It was uncommon sighting at Lemon Park last Saturday morning when almost 300 bicyclists, in various shades of Lycra, sped through town, escorted by Pratt's finest to the nearest dirt road: SW 10th St. Saturday was a chilly morning but otherwise turned into an idyllic day for cyclists participating in the Open Range Gravel Race/Ride. […]

It was uncommon sighting at Lemon Park last Saturday morning when almost 300 bicyclists, in various shades of Lycra, sped through town, escorted by Pratt's finest to the nearest dirt road: SW 10th St.
Saturday was a chilly morning but otherwise turned into an idyllic day for cyclists participating in the Open Range Gravel Race/Ride. Temperatures were just about perfect, rising into the mid-70s by afternoon, and winds have certainly been worse around these parts lately.
The ride primarily followed dirt (aka gravel) roads in Pratt and Barber counties. The routed shared our area's beautiful open spaces with riders from across Kansas and the nation. My personal favorite location along the route was the area where Turkey Creek streamed beneath a bridge a few miles west of the Pratt County sand/gravel pit. The creek, lined with lush vegetation, wound its way through a rough and hilly countryside unlike anything I had previously observed in Pratt County.
One thing about organized rides is that such events attract riders from miles around and often bring together people that don't see each other a lot otherwise. I feel fortunate to have ridden with my longtime cycling buddy, Dan Updegraff, and his cycling buddy, Steven Sutton, both of whom live in the Wichita area. I also rode for a while with local cyclists Clinton Skaggs and Steve Blankenship. After the ride, I visited with Greensburg cyclist, Luke Derstein and his wife, Stacey, as well as a guy I rode with on and off over the years of Biking Across Kansas, Gary Ehrlich of Dodge City.
By the end of the ride, there was some pain and suffering, particularly as riders on the shorter route fought a steady headwind on the sandy roads of SW 20th St. I may have become a bit dehydrated and was somewhat nauseous as we rode those last five or six miles into town.
The problem with dehydration was helped considerably by a young girl who handed riders, at the finish line, ice cold bottles of chocolate milk. That was a perfect welcome back to Pratt after grinding out those last few miles and was the excellent idea of race director Eric Sutter.
All in all, if I had to do it over again, I would, hopefully with more training next time. My mountain bike was out of commission for several weeks prior to the ride, so I didn't get in all the dirt miles I would have liked to have ridden.
I'll conclude this with a shout out to race director Eric Sutter: you're off to a great start and hopefully this will become an annual tradition.