I haven’t registered for any gravel events in 2023. It would be nice to have something on the calendar because it helps provide some structure and direction — once a racer, always a racer, I suppose. However, I’m a little wary of making commitments and tying up hundreds of dollars in entry fees right now.
If you know me, than you’re aware that I’m in a wait-and-see situation with work, currently stringing together freelance work after I was laid off in October. And if you don’t know me, well, now you know!
Even setting aside my unclear job prospects, I’ve always been leery of signing up for an event that’s 6+ months away. Even if I was gainfully employed, several-hundred-dollar entry fees are a bit hard to stomach. But now I’m just griping.
Instead, here’s a positive outlook: If I had unlimited time and money, here’s what a dream season of gravel races would look like.
Mid South Gravel | March 11, 2023 | Stillwater, Oklahoma
Some events just have an “it” factor. I’ve done Mid South Gravel three times now, and I’d love to go back for more. The roads around Stillwater are always good, but they don’t blow me away. Racing in early March isn’t ideal, but it’s a great start to the season. And the 100-mile distance is tough, but not too thought-provoking compared to longer events. The special sauce is the heart and soul that Bobby and his crew put into the event to make it so a fun and welcoming. It’s irresistible.
Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder | June 21-25, 2023 | Sisters, Oregon
I’ve raced a couple MTB stage races — Breck Epic and Appenninica — I’ve also done the Haute Route Pyrenees on the road. A gravel stage race is new to me, and I think it might be the perfect mama bear — not too hard, and not too easy. While I haven’t ridden gravel in the Pacific Northwest, I know that this region has endless old forest service roads that you can string together for some unbelievable routes. Hence, this race! Plus, I dig this event’s grassroots feel, with camping every night.
Crusher in the Tushar | July 8, 2023 | Beaver, Utah
This one is sitting in my “unfinished business” filing cabinet. I raced Crusher in 2017 and had a meltdown. I crashed terribly the day before — probably should have gotten stitches. Didn’t. And in the race, I got a nail through my tire that dropped me out of my group on the course’s flat, fast paved section midway through the race. Besides wanting to do better this time around, I also think this event suits me pretty well, as it resembles most of my daily rides here in Colorado. Rough, high altitude, gnarly descents, and ample climbing — Mountain Gravel at its finest.
The Rift | July 22, 2023 | Iceland
I’m probably overlooking many cool gravel races beyond the U.S. Maybe I need to dream bigger? At least I’d make time to travel to Iceland for this epic island event. The place just looks otherworldly with its windswept expanses and black volcanic gravel. It’s probably also the type of event where you’d want to book some extra days on the end of your trip to do some tourist stuff, and by this point in the season, that would be a welcome break!
Rexy | October 7, 2023 | Fruita, Colorado
This dream season would wrap up with the longest race on the calendar, and in my opinion, the most aesthetically pleasing. It’s hard to rival a point-to-point ride or race, and this 200-miler covers some of the most spectacular desert terrain, going from Moab, Utah to Fruita, Colorado. I’ve yet to explore the gravel riding in this region, but based on the terrain, I think it would be exceptional.
What about you? Let me know in the comments what your dream gravel season would look like.
Photos courtesy of each respective event.
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Add Cynthia Frazier’s Gravista in Buena Vista, Va., to your list. (Wrote about it here: https://open.substack.com/pub/150words/p/the-spirit-of-gravel-or-just-the?r=8m6l5&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web - sorry). Also consider the Mississippi Gravel Cup, a four-race series every other week in January and early February. (https://www.ordinaryepics.com/ms-gravel-cup). Ian Boswell came down for the first race and I believe he came away a convert. Doing Rift this year. Full report to come.
You should do The Rift and then come on an Alter Exploration adventure in Iceland on some of the most spectacular gravel you're likely to ever ride. It is such a special place. On another note, are there any gravel events that require a teammate at all times, akin to Cape Epic? I see that Rexy has a team relay option but that's not the same.