Photos and words by Kevin Sparrow
When people hear of the Midwest, they typically think of farmland and prairie. Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa have a rich history of glaciation that smoothed out a lot of the land we typically think of and gouged out lakes and terrain. Southeastern Minnesota, northeastern Iowa and western Wisconsin and Northern Illinois, known as The Driftless Region, is a unique area virtually untouched by glacial sculpting. As a result, this landscape greatly contrasts what one would typically think of the Midwest. Its narrow valleys, high bluffs, forested hillsides and beautifully sculpted topography is a real treat for cyclists in the region.
This year Rapha Chicago organized “The Driftless Series” in 2018, a series of four weekend rides highlighting the best routes the midwest has to offer. The two weekends I was able to attend were perfectly contrasted by the types of riding and riders. The first 3 rides were designed as training to prepare for the final Driftless gravel event. Overall, each location showcases the region for its uniqueness and natural beauty.
The Blue Mounds Ride was a 2-day fully supported ride on paved roads that started just outside Madison, WI in Verona. The route was made up of just under 200 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing on dramatic landscapes of repeated hills, valleys and some of the highest elevation Wisconsin has to offer.
The series Finale in Stockton, IL was a one day adventure traversing endless back roads of Illinois farm country on technical gravel terrain. The 77-mile route featured over 5,500 ft of climbing in some of the best-hidden roads of northwestern Illinois.
If you are not familiar with the Driftless region, I’d highly recommend putting it on your to-ride list. Rapha Chicago did an amazing job designing routes that were challenging and unforgettable. If your interested in riding the region make sure you keep an eye out for the 2019 Driftless Series for supported or search the internet for routes designed by locals.
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