Gravel (Race) Controversy?


I am not making this argument.


I don’t doubt that. I’m just saying the dynamic of having Lifetime and non-Lifetime riders in one race changes things. Slick didn’t care about points… only the win. Keegan likely wanted the win more than points (he’d probably get a few anyway) but second still put him on the trajectory to the overall win of the GP. Who wouldn’t want to win Unbound if they could?

I think that’s a bad take. Gravel may not appeal to folks for a number or reasons, but it’s exponentially more dynamic and selective than most road racing (unless we are talking about the serious climbing stuff). It’s all very course dependent, but even flat gravel races typically have a lot more dynamic racing. Most turns are 90 degrees and the surface is typically very loose, so every turn is like a technical turn in a crit x 10. Water crossings where some try to ride, others dismount. Gravel locos isn’t terribly technical, but had some sketchy loose climbs where I saw folks put a foot down and then had to walk/run since it was too steep to remount. Many of the races are also incorporating single track and other selective
elements. Gravel races hardly ever end in big pack sprints (but it’s getting more common), usually it’s small groups. Adam didn’t win at Gravel locos in a sprint, I believe he attacked from distance and held off the others by ~30 seconds.


If you really want to save energy then you should pull on the gravel or hills. That way everyone is going hard when you are but you get to rest in the wheels when the terrain is easier.


their response would (rightfully) be - That is exactly what we are trying to prevent.

The word “rightfully” made it sound like your opinion was more closely aligned with theirs. They want to keep the sport how it is by dictating the correct way for others to race (gatekeeping).

They probably would be super boring to watch from start to finish on TV. But I bet they/re exciting to be a part of. Just like flat road races aren’t always as boring for a rider as they might appear on TV.

But even Payson made this point on one of his recent pods. Likely no one really wants to watch Unbound live from start to finish. It would just be 10 hours of fast riding with someone getting spit off the back every 15min with a handful of attacks. But it could probably be cut up for a documentary or highlight format to make it more condensed and exciting.



1 Like

Those are not mutually exclusive. “Poor” day-of tactics aren’t made “great” tactics because someone has a bigger picture in mind. They’re bad or crazy or dumb on the day, but with a greater long-term goal in mind they provide a stimulus or an experience that hopefully the rider learns from.

Yup. Wanna win from a small group, bridge to that break, or create the break. Wanna go long, skip the last aid station. Wanna’ win through the mud, carry a tire cleaner and be prepared to ride the grassy ditch. Wanna’ complain about not winning, start a screed with “The spirit of.”

Cross is coming, people. Pullup, put it on the line for 45 minutes, drink a beer and go home. #gravelistheoffseason


I’ll admit that I would actually watch it…but I also watch all of IM Kona every year, so I guess I am easily entertained. :crazy_face: But overall, agreed…it is a very small audience who would watch the whole thing.

Exactly this…I said a few years ago after Flo tried to braodcast Unbound that it was not worth the time. Reliant on spotty cell signals made for an unreliable feed and basically watching the hosts try and fill air time without knowing anything that was going on.

Film it and then put out a tight, edited narrative within 24 hours of the race and you’ll have something worth watching. I think Call of a Lifetime did a decent job in that regard this year, but they don’t need to wait until the end of the series to do it. Get the episodes out in between races to keep interest going.


I’m guessing you hate the spring classics as well? Because these races are just essentially spring classics, just in America and on dirt.


This 1,000,000% needs to happen to really stir up continuous interest. Call of a Lifetime was cool but it would be much better to have a tight wrap up highlight video with an interview or 2 at the end during the season. Then do all the behind the scenes stuff in the off season.

Now I just have to watch Dylan Jawnson’s youtube videos to get any real highlight of the race.

Not to draw this comparison too much…but that’s what F1 does with the race highlights and everything out during the season so you can keep up on the actual racing and results as it develops. Then Drive to Survive comes out in the off season with the background and to summarize the last season and to set up the next.


The spring classics are not those pan flat mid-week lower tier Belgium sprinter races.

What I’m saying is that Boswell should ride these guys off his wheel on the tiny “hills” in this race and if those aren’t enough to make a selection then he should be working on his sprint and sitting in more.


Last I checked the spring classics have 140 professionals clicking in vs 15-30 semi-pros in either gender group, a century or more of history (barring the Nuovo Classico that actually hits gravel roads), and are run with teams of 6-7 which, according to many violates “the Spirit.”

Gravel is not a classic or a monument, just because gravel is bumpy.

When have you ever heard a classics rider complain about another classics rider’s violation of “the Spirit?” Its probably happened, but I can’t recall one. The complaint was likely about an actual mid-race assault, not someone skipping a feed zone or attacking during a nature break. Was the complaining rider taken seriously in any publication other than their hometown paper?


the best way to preserve ‘the spirit of gravel’ would be no prize money for these events, and no special treatment for pros.


Love this comment:

“The spirit of gravel is complaining about losing and making excuses.” :smiley:


Neither are the major “Gravel” races in the USA. The Lifetime Grand Prix has races like Tushar and Leadville that have massive climbs. Sea otter and big sugar also contain good climbs. Cheq is anything but flat. Unbound at points could be considered flat, but no more than any Paris Roubaix or Flanders route.

Truth is we have no idea how boring or exciting something like Unbound really is because no one has broadcast it like a true road race. For all we know, the Little Egypt climb (decisive moment in 2021) in Unbound could be every bit as exciting Oude Kwaremont. The power line climb in Leadville might be just as decisive and exciting as any Grand Tour climb.

And yet, Flanders and Roubaix still only really feature a handful of riders that can win.

All the damn time.


Who’s talking about all those other races or makign sweeping generalizations about gravel in the USA? Not me. I looked at the profile for gavel locos.

Well, with only 13-15 teams in a race, its true that there are probably 3-4 favorites, but every now and then a domestique finds themselves in a winning break with the right legs and right cards… the strategy is what makes the classics interesting. Its not a side-by-side race of attrition where no one drafts (to ensure equal wind time) like some people think is “the Spirit.”

Sure people complain all the time but you missed the back half of my statement:

and that’s why I don’t remember their complaints, because most people are astute enough to recognize sour grapes.

I love the spring classics. I’m not sure how you could compare gravel races in the US to that. Couldn’t be more different in my opinion.


Easy. They’re both really just super long, one day races of attrition. Rarely do they come down to a bunch sprint. Its usually a select group coming to the line or a decisive solo move in the last quarter of the race. You really don’t see the similarities between the front end of unbound and Roubaix? There was a reason Colin Strickland was approached by EF as a potential spring classics rider.

1 Like