Friday, June 10, 2022

Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame: Comments On The Hall of Fame

The goods I got from my induction
NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

So, there are a few things I have to comment on regarding this hall of fame thing now that I have had a while to ruminate upon it. I'm not going to gloss over a few points here, and I have some good things to say, so we'll see how it balances out here shortly....

First off, and I've mentioned this before, for a first class of inductees, there is- on the surface of it - some glaring omissions. But there are a couple of mitigating circumstances here, so this is difficult, but necessary, I think, to talk about.

The irony was not lost on me - nor upon one or two other folks - that we held the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in the 'gravel city that Jim and Joel built'. Let's face it- There is no DK200 or Unbound gravel without Jim Cummings and Joel Dyke. Both should have been first class inductees. Why weren't they?

Let's take the case of Joel Dyke. Joel was - amongst many other things - not a person who sought the lime light. Because of that, because he left the event altogether around 2011, because he didn't do anything really notable in gravel cycling in a larger sense afterward, and because he died an untimely death several years ago now, his name is lost on most folks nowadays. But his impact is immense, and he deserves to be included into the GCHoF. 

On the side, the induction committee had to rely purely upon regular rider submissions, and their stories about why whomever they nominated belonged in the GCHoF. Stories which should have been included with each nomination. Well, Joel actually was nominated, but his "story" was a one sentence one that was pretty generic. (My source for this point was a high level individual in the GCHoF organization)  Essentially, the nomination had no story to go with it, so many on the committee had nothing to go on. I think this is a tragic oversight - that it wasn't clear that a "story" on a nominee means - you know - a story with a beginning, body, and an end. But be that as it may, Joel will get in posthumously, I am sure of that.

Erik Mathy coaxing a horse in for a portrait.
Now Jim Cummings legacy is a little more tricky to navigate. His dismissal from the event he co-founded and his social media activities kind of cloud his ability to be nominated now. There are those who will hope that he never gets in a hall of fame for gravel. But I think that anyone with those feelings is short-sighted and not really thinking this through with a clearer mind. 

I think if you weigh Jim's contributions, his intent with regard to the event he helped create, and his promoting of said event, well, that's a body of outstanding work. Consider also that Jim's efforts, along with Joel Dyke and later, with LeLan Dains' and Kristi Mohn's assistance, helped to directly launch what is now Mid-South, the Mississippi Gravel Series, and many other events like those. Jim's efforts helped to bring in many new riders, bicycle companies, and media attention to gravel cycling. The influences are immense, and Jim was at the controls for most of that time when gravel was coming up through the ranks to become a Professional sport. Think about him this way- If he hadn't had such a great influence, who would care at all about his social media posts and the name of his event? Right......

Someday Jim Cummings has to be in this hall of fame, or it will be laughable. Kind of like 'Pete Rose' laughable. But we'll see......

Otherwise I think this class is pretty good. As far as the future goes? Ya gotta get nominated and ya gotta have a story for the committee to study. I know events like Barry-Roubaix and the folks behind it are something that needs to be in there. The old "ultra-cross" events of the East and Southeast should be represented. The early Michigan gravel scene is worth a look. California's early group/training events on back roads seems to me to be a seminal influence on things. 

More Mid-West grassroots stuff is worth a look too. But I don't know how the GCHoF will take those ideas and implement them into a cohesive story. Time will tell.....

Image takers and other creatives need a space in the GCHoF. I know Eric Benjamin, the "Adventure Monkey", was a really big influence on the gravel scene early on. The things that were done like those old movies that the PCL and that North Central Cyclery did for events is worthy of inclusion because those were seen by a lot of people online. Heck, even Zach Dundas' book which included a bit about T.I.v3, or the movie by Jeff Frings called "300 Miles of Gravel", which won a regional Emmy in 2012 should be considered somehow. 

Anyway, enough ideas. I've got too many of those! 

