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My Journey To Gravel Events (2015)

In 2013, I started a journey that led to an under-the-radar, grass roots movement called gravel riding.  

Custer Gallatin National Forest, near the start of the Black Hills BackBone.

Here are links to my blog posts from 2015 that describe "My Journey To Gravel Events."

Looking toward next year's rides and races, I pause. How did I get to this place where I'm scouring social media for obscure, grass roots solo endurance bike races on remote gravel and dirt roads? Here's my journey to gravel races, starting just three years ago, on a day much like today.
Dan Cook and Mark Almer, you're in this from the beginning. Both of you would love this gravel scene, too.

Three years ago about this time, I was looking ahead to the upcoming year for mountain bike races to pencil in the calendar. A random thought shot across my mind. 2013 marked ten years since my last 24 hour team relay mountain bike race. Really? Ten years?
I cook up a grand plan for a multi-team reunion at a destination race, contacting old teammates and friends, digging up checklists and gear, and even registering. But the grand plan starts to collapse under its own weight. And then USA Cycling jumps on and it's just too much.
As usual, it all turned out for the best.

With my grand plan for a reunion trip to a destination 24 hour mountain bike race in tatters, I'm hunting for an endurance bike race of some kind.
For several years, I've followed TransIowa on the internet, along with a few other gravel grinders like Almanzo 100 and Dirty Kanza. These are long, solo races on gravel roads, not anything like the short, fast laps on single track trails and the social atmosphere of hanging out with friends and families at a team base camp at the 24 hour mountain bike races. But without such a relay team in sight, maybe I should consider a different kind of race.
Hey, there's a new race right here in the Black Hills, the Gold Rush Gravel Grinder, put on by the promoters of the Dakota Five-0 Race/Ride/Tour mountain bike race. I call Shaun. Worth a shot?

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 Gravel Grinder. Now, I'm eager to experience the storied MidWestern gravel scene.
Searching for unsanctioned, under the radar gravel races would be hit or miss, but for Gravel Grinder News, an obscure website started by TransIowa guru Mark Stevenson. Digging through primitive sites and Face Book pages, I find a crazy looking course and a mismatched collection of cycling geeks. Looks like a group I'd like to ride with.
I send in my entry form - a post card. Who still sends post cards? You do, if you want to race Odin's Revenge.

Sifting through the storied MidWestern gravel scene, I unearth Odin's Revenge, smack in the middle of Cornhusker country. A post card entry foretells the folksy character of the race and of the people behind it.
There are no strangers here. Only kindred spirits now connecting.
Here lives the gravel experience.

Three seasons ago, Odin's Revenge sparked my passion for unsanctioned, grass roots gravel road races. Since then, I've returned twice and raced several others, each having a unique flavor and character. I'd found my event, or maybe my event found me.
More important than enjoying a few special events a year, this small gravel race triggered a new mindset for riding. Conspiring with riding buddy Shaun Arritola, I continued riding gravel into the fall and then throughout the South Dakota winter. It's a revelation.

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