My love for crunchy gravel | Amber Underwood

Hey fellow cyclist friends,
As you are reading this and preparing for the fall mountain biking season I am already planning for 2020 gravel season. Iceman is one of the highlights for many of us. For me it marks a time to sit and plan the follow year. The training, the goals and the races. Last year after Iceman it set my biking world up for a new journey.
Mike and I sat down at our favorite burger joint in Traverse City, Bubba’s, after Iceman last year and we talked about our goals for 2019. Mine was to completely switch to gravel racing and compete in the series. I had no idea what I was getting myself into but Mike helped recommend some must have items that would help me achieve my goals. First, I put together my races I wanted to compete in. Second, I purchased a smart trainer. Third, I purchased Zwift. And lastly and most importantly, I followed a training program 4-5 days a week focusing on endurance.

In my opinion it is all about consistency. Find a plan and stick to it. At this time last year I was holding 2 jobs and still got on the trainer at 11pm to complete a training ride. Did it suck? Absolutely. The first month was the worst. Then you improve and it hurts less. I did this for months to prepare and build a foundation for a very busy spring race season.
I am going to be extremely short and sweet and list my emotions with each race.
March 23- Melting Mann- Man these people are faster than I expected
March 30- Dirty 30 Gravel Grinder- Wet, cold, muddy
April 6- Lowell Spring- Feeling good on a course I was familiar with
April 13- Barry Roubaix- “Are those my Re/max Boys?”
May 5- Hellkaat 50- Well this is fast….wait, is that a brick wall?
June 22- Coast loop- What’s a long race without hitting a wall, making 3 wrong turns and riding with a partner who ran out of water and having Re/Max riders yell at me from their car window ????
September 28- MMM Gravel Grinder- A grass finish? Really?

My strongest months were March-May, and then summer arrived and with that the dedication to a cycling program. I could tell the lapse in my effort from June-September. I still had most of my fitness but It felt I was running at about 80 percent. Lessons learned….do NOT quit and fold on your training program mid-season.
I am planning even bigger goals for 2020 but when I look back, Barry Roubaix takes the top medal for performance. I missed my 4-hour personal goal by 1 minute but was thrilled to learn I placed in the top 20 women overall for the 62-mile course. I was thrilled to hold a consistent pace and race my own race, regardless of the wind, photographers, people cheering and other bikers on the course. I surprised myself with how great I felt and the view of 4 blue jerseys and 4 red helmets in the distance. I caught up to the boys and couldn’t have felt more successful. Finishing with my teammates is a feeling that needs to be experienced.
My secrets to success are simple. Just ride. Ride consistently and find your passion. Mine is the crunch of gravel roads, cow poop, open fields and the battle of wind and sun. Now, off to 2020 gravel planning…Good luck to you fall mountain bikers. I will be cheering you on!

P.S. Thank you to my amazing boyfriend, Michael, for being my biggest supporter, my accountability partner, my pack horse during race day and my mechanic when I have no idea what I am doing. Thank you for my RE/MAX team for the continuous support as I continue to pursue my passion.