Gravel Grinders have recently grown in popularity. If you are not familiar with what a gravel grinder is, the name explains it all. The concept of “gravel grinding” is where you ride on gravel and dirt roads for a long period of time and milage – you might say it is a mix between mountain biking and road biking. It has transferred over to the race scene as well, where a number of races have popped up in the past few years. The Trans Iowa is a notable race that has been around for 10 years now, and could be the leading force in the gravel grind movement. Race director, Guitar Ted, has dedicated his past 10 years to the Trans Iowa – sorting out logistics, gathering sponsors, and answering questions. It is no different this year as he has been scouting out another new route. The Trans Iowa, is a self-supported race that travels 300 plus miles on gravel and dirt roads in the farm country of Iowa. The length is usually equal to the length of the state from East to West. Each year, Guitar Ted stakes out a new route, sometimes making it more challenging. This year he has mapped in plenty of ‘B’ roads, which are more primitive dirt roads. All racers are given cue sheets that will identify the route in detail, including milage, turns, and checkpoints. The racers do not know the route ahead of time, nor will anyone else except for a few of the organizers. This is a unique strategy because it is a self supported race, which ultimately nixes the thought of cheating…and Guitar Ted really doesn’t like cheating. Hiding the route and checkpoints insures that this is not a spectator race, racers are completely on their own. There are two checkpoints in this years race. Racers must make it to checkpoint 1 by 9:30am, on Saturday morning, and reach checkpoint 2 by 9:30pm on Saturday night. There are also numerous convenience stores on route providing resupply points for racers, however each stores hours are from 6am to 11pm. Traveling too fast or slow may make you miss out on specific store locations, racers must plan on the fly. In past years the race has been dependent on the weather. Last year was nearly perfect with little to no winds, 70 degree temperatures and no moisture. This year looks to be different, and it should be interesting to watch. Rain has piled up over the past two weeks, turning what was a very dry course into a wet route. Saturday should start out dry, but the wind will pick up bringing in a storm from the West. Lows for Saturday night are 45 degrees, along with wind and rain. The weather will likely make for slow riding conditions – especially on the ‘B’ roads, where the mud will lock up your tires after a good rain. In a typical year the leaders usually finish in around 24 hours, however, in 2006 no one finished at all because of torrential downpours. We hope that is not the case this year. In any event, the Trans Iowa is sure to test racers limits… with no knowledge of the race course, weather, and 300 plus miles of pedaling. Stay tuned to Trans Iowa website for updates as well as Trans Iowa Radio for racers call in’s as well as some updates from Guitar Ted. Good luck to all racers! Hope you experience many tailwinds, and the rain only makes conditions better. For a bit of race history check out this link.