CIRREM metric gravel grinder ride report and review

CIRREM was even better than expected!

All the other Rochesterites backed out so I wound up taking the Mini Cooper and leaving fairly late in the night Friday. Stopped when I got tired and filled up on Applebee's then made a bed in the back of the car. Turns out it is possible for a 5'11" tall human to stretch out in a Mini Cooper if they do things just right! I'm not going to give away any secrets here though...

Woke up around 8 on Saturday and had a breakfast of XXX Vitamin water and Chia "fresca". I eyed the wonderful spread set up at the Cumming Tap, but knew eating any of it would come back to haunt me.


Thanks Jed and Kent for putting this thing together. The Cumming tap is a perfect start/finish (other than the spring across the only "busy" road the riders see all day), and all the details that go into the race are excellent. Providing food before the race, at the checkpoint and after the race is awesome. It's also convenient to finish somewhere with excellent beer on tap. The course is great. Lots of rolling hills on secluded gravel roads. It's very similar in feel to the area between Spring Valley and Decorah which I consider some of the best gravel riding I've experienced.

The thing that really sets this race apart though is the riders. 101 people showed up this year despite the "crappy" weather (snow and colder than expected isn't ideal). Everyone was friendly. Not too many cycling events I've been to where you can go in only knowing a couple people and leave with a new nickname and a couple handfulls worth of new friends... especially not when you're the jerk who fell and took out a bunch of innocent bystanders. This is what will keep me coming back to race/ride in Iowa.

Wish I had some pictures of all the awesome prizes and giveaways or of the after party in general, great stuff!


The temperature was colder than expected overnight- hovering around 14. The weather report had called for 18 and a high later in the day around 28 or 30. I had 700x42 Specialized Borough CX Pros on my Viner- figuring that the biggest potential issue would be sloppy/wet gravel and wanting to float on top rather than sink. At the last minute before leaving home I'd thrown in my IRD Crossfires just in case it seemed that traction would be more important than glide. For some reason I didn't even consider swapping them out, even after I noticed it was a bit slick on the road in front of the Cumming Tap. In retrospect I have no idea what I was thinking, but I think I was thinking that I wanted the faster roll of the semi-slicks (this would eventually be my undoing). I'm sure if the race had been on pavement the combination of my semi-slick tires and "aero" wheels would have given me an almost unfair advantage. The race wasn't on pavement, it was on gravel roads with 3-5" of snow over them and then somewhere between 3 and 10 sets of car tracks through that.

The race started and I was happily comfortable with the pace up front. Felt good too! It wasn't long ago that I would have been struggling just to keep up at the beginning of a race like this. I noticed it slicker than I'd expected and began to spend a lot of time at the front to minimize the chance of someone falling in front of me and maximize my visibility of the good lines. My sunglasses became covered with freezing rain and I could hardly see anything- but my bike felt good. Eventually I had to pull the Sunglasses off for better visibility (wow had I ever left them on too long- I could see great after removing them).

There were a few mini-attacks etc., but nothing major. Then at mile 26 or so we came to a long downhill. I was out on the far left of the road, noticed there was a car coming and almost immediately went into a 2 wheel drift back across the road to the right. I was off the brakes the whole time, but had caught a bit of a ridge from where a few cars had driven and once both wheels weren't tracking I knew I was in trouble. After crossin the road in slow motion, I laid it down and 4 or 5 other bikes followed me. I felt terrible about taking people out. Luckily no one was seriously hurt, although I've been taking a lot of Advil and ice ever since.

The group waited for us all to catch back on at the bottom of the hill, thanks! However, when I got to the next uphill I realized that I had knocked my shifting enough out of wack that I would have to get off again and mess around. By the time I got going again I was surely 3-4 minutes back.

It was a long road back to the front (now a group of 8-10?) but I eventually got there. Three or four miles later someone told me that the next climb was long and winding. At that point I felt pretty shaky going downhill and I knew I had to make the best of the uphills. I put in a solid, albeit careful due to the 18 miles left, effort and there were only 4 of us in sight at the top. We crested the next uphill with just three. Then we started hitting some longer downhills with lots of snow on them and one guy flew by me on the way down then the whole group pulled away from my scared ass more and more on each subsequent hill.

I tried to pull them back in after it got flatter, but I'd burned too many matches catching up the last time to chase down a group again. I was happy to notice that I didn't have any back pain despite spending a lot of time in the drops. Eventually I got a bit lost, but finished under 4 hrs and feeling happy overall. Might have been different if I'd swapped tires (or just not fallen and shaken my confidence). Overall though, I am very happy to have rode as strongly as I did at this point in the year.

Congratulations to all that finished- particularly Guitar Ted... he stuck it out despite having frozen feet with a lot of mileage left to go. As always it's the guys who are out there the longest who are the most impressive. I know I didn't feel like riding any longer than I did!

Next up is the Iowa Spring Classic Race this Saturday.

what not to ride when racing on snow

what you may regret leaving in your car while racing on snow


  1. I can't believe you raced on those tires.

    I grew up around Cumming, and your description of the country side is right on.

  2. Great recap, CIRREM was a ton of fun. I was one of the riders that got mixed up in the crash, the orange Salsa la Cruz and cow kit. I have to admit it was one of my best crashes to date. I was on the right and went over the top of you and another rider as you guys came across the road. The moments before the impact lasted long enough for me to imagine several scenarios for the outcome, one of which was me riding it out ala Juan Antonio Flecha. In the end I went over the bar, and thanks to years of skateboarding, rolled right out of it smiling and unscathed. The pitch of the hill and the snow seemed to give me a pretty soft landing. Hats off to the other riders for holding up, cycling really is a gentleman's sport. Thanks for helping to make this years race so memorabe

  3. I guess falling will make it memorable... Thanks for not getting pissed. I think I more or less threw you over the top of the pile and into the ditch as you went over! Bruised the palm of my hand actually.

    I'm healthy now- took a solid ten days to have no nagging discomfort. Hope everyone else is good to go too.