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Cyclists along the path of the East Texas Showdown.On a damp March morning, I strapped bags full of camping gear to the frame of my gravel bike and joined about 250 cyclists for the fourth annual East Texas Showdown, one of the state’s biggest and longest bikepacking events. The starting line was in Point Blank, about twenty miles east of Huntsville. For the first hour or so, the pack rode east together, swarming the two-mile stretch of U.S. 190 spanning the massive breadth of Lake Livingston. Those first ten miles were deceptively smooth as we fell into pace and familiarized ourselves with the faces we’d get to know for the next 165 (or 280 or 400) miles. We said goodbye to the smooth highway as we turned onto our first gravel road. Then…

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