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Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Journey to Gravel Races (part 4) - Digging Deeper

Having bailed from a misguided plan for a big production 24 hour mountain bike race, I tasted a gravel sample at the inaugural Black Hills Gold Rush.  Now, I'm eager to experience the storied MidWestern gravel scene.  For several years, I've followed on the internet the groundbreaking TransIowa and its progeny Almanzo and Dirty Kanza.  Those big races were done until next year.  What else is out there?

The start of the 2012 Odin's Revenge gravel race.  Looks like a mismatched group of bike geeks that I'd like to join.
(photo by Odin's Revenge)
At that time, searching for unsanctioned, under the radar, grass roots gravel races would be hit or miss.  That is, except for Gravel Grinder News, an obscure website started by TransIowa guru Mark Stevenson, aka Guitar Ted, as a clearing house for folks to post their gravel races.  It quickly becomes the de facto online calendar of gravel races all over the country.

Mike Marchand, Corey Godfrey and Matt Gersib lead the way at Odin's Revenge 2012.
(photo by Odin's Revenge)
These gravel races are popping up like dandelions all over.  Many are in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa,  Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska.  None are very close to Rapid City.  Then I spot Odin's Revenge in Gothenburg, Nebraska, about 350 miles away.  That's a haul, but less than almost all the others.

The race itself looks interesting.  170 miles of gravel and dirt roads in central Nebraska through country that I had driven past many times, but never stopped, let alone explored.  The course pictures show miles of rough roads and surprising scenery.  This looks good.

Race volunteers check out conditions of a Minimum Maintenance Road in advance of Odin's Revenge 2013.
The prerace pictures stand out even more.  Folks on Friday night gather around a campsite with picnic tables and pop up tents.  A mixed group of 28 racers await the start, straddling everything from front suspension mountain bikes to cyclocross bikes to old road bikes.  The 2012 race recap reveals that only 6 of those 28 starters actually finish the race, due to the difficulty of the course and the heat.  Now, that sounds like my type of race.

I send in my entry form - a post card.  Who still sends post cards?  You do, if you want to race Odin's Revenge.

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