Bikes borrowed from converging river crossings, cyclists help each other
Kansas has a long tradition of neighbor helping neighbor, and that philosophy was evident at the 2021 Open Range Gravel event, which started and ended in Lemon Park last weekend.
Case in point: Sam Jones from McClouth, Kansas was doing the Open Range tour with friends on a steep section of the road at the Alexander Ranch in Barber County when the rear derailleur of his bike caught on solid grass , causing his derailleur hanger to snap. His friends tried unsuccessfully to convert his multi-speed bicycle to a single-speed bicycle.
Jones called race / tour director Eric Sutter, who then contacted ranch owner Brian Alexander. Alexander drove on his ATV and found Jones and brought him back with the broken bike to the ranch headquarters. Meanwhile, Sutter’s parents drove to the ranch with his mountain bike, loaned to Jones. It was also a perfect fit. She said she didn’t even need to adjust the height of the seat.
With that mountain bike borrowed from the back of the ATV, Jones and Alexander then reunited with her friends, who were still crossing the ranch lands, and she continued the tour.
âThere was a lot of logistics in there,â said Jones, who expressed gratitude for the loan of the bike, which allowed him to complete the course.
Open Range Event Director Sutter reported that 412 runners registered for the 4th annual competition, more than ever in previous years. About 300 of these registrants actually participated in the event. Watch the 2021 Open Range Gravel Race start in Pratt
Sutter called “a loud cry to the landowners for allowing us to use their land for part of the course.” The event director also noted that “we continue to receive positive feedback on how fantastic our volunteers are,” and he thanked the many event volunteers from Pratt County, Barber County and d ‘elsewhere, without whom the event would not be possible.
The 200 km course included four stream crossings. At one point during the tour, a group of cyclists converged on one of these crossings. Cyclists on one side of the water handed the bikes over to cyclists on the other side, allowing the free rider to then easily jump onto the water.
Another proof of collaboration began with a friendly conversation between Doug Rowland, who resides in both Wichita and Sun City, and Eric Sutter. Sutter was looking for a support stop in Sun City. Rowland’s aunt happens to be the pastor of our father’s house of worship in the small community (Rowland also plays drums in the church orchestra). Subsequently, for the last Open Ranges, the church provided toilets and a water stop for the event.
âIt’s been a great awareness: loving people, serving people and encouraging them,â Rowland said.
This year Rowland took part in the 200K Open Range Tour with his cousin, Thomas Hammond, who lives just north of Coats. The two often ride together on weekends, creating their own public roads through the Gyp Hills.
Hammond said he has competed in the Open Range every year since its launch, including the 200km race in the event’s inaugural year. It was his first time on the tour.
âI like it where they split the 200K into two days,â Hammond said.
Another boost was lent to the Open Range event by Jason Ebberts of Overland Park. Until 2021, he had also participated every year in the Open Range. This year, Sutter asked him to be the photographer for the event, and he agreed to do so. Ebberts was previously an event photographer for the Emporia-based Dirty Kanza.
Dedicated gravel runners came from all over Kansas and many other states to compete in the Open Range. One of those constituencies was Neil Taylor of Emporia. Taylor is co-host and content creator for âThis Is Gravelâ, which can be found on gravelguru.com. The show and website are an unpaid love of work for him and two other residents of Emporia (look for a segment on the Open Range 2021 coming soon).
Taylor praised the Open Range event.
âI love, first of all, the scenery. You don’t feel like you’re in Kansas at times on this ride. I also like the different road conditions – gravel, bumpy ranch roads, fine sand, flat sections, hills and pavement. You get a good mix of everything, âTaylor said.
The Open Range drew many runners from the Wichita area, including CJ Rausch from Bel Aire and Blake Barnard from Maize, both of whom enjoyed their two-day 200km tour.
âIt’s a great event. It’s a challenge. It’s for a good cause. I like supporting things like that, âsaid Rausch.
Barnard expressed similar sentiments.
âIt was an amazing and beautiful hike – some of the best scenery in Kansas. It was very difficult, âhe said. âKudos to these guys who did it all in one day.â
Speaking of those who finished the race in one day, Nick Gould and Jonathan Cavner of Colorado Springs finished in the top two places for the 200km race, also joined on the podium by Reed Foster of Edmond, Oklahoma, who has crossed the finish line with them.
Incidentally, Gould’s GPS recorded an average speed of 20.21 mph (appropriate for this year) for the 129 mile distance, which is, unofficially, a new course record.
Only a few runners had to be treated by Pratt County EMS at this year’s Open Range. Nathan Wadsworth, Wichita, accidentally hit the pilot’s tire in front of him and fell, hitting his head. Nonetheless, Wadsworth stood up and walked to the finish line, placing in the top 10 in the 200K Men Open category.
Another rider also fell, hit his head and broke his collarbone. Race Director Sutter reports that this runner will no doubt see the humor in the raffle prize he won at the event: a brand new helmet.