Photo gallery: A muddy mess at Mid South gravel
Some say it’s a race that never should have happened. Others are glad it did. Whether they still feel that way in a few days remains to be seen.
Against a backdrop of worsening coronavirus fears, one of the first – and perhaps last – major gravel races of 2020 rolled on last weekend.
Mid South, the race formerly known as Land Run, set off from Stillwater, Oklahoma under stormy skies early in the morning. The dual threats of weather and pandemic alike reduced the field – of the 2,200 riders registered for the 100-mile event, a thousand chose not to make the start line.
The conditions were horrendous – rain had fallen all night and showed no signs of stopping. The mud in that part of the world isn’t forgiving when wet. It’s peanut butter. A man handed out paint stirrers to scrape the mud out from between wheels and frames, just so riders could keep moving.
The winners were two mountain bikers from the same team: Hannah Finchamp and Payson McElveen. Both battled through the course, dunked their bikes in rivers, and came across the line solo to enthusiastic greetings, fist bumps and elbow-taps from promoter Bobby Wintle.
Wintle, who prior to the race had introduced measures emphasising hand-washing and reducing the size of the expo, told Velonews that “the thing that I’ve been blown away by every year but this year more than ever, people told me thank you. They just kept thanking me. And they told me good job instead of me telling them good job. They were congratulating me for putting on the event.”
The wisdom of doing so is debatable; any public health toll of the race having run will only be paid in the days and weeks to come. Mid South snuck under the coronavirus wire, before mandatory lockdowns hit that part of the world. The next day, the city of Stillwater and the state of Oklahoma declared a state of emergency, following seven positive tests in the state and one in the county that Stillwater is part of.
This may be the last major gravel event for months. For better or worse, this is what it looked like.