While the Pro Women’s race at the 2019 Lost and Found featured a tight battle between three solo racers who barely saw each other, the Pro Men’s race was the exact opposite. It featured a powerhouse leading group and more than once, came down to the wire, both figuratively and literally.
Fresh off a second collarbone break in five months but determined to defend his 2018 win, two-time winner Tobin Ortenblad took the start after getting the green light from his doctor. Standing in his way was the other two-time winner, Carl Decker. Between the two racers was an age difference of almost twenty years, and every Lost and Found Pro Men’s victory since the first year’s edition won by Jared Kessler.
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Ready to add fresh blood to the top step of the podium were Lost and Found vet Barry Wicks, cyclocross stars Jamey Driscoll and Cody Kaiser, Collegiate Cyclocross champ Grant Ellwood and the Canadian tag team pair of Craig Richey and Michael van den Ham.
Richey, Van den Ham, Driscoll and Wicks all raced Dirty Kanza in the past but migrated west for their dose of early June gravel. And in any year, someone unknown to a cyclocross or gravel journalist can pull off a surprise and beat most of the pros, just as Matt Fox did in 2015.
The Canadian Climber
On this year’s 102-mile and 65-mile courses, the climbing was front-loaded and started just after the paved neutral roll-out.
A long, 10-mile slog that climbed nearly 3,000 vertical feet offered the betting man an opportunity to show his climbing cards. Michael van den Ham, aboard his brand-new Allied Able he assembled two days prior, upped the ante and showed that the Toronto Raptors weren’t the only Canadians looking to put the hurt on California’s defending champs.
Ortenblad took note. “Michael was riding really hard from the get-go,” Ortenblad recalled of the Lost and Found rookie’s pace. “Having done this race every year, I was a little skeptical of the efforts he was doing. Okay, you’re doing this on the first three climbs, but if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s about preserving your tires, preserving your legs and seeing what happens, but he was really lighting it up.”
Van den Ham, racing his first Lost and Found, was in it to win it. “I felt really good today, I’ve been feeling really good all month, I’ve been climbing well all month, and I felt like I was forcing the pace, forcing that group off the front,” he explained.
Patience was never part of the plan. “In a lot of ways I’m a terrible road racer because I’m impatient, but I made stuff happen right away.”
Van den Ham’s effort took an early lead group of nine that formed after 30 minutes of climbing to just four by mile 40. “I don’t know if he was the strongest, but he was pulling harder than everyone else, that’s for sure,” said Decker of Van den Ham. “He was just going off by himself.”
While Van den Ham gapped the rest on the major climbs, which all came early in the race, it was Lost and Found vet Barry Wicks who took up the charge on the way down. “Wicks would bridge on the descent, because he’s crazy and has bigger tires,” Decker said of his fellow Bend, Oregon friend.
Wicks, who has a history of flatting at inopportune times at this race, rode a relatively normal (but tall) Kona Libre gravel bike instead of a drop bar full suspension mountain bike or gravel bike with a suspension fork. Although Decker has teased Wicks in the past for not paying enough attention to “tire preservation,” Wicks hasn’t changed his approach to descending and rode this year’s event flat free, and cites improvement in the rubber over the years.
“I think the tires have gotten way better since the first time I did it,” Wicks said. He also thought the new course and smoother roads helped. “This year the race was 30 percent easier,” he admitted.
Wicks rolled on 45mm WTB Riddler tires. While tires have improved and grown in volume, and rims have gotten much wider, Wicks bucked the trend and mounted his big tires on a narrow (17mm) Dura-Ace carbon tubeless wheels. He also ran Shimano PD-9000 Dura-Ace road pedals and road shoes.
Perhaps it was less about the bike than the rider and his navigation. “I also got Lasik surgery,” Wicks revealed. “Turns out if you can see the rocks, you can go around them.”
We can all see how that might help.
Down to the Wire, Part 1
Van den Ham and Wicks’ efforts took their toll on the group, and as they continued their pattern of aggressive riding, Decker sensed it was go time. With Van den Ham accelerating over the top and Wicks ready to open it up on the downhill, Decker saw they had gapped a number of strong guys including Ellwood and Richey.
“I bridged, I waited for Tobin, and I was like, ‘Okay guys, we have a gap, and we’re going to make it stick,’” Decker said.
The four traded pulls to keep the chasers away and solidify their status as the final four. Van den Ham and Wicks rode aggressively, while the patient two two-time winners in Decker and Ortenblad overcame what Decker described as “dangling” on the early climbs to put in a bid for a third and record-setting victory.
As the four took turns taking pulls, Wicks noticed Van den Ham mashing a big gear on the climbs.
