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Monday, November 26, 2018

Keeping It Real - The C.O.G. 100

The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.
Mark Twain

There's much angst in the virtual air about the commercialization of gravel races and the inevitable burst of the gravel bubble. The gravel darling of the mainstream cycling media, Dirty Kanza, continues to get more expensive, more exclusive and even more corporate with its recent sale to a big event production company. Many other gravel events also are morphing into conventional bicycle races, with professional riders, team tactics, expanding levels of support, little to no self-navigation, substantial entry fees and prizing, national media coverage and more enforcement of more rules due to racers cheating. Sound familiar?

Not to worry. What sparked and nurtured the gravel scene was not marketing and selling big production events. When all the big hype gravel stuff withers, folks will still get together to ride gravel for fun, challenge and competition at local rides and grass roots races.

New gravel races still pop up all over, many of which are small, low-key events operating on a shoestring budget by a dreamer and some volunteers. The grandfather of gravel, Guitar Ted, notes that such "under the radar" events continue to fill the calendar. The Message. Out here in the sticks of western South Dakota, engineer/beermeister Lucas Haan exemplifies the can-do gravel attitude by starting a spring gravel series that doubled in size twice in its first year, then doubled again to over 100 riders in its second. A Gravel Community Builds. That's where it's at.

Now, from the birthplace of today's gravel scene, none other than Guitar Ted recently announced a new gravel race out of Iowa that should warm the hearts of grass roots gravelleurs everywhere:  The C.O.G. 100 Iowa Gravel Single Speed Championship.  C.O.G. 100.

Drawing deeply from its Trans Iowa roots, the C.O.G. 100 squarely plunks ownership of the experience on the individual rider. Guitar Ted clearly and repeatedly pronounces that YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU and re-inforces that philosophy into the very structure of the event:
  • Self-navigated with cue sheets delivered at the start (no course markings, no GPS for navigation). 
  • Self-supported (no aid stations, no crew, no stores on the route). 
  • No outside support of any kind (specifically noting no outside "encouragement/cheering"). 
  • No race organizer retrieval (arrange transportation if quitting). 
  • No sanctioning, no prizing, no schwag (the experience is the reward).
That crusty curmudgeon Guitar Ted refuses to allow anyone to simply buy an experience served up on a silver platter. Instead, he provides written directions and you ride. It's just you, your fellow riders and whatever you discover out there on an unknown course. Oh, and single speed only. All in all, it's a genuine Guitar Ted Production.

The C.O.G. 100 reads like a Christmas wish list of everything I'd love in a gravel race. I wish I could be there.

Registration opens January 2, 2019 and is limited to 75. Expect it to fill fast.

On the volunteers ride at Trans Iowa v14, a flat stretch of rideable B-road somewhere around Grinnell, Iowa.
On the C.O.G. 100, I'd expect very few flat stretches. Very, very few. Maybe none. Likely none. OK, none.

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