New Gravel Race - Valley of Tears, $26k purse and $20 entry fee

A friend sent me the info on this new gravel race. I figured it was just another small/regional event (in the middle of nowhere between Lubbock and Amarillo), but then saw that it has a $26k purse and Keegan, Sofia, and a few other big names are already signed up. 115 miles and minimal climbing (other distance options also). Weather can be great or crappy that time of year (early March). I’m not sure what the background is on this race or who is funding it, but I assume someone is hoping to get a new race off the ground and trying to draw big names with the purse. I decided to stick it on my schedule as an early season fun race. It’s a long drive from central Texas, but entry is only $20 and I’ll probably combine it with a side trip to Palo Duro Canyon (near Amarillo) for some of the best mountain biking in Texas. Anyway, I thought I’d share the info, looks like a good time.


Palo duro is rad, id just go there

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Quitaque is tiny but it’s an interesting stop. I’ve ridden that Caprock Canyons Trailway a couple of times, that’s pretty flat overall. Never raced it but it was a good place to ride in that there’s hardly anyone on the trail. I can probably count the people I’ve seen there on one hand in two out and back trips. The tunnel is interesting, the way it’s built and all of the bats that are there certain times of the year. Curious if they’ll ask for people to dismount through the tunnel. I don’t think that date is one of the times of the year that all of the bats are there. Either way the tunnel floor is deep with bat guano or better described as bat guano dust. It’s very fine, I’ve always walked through and it goes right through socks and shoes and ends up between your toes. If you rolled through there in a cloud of dust you’d be filthy and stink.

Definitely worth hitting Palo Duro north of there on the mountain bike. There are also miles and miles of dirt/gravel roads in the Amarillo area, since those roads are mostly laid out on a big grid it’s pretty easy to navigate around, they’re primarily either north/south or east/west. Weather could be anything the temp could swing greatly there from morning to afternoon, and the winds in the panhandle can be something else. A lot of the trailway is sheltered a bit by terrain, not sure about the other roads they’re using. Palo Duro Canyon where the MTB trails are is also out of the wind. 30-40 mph or more is no fun at all on the open plains if you’ve got nothing but a headwind between you and being done.

That wasn’t in the marketing materials. I’m down with mud, rain, dust, etc., but riding through a bat crap dust cloud sounds kind of nasty. With such a flat profile, maybe this is the selection point of the race… Should be interesting, hopefully they have a plan.

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I’ve gone through the tunnel 4 times? Walking slowly, it’s dark in there, you can see but not a great deal, the dust is ankle deep at minimum and so fine it will get into anything. I make sure I’ve got a way to clean myself off before getting back in the car and shoes and socks go in the truck bed till they get cleaned. Yeah, I’m good with mud and being muddy, and the tunnel is interesting but is full of a different level of filth. It’s also not a short tunnel, this isn’t ten paces and you are through.

If I was going to ride through I’d want a light to see, no plans on laying down a bike in there. And I don’t think I’d want to follow anyone through, let alone a pack, talk about a mouth full, literally a bat sh*t sandwich.

There might be a way to divert around it that they’re going to use? The Caprock Trailway definitely goes through there but there might be a path there that goes around the terrain?

I couldn’t tell from their map but depending on how far west they go on the trailway, there is a grade, not brutal but uphill that would break up a race. The trailway used to be at it’s roughest leaving Quitaque, that would separate people, but there’s a section of flat packed pea gravel west of that that is very fast.

I forget how many bats live there at certain times of the year, but it’s 10’s of thousands, their hangouts are pretty rare, for this kind. IIRC one of the other places is under a bridge in Austin.

Yeah, I live in central TX and have seen the bats under the congress bridge in Austin a few times. The colony is about 1.5 million. You do not want to be under the flight path when they exit. Umbrella conditions.

Thanks for all the backgound. I’m gonna assume they have a plan to divert around the tunnel if it’s that nasty. Or I’ll just deal with it.

I’d think that they do, maybe I got it on the Parks & Wildlife site or a sign there but I remember reading somewhere about only walking through the tunnel quietly so you don’t disturb the bats. I was never entirely clear if this was all year long or just when they’re all in there at once. But once I got down there I decided it didn’t matter as I didn’t want to ride through there anyway.

I signed up for this back when it first opened and didn’t think much of it other than it was cheap and in my state. I looked at the “who’s registered” today and there are 420-ish signed up with some heavy hitters going as well. Would be interesting to see if they are going to have them go through that tunnel. If so, I would hate to be at the back. The map sure look like they are. I’m only doing the 45 mile and it skips the tunnel. Someone might come out a superhero after breathing all the bat grunt.

Looking forward to it. Buddy and I are coming down from Kansas and camping at Pole Canyon. Doing the 100m on my single speed. Gonna use it as a big nutrition test run.

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