Land Run 100
Written By Mark Sirek
Photos By Scott Haraldson
LOCATED JUST WEST OF THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, AND RIGHT ALONG TORNADO ALLEY, Stillwater, Oklahoma is an average-sized college town known as a starting point for the 1889 Land Run. On April 22nd of that year, cannon fire broke the morning silence signaling ambitious pioneers to spread out and stick a flag wherever they could in the Oklahoma Territory, live with the red-colored land, capitalize on their inner strength and ingenuity, and build community.
Fast forward to a rainy and cold morning on March 11th, 2017. In the heart of downtown Stillwater, the unmistakable sound of cannon fire signaled the beginning of another new but similar directive to pioneers–this time on bikes. Bobby and Crystal Wintle of District Bicycles emboldened close to one thousand cyclists to aim straight into 109 miles of that same merciless red dirt and stake a claim to as much of it as they could. The fifth annual Land Run 100 gravel bike race was underway.
Throughout the day, cold, rain, and mud forced its way right through the pores of the riders. Derailleurs were sacrificed, brake levers were squeezed in the hopes that new brake pads would appear, and determination and crossed-fingers fueled mid-race hacks that sometimes kept machines moving forward. The route of rolling, wind-swept gravel hills was navigated with thousand-yard stares, sodden and staggering footsteps, and intermittent cruise control.
Bobby stood at the finish line; Stoke Level: MAGMA, and hugged every finisher or anyone else who needed one, while he jumped and twisted around like an undiscovered energy source that could power an entire town. In a certain sense, he was doing just that with this event and the bike shop he and Crystal use as a vehicle to teach people what they are truly capable of.
Who are the Wintles? The Wintles are the linchpin of the cycling community here in Stillwater. They are savvy business people who place the interests of their customers above the success of their business.
And that’s where the community part of all this comes in. The short description of that Saturday in March is “You just had to be there.” But for those of you who weren’t, let me just put it this way; if you weren’t grinning ear to ear, swept up in the collective enthusiasm, then you weren’t paying attention. Spectators yelled and cheered themselves hoarse. Folks ran around to grab food, beers, and dry clothes for shelled but ecstatic riders, and every time someone new rolled in, it started all over again. Everyone wanted each other to have a huge, meaningful day in terrain and weather that played hard to get til long after the sun went down. It may have been too cold for riders to pull their own gloves off, but the warmth in the finishing chute was off the charts.
Salsa Cycles salutes all the participants and volunteers that brought the 2017 Land Run 100 to life. And a heartfelt thank you to Bobby and Crystal for giving riders of all abilities the chance to ride themselves raw knowing that ultimately, they’re going to come out the other side better for it.
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Land Run is more than a gravel race to me. It is an opportunity to test myself and push beyond any limits (mental or physical). Land Run has given me a second family. A "gravel" family. The participants care about each other, and push one another. You can't understand until you ride an event where "finishing" is winning, literally.
Philip Maciula LENEXA, KANSAS
There's something so special about pushing through a rough patch in a long ride and entering a Zen-like meditative state where you stop thinking about how many miles you have left, who is in front of you or behind you, what stresses you have going on at the office or at home, and just ride your damn bike. You realize what an incredible amount of crap we live with when it all falls away.
Bobby Wintle is the Rainmaker. Somehow, he's used LR100 to pull this part of Oklahoma out of drought conditions for the last three years in a row.
John Brun STILLWATER, OKLAHOMA
The history of the actual Land Run and history of Stillwater and Guthrie with old photos, old barns, cool old homes, and century farms clearly loved by their owners, wells pumping, wind blowing, red dirt/mud with vibrant blooms of spring and winter wheat looking healthy, folks helping with the wildfires, cowboy hats, big trucks that wave to cyclists or offer assistance, folks out cheering in the mud, people proud of their community and heritage.
Jennifer Clark ROCHEPORT, MISSOURI
The red mud, wind, and unforgiving conditions. I’m an Oklahoma native who now lives in Texas. I grew up in the red mud of Lincoln county, not that far from Stillwater. I went to school with shoes stained red. Now my cycling kit is stained red as a badge of honor. That is a pure Oklahoma experience.
The low point was maybe the highlight ... a broken bike forced a DNF and a ride back to the finish in a Jeep ... the guy in the Jeep was so pumped to be out and helping people. I was happy I could make his day by offering another rescue for him.
Paul Errington UK
In rural Oklahoma, the forces of nature and of man are in constant contention and that contention can improve or destroy old roads and create new roads and adventures. This ride has been an incredible adventure each year and nothing has ever gone according to plan.
Red dirt in your hair. And in your pants. Red dirt in your gears, bottom bracket, and your water bottle. Broken derailleurs and broken wills. And the most beautiful way to see Oklahoma on two wheels.
I met the guy for all of maybe 5 minutes at the finish line but he made me feel like I was his best friend and I had just won the LR100! His energy and passion ARE infectious.
Kevin Liggett EUREKA, MISSOURI
Finishing the Land Run proved to me that successful gravel cycling is about preparation, luck, and most of all grit.
Riding into Stillwater at night, I had so many bystanders clapping and cheering for me, even though it was dark and nearing 12 hours on the course. And the finish line is beyond imagination ... to see Bobby and the crew cheering you on and of course Bobby's hug. That made the whole day worthwhile.
Joe Billesbach BEATRICE, NEBRASKA
Such a rad event! Looking forward to future misery.
Jennifer Groen and Sean MacMinn
SALSA CYCLES HAS BEEN PART OF GRAVEL RACING FROM THE EARLIEST DAYS OF THE MOVEMENT. After trying it ourselves, we were hooked. The challenge, the terrain less traveled, and the welcoming community drove us to look at how we could contribute, and designing bikes specifically with gravel racing and riding in mind was the obvious choice. If you’re into gravel riding, we appreciate you taking a look at our offerings and considering riding a Salsa at some point down the road.
Land Run 100, Dirty Kanza 200, Trans Iowa. Mud, wind, rain, and gravel of every size and shape. If these things give you a devilish grin and a twitch in your legs, then you’ll have no problem understanding Warbird. The first bike of its kind, the popularity of Warbird is impossible to ignore at all of today’s premier gravel events. Features like the Class 5 Vibration Reduction System, gravel-friendly geometry, and the tire clearance needed to dominate your favorite extremes make Warbird the standard-bearer of gravel racing bikes.
Cutthroat is as unique as the challenge it was designed for. Initially crafted for the Tour Divide Race, the comfort and traction of bigger volume rubber or the extra clearance for mud when running standard width gravel tires make Cutthroat a welcome addition to the gravel racing circuit. With features engineered to cover big demanding distances quickly, comfortably, and efficiently, Cutthroat is a tough bike to beat when the going gets burly.
Vaya is for road biking when the word “road” is open to interpretation. Chalk up Vaya’s all-day comfort to the sweet forgiveness of its steel frame and a geometry that provides stability over an array of surfaces. Prioritize backroads over straight shots, enter a gravel race, or throw a credit card in your jersey pocket and go touring. Vaya takes the restraints off your average road bike.
The best way to describe Fargo is by the unlimited opportunities it presents its rider. On the rolling, windswept minimum maintenance roads gravel racers daydream about, it shines. Rustic country byways? Of course. High mountain singletrack? That too! Fargo can race, tour, bikepack, and casually explore. With the responsiveness of steel or Ti, off-road capable geometry, and the multiple positions of drop-bars, Fargo is a tool for most any cycling task.
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