On Sunday I lined up for the Old Man Winter Rally 50k for the third time in as many years. After several inches of snow in the past 24 hours, things were actually looking pretty great. Sure the festival field was soggy, but there wasn't much snow on the ground and the sun was shining. In fact, standing in the paddock waiting for the start of the race, temperatures on my head-unit were registering in the mid 50s. Not bad at all. Others clearly felt the same way, as a lot of riders started shedding jackets, mid-layers and even gloves. I decided to stick with what I had on, at the risk of over-heating.
Last year I was late to lineup and started about 400 riders back, the race was over before it started. I didn't make that mistake this year and lined up just a few wheels from the start, the wheel in front of me was that of Jens Voigt! Yes, that Jens Voigt! Shut up legs. Things kicked off fairly subdued with a 3ish mile neutral start behind a race organizer van, there was one exception though. An inpatient vehicle with a owner who couldn't be bothered to clean the snow off their car made a hurried pass and nearly took out three riders with the ice sheet which flew off their vehicle.
We also got a quick view of Alexey Vermeulen and the other leaders of the 74k race heading back to where we had just set off from, any illusions that the race would be a normal affair went out the window. They looked like terracotta soldiers.
The Gear that Got Me Through Old Man Winter Rally
Pearl Izumi Transfer Wool Long Sleeve Baselayer
My new favorite winter base layer. Feels luxurious and keeps me dry and warm. The form fitting cut makes layering a breeze. Naturally anti-microbial and odor-resistant.
Velocio Men's Signature Softshell Jacket
Three-layer protection that wards off all but the most torrential downpours, this one jacket can handle all winter condition. I wear it with just a base-layer in cool weather with the threat of rain all the way to below freezing temperatures with a few layers beneath it. It keeps all the wind out and I've yet to overheat in it.
Velocio Men's Thermal Utility Bib Tight
Velocio nailed it with it's thermal utility bib tight. They do the most important part perfect by keeping my legs warm in wet and below freezing conditions. Add the low-profile pockets on the thighs and the DWR finish which fends off water and they're basically perfect.
At mile three we made a quick turn onto the first gravel section, and we were in it. Pure, unadulterated muck. A couple guys hit the floor right off the bat but things pulled back together quickly and the pace lifted. Then Jens pulled off with a chain drop, a few minutes later mine did the same. Jens had the legs to get back on, I did not...
At this point, I was about 8-mile in, soaking wet, covered in mud and pedaling a bike that sounded like an industrial grinder. Then fog and cloud cover descended upon. Temperature readings on my head-unit dropped to 25-degrees and I was oh so glad I had kept my layers on. All that muck started to freeze and the roads were still warm enough that more kept flying up. The muck on me and my bike began to freeze. At some point around mile 20 I tried to move my hand position to the drops for a downhill section on pavement only to realize everywhere on my handlebars other than where I'd been had turned to a sheet of ice. Hoods it was for the rest of the race.
I didn't plan on consuming much nutrition for the 90-ish minute race, but I would've liked a drink or two. That was pretty much out of question given the mud and ice, the bottle was so slick I couldn't get it out while riding and the spigot was covered in gunk anyway. I did, however, end up using my whole bottle of mix to clean my chain and chainring each time it dropped off. All told, I think I had to hop off and reset the chain five times. Each time I poured out watts for the next 5-15 minutes passing the same folks just for it to all happen again.
I knew my time would be slower this year given conditions but the chaindrops knocked me right out of the main group, then the chase group and then into no-mans-land. So many minutes lost to tinkering, turns out getting a chain back on with gloves on and temperatures below freezing is harder than usual. Frustrating to say the least.
2023 Old Man Winter Rally
2024 Old Man Winter Rally
In the end, I finished around 2:05 a full 30 minutes slower than last year. I have no power-meter readings to judge the effort off of, the battery apparently froze, but based on heart rate and how I feel today, I'm guessing my power output was as good if not better than last year. Just goes to show you that conditions and mechanicals can tank any day on the bike.
All of that said, I had a killer time. The 2024 Old Man Winter Rally 50k was Type II fun to the T. It was borderline miserable at the time. Cold, uncomfortable, borderline "I might puke" efforts. But after crossing the finish line looking like I survived Paris-Roubaix I was already planning for next year.