Gravel bicycling is a type of cycling that is done on unpaved roads. This can include anything from dirt roads to fire roads. Gravel biking is often compared to mountain biking. Both activities take place on unpaved surfaces, and both require a bike with wider tires and a lower gear range.
However, there are some key differences between the two. For one, mountain biking typically involves more technical riding, such as navigating obstacles and riding over rough terrain. Additionally, mountain bikes usually have suspension systems that help absorb bumps and protect the rider from injury. Although there have been some recent innovations adding suspension systems to gravel bikes.
Gravel biking is similar to road biking, but there are some key differences. For one, gravel bikes typically have wider tires than road bikes. This helps to provide more stability and traction on loose or uneven surfaces. Additionally, gravel bikes often have a lower gear range than road bikes. This makes climbing hills and riding over rough terrain easier. Finally, gravel bikes usually have disc brakes, which offer better stopping power in wet or muddy conditions.
Gravel racing, baby.
The UCI Gravel World Series is a professional racing series for gravel cyclists. The series was launched in 2019 and now consists of twelve events held around the world.
The 2022 events are as follows:
3 Apr 2022: UCI Gravel Philippines, Bongabon, Nueva Ecija (PHI)
15 May 2022: Seven, Nannup (AUS)
5 Jun 2022: Wish One Gravel Race, Millau (FRA)
18 Jun 2022: Gravel Adventure, Swieradow-Zdroj (POL)
25 Jun 2022: Highlands Gravel Classic, Fayetteville (USA)
6 Aug 2022: Jingle GX Gravel Race, Amana (USA)
20 Aug 2022: Gravel Grit n Grind, Halmstad (SWE)
27 Aug 2022: Houffa Gravel, Houffalize (BEL)
3 Sep 2022: La Monsterrato-Strade Bianche Monferrato, Quattordio (ITA)
4 Sep 2022: Gravelista, Beechworth (AUS)
17 Sep 2022: Gravel One Fifty, Veenhuizen (NED)
18 Sep 2022: Ranxo, Ponts (ESP)
The Highlands Gravel Classic just concluded on June 25th. As a qualifier for the UCI Gravel Championship and a new event, it was expected that there would be a record-breaking number of riders. Registration was open for anyone that wanted a shot at the title. For comparison, UCI also added a new eSports Championship and more than 550 riders attended the qualifiers for that title.
Surprisingly, out of 1,100 open spaces, only 111 participants took part in the Highlands Gravel Classic, and about 80 finished.
The event, which was the first American qualifier first race worldwide series, saw local rider Andrew Evans come out on top in 4:05:30.
Just over 100 cyclists started the event outside Fayetteville, Arkansas (site of the recent 2022 UCI Cyclocross World Championships) and tackled rural backcountry gravel roads in the Ozark Mountains. With hot and humid conditions resulting in a heat index over 100F, many riders may have been deterred from taking part. The low turnout is a far cry from what was expected for such an eagerly anticipated event.
Hot conditions are probably not the biggest factor, though.
The hot 100 bicycle race is a yearly event that takes place in the city of Tuscaloosa, Alabama (with other Hot 100 events taking place in other parts of the world). The race consists of a century-length course that winds its way through the streets of downtown Tuscaloosa. The race is open to anyone who wants to compete, and typically attracts a large field of riders from all over the world. With temperatures reaching upwards of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the hot conditions make for one tough race. Despite the heat, riders push on and give it their all in hopes of winning the cash prize and bragging rights that come with being the fastest rider.
Riders Mason McNeill and his fellow riders spoke about their chances of qualifying for the UCI Gravel World Championships. “We did the math. If there are 35 people in our category, we need to finish off the top 9,” McNeil said. “It just seemed possible with a fun day on the bike ... I signed up because it was local and I’m trying to do most of the local races," McNeill finished in second place and qualified for the World Championship event in Italy.
One producer of the event said, “First, was the delay in getting the UCI to agree to the Irwin Agreement [Vervecken, series coordinator] Evaluation. It was pushed over and over. Then I’m in the middle of Joe Martin. Two weeks later, I’m promoting the USA Triple Champion. I had [a] runway early, then I had no runway. So I’m going to throw myself under the bus a little bit, and Irwin, through a lot of circumstances, hasn’t been able to market it the way he wanted. We just said, ‘You know what, we’re going to put our heads aside and no matter where we come, we’re going to take him out of the park and have a big event for next year.'”
Some riders that attended said they were unaware of the event until very late. Women participants were annoyed that their classification was seemingly empty with women's 30-35 class winner Lenny Ramsay stating, "that’s the fun of gravel – to have people ride with them."
The next American gravel event is the Jingle GX Gravel Race on August 6th, with only about 10% of the slots being filled in the first American gravel event of the calendar year race organizers and spectators alike are not too hopeful for a large turnout.