Geoff Kabush Hops to A Win at Grasshopper Gravel Low Gap
Kabush has still got it.
Geoff Kabush is continually proving a ‘jack of all trades’ privateer in what he calls his ‘Until the Fun Stops’ tour, which is also the answer to the question, “how long will you continue racing?” The latest bit of evidence to support Kabush’s do-it-all moniker comes from Ukiah, CA roughly 60 miles due north of Santa Rosa, CA, where he surprised a stacked field of freshman gravel grinders with World Tour experience to take victory in the opening round of the Grasshopper Gravel Series at Low Gap.
Mind you, he won in dramatic fashion, sneaking up on the leaders in the last 30 seconds of the race.
Since transitioning from the World Cup cross-country circuit in 2018, this multi-time Canadian Olympian has competed in everything from EWS and bucket-list enduro events, to cyclo-cross and gravel. Sometimes he’s even blurred the line between disciplines, like that time he won Iceman Cometh on his Turquoise Open U.P gravel bike.
“I didn’t know what to expect at the first Grasshopper, as I have only done long rides, a bit of tempo, some core work, and hadn’t really gotten my heartrate above 150bpm yet this year,” said Kabush. “I was a little worried about Low Gap, as the day before my legs felt empty after some long mid-week rides and knowing that the start of this Grasshopper is brutal.”
Not only is the course brutal, but the field was stacked with recently retired World Tour riders, including 17-year-veteran Laurens ten Dam and Peter Stetina, one of America’s best known professional road racers.
“I knew Pete Stetina was showing up and he is always all business,” said Kabush. “The young mountain biker Sandy Floren, who won last year, is always flying too at these events too. As expected, these guys were involved in the race’s first attacks and rode away. I didn’t even try to follow because I knew it was going to be a hard day and I wasn’t sure how my body would respond. I tried to maintain an effort under 400w on the first climb, which I figured would be solid enough for me, especially considering that I am untested at this time of year. I think I averaged about 390w for the first 20 minutes or so of climbing. I was in a group with Laurens ten Dam, some other strong NorCal riders and I just went to the front and set a decent tempo for most of the climb.”
It’s worth mentioning that the weather was atrocious and Kabush knew there were mud bogs on course. He also knows that calories, equipment management, and on-the-fly planning are an ever-present part of gravel racing—you never really know where the next challenge will come from. Through the first aid station Kabush’s group got a time check to the leaders. They were five minutes down on Stetina and Floren; the race seemed like it was over.
“I didn’t really consider there was a chance of seeing the front again and the first three to four miles on the dirt were the worst conditions,” said Kabush. “I just made sure I got through the big mud bogs safely and then went to the front. At this point, I was actually feeling surprising strong. I kept it in my big ring, a 46-tooth, because it was important to get good accelerations and keep up momentum where possible. You can probably notice my cadence is a lot lower for the dirt section in the power file. I ended up chasing solo and was just looking to ride quickly and have fun at this point. Surprisingly, looking at the file, I averaged almost 300w for the last one hour and 20 minutes, which included the last long downhill!”
After this effort and at the top of the last climb—where Kabush averaged around 390w for more than 20 minutes—he had pulled back two of the five-minute advantage the leaders had. And then Kabush’s heroics started—he flew downhill making all of the mountain bikers out there proud.
Here’s a recount of the descent and his last effort in Kabush’s own words:
“I ride my OPEN U.P. off-road a lot so I’m really comfortable on it. I started to just really enjoy flying down the last 20 minutes of gravel road. I accelerated hard out of every corner because, who knows, anything can happen. I was almost to the finish when I caught a few glimpses of one rider, and then shortly after a second.
“I couldn’t believe it, but I found out after the race that Sandy descending on his MTB had rejoined Pete [after a flat tire -ed.] with about a mile to go, just before getting back onto the pavement. With 60 seconds to go in the race, I still didn’t know if I was going to catch them. Sandy was pulling hard and Pete was stretching his back waiting for the sprint; I was just praying they didn’t look back and see me.
“Still can’t believe it, but on the final rise I put what I had left into the pedals and sprinted by the two of them in a last-minute surprise attack. I didn’t have a ton left after chasing hard, but I put out a little over 600w for 45 seconds to just hold them off at the line. Don’t know if I’ve ever had such a dramatic and unexpected finish to a race. Regardless, it was a fun way to start the year.”
No doubt, Geoff, no doubt—such a great way to start the 2020 season.
(Geoff Kabush photo credit: Roman Cho)