My final thoughts are more personal. One thing that bugged me a bit was that my plaque said "Mark Stevenson" and you all know almost no one knew me by that name when I was doing all the gravel stuff, so "Guitar Ted" probably would have been my choice to add on there. Obviously- it wasn't my choice, so..... 

It was a costly trip for me to only have been there less than 24 hours. Lodging was free but the rental and gas money- so far- is on my dime and that was substantial. (UPDATE: I have been promised a reimbursement on my fuel costs for the trip, but my rental car is still on my tab) I'll tell ya- I won't be going anywhere anytime soon because of this trip. Can't afford to. 

But I got to meet a lot of people I was curious about. I got a lot of "Thank You's" and congratulations- recognition of my work I've put in since 2004/5 on cycling and gravel cycling in specific. My little offering to improve cycling has been noted, and will be visible at the Hall of Fame for some time into the future. That's humbling and I am very grateful for this honor.

And of course, I've already mentioned how grateful I was for meeting and hanging out with Erik Mathy. That was awesome, and I sure hope that another such adventure with Erik is in the cards in the future. But if it is not, I was extremely blessed to have had the experience I had. That was the cherry on top that I wasn't expecting at all. 

And now all this is behind me. Honestly, I don't expect that I will be of much note to anyone outside of a small group of people in the future. Cycling media, unsurprisingly, completely ignored the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame ceremonies. There was absolutely zero press there, no questions from any press members, and - you know- they were there. Like right in town. They were there for Unbound and the road racing on gravel surfaces. Talk about getting snubbed.....

And like I said, I was not at all surprised that media wasn't in attendance or interested. Media is behind "Roadie Gravel", not what gravel events have been since I started in this gig. The media could care less about that because it is not "real racing" to their way of thinking and it doesn't register on their interest scale. Grassroots gravel isn't about personalities that win races. So, it doesn't "sell" in their mind. It isn't "top-shelf" in terms of fitness or - most importantly- in terms of making money. Both for the racers and themselves. So, a "Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame" is ridiculous, and it doesn't feature anyone they can, or ever could be, interested in. 

But that's fine. I understand their viewpoint and really, their interest or non-interest doesn't change the fact that the people that went into the GCHoF were the ones that their successes are built on. Without us, they would have what? A string of failed stage races, a shriveled criterium scene, and an anemic MTB XC scene? Yeah, they have a lot to be thankful for, and I know it. Maybe they do, maybe they do not.....


MuddyMatt said...

Congratulations again Mark, well deserved. One thing in my mind is were you primarily rewarded for Trans Iowa, or for your Guitar Ted persona on the website, or both?

Because I think the website is easy to miss but in fact, creating content every. single. day is a hard thing to do and takes time and effort and commitment, especially over the extended period you've been doing it now. It's very easy to underrate that, but but if you go back you'll see the website is in many ways a better reflection of how the gravel scene has evolved - in terms of racing, culture, the bike business and on a personal level than your high profile efforts on Trans Iowa (not that I'm diminishing that I hope).

So, as a long-time reader, thanks. I look forward to your thoughts and the little window into a quiet corner of Iowa it gives me. Being UK-based, when I look around at just how many gravel bikes are sold these days over here its nice to know where they came from and why.


Guitar Ted said...

@Muddy Matt - Well, the nomination process, as described above, meant that whomever nominated me had to tell a story that the electors then had to go on. When the nominations were announced in April, there were no specific designations- For example- "So-and-so" nominated for their Promotions, etc. It was just a list of names. However; when the folks getting inducted were announced at the ceremonies, the MC read a piece on each individual detailing why they were being inducted.

For myself - and I am going off memory here, this wasn't written down, (and perhaps for future inductees, it should be, because this matters), I was inducted for promoting Trans Iowa, the event itself,and other events, influencing gravel bikes and components technology, and "story telling", which I assume to mean the blog and my former and current websites (Gravel Grinder News, Riding Gravel)

So, it was for all those things and for being a "pioneer" of the sport. At least that is what I remember of the induction.

Thank you for your comments and for your support in reading the blog, etc. One day I need to get over to the U.K.