Like many events and people in recent times, the Mission Crit came back to life this year after a bit of time off. Call it what you will, a vacation, perhaps. Regardless, for the first time in two years Mission Crit founder/race director James Grady dusted off the bullhorn, timing equipment, cones and barriers to run a race that is currently one of a kind. Since the unfortunate folding of Brooklyn’s Red Hook Criterium in 2019, the Mission Crit has remained as the sole surviving high profile fixed gear criterium race in existence.
Years ago, when I expressed my aspirations to become a cycling photographer, a very talented friend helped me put things into perspective. “Remember,” he said, “What you are trying to achieve is the equivalent of wanting to be an NFL photographer while living in Japan.”
I knew what he was saying was not to discourage me; he had also worked for various cycling outlets over the years, writing and occasionally shooting with well-known names in professional cycling. His frequent flyer miles were piling up, and it was merely a side hustle. “You can do it,” he told me, “but as someone once told me, you must accept living like a dog.”
Rezduro takes place in the remote community of Hardrock, Arizona which is located on the Black Mesa plateau/region on the Navajo Nation. What started out as a vision by Nigel James and friends has turned into the first and only Indigenous-led mountain bike enduro race. Nigel James dreamed of bridging his grandparents’ sheep herding trails with his passion for mountain bike enduro racing as a result, Rezduro was born in 2021. Rezduro is organized by Diné (the Navajo people) on Diné lands.
What’s your intention for the race?” Jaimie asked as we gathered with others the evening before lining up at the start line of this year’s Odyssey of the VOG, which is a 350-mile bikepacking event that takes riders through the rural farmland of the Willamette Valley, the rugged and vast Oregon coastal range, and the unrelenting gravel climbs found in the Willamette and Tillamook National Forests.
Excitement and nervousness-filled conversations about bike setups, weight, steep climbs, estimated times… are you going to sleep? Over an inch of rain was forecasted to fall the next day. Some wanted to win. Most were intrigued by the adventure. I told Jaimie, “I want to be present and enjoy while challenging myself. I want to feel it.”
TransRockies has become an institution in the stage racing world: they have been around since the beginning. In late August, the inaugural Gravel Royale was their first foray into the world of gravel racing. The edition of the truly off-tarmac event makes sense, as the main critique of TransRockies in years past has been riders complaining about too many gravel roads. Sounds like they’ve just been honing the course for a real gravel throw down! After the four stages, Rob Britton of Victoria, BA and Rach McBride of Vancouver, BC took the top step in the Elite Men’s and Women’s categories, respectively. What follows is Barry Wicks‘ rider journal from each of the four days which gives a stream of consciousness account, followed by his interviews with other competitors. Each interview maintained the same format and consisted of just three questions designed to skip the small talk: What is your favorite color? What are you reading right now? What is the meaning of life? Enjoy the ride!
Are you missing cyclocross? Maybe it’s February and you haven’t reached your quota of mud in your eye, or maybe it’s June and doing a gravel race is just 7 hours too long – do they even know what a cowbell is in Kansas? Why rely on your local promoter to line the local park with caution tape when you can easily do the same yourself? Organizing your own race is not only more simple than you think, but a great way to get people together and build community!
All year long, gravel races and events seem to pop up in towns across the US. With its approachability, it’s no surprise that “gravel” has become so popular with cyclists in disciplines spanning the continuum between mountain and road riding. IMO, the most successful of these races are the ones that embrace and exemplify the values and character of the communities in which they are based. Having lived in Fort Collins, CO for nearly fifteen years, the FoCo Fondo is a special one for me, as it shows off some of Northern Colorado’s incredible mixed surface riding with multiple expertly-curated routes while also fostering an inclusive and comfortable environment for a diverse group of riders.
The route is just under 1,000km tracing the Westfjords of Iceland, the most remote area of a sparsely inhabited country in the Arctic. The challenge is to finish the mixed gravel and pavement route in 4 stages. The weather can be harsh. The wind can be fierce. But that’s what makes this place. It’s stunning and it’s brutal. Treeless mountains rise out of the sea. There’s very little development. Beyond a flawless road system, humans have left little impression. It’s a wild place and we get to ride our bikes through it.
