Well gravel racers . . . here we are approaching the end of April, 2020, and there isn't a gravel race in sight. And with all of the Spring, and some Summer, events being pushed to Fall, it's gonna be a busy BUSY August, September, & October. As of today, just look at this line up of races:
All this being said, we should note that the first material gravel event that has NOT been cancelled to date is the good ol Crusher in the Tushar still scheduled for July 11 in Beaver, Utah. But, with everything happening, I can't imagine that that date sticks.
And on the bright side, all of this uncertainty definitely makes training a more dynamic "moving target" exercise, which, let's be honest, may not be a bad thing.
Here's to a gnarly 2020!
The much anticipated (and world's most prestigious gravel race) 2020 Dirty Kanza was officially postponed due to Covid-19 (like everything else in the cycling world). And now it has a new date. September 12, 2020. This puts the rescheduled Dirty Kanza the weekend AFTER Rebecca's Private Idaho in Sun Valley, but unfortunately hits SPOT ON the same day as Grinduro California. The folks at Grinduro surely can't be happy about this.
The 2020 race is already sold out (4,000 registrants). But Dirty Kanza is letting racers (i) ride the September version, (ii) defer their spot to the 2021 Dirty Kanza, or (iii) request a refund if neither of those options work. Good for Lifetime Fitness (race organizer) for being flexible. Cheers!
And for the racers like Ted King, TJ Eisenhart, Payson MacElveen, etc., . . . imagine the quick pivot needed in training programs?! My goodness. What a stressbomb that could be if you were a contender for the mighty Dirty Kanza!
This photo from Payson McElveen's insta says it all . . . it looks like an absolutely brutal day of thick peanut butter mud at the Mid South Gravel Race in Stillwater Oklahoma on Saturday. Payson's strategy on such a muddy day was to take care of his drivetrain. He said "I almost tried not to pedal hard and I stopped shifting. It was mostly just by necessity." He beat other gravel stalwarts Colin Strickland & Pete Stetina. Congrats Payson!
Cycling's quiet "Hard Man" Svein Tuft is recently retired. But it sounds like he's still making moves. The Andorra resident is reportedly starting a bike shop in Santa Coloma on the main road leading into Andorra. The shop will provide gravel ride excursions around Catalunya's lower elevation Garrotxa mountains in the spring, and then through the higher elevation Pyrenees in the summer.
"I know this area like the back of my hand," said Tuft. "There's everything. A lot of parkland, so there's no development at all. There's some immaculate gravel roads, some big crazy climbs, and lots of switchbacks. I'm still fascinated by all of this terrain."
Tuft's gravel tours will lead gravel riders through Spain, Andorra, and France. And who better to lead you through those rugged mountains than the former world tour pro who would wander through the trees barefoot while meditating before every morning's Tour De France stage?
Should there be a UCI sanctioned "Gravel" World Championships? There isn't one to date, but that may be changing soon. UCI President David Lappartient (of France) seems to be aware of the growing gravel scene both in Europe and North America. And let's be honest, since professional cycling is a business, Lappartient wants a piece. When asked whether a Gravel "Worlds" is in the making, he replied "I think so, I think so, this is something that is under discussion and that is possible in the future."
But, not everyone is thrilled with the news. Lachlan Morton (EF Education First) reportedly responded to the news with "[gravel] already has a world championships in the Dirty Kanza." And that's fair. See how suspicious Lachlan looks (below)? I don't think he's down with the UCI stepping into gravel. Well, let's break down the pros & cons of having a UCI sanctioned Gravel World Championship.
This type of news seems to be occurring a lot recently. From Ted King, to Pete Stetina, to TJ Eisenhart, and now Ian Boswell. The former Tour de France rider, and 11 year road pro, has announced that he will step away from the European road race circuit to race a full 2020 season of gravel events as a one man team sponsored by Wahoo (the indoor training company). Boswell had an offer from Rally Cycling to continue on the road, but opted for a new adventure. Good for him.
