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Sunday, January 12, 2020

Real. American. Gravel.

The First Order wins by making us think we're alone. We're not.
Poe Dameron, Star Wars - The Rise Of Skywalker (2019).

Muscling into the gravel scene, corporate opportunists incessantly hype "premier" gravel races promising a "world class" experience, at least for those anointed as special enough to be allowed to start or those willing to pay dearly for the privilege. If you're not a chosen one, hey, maybe you will be fortunate enough to "win" entry through a contrived lottery. If you don't get in this year, well, here's a lesser status, satellite event for you to work your way up to the real one. Of course, we'll let a limited number of you pay for our special training camp for preferred status for entry next year. Pony up, peasants, maybe we'll let you in. Meanwhile, submit to your Supreme Leader.

Like the First Order Fleet pillaging the desert planet Jakku for the map to Luke Skywalker, the elitism that strangles sanctioned bicycle racing stalks the gravel galaxy for your fealty.

Fear not. Corporate behemoths will not subjugate the gravel community. When all the big hype boondoggles dissipate, folks will still gather for fun, challenge and competition at local rides and grass root races. Just look around. You're not alone.

Recon from the 2020 C.O.G. 100 course. (photo by Guitar Ted Productions)
Here's a great start, straight from the birthplace of the grass roots gravel scene. It's the second running of the C.O.G. 100 Iowa Gravel Single Speed Championship, hosted by none other than Guitar Ted and N.Y. Roll. 2020 C.O.G. 100. This is where it's at.

The C.O.G. 100 is open to all willing to take ownership of the experience, rather than buy one served up on a silver platter. That is, Guitar Ted clearly and repeatedly pronounces that YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU and infuses that philosophy into the essence of the event:
  • self-navigated by cue sheets provided at the start (no GPS, no course markings)
  • self-supported (C-store re-supply, no crew, no aid stations, no caching)
  • no outside support of any kind (no "film" crew on course, no outside "encouragement")
  • no race organizer retrieval (ride in or arrange transportation if quitting)
  • no sanctioning, no prizing, limited if any schwag (the experience is the reward)
  • no one excluded (other than a generous field limit)
  • no cycles with a motor (mind-boggling that this has to be said)
  • modest entry fee to cover insurance and some expenses
It's just you, your fellow riders, and whatever you discover out there on an unknown course. All in all, it's a genuine Guitar Ted Production.

This is the heart of gravel. I'd love to return to the C.O.G. 100.

For more information, go to the C.O.G. 100 Blog. For my race report from last year's inaugural C.O.G. 100, go to A Fine Mess. For more gravel events, many of similar character, go to the Events Calendar at

In the end, the people make the gravel community.

It's not a navy, sir. It's just . . . people."
First Order Officer, Star Wars - The Rise of Skywalker (2019).

B-Road recon for the 2020 C.O.G. 100. (photo by Guitar Ted Productions)

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