000 miles to abandon!
At around 38 miles into the course, we encountered the “Moon Loop”. More single track, but this sector was relatively tame to begin with. Our trio was joined at the trailhead by a bloke riding a single speed machine, who I believe had punctured a tyre, and may have been lost?
Jeff and the Single Speed bloke left Steve and I behind to flounder about in the woods. We were both feeling the effects of our respective crashes and resulting loss of confidence – not that I had any to begin with regarding single track. Soon, the single track became trickier, with plenty of rocks and such making our lives miserable. Rocks lead to a creek crossing, forcing us to dismount and gingerly select a path across without falling arse over.
I hate you Bob.
We survived this sector of single track, although I was a little off the back of our group. Jeff, Steve and Single Speed dude were kind enough to wait – after all, I was the only one with working navigation.
We pressed on, only to meet another section of single track that began a short while later. If memory serves me well, there was a nice lady with beer handups at this location. I do very well in the heat, and even though alcohol is known to cause dehydration, I nevertheless indulged in a brewski – remember, beer contains electrolytes. Yum. Thank so much for the handup!
Much of this singletrack were beaten to heck by horses – as Bob the Promoter would say, “prepare to be F’d by the long dick of the horse riding community” – that rang true. And there was another creek crossing – or maybe there wasn’t, but all of the single track blended in after a while.
I hate you Bob.
After much cursing and being distanced by everyone, I rolled into the bag drop zone. Here I re-united with Jeff and Steve, Single Speed dude, and some other folks who I assume were riding the Full Monty distance, or one of the shorter routes.
Without doubt, the single track was taking it out of me. Typically I can zone out on a gravel road, but in the woods, the additional brain power required to focus was blowing me out.
I dug into my drop bag, chowed down, filled bottles, downed a Coke and another beer – thanks Bob!
I departed the bag drop with Jeff, Steve and another rider. From memory, there was a short section of single track post stop, followed by a little gravel, then, the final sector of single track. Leading into the final sector was a tent manned by Chuck.
Chuck is the bloke pictured. He’s a pretty cool guy, has a pretty cool job (don’t ask), and was offering Coke, water and Whiskey handups. I was done with the booze for the day, but hammered down some water.
Chuck informed our posse that the final sector of single track was about a mile in length. Mentally reassured of only a little more trudging around in the woods, I rode caboose from Chuck’s sag.
It didn’t take long before we encountered another trail that was super steep, and again beaten to crap by the equine community. I had super low gears on my rig, but even those were next to useless when the bumpy ground completely knackered one’s momentum on the 16 or so percent grade of this climb.
I hate you Bob.
After cresting the summit, it was pretty apparent I was way off the back of our group. My stomach was feeling rather dodgy, and food wasn’t sitting well. Another nasty but short climb soon followed, at which point I intersected with some hikers. They remarked “no way would we ever ride a bicycle around here”… “no $hit” is what I thought to myself.
I continued riding, hike-a-biking and verbally complaining until I finally came upon the end of the trail. Chuck’s wife was waiting there with camera in hand to catch the moment, as I ungraciously crawled out of the woods.
Gravel Grovel Cyclist.
One mile of trail? I hate you Chuck… ditto for you Bob.
Just 60 Miles to Go
And I was smashed. Beaten by the single track and alone. Jeff and Steve had split – who can blame them? But, I had my Garmin friend for company. While the navigation screen told me there was 60 miles to go, I knew there was a store stop about 30 miles away. I figured if I could trudge along and try to force a bit of food into me at some point, I’d feel OK.
The next 30 miles were mostly gravel, with relentless hills, a bit of wind, plenty of dust and no shade. I’ve resided in Florida a long time, and I spent most of January 2016 riding around in my homeland of Australia on desolate gravel roads – remember, the seasons there are opposite. January = summer. Therefore, I was dealing with the 86F heat of the day, no worries at all.
At some point, I was caught and passed by a dude astride an orange bike, with orange / blue jersey and shorts with #racklove adorned across the rear. He was the only soul I spotted between the single track and the next unofficial rest stop, some 25 miles later.
