• Tue April 12 2005
  • Posted Apr 12, 2005
By KAREN HEINSELMAN, Courier Staff Writer CEDAR FALLS --- Tires, chains and grease will meet dirt, rocks and grime along hilly trails. Fueled by adrenaline, serious mountain bikers are getting ready to embrace 300-plus miles of their rugged, outdoorsy version of fun. Close to 60 athletes will race across the state on nothing but gravel on April 23. The inaugural Trans-Iowa presented by Cateye Electronics and Tifosi Optics will be the first cross-state mountain bike competition, according to organizers and competitive bikers in Northeast Iowa. Once bikers leave Hawarden in the dust, there will be no support teams. No sleeping. No card games. Those who take more than 31 hours to pedal to Decorah shouldn't even bother to cross the finish line. "There really isn't anything else like this. It's pretty much one-of-a-kind," said organizer Jeff Kerkove of Europa Cycle and Ski in Cedar Falls. Kerkove and co-worker Mark Stevenson combined two popular aspects of mountain biking --- endurance and gravel-grinding --- to create an interesting and difficult course. The route is longer than many typical mountain bike races, and the isolation factor is unusual. "The very nature of the event eliminates a lot of people from wanting to get into participation-mode," Stevenson said. "Anybody who finishes it in the time limit is the winner. That amount of miles in that amount of time is awesome." Organizers weren't sure if the idea would be popular, but most slots were filled in less than two days. Bikers from places like Colorado, New York, Iowa and even Canada signed up. Kerkove said the biggest name in Trans-Iowa is Mike Curiak. In 2004, Curiak won the Great Divide Mountain Bike race. Lauded as the world's longest race of its kind, the course starts in Montana and ends in Mexico. This year, Curiak set a record in Alaska's Iditarod Trail Invitational. Iowa isn't wilderness, but out-of-staters shouldn't expect an easy ride over soft, rolling hills. On, Kerkove outlines potential hazards like loose gravel, farm equipment, dogs and coyotes. Competitors won't know course specifics until the day of the race when they are handed directions, mileage counts and road names and are wished good luck. For fun, gnome statues placed periodically along the route will assure bikers they are on track. The monotony of riding a 40-mile stretch devoid of trees and farmhouses around the Spence area could be mentally exhausting. Huffing and puffing through the last 38 miles of hills approaching Decorah is sure to be physically taxing. "My car just about didn't make it," Kerkove quipped. If weather is fair, Kerkove expects around two-thirds of the bikers to finish. In a race, equipment and bodies can fail. To prepare for the race, Kerkove is riding several 100-mile days each week. "If you don't train for it, you're not going to make it very far," Kerkove said. "Half the race is mental, and the other half is fitness." Racers can burn 30,000 calories in a 24-hour period, so the route passes convenience stores every 50 miles. Bikers can also get a free shower en route. The end of the Trans-Iowa on April 24 will coincide with the finale of the Decorah Time Trials, a long-standing mountain bike race. Both events will share a finish line and an awards ceremony. Richard Gosen of Oneota River Cycles in Decorah, an organizer of the Decorah event, is glad to see more events that promote gravel racing and bicycling. "There will be hundreds of people sitting around recognizing these guys. It's really going to pump up the Trans-Iowa guys," Gosen said. Added Kerkove: "It better not rain." Contact Karen Heinselman at (319) 291-1570 or

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