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!
The 2022 FoCo Fondo featured some of Northern Colorado’s incredible mixed surface and gravel road riding with multiple expertly-curated routes ranging from 12 to 145 miles. All while fostering an inclusive and accommodating environment for a diverse group of riders.
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.
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!”
Rainbow-colored, grinning unicorns jump up and down, cheer, and offer you homemade chocolate chip cookies as you pedal past. Are you delirious? Dreaming? Bonking? No, you’ve likely reached an aid station at Rasputitsa Dirt — New England’s most community-based, grassroots, and visible gravel race and creative bike event of late.
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.
Each visit to the Croatan National Forest leaves me a little more enamored with its leggy pines and dirt lanes. The properties bordering the forest with their wooden barns and houses are often centuries-old, their tin roofs rusting from the continuous salty breath of the Atlantic Ocean. The early spring smoke lingers amongst the pine trunks from controlled burns like a ghost. It is haunting as it is soothing in the early morning sun—Dogs bark in response to a rooster crow. The water of the inlets lays black and calm but even in its most still hours, the forest whirs with insects in tinnitus effect. I can’t help but feel that I have entered through some portal into a Faulkner novel.
2020 and 2021 brought about many canceled events, of which our beloved Lost & Found gravel race in Portola, California. The Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship just announced that Lost & Found is returning for 2022:
“Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship has announced that the Lost and Found Gravel Festival will return in 2022, in partnership with long-time cycling production team, Breakaway Promotions. Lost and Found will run on June 4th, 2022, and the proposed routes will feature a 101 mile route with 8,100 feet of elevation gain. Shorter 39 mile and 61-mile routes are also available.
The City of Portola contacted SBTS and encouraged the event taking place following a tough 2021. The festival provided an economic boost to the region each year it was held, and the town was ready to get the race going again. In the summer and fall of 2021, the Dixie Fire burned much of the Lost Sierra and created dangerous air quality for months. It was the largest single wildfire in state history. Lost and Found looks to rise from these ashes and create a positive financial impact on the community of Portola in 2022.”
Registration opens in March, so stay tuned and keep an eye peeled on Lost and Found for more updates as events warrant.
While the relationship between ranchers and cyclists can be tenuous at times, in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, SBT GRVL has worked closely with local ranchers to strengthen this relationship.
“You just dance up those climbs. It’s amazing to watch.”
These are some of the only words we’ve exchanged, despite riding together for the past ten hours. It’s a few more hours before I learn that his name is Dave. That’s ultra-endurance. Sometimes you talk and sometimes you don’t, but it’s still great to have company riding through the night. I later find out that Dave is in his 50s and from Wisconsin. He must outweigh me by a good 50-80lbs and most of it is muscle. He’s a powerhouse on the flats and I’m light up the climbs. He groans and says “shit” a lot, but when the lady at the gas station asks if we’re having fun, he says, “we’re having the time of our lives.” And we really are. It’s hot and humid and hard as hell, but there’s so much beauty out there. Beauty in the sunset and the sunrise and the warm night— the cows and the fields, the open expanses.
A week ago, 61 contestants battled it out over 4 stages through the Masai Mara wildlife reserve, during the inaugural Migration Gravel Race in Kenya. While an epic adventure in itself, there’s more to this race than meets the eye. The MGR is one of the prongs of the Amani project, aimed at creating more race opportunities for East African cyclists to measure themselves with the best on an international level.
What better way to do so than to bring in the very best? With the attendance of 2021 Unbound-winner Ian Boswell and runner-up Laurens ten Dam (who claimed the victory at MGR), the bar has been set for future editions. Sule Kangangi, Kenyan pro cyclist and coordinator of Amani’s activities in Kenya, and 2021 Unbound winner Ian Boswell share their thoughts on this unique first edition.
One of our contributors, Ryan Le Garrec, just took part in the Migration Gravel Race last week in Kenya. It is a 650 km off-road stage race with 8000 meters climbing in the Massai Mara. The grueling but rewarding course attracted lots of riders from all over the world. Among them was Unbound winner and second, Ian Boswell and Laurens Ten Dam. But more importantly, the race took pride in featuring local talents, riders from Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda.
The race organization wants to have an impact on African cyclists representation in gravel and road races around the world.
With gravel races attracting more and more professional cyclists from road racing, being able to hold onto consecutive wins is becoming more and more difficult. Not for Lael Wilcox, however, who took on the XL at this year’s Unbound Gravel. The XL traverses 358 miles (576km) of the Flint Hills out of Emporia, Kansas, all self-supported and just as hard as years prior.
Go, Lael! GO!
It’s pretty common these days to see professional roadies make the transition into gravel. The racing and even the bikes are pretty similar, so it’s not a big stretch to make the leap. But what about coming to gravel from downhill? Now we’re talking about switching from races that are about 2-miles long with zero elevation gain to races that are 200-miles long with 10’000-feet of climbing. Race times go from a few minutes to hours…lots of hours. And that’s not even getting into how different the bikes are. The switch from downhill to gravel is way less common and a lot harder to wrap your head around…but let me introduce you to Kathy Pruitt.
I can tell you one thing; whenever someone tells me what I should do, I almost always do the opposite. I have been that way for as long as I can remember. In some psychology class years back, I learned about the theory of psychological reactance. It all boils down to an idea that people believe that they possess freedoms and the ability to participate in those free-behaviors. When those behaviors are threatened, something within us is sparked and we react. I find myself pretty apprehensive when it comes to telling anyone what they should be doing. For that matter, I mostly, don’t care what anyone else is doing. A person’s true character comes out regardless. You are what you do.
Some of our friends are petitioning Lifetime Sports to change the name of Dirty Kanza. This comes after DK founder Jim Cummins was let go from the race organization for making racist claims in support of the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks by police. The petition is as follows:
“#NameTheChange is a campaign to end the use of the slur “dirty Kanza” as the event name of DIRTY KANZA (DK) in Emporia, KS.
We, a united collective of Indigenous advocates, cyclists, people of Faith, educators, Elders, youth, local Kansas residents and builders of a Just world, ask that the name of the gravel event be changed to honor the dignity of the land and Indigenous people. The campaign calls upon the owners of the “DK”, organizers, and sponsors to do the right thing and bring an end to the use of the racial epithet.”
Read the full demands and sign the petition at Change.org.
We have a piece on the site this week that will dive deeper into this controversial subject, so stay tuned.