Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Did You Hear About The Gravel Champs?

A few of the many "US Gravel Champs" I've seen throughout the years.
Hey! Did you see that race this past weekend where the US Gravel Champs were feted? No? 

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.
You can see my reaction from Sunday above. Why did I post that? I'll tell you why, it's because that's how we (should) roll in the gravel scene. That's how it all began. Heck, that's a big reason why it all began. We were sick and tired of rules, classes, and big prize money because it all created a very exclusive nature where only the top athletes get any cred and everyone else? They are just pack fodder. A bunch of dehumanized bib numbers on a stat sheet that no one will ever look at. (So check that link and give those folks some credit, if you ever see them or if you know them) 

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 MohnChris 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. 

Your choice.......

Updated: For another perspective on the USAC Gravel Nats see this article by Peter Stetina for "Velo".


NY Roll said...

Ohhhhhh I got a hot take on this one, that should probably be said on the podcast.

MG said...

Thanks Brother… Love ya!!

A-A-Ron said...

I have to say.......I don't fully understand your point of view. Yes, there was a prize purse, but why does that change anything? I have been reading about winners of Trans Iowa, Gravel Worlds (who had a jersey they awarded as well) and DK, etc. since they started. It seems like you are pre-disposed to not like this, but I would really challenge you to honestly examine why. What is wrong with this, is it really different, and why this can't live alongside any other event that is out there?

I assume, just like any other gravel event, that the vast majority of people on the start line knew deep down they were not going to win, but wanted to do it for the challenge. And most all probably had a good time. So I see no harm in this. Love to hear more of your thoughts on why this isn't good on the pod or elsewhere.

Guitar Ted said...

@ A-A-Ron: Podcast? https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/mark-stevenson1/episodes/The-Ethos-Of-Gravel-Events-e25h3q9/a-a9vpo0g