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Friday, October 28, 2022

The Power Of One

You don't need money, don't take fame,
Don't need no credit card to ride this train,
It's strong and it's sudden and it's cruel sometimes,
But it might just save your life,
That's the power of love, that's the power of love.
The Power of Love, Huey Lewis, Chris Hayes, Johnny Colla (1985).

On Day 2 of his 2020 Cloud Peak 500, Paul Brasby joyfully crests the climb up Hunt Mountain.
He remains the course record holder of that 500 mile bikepacking race
in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming.

Now finishing its ninth year, the Pony Express 120 Gravel Dash is a fixture on the Northern Kansas gravel cycling scene for its signature 120 mile race, its more accessible 75 mile and 30 mile routes, relay races, and a 2 day bikepacking adventure. Mark and Renee Hoffman of Backroads Bicycle, along with the City of Marysville, the Black Squirrel Cycling League, and a host of dedicated volunteers, put together a festival with something for everyone. This year, over 330 cyclists signed up for a taste of the Pony Express gravel experience.

It all started with one person.

In 2020, Paul Brasby leads out the inaugural Pony Express 120 Gravel Dash Bikepacking Adventure.
(photo by Black Squirrel Cycling League)

Paul Brasby is an engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad based out of North Platte, Nebraska. Over the years, his work has regularly taken him to the railroad town of Marysville, Kansas, with scheduled layovers there of 12 hours and often longer. An avid cyclist, Paul eventually left a bicycle in Marysville to ride during such layovers and soon discovered a vast network of unique gravel and dirt roads radiating deep into the surrounding countryside. There seemingly was no end to scenic, challenging roads in every direction.

About this time, Paul and his cycling buddies discovered the burgeoning gravel road racing scene and raced the inaugural, now legendary, Odin's Revenge in 2012. Smitten by the gravel bug, Paul then competed in many other races, enjoying a wide range of experiences resulting from the free wheeling, independent spirit of race directors and riders. Inspired by those grass roots races, he decided to share the wealth of his knowledge of great back roads by creating his own race.

Recognizing the potential for amazing gravel race routes from Marysville, Paul approached Brenda Staggenborg of the Marysville Chamber of Commerce for maps of local roads and for leads to appropriate locals for help organizing a gravel race. To Paul's surprise, the Chamber itself decided to join Paul to create the Pony Express 120 Gravel Dash. In the fall of 2014, they readily filled their field limit of 75. Five years later, with rider numbers approaching 200, Paul decided to turn the entire event over to a new, growing group of local gravel enthusiasts known as the Black Squirrel Cycling League. Before leaving, however, Paul initiated the first Pony Express 2 Day Bikepacking Adventure, the latest addition to the expanding Pony Express experience. See2022 Pony Express Bikepack and 2020 Pony Express Bikepack.

Paul Brasby bikepacking the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route in 2021.

So, over 330 cyclists enter to ride one of the 6 ways to experience the 2022 Pony Express Gravel Dash. They flock to Marysville, Kansas (population 3,447) for a weekend festival celebrating the local gravel cycling culture. That's the result of one person, not even a local, who discovered the joy of riding rough back roads, recognized the potential for great routes out of Marysville, and worked to create an event from scratch, with no bank roll, no sponsors, no endorsements, and no experience. Paul's dedication, and resulting accomplishment, is remarkable and inspiring.

As Huey Lewis sang, "You don't need money, don't take fame, don't need no credit card to ride this train."

One person. One passion. One idea. And the courage and commitment to make it happen. 

The power of one. 

What's your passion?

The Power Of Love, Huey Lewis & The News (1985).

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