Boswell will not only be a racer, but also work as a "brand athlete liaison" to get the gravel word out to the masses. It appears to be a similar model to the one adopted by Ted King & TJ Eisenhart. Although Ted King likes to win races, while TJ just likes to spread love. It remains to be seen how Boswell will race these gravel events.
Boswell has cited the suffocating regimen of world tour racing (i.e. endless travel, sleepless nights, incessant training, monastic living, and calorie deficit disorders) as one reason he is moving on. He wants the new, thrilling, creative expression of gravel. Not road. The Gravelution is what he wants. We wish him well.
I'm not surprised when I hear this kind of news anymore . . . "Professional Road Racer Retiring to Gravel."
One of the coolest dudes in professional road cycling is following Ted King & Pete Stetina onto the gravel scene. TJ is one of my favorites. A fellow Utahn, I once yelled "Good Luck TJ" from the side of the road while he was warming up for the Salt Lake City circuit of the Tour of Utah. He looked over, huge smile, and said "Thanks man, much love, and enjoy that sandwich." I can get behind a dude like that.
So, TJ is creating his own Gravel endeavor called Imaginary Collective with fellow road racer Andrew Dahlheim. The two "dudes" will race various big "mass participant" gravel races (think Dirty Kanza, SBT GRVL, & Crusher in the Tushar, etc.) as well as some endurance MTB races (think Epic Series). Interestingly, TJ says he isn't too interested in actually "winning" these races. Rather, following his Mormon-Buddhist soul, he just wants to be there, taking in the vibe, enjoying the moment, and communing with all of that gravel. Like Ted King, TJ will promote certain brands through Instagram, YouTube, and his own painting. And like his friend Taylor Phinney has stated, this gets him out from under the crushing dictatorship of road sponsors, and into the free-thinking realm of sponsoring whatever he feels passionate about.
It's a new model, but he's not the first to do it. TJ is a supremely interesting dude, and Gravelution.com wishes him well.
In what is surely a controversial move, former US road racer Pete Stetina tweeted his upcoming 2020 gravel race schedule with the hashtag #PeteRuinedGravel (a nod to the eternal debate of whether pro road racers pedaling into the growing gravel scene actually undermines the "cool" & "organic" feel of gravel races).
Regardless of your thoughts on that debate, Stetina's race schedule is perhaps the most ambitious gravel season IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. He's racing literally every material gravel event under the sun (with some mountain bike races thrown in for good measure). Check this out:
Good luck Pete. Don't ruin Gravel!
*Side note. When Pete tweeted this 2020 schedule, Ted King tweeted back "Hate to break it to you Pete, but I ruined gravel years ago." I love Ted King.
Bentonville is blowing up. It's quickly becoming a major US cycling hub with its world-class singletrack trails. Well, now add to the mix a brand new gravel race . . . the Big Sugar.
The race features two options:
1) The "Big Sugar" features 109 miles of premium gravel roads with 9,000 vertical feet of climbing. That's a tough day.
2) The "Little Sugar" features 50 miles of the same gravel with 4,500 vertical feet of "Up" for a more manageable day out on the road.
Now, it's been widley reported that the Big Sugar registration sold out in FIVE MINUTES. Why? The Gravelution. Gravel races are bigger than ever. The wave is rolling strong.
Just like Ted King did a year ago, another world class road racer has officially retired to move exclusively to Gravel Racing. Why? Because man, the GRAVELUTION! That said, it is an interesting trend that we're seeing. Ted King was a staple in road racing for years. Then, one day, he retired and now rides really awesome gravel races around the world. He even created his own gravel race.
Pete Stetina seems to be following suit. In various interviews this week, he simply said that gravel races excite him more than road races.
"I still love road racing and I would have really liked to have blended both, but it wasn't feasible," he said. "Most WorldTour team managers are not open to that. So I am officially striking out on my own in a privateer venture."
Good on you, Pete. We hope you nail it.
© COPYRIGHT 2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.