“It’s the best” must be one of the most common, purely subjective statements made so regularly with enthusiastic conviction. We do it all the time, but it’s ludicrous. You have to define a word like “best” in your own terms. It’s a value statement. Saying something is the best only tells you a little bit about the thing in question, but a lot about the person saying it and what they value. What’s the best gear ratio for a single-speed 29er? What’s the best tire choice for a course that’s littered with mud pits, rooty singletrack, and rock gardens, but is also interspersed with long, hot, 15 miles stretches of pavement? Do you like to mash or spin? Are you a confident bike handler and want to make the long road stretches easier? Are you strong-legged and get annoyed at spinning out on the flats?
So what am I really saying when I write that the MountainCat 100 is the best bike race in America?
It’s been over a decade since I’d been to Emporia to help establish Unbound Gravel’s Crew For Hire program. The world is a great deal different now. Having spoken at length with Kristi Mohn about things like generational change I was curious to see what, if any, of those changes had taken place in not just Emporia but also in the Unbound Gravel event itself. There was also the tragic passing of Moriah Wilson, the induction of the first class of the Gravel Hall of Fame, and a variety of other things going on that really made this year’s Unbound Gravel more significant than most.
Every day that I spent in Emporia had its own moments that showed me something new and unexpected. There were signs of the massive changes the cycling community, industry, and Emporia itself are going through. I witnessed grief, loss, love, and more. Throughout everything, there was one common theme: People who were doing the best they could.
The weather was the hot goss around Emporia during the week of UNBOUND Gravel 2022. “Will it rain?” “How hot will it be?” “What tires are you running?” “Oh look, the forecast changed!”
There’s more than 4,000 miles of graded dirt roads in Plumas National Forest connecting a dozen quaint and remote mountain communities across Plumas and Lassen County, California. The landscapes are stunning, from majestic mountain meadows bursting with wildflowers to craggy granite peaks and glacially carved mountain lakes. Hidden cabins and remnants of the Gold Rush can be found everywhere along the way. The only thing you don’t see much of in the backcountry of Plumas County is people, which is why this region is quickly becoming known as The Gravel Capital of the West.
6:27 a.m., Friday the 13th, 2022. Twenty-four grown-ass adults are walking around in circles ringing bells and there is a dude wearing a Scream mask counting down the minutes until a bike ride begins. What the F%#k is going on?
This year’s edition of Grinduro California had been delayed twice. Once in 2020 because of increasing COVID infection rates, and again last year due to the Northern California fire conditions. After this many-year delay, Giro’s Grinduro event emerged into a new, and very different, world.
The following is a love letter to Cyclocross and in particular photographing cyclocross. During the 2018-2019 season, I was blessed to attend a few races and got a chance to shoot freely and candidly with no one expecting anything from me but everyone letting me in and close. I had no idea what was about to happen to me, under the lashing rain of Overijse, a small cold flemish town, I fell in love with cycling once again, a way I never expected, cold, easy, mind-blowing and everlasting.
“We get to play like kids in the mud but as adults, what else could be better?” – Rebecca Gross
We are beyond excited to report that after 9 days, 8 hours, and 23 minutes our dear friend Lael Wilcox has established a new overall fastest known time for the 800-mile Arizona Trail Individual Time Trial*!
Tackling the Arizona Trail at a record-setting pace, from the Mexico border to the Utah state line, is one of the most grueling cycling challenges in the world and we couldn’t be more excited for Lael’s accomplishment. In the coming weeks, we’ll be featuring a full report from Lael’s time on the trail in addition to a short film from Rue Kaladyte. In the meantime, head over to Lael’s Instagram and send her a virtual high-five!
Edited on 4.23.2022 for clarity: We have correspondences with John Schilling, the organizer of the AZTR, where he reached out to Rue, the videographer and Lael’s wife about the media rule. Lael and Rue accept the * by their time for breaking the media coverage rule implemented in 2019. Previous records still stand.
The Arizona National Scenic Trail is 800 miles of singletrack, stretching from the Mexican border to the Utah border and traversing most of the state’s major mountain ranges. With initial development in the 1990s, the hiking trail passes through several wilderness areas, requiring bike detours. The current bike route is 827 miles, including a 24-mile required bike portage through the Grand Canyon (wheels can’t touch the ground).
A strange sensation grips the mind when a long drive begins in the darkness of predawn. The city remains still, holding onto its final few hours of sleep, and the highway remains virtually empty. There is a promise in the loneliness of the opening hours of long highway travel. Exits flutter by in the darkness; distant lights of tractor-trailers and roadside oasis’ are the only possible signs of life beyond the confines of my car. The falling snow has narrowed my concentration to the reflecting lines on the asphalt as I navigate south and west on my way to Fayetteville, Arkansas, for this year’s Cyclocross World Championships.