So this struck me after the last few podcasts. We all have our own reasons for riding and training and types of riding/racing we do. The podcast was heavy on MTB for a while with the gang doing more races and bike handling stuff, now it is very heavy on the road racing, crits, tips, etc. with the addition of Amber, Nate focusing on his upgrade, etc. Nothing wrong with any of that.
The one thing I haven’t heard much if any discussion on is gravel riding, racing, training, how it differs. With the decreasing participation in road, crit, and cyclocross racing and explosion and focus on gravel it seems like this might be a good opportunity to provide some insight as more and more people are gravitating in this direction.
And I would hope it isn’t “just do our century plan”. Riding and racing gravel is a different physiological demand than doing a long MTB or Road race. It’s not generally pack racing for most of us, holding a wheel in gravel is very different, the pace and load on your legs is different, you don’t need as much high end power as a road racer would, etc.
Anyway it’s such a hot topic that I’m surprised it hasn’t been discussed at all. Just from a numbers game I’d be surprised if there were more, or even the same, number of people interested in doing a stage race vs a gravel race. Just say’in.
I race gravel too, and I think the problem is…depending on where the race is…is that gravel racing is very different depending on the race.
Most gravel races I do behave much more like road races than MTB races. Many people have told me their gravel races are akin to long, competitive sweet spot rides.
However, if you looked at the power file from my last gravel race…it started off like a Cx race in term of max effort/punchy climbs…and ended like a selective road race.
I don’t thing the word “gravel” means any one thing…you need to train for the profile/character of the race you’re entering.
Good point regarding terrain, i.e. Iceman is different than Crusher in the Tushar is different than Kanza is different than STB GRVL.
Well, Nate just entered the DK lottery so hopefully he gets a spot.
I’m sure if that happens, there will be a deep dive into all things Gravel.
One thing I’d like to hear more about is noncompetitive gravel. I know some people get into it because they no longer want to deal with road safety. Some anecdotes would be interesting. Most of my outdoor riding is on the MTB trails these days for that very reason.
If your gravel races arent about groups and drafting, the are dramatically different from the ones around here. There is certainly more propensity for the group to splinter into smaller groups and individuals, but drafting is huge and a key tactic in many gravel races. I’d compare the dynamic of our gravel racing to road racing where it’s more selective as if the road race were always going slightly up hill.
Yep exactly. Any time I can get my workout in on dirt that is what happens. It just isn’t worth riding a paved road anymore no matter the reason. Last road race I did someone was grabbing a gel in front of me, hit a pot hole and crashed across the yellow line and almost took me down too. Oncoming traffic was 60 mph and heavy semi traffic and he just lucked out that when he crashed there wasn’t anyone in the other lane or he would be dead…for a 40+ Cat 4 road race for crying out loud… I said never again…
So what are we talking about here? Are you surprised they haven’t talked more about gravel? They certainty seemed to in the past, but I agree it hasn’t been discussed as much lately.
IMO, the Plan Builder doesn’t seem to adequately address gravel. When I plug in my A race, it sends me through SSB->GB->RRR.
Based on my gravel racing experience for the longer stuff, it really is all about building a big CTL through a lot of sweetspot and some race prep stuff like VO2max closer to the event. I think the plans the builder spits out for you for long gravel races are preparing you more for traditional road racing opposed to gravel events.
@Bikeguy0 Some great points. I think more and more we will begin to hear about gravel on the show. I think the crew is drawing largely on their personal experience to generate content, and I don’t think they have done tons of gravel stuff yet. it is coming though, and with all the new hires they continue to add, I would bet some gravel racers will show up soon. At least that’s my guess…
Yes correct, surprised not more gravel content, guests, topics, discussion, etc.
And good on McNeese for pulling the Lost and Found content, forgot about that. Just a ton of first person crit and road race stuff from Nate, Amber, Chad, and Pete. More power to them but that type of racing is not where the excitement is even where I am in Colorado.