Van den Ham, riding a new Allied Able bike with Shimano a Di2 drivetrain that he built less than 48 hours ago, suddenly had no shifting. There wasn’t any swearing, cursing or banging. Van den Ham made the only shift he could—a mental shift into singlespeed mode.
Wicks moved to the front, took his pull and as he slid back, leaned over to his breakaway companions and muttered over the noise of the gravel grind, “Hey Tobin, Mike has no shifting.” A few seconds later, “Hey Carl, Mike has no shifting.”
Van den Ham knew it wasn’t a dead battery or a loose wire, but the reason for the sudden power-down was a mystery. His impending fate was not.
All four leaders had a similar take on what happened next.
“On the next descent, Barry smoked it,” Ortenblad recalled.
“I just whacked it,” said Wicks.
“[Wicks] dropped it down the hill, and then I came around because we were teammates at that point,” Decker said.
“Carl went to the front and slammed it, and that was it,” said Van den Ham.
Wicks explained the cutthroat attack in detail. “[Van den Ham] was clearly the strongest of the group at that point,” he said. “So as soon as we hit the next descent, I just whacked it because I knew he wouldn’t be able to keep up. Because you never know, maybe something else was wrong or he fixes it or something. We rode down the descent really fast to just get rid of him, and it was sweet, because we were all motivated to work together and ride hard.”
As Van den Ham set a PR for cadence, he saw his hopes of victory go up in smoke. “I wanted to win,” Van den Ham said at the finish. “I’m not going to lie. I came here hoping to win. You never expect to win but I thought it was a definite possibility.”
Stuck in a 42×15 due to what he guesses was a likely an outdated or mismatched firmware issue, Van den Ham didn’t give up and kept his 40 miles of singlespeed riding in perspective. “Really, of all the gears I could have been in, that was one of the better ones,” he said. “I was definitely grinding up the hills and descending down the finish, there was a tailwind descent, and I was spinning out like crazy. I only had to get off once on a climb, and I managed to hold off the group behind.”
Van den Ham would lose 15 minutes after his electronic malfunction and roll in for fourth.
The Race for Three
While Van den Ham’s wired drivetrain issues whittled the race down to three, the other early aggressor in Wicks would soon pay for his early efforts, or semi-retired casual approach.
“I don’t really train anymore,” said Wicks after the race. “I like to ride my bike for fun, and go skiing a lot, and if you do enough races, you eventually get into shape.”
Wicks took the final gravel section after the Vicious Cows sign with the two former winners, and after Decker put in a moderate effort, Wicks popped. “I didn’t have it…I was suffering,” said Wicks. “Decker opened up a gap and Tobin went with him. I just rode by myself for the last 20 miles. It was kinda boring. I was looking back. I was going as hard as I could, it was a little stressful.”
It was now down to two former winners, both hoping to be the first to victory number three.
Down to the Wire Part II
With just the two former winners left, there was time for attacks but also banter.
Ortenblad recalls such a moment out on the course. “Decker said to me, ‘Hey, you have two wins, I have two wins, I guess this is the tiebreaker.’ We chuckled. He’s such a classy racer.”
As the pair hit the final pavement climb, there would be no more chuckling. Ortenblad, an accomplished sprinter, didn’t want to have it come down to the wire and looked to shed his final companion before a sprint finish, just as he did to Anthony Clark in 2018.
“I was confident [in a sprint] but ideally you always wanna have a sure thing,” he said. Ortenblad tested the waters, “Going up the last paved climb, I put in a little bit of a dig. It wasn’t super violent. We were so fatigued, whoever attacked really hard was going to cramp. I did a really hard tempo, and he was sitting behind me. He commented, ‘Oh, you just testing the legs? I get it. It hurts, but I get it.’”
Decker offered his take of the mini-attack. “He started trying to dangle me, trying to drop me, and I stayed on his wheel. I was like, ‘Man, one of us had to do that, but it ain’t gonna work.’”
Decker offered up a truce to his companion, telling Ortenblad, “I like that you did that, but at the same time, can we just chill out?” It worked. “And then we went 60 percent to the finish,” Decker recalled.
The two rolled down the final descent, through a few crosswind-plagued rollers, down the highway into town. Only a narrow bike path and bridge to the finishing straight remained.
Decker knew his long odds. “[I was thinking] my goose is cooked unless something weird happens at the finish,” he said.
As Decker led Ortenblad through the final chicane pulling onto the bridge, something weird did almost happen. “We made a hard left turn onto the bridge, and a 60-mile racer dove us in the corner and we had to hit the brakes,” Ortenblad said.
“It’s hectic, when you wind up a sprint, off that hill, you come through that G-out, there’s slow traffic, nobody expects you to come at that closing speed,” Decker explained. “I didn’t want to be at the front, and didn’t know how the finish would sort itself out, but he wanted me at the front so he can come around. I was like, ‘Whatever, he’s gonna beat me anyway.’ But then I was like, ‘Oh, there’s a bunch of people up here, I’m just gonna give it and see if I can weasel up there.’”
