NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....
|Gravel racing will look a bit different than this, most likely, down the road. (Image from T.I.v6)|
Things are changing. Fast.
My feeling is that many events are going to see Pro level teams, more Pro level riders, and Pro only gravel racing in the near future. There will be a national points series started by........someone. Probably not USAC, but maybe. There will be more purse money. There will be super-high end racing bikes, (this is already a certainty), and they won't be festooned with braze ons nor will they take 650B wheels and tires. There will be team pits, as in cyclo cross, where wheels and bikes can be swapped out since team cars on gravel roads is......stupid. Most races will be between 1K and 2K in distance. (The future is metric) There will be big time endemic media saying they know all about this stuff.
Basically, the party is over. Money is coming and already is here. Marketing is coming and is already here. Gravel road riding is poised to become the style of racing in the USA. Like it or not.
That's my take. I could be partially wrong. I could be waaaay off my rocker. I don't think so though.
So, what now? I say, big deal. Let'em come. Let'em bring their idea of gravel to the party. That's what I did, why shouldn't "they" be able to as well? If all the money, marketing, and the way Pro level stuff works, puts you off, then I would say, just go ride your own ride. Put on your own "grassroots" event, whatever that means to you. That's what we did in the beginning of this, so there is no reason for that to go away.
Now, I will say some particular things I've heard have been "goofy", and I will always call that out, (Like title sponsors to old, established gravel events. Really?), but I think that is the outlier. Most of these companies, races, promoters, and media are good, smart folk. It'll be cool to see what they bring along to the gravel scene. But remember, just because they bring their flavor doesn't mean you have to reject and run away saying "Gravel has lost its soul! Grassroots gravel is dead!", because this is your scene. You make it what you need it to be and let the rest do likewise. No reason we all can't be doing our thing out there.
That was the end of my originally scheduled "rant" for "Friday News And Views" but since then a few things have come up. First, some of the Twitter respondents hopefully will read this. I wanted to point out also that one answer to me on Twitter basically was the last couple of lines in this post, which was written before I got that response. It's interesting that at least two of us are on the same page! here is that Tweet:
|Reply to my "vague-post" on Twitter Tuesday night.|
Now about the "rumblings". No, I am not going to detail it all out for you. I have been paying attention, and I note many things and how they are interconnected. I also get substantiating evidence from sources I cannot talk about now. Putting "two and two together", I have come to some conclusions and I am doing some extreme spitballing here also. Will it all come true? No- probably not. But some of it will.
Finally, I had an e-mail conversation with RidingGravel.com contributor, John Ingham the other day which had some bearing on this subject, in my opinion. He mentioned how social scientists have identified how Western culture has "shifted over the last 150 years from emphasis on work and self-control to emphasis on consumption and immediate gratification".
So, how does this have anything to do with gravel events changing? Okay, here's how- Self-sufficiency, being responsible for yourself, cue sheet navigation, unmarked courses, long distances without any means of refreshment, and mechanical repairs being the responsibility of the rider. Let's throw in no prize money, and minimal media attention. Does this sound anything like Pro road racing? Does this sound anything like a "sanctioned" event, or anything like a USAC type deal? No?
Does it sound like "grassroots" or does it sound like "corporate" style events? Think about the atmosphere amongst riders. Is there shared suffering, shared experiences, support and encouragement between riders before, during, and after the event? Is the format I'm describing one of "all inclusiveness" or one of "every man for himself"? Is it all about a "team leader" or is it all about "self-experience through suffering and enduring"?
Is one more "work and self-control", or is what I described "consumption and immediate gratification"?
See what I mean? I think there are both types of riders out there and one is afraid the other will "ruin the scene". Again, using the words of Beanpole Matt: "Gravel will only change for you as much as you want it to."