I don’t have a subscription right now but your point on the plans makes sense to me too; while it does somewhat depend on the type of gravel event you’re doing most of them turn in to a really long individual time trial with some climbs that you try to stay with small groups as you can. There isn’t as much of the 30s - 1m anaerobic pushes or drill it to stay with a group. If you’re doing that in a 5+ hour race you’re going to be screwed later and be hurting to just make it to the finish line.
I have raced at the front of some of these races, and yes, it does feel like a legit road race, but things will settle down, and then it’s back to a race of attrition. For the other 99% not at the front, then it’s mainly a race of attrition for the whole event. Even for the pros at the longer events, I’d argue it’s still mainly sweetspot/tempo riding.
First Chad is the keeper of knowledge from the forum and podcast. Thanks
My focus is gravel and plan on hitting the trail much faster after a winter on the trainer. I’m always up to learn more about gravel specific skills. I saw first hand how fast the front pack was at SBT GRVL last year when they blew by me at the final aid station, oh and had done the 40 mile loop I didn’t. I hope it doesn’t become an extension of road with team tactics and aero bars. Me, I stop at all beer and bacon stops, talk with other riders and celebrate with gusty at post ride parties. Doesn’t hurt to ride on a brewery team either. Roads are for cars, keep gravel weird.
I would 2nd / 3rd / 4th this. For a perfect example, look at the varying terrain for the Grasshopper Adventure Series “gravel” races / rides:
- Low Gap is 50% gravel (last half) and 50% road (first half) and starts out with a 9 miles, 1800ft climb almost straight out of the gun
- Jackson Forest is 95% Dirt/Gravel/Singletrack
- Happy to help. My main skill is search ability and finding stuff I barely remember without finding the original resource
Too late, kinda. Gravel is already headed to the big time mainstream, which means teams and tactics are sure to follow. That may be more likely in the larger marquee events.
The smaller & more grassroots gravel events that remain are more likely to keep their casual atmosphere. But even those may change as we get more gravel riders coming from competitive road & MTB backgrounds.
If we remember back to the origin of MTB in the states, it was the super casual group of guys just playing around. Fast forward 20+ years and MTB is a standing Olympic event with multiple sub-disciplines and the requisite National and World Championships.
That took time to happen with lots of steps along the way. But I won’t be surprised to see gravel take the same basic path.
I agree with you Chad, but man, I do miss the days of super chill trailheads and campfires.
I think that stuff is still out there. At least from what I see in our area. Sure, there is now racing from every level of low to top echelon, but that doesn’t prevent the typical weekend rides and low-key events.
I hope (and think) that it can all coexist (with people interested in each level along the way). It may just be more wide ranging than the origins, which is probably a good thing overall in the thought of growing a sport, increasing the options for participation, and related equipment options as well.
One of the biggest strategic differences I see in gravel racing vs. road is the drop factor. In road racing, you are usually racing in a group of similar capabilities and you are out of contention if you get dropped from the main group. You give absolutely everything you have to stay with the group.
With gravel (at least the races I"ve done), it’s a mass start with all categories and many capabilities. So, unless you are contending overall, you are making a strategic decision of when to drop from the front group (or any group you are in really). The first hour or so of these races are very selective and hard. If you try to stay too long with a fast group, you’ll blow yourself up and it will be a long day. Ideally, you drop while there is still gas in the tank with a group of riders with similar strength. If it’s category based, my approach is to identify the contenders in my category and try not to get dropped before them unless I’m going too deep. After the first hour or so, things seem to smooth out and people are sorted into groups. At that point, it’s more of a slow attrition thing.
I really enjoy the strategic side of gravel racing. It has some similarities with road, but everything is more dynamic and you can’t hide all day for a bunch sprint at the end. It’s definitely more of a fitness competition compared to road, but tactics still play a huge role.
Did you stop at the Fireball aid station in steamboat last year? I was waiting for my brother at the top of that climb and I was very tempted… but discretion is the better part of valor!
it’s the wild wild west! Oregon Trail “Gravel” was unrideable on most gravel bikes, so insane.
I think people THINK they will be sweet spot rides, but that is far from the case, as you experienced! TONS AND TONS of vo2max
it’s already there my friend