|The start of the return on investments|
This whole gravel road cycling thing has been going on for a while now and there are a lot of events happening. Several of these are of the "free" type: Almanzo 100, (and attendant events), The Gravel Worlds, Westside Dirty Benjamin, and I could go on and on. The events that have turned gravel racing into the defacto "grassroots cycling" movement of the U.S.A. Why is that? Is it just that these events are free to enter? Partly. Yes, that is one reason, but I think there is a whole lot more depth to it than just a lack of monetary barriers.
Barriers to inclusion can be all sorts of things and a few of us out there that have been sweating the details and doing this for awhile are committed to breaking down as many of those as possible. Some of those things are obvious, like the money deal, or no license requirements. Some of these things are not very obvious- at first glance- but if you care to look deeper, you'll see what I mean.
|This isn't your ordinary racing- (Image by W. Kilburg)|
Now- that's my experience. But in comparison to what I have witnessed, been a part of, and told by others, the gravel road racing scene isn't like that, (for the most part), at all. Not even close.
Maybe it is the "all inclusive" nature of gravel events. You could show up on a real klunker of a bike, or something totally not right, and folks would be okay with talking with you and not taking you to task for being a "newb". They wouldn't look down their nose at you, but more than likely, they'd be willing to help you out, if you wanted that, and at the very least, they would be very encouraging toward you. That's what I've seen. That's what I've heard.
These are the same folks that would, after they won the event, come and pick up a DNF'er out on the course because the event director was tied up elsewhere. (Ask me how I know that!) These are the folks that after a top ten in the event offer you a cold one, and sit down and share the day's events with you, and want to hear about you and your experiences, even if you didn't finish. These are the folks that aren't bitching about what the race director didn't do for them, but are standing in line to shake his/her hand, offering encouragement, and doing unasked for things in support of said events. In other words, these are the folks you want to get to know, to ride with, and cannot wait to do that again with them.
|If it weren't for gravel stuff.........|
The big point brought up by my conversations with these two folks recently was that without gravel road events, and them being the way they are, there would be so many fewer friendships, opportunities, and special memories that are associated with those events. I don't think that you can say any one thing led to this- not the "free" racing thing, not that these events are on gravel, nor that they are easy to attend. I think it runs deeper than that. It is about the people, the spirit of the events, and lasting relationships that come out of them that make the gravel racing scene so attractive and so.......powerful.
Yes, I just said that.
I think it is true, and if the deep, heartfelt conversations I have had in the past week are any indication, I am dead right. I know a lot of popular media types, bloggers, and talking heads will poo-poo all this, but that's okay. I say, come on down and get dusty, look around you, and see if you don't see it as well. Then we'll talk.....