I understand the final unofficial stop is operated by the father of one of the riders / volunteers. He offered up hot dogs and cold water. I’m one of those vegetarian fellows, so I downed more water, and tucked into one of my home-made rice cakes. At the stop, I was reunited with Jeff and #racklove dude. Jeff was looking pretty smashed, feeling today’s effort and the Ogre Gravel Road Epic race from the weekend before – 150 miles with 13,000 feet of climbing or something crazy. Nice.
We rolled out together, and picked up another bloke who had tri-bars fitted to his bike. I’m not a fan of bike rules, but I do frown upon tri-bars on gravel – this isn’t a triathlon! Regardless, we all plugged along to the store stop at Hams Prairie, located about 84 miles into the course.
#racklove dude kept going, while the rest of us stopped to down more liquid sugar. Jeff and I piled into the store to enjoy a break from the heat, and down sugary fluids while seated at a table, gentleman style.
With just 30 miles remaining, I had plenty of food on board, and suddenly felt much better. The influx of liquid sugar garbage possibly helped and I was raring to go!
I departed the store solo, and enjoyed the tailwind and what seemed like a mostly downhill run. There was a lovely section of pavement that I hammered, as I briefly caught sight of the much vaunted nuclear power station above the tree line. It wasn’t long after that I descended to another river crossing, followed immediately by a horribly steep gravel climb on the other side.
I hate you Bob.
At mileage marker 90 something, the Callaway Nuclear Generating Station rolled into view. Bob the promoter recommended everyone take a selfie.
I generally eschew selfies, and my camera phone was somewhere back at the race start. So, I did a bit of a wave and a finger point instead.
Between the power station and the Katy Trail was a sector I call the “Sea of Gravel”. Imagine deep gravel, the sort of stuff that your tyres sink into, robbing you of power from your already knackered legs. There was no respite from it either side of the road. While I was rolling wide 1.8″ 29’er tyres on my Monster CX rig, I felt for those running 35mm wide tyres or less.
The Full Monty course enters the Katy Trail at about mile 93. Being a railway nut, I knew that any grade along the trail would be no steeper than two percent. Locomotives despise steep climbing more than I do. As I tapped along my tempo into the headwind, I figured Bob the promoter would be a nice bloke, and the course would route directly into Tebbetts along the trail. However, my Garmin was indicating a turn coming up at around 100 miles in… hmmm.
Somewhere near the bustling metropolis of Mokane, Missouri, the Garmin indicated a right turn. Bob’s course marker indicated the same thing. It didn’t take long before I realized what Bob was up to. He was routing us through some of the steepest of the gravel hills in the final 20 miles of the course.
I hate you Bob.
Overall, I was feeling pretty good, but these hills were really testing to legs that were already very knackered. Sample of hills below:
Elevation chart from JOM’s fancy GPS software of the final hills towards the end of the Full Monty course – labelled accordingly.
One of the smaller climbs on the chart above measured 22%. Lovely.
And so I crawled, cursed and grovelled towards the finish line in Tebbetts, Missouri. Guaranteed, there were no course records set by me in the Dude category, but I finished and stayed on course. Thank you Garmin!
Things I learned:
- Bob and his crew of volunteers are awesome – Bob, my hatin’ for you was only temporary.
- Gravel in Missouri is dusty.
- Gravel in Missouri is hilly – up and down all day. Over 7,000 feet of climbing according to my Garmin.
- I suck at single track.
- My bike was perfect, even if I wasn’t.
- Don’t crash.
- Midwesterners are super hospitable folks.
- Driving a long way to an event makes you tired.
- Beers at the P4 Grub and Pub taste even better after the Full Monty ride.
- Cedar Cross is a killer experience – do it.
Congratulations to everyone who finished this tough event, regardless of the distance you rode.
Special kudos to Miguel who I mentioned earlier. I didn’t meet him, but Bob pointed this out on the Cedar Cross Facebook page. Miguel and his three man assault squad – after being totally fried at the bag drop, rolled into the finish in Tebbetts at 1:51am. This is what gravel racing is all about – legendary finish! I only wish I was there to interview Miguel and his posse.
And then I drove a long way…
Post race interviews from Bob the promoter himself, and Gravel Cyclist’s race video – which will be epic. Watch this space…
For those so inclined – and I’m not a fan of Strava, I just upload gravel stuff for the gravel fans – my data from 2016 Cedar Cross.
Thanks for reading!