|A few of the many "US Gravel Champs" I've seen throughout the years.
Well, it was the the "big" race out in Gering, Nebraska over the weekend where 55 elite men and 22 elite women lined up to take part in the USAC version of a gravel national championships. Over 60,000 bucks were up for grabs with 192 total cyclists across all age groups vying for a chance at the cold, hard cash.
First of all, congratulations to all who made the effort to line up and take on 131 mile course at the event. That is commendable. Congratulations to all who finished as well.
Bottom line: They are all champions.
|From my social media post on "X" on Sunday.
We didn't do things that way back when the gravel thing got going. We were all about the individual's performance throughout the field. We celebrated everyone. We, as event directors, stuck around to shake every hand, hug every racer, and acknowledge every story we heard about overcoming, or falling short, of challenges both spectacular in nature and mundane as could be. We celebrated last place as hard as first place. Some still do that at their events. That's awesome. That's how it should be.
This gravel cycling thing has a UCI National Championships because of people like Kristi Mohn, Chris Skogen, Bobby Wintle, Jim Cummings, Joel Dyke, Corey Godfrey, and yes- myself, who, along with many helpers and riders, spread the love of gravel and the celebration of athletic effort, no matter the outcomes, in the beginnings of this movement. Many said things like, "When the money comes in, that will ruin it", and if the media only focuses on "gravel champs", a woman and a man winning a jersey, and awards and times, then yes- we've lost what we started all those years ago.
It's up to you,the event director, the rider, the follower of the scene, to carry on the things that made "gravel" what it was, is, and still could be. Or, you can just sit on your hands, have "Gravel™", and read about a few lucky, sponsored athletes in the scene on your favorite corporate media site.
Updated: For another perspective on the USAC Gravel Nats see this article by Peter Stetina for "Velo".