Return to the AR High Country RaceJan Heine
Yes, I’m back! Beautiful, challenging roads; amazing scenery; friendly people; a wonderful start/finish location… I just could not resist. So I’m lining up on the start line again this year to race the South Loop: 486 miles (780 km) and 32,500 ft (10,000 m) in elevation gain.
I really loved the ride last year, and I’m looking forward to heading into the Ouachita Mountains again. Perhaps not suprisingly, I’m riding the same bike as last year. After the Dark Divide 300, it got a cursory clean, new tires (just in case, the old ones still have lots of life left), and some chain lube. I checked all the bolts and nuts, but none needed tightening. The bike holds the FKT over the course, so I hope it’ll serve me well again.
That doesn’t mean my preparation was without drama. It appears that the airport security checkers lost my 10 mm wrench when they opened my bike case. There is a bike shop in town, but I figured I’d rather ride there and shake down my bike than walk. For those old enough to remember McGyver… this worked like a charm. Why doesn’t my bike have a simple captive Allen binder? Because seatpost binder bolts can break, and a simple thru-bolt is easy to replace in the middle of nowhere. (To say nothing of the pain of extracting the threads when the seatpost binder bolt head has snapped off. Don’t ask!)
The bike is back together and ready to go. Now I am enjoying the beautiful old spa town of Hot Springs, where baseball stars came a century ago during the off-season. The race headquarters is in the historic Arlington Hotel (above), and that’s worth a visit by itself.
The race starts Saturday morning at 7:30 (Central Time). There will be a lot of competition on the South Loop this year. Andrew Onermaa is a well-known racer who just finished 7th in the 300-mile race at Gravel Wolds. Being from Arkansas, he knows these roads better than almost anybody. Andrew Chasteen is a strong racer as well. There are a few others who are shooting for the win. Wish me luck and follow our trackers at the link below:
Photo credit: Kai Caddy (Photo 2)