Santa Fe Trails Bicycle Shop hosted their annual Cood Hand Luke Gravel Grinder this past Sunday.
Gravel grinders are gravel road races that combine racing on surfaces such asphalt, gravel, dirt, single-track trails and maintenance roads.
This year marked the fifth time that the Leavenworth bicycle shop has put on the event.
Prior to the event, Santa Fe Trails owner Brendan Sheehan told the Leavenworth Times that gravel grinders usually have themes to go with the races.
He said the Marysville, Kansas, race has a Pony Express theme. The Leavenworth edition takes the film “Cool Hand Luke” as an inspiration.
“‘Cool Hand Luke’ is kind of a prison theme,” Sheehan said. “We got five prisons in Leavenworth and that is who we are and people identify with that. It is kind of a neat thing.”
After the event, Sheehan said the gravel grinder was a huge success with 210 people participating in the event.
The festivities started Saturday with the riders picking up their race packets at the shop. Later that night, there was a safety briefing at the Leavenworth Performing Arts Center. Riders found out information about Sunday’s route and won various prizes. Prizes including Shimano cycling bags, Diverge gravel bags, bicycle tools and more.
Sheen said it was blustery and cold Sunday morning. Breakfast was served by Terry Booker at the Riverfront Community Center. After breakfast, Dale Cleland called the riders to the starting line via bagpipes and Leavenworth Mayor Jermaine Wilson spoke to the riders and started the race via airhorn at 7 a.m. The Leavenworth Police escorted riders for the first few miles.
“Twelve miles into the ride, Roger Harrison and Joe Porter were waiting at the top of the ‘King of the Mountain’,” Sheehan said. “This was a virtual race to the top of a climb created on an application called STRAVA. The climb had a maximum grade of 22%. Several of the riders were reduced to walking the hill although most rode it all the way.”
Sheehan then said the 28-mile group finished the race on Logan Road with the 63 and 107 miler group continuing on their way to Atchison.
“The 63 milers enjoyed a rest stop at Warnock Lake,” Sheehan said. “The 107 milers continued to Independence Park. The intent was to provide them with a beautiful view of the river. Actually, it was super cold and windy. They did have real bathrooms though, which was a plus.”
The 107 milers continued their way to Troy.
In Troy, the riders crossed a timing mat that allowed the staff 50 miles away in Kansas to monitor progress. Sheehan said it was a “cool feature” and allowed the event staff to anticipate problems earlier and monitor riders.
He said the riders moved quickly through the first checkpoints due to the strong winds. He also said it helped that the turns were marked with red arrows via Dark Early Racing.
Racers in the 28-mile group began finishing at 9 a.m. according to Sheehan. The group of 63-mile riders started to cross the finish line at noon and the 107-mile group began to finish at 1:30 p.m.
Sheehan said the last group got to “enjoy” another challenge with cold rain coming in for the last hour.
Sheehan said it was a wonderful event and he thanked the various volunteers and companies who helped the gravel grinder be a “success”.
“It was a great event,” Sheehan said. “Riders were greeted by volunteers and spectators ringing cowbells and handing out Mardi Gras beads. Dawn Monroe was on hand to take pictures of every finisher and all the (Cool Hand Luke) events, start to finish. Music was supplied by The Ranger, Tom Rendall, who entertained the cyclists with his singing talents. Beer was sold by Grinders High Noon Saloon. Food trucks, Low-N-Slow Midwest BBQ and Midos Halal Mediterranean Grill were on hand to feed the hungry riders and a festival tent was erected to provide weather protection. The Leavenworth Triathlon Club provided bike racks.”
“Many thanks to the Leavenworth Convention and Visitors Bureau, Leavenworth Main Street, Riverfront Community Center, Leavenworth Parks and Recreation, Leavenworth Police Department, River City Community Players, Atchison Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Lanterne Rouge, The Pickle Juice Company, Lamborn Farm, Queen’s Pantry, Home 2 Suites, Harts Paint and Flooring Center, Brown Bear Printing, City of Troy, Kansas, Dark Early Racing, Leavenworth Triathlon Club, Dawn Monroe, Sis Sweets Cookies, Alive after Fiver, SERVPRO Fire & Water – Cleanup & Restoration and Fat Guy Little Bike Photography. Thanks to all our wonderful volunteers who made the event a success.”