|Dan Hughes shortly after winning T.I.v13 Image by Michael Roe|
Once the gravel scene got rolling, and I would say this would have been around 2007 or so, there was an idea batted around. This idea had to do with promoting the Mid-West as the "center of gravel racing". It was, most likely, a way toward a path which has manifested itself in another way, and I think it is easy to see now that time has passed us by. But back in these days, I am not sure anyone really had the vision that maybe only one or two others did at the time.
This is the story of the mythical "Triple Crown of Gravel".
Trans Iowa inspired the Dirty Kanza 200. That's not a claim that is up for debate. It's been said many times by Jim Cummins, the co-founder of the DK200, and it was also acknowledged by the late Joel Dyke, the other co-founder of that Kansas event. So there was a certain kinship that developed early between us and our events. At some point early on in both events timeline, Jim had brought up the thought of coming up with a "triple crown" with me, but at the time he was thinking along these lines, he didn't have a particular third event in mind. What other "like minded event" could it be? There were two- the T.I. and the DK. I recall that Jim thought it might be desirable to have that third event be in Nebraska, a natural choice because of geography and the interest in gravel riding at the time in Nebraska.
There was a possibility of the third event becoming the one which Nebraskan Skip Cronin helped put on. It was a very challenging, mostly dirt road and remote event that ended up being a one-off and never happened again. Then, in 2008, the Pirate Cycling League put on the first "Good Life Gravel Adventure". It was a 150 mile challenge and in its first year it drew a handful of riders, but the 2009 version saw much greater interest. The PCL started talking about a "gravel worlds" back in those days, and that sort of grand thinking was something that perked up the ears of Jim Cummins who then poked around with the triple crown idea again. What the PCL was doing was right up the pipeline of where the DK200 was going, and the PCL took some cues from both T.I. and the DK. I am sure that the 2009 announcement of the AGRS (Almanzo Gravel Road Series) "Race For The Cup" in Minnesota was another influencer upon this renewed talk of a "triple crown". There were a few emails going around between myself, the PCL, and Jim Cummings back then discussing how a triple crown might work.
I recall that I found several difficulties with the idea. How would a points system be set up so that riders could accumulate points from one event to another fairly and in a way that was easy to understand? How would the differing events come to terms with the difference in opinions regarding rules? Would there be a separate "governing body"? Would there be entry fees? Prizing?
There were far too many obstacles to getting there, in my mind. Add in the fact that I would have had to make some fundamental changes to Trans Iowa, which, frankly were not going to happen due to my loyalty to Jeff Kerkove's original ideas, and as far as I was concerned it was a no-go.
So, maybe you can blame me for the death of the "triple crown" idea. But I do recall that the PCL wasn't super jazzed on the idea either. That said, it is fun to look back and think "what if"? Had a true "Triple Crown of Gravel" series been set up, where would that be now? I'm betting things would be a heck of a lot different these days.
The whole idea died then, or so I thought, until April of 2017 when Dan Hughes crossed the line first at Trans Iowa v13. Afterward, in Dan's race report, he mentioned something about being the only "Triple Crown" winner. See, he had won Dirty Kanza, Gravel Worlds, and at that time, Trans Iowa. Dan, being fairly close to Jim Cummins back in the day, may have found out about the Triple Crown idea from him. Especially when you think about Dan winning the very first DK. It maybe would have been discussed back then, in 2006. But however Dan came to his knowledge of such a myth, it was just that, a myth. There never was a "Triple Crown of Gravel", but if anyone could lay claim to such a thing, it would be Dan.
Next week; I talk about how Trans Iowa was influential early on, but soon became the outlier in the young gravel scene in "How This Event Became "The Trans Iowa"".