Ortenblad was indecisive in response, out of necessity. “He led it out a little early. I tried to go right, saw a racer there, tried to go left, there was another racer, so I went back right.”
Was there enough room to get by?
“I thought it was a foregone conclusion with 50 miles to go,” Decker admitted. With 20 meters to go, Ortenblad pulled even, turning Decker’s mid-race fear into reality.
With one final kick, Ortenblad crossed the line, ahead of Decker by a wheel, and one Lost and Found victory.
- Ortenblad recently signed with Challenge Tires and raced 42mm Challenge Gravel Grinder TLR tubeless tires at 27 and 29 psi front and rear. He raced the new Stigmata with SRAM Force 1 with a 44t X-Sync ring and 10-42t XD cassette. Stay tuned for a bike profile.
- For the second year in a row, Decker raced a Giant Revolt gravel bike, with a 2x setup, with 46/36t cyclocross chain rings and an 11-30t cassette out back. He rolled on Maxxis Ramblers at 34 psi up front and 39 psi out back.
- Wicks rolled his 2020 silver Kona Libre on 45mm WTB Riddler tires at 31 psi front and 33 psi out back.
- Van den Ham used Vittoria Terreno Dry 40mm tires at 35 psi front, 37.5 psi out back on his Allied Able, the same bike that both 2019 DK200 winners used. Stay tuned for profiles of those as well.
Ortenblad had the aid stations numbers and distances taped to his top tube but only stopped at two the whole race. He carried three bottles on his bike but kept the third (short) bottle underneath the down tube empty until aid station #7, where he’d fill it and then skip the rest.
Ortenblad estimated he consumed 4 Gu Roctane gels, 4 Gu Stroopwafels, and 12 Gu hydration tablets over the 5.5-hour-long race.
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2019 Lost and Found Gravel Race Results: Pro Men
|1||Tobin Ortenblad||Santa Cruz||CA||41||5:21:29||3:09/M|
|4||MIchael van den Ham||Abbotsford||BC||53||5:36:41||3:18/M|
|6||Craig Richey||North Vancouver||BC||46||5:39:17||3:20/M|
|7||Eric Fischer||Morgan Hill||CA||19||5:42:55||3:22/M|
|8||Jamey Driscoll||Park City||UT||10||5:44:41||3:23/M|
|9||Cody Kaiser||El Dorado Hills||CA||28||5:45:22||3:23/M|
|10||Jeremy Benson||Tahoe City||CA||2||5:48:06||3:25/M|
|16||Dominik Cinka||Morgan Hill||CA||6||6:08:05||3:37/M|
|17||Thomas Eaton||Los Angeles||CA||12||6:11:25||3:38/M|
|18||Dillon Hollinger||Santa Cruz||CA||24||6:11:28||3:39/M|
|19||Matt Fox||Los Altos Hills||CA||20||6:11:30||3:39/M|
|20||Jonny Hitze||Salt Lake City||UT||23||6:15:18||3:41/M|
|21||Matt Quann||San Francisco||CA||44||6:18:35||3:43/M|
|22||Sean Estes||Morgan Hill||CA||14||6:18:47||3:43/M|
|23||Drew Kogon||Pacific Palisades||CA||31||6:18:56||3:43/M|
|24||Hooptie Evans||San Francisco||CA||16||6:18:58||3:43/M|
|25||Derek Yarra||San Francisco||CA||56||6:23:58||3:46/M|
|27||Brendan Lehman||Santa Cruz||CA||33||6:30:37||3:50/M|
|29||Tydeman Newman||Woodland Hills||CA||37||6:34:11||3:52/M|
|30||jimmy nolan||San Francisco||CA||39||6:35:36||3:53/M|
|32||Syd Newsom||Santa Cruz||CA||38||6:41:30||3:56/M|
|33||Justin Sorensen||San Francisco||CA||49||6:46:11||3:59/M|
|35||Fergus Tanaka||San Francisco||CA||52||6:55:50||4:05/M|
|40||Rob Gaukel||Santa Cruz||CA||21||7:29:17||4:24/M|
|41||Scott Chapin||SANTA CRUZ||CA||4||7:30:14||4:25/M|
|43||Gene Selkov||Santa Cruz||CA||47||7:45:21||4:34/M|
|44||Charlie Kocornik||Mill Valley||CA||30||7:45:38||4:34/M|
|47||Martin Gschwandtl||San Francisco||CA||22||8:21:29||4:55/M|
|48||Wills Johnson||San Francisco||CA||27||8:27:20||4:58/M|