TJ Eisenhart creates a dedicated Gravel Racing Team

More pros following suite in stepping away from traditional road racing to pursue gravel.

Gravel teams and a new sponsorship model in the USA on it’s way?

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Gravel racing is rapidly approaching the ramp…

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I fear this is just the beginning! As someone who has been doing ‘gravel’ for a long time, I honestly don’t know what to make of this movement. My club has been running a gravel type event for the last 12 years, and we decided last year enough was enough. I just ran it’s course, and we felt the vibe and feeling had changed so much, we’re not continuing it going forward. We’re going to back to focusing on more grass roots stuff that is more in line with the type of riding and terrain we want to ride.

There are still a tonne of awesome events out there, but the road racing mentality seems to be really creeping in to a lot of them. Just my opinion. Maybe I’m just being old and grouchy!

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I think it’s that professional road racing is dying in this country so guys are needing to find other ways to support themselves. They see the boom that gravel is having and know that’s where the dollars are. Who knows if it will actually work, but I have to believe it’s a favorable option over riding crits all summer trying to work their way [back] into pro-conti and world tour.

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@Ian747 there is some merit to your commentary, for sure.

I was at a major gravel event last year towards the back of the front…and as I looked around me every single rider seemed to be either an internet ‘influencer’ or a pro. This is probably an exaggeration but it seemed like there weren’t very many folks there who weren’t being paid to be on the ride.

That’s just the growth of gravel! Promoters had the thankless job of scraping the events together for the last decade so I’m happy to see that many of them are cashing in a little bit on the growth of gravel.

The downside is there are also dudes super aggressive crit riders sliding out on every corner for the first 15 miles of every gravel race! :rofl: I’d give it a couple more years before riding anything gravel that’s less than 100k.

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I completely understand the landscape, but I guess I’m surprised how far this influencer thing has come. I really shouldn’t be though as this is just the way things are done now with the ‘millennials’.

When I got into gravel racing a few years ago, I was one of those ‘influencers’. I was given free entry and attended photo shoots and before parties prior to the events. This was early days, and my focus was growing the discipline. I’m not really on social media, so I had no interest in taking it further than that. I also have no issue paying for my own registration.

It’s all good though, but just not for me!

That is undoubtedly a part of it…along with dwindling opportunities in Europe, as well.

As evidence that history is only prelude, this is all too similar to MTB racing back in the mid-90’s (let’s hear it for NORBA!!). Road pros were flocking to the dirt because that was where the money was going (or so they thought) and even a marginal road pro could collect a paycheck (yeah, I’m looking at you, Bobke. :face_with_raised_eyebrow:)

the next step will be the retiring euro pro looking to extend his career…just like a bunch have taken a stab at triathlons / Ironman over the year. And then you’ll get the guys who are struggling to find a contract, but have real talent, and come to gravel and clean up.

We can debate whether this growth is good for the sport or not, but the original “flavor” of gravel Racing is quickly disappearing, just like MTB racing back in the day.

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TJ, Ted King, Peter Stetina, Payson (who is arguably more of a gravel guy at this point given his results last year) are all excellent, well meaning, generally great ambassadors for the sport. Alex Howes and Lachlan Morton showing up at Leadville and DK was also super cool.

If Valverde decides to start a gravel team, I’ll start wringing my hands, but until then, I can only think that this is a good thing for the sport.

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I totally agree! I was thinking along these lines a few weeks ago how gravel is starting to feel like mtn biking of the 90s - minus the crazy doping of course.

The big difference now is the social media impact - these guys are recognizing a business model that is totally different where winning isn’t even the goal. To be honest, I do like that part of it - it can’t be all about winning, because having that single focus has plagued cycling for decades. I guess now it becomes how many ‘likes’ or ‘followers’ you can get. I suspect this will be the new dark side, where the competition shifts to eyeballs on Instagram or whatever site is being valued.

Yeah…Ted King May have been the first guy to really figure it out, but even still he wanted to win stuff. I gotta give a nod to Vaughters to really developing a whole plan around the concept of just showing up and creating a vibe, regardless of results (the EF cooling bandanas at DK we’re freaking brilliant).

In a few years, I think we will look at 2019 as the tipping point in Gravel racing.

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I personally think Tim Johnson was the first to figure this new formula out - and doing it without needing to be super competitive. I’ve raced with him in the front group in some of the races in 2015-2018, and yes he was ‘trying’, but he wasn’t training for this stuff. He was also quite chatty in the group and clearly there for other reasons other than winning.

Yea this shift you note has just made me focus on multi-day, self-supported bikepacking trips instead of gravel races as they thin the herd our substantially.

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Lance raced Leadville over 10 years ago.

I think TJ is fine and wish home the best. But he has no real social media presence. Turning gravel pro and then creating one is going to come across as disingenuous. Even Stetina is coming close to the line. The “cool” part about EF doing these events was that they also were at the WT level. Ted King has his WT experience, podcast and UnTapped business to build upon.

TJ hasn’t really made a name for himself to nearly the same level. He’d have been better off focusing on marathon MTB first. Now it looks like he’s chasing a trend.

And I don’t quite get the not focused on results thing. Why do I care if a conti level pro wants to chat me up to sell product? I’d much rather listen to/meet vegan cyclist. He’s been out there for years creating entertaining and useful content.

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I’d be way more into Valverde doing gravel than most of those guys. Morton and Stetnia the exceptions.

i’m a little mixed on this whole pros doing gravel thing. I won’t begrudge anyone getting out and riding whatever they find fun, but there’s a little bit of a sandbagging element of being a bigger fish in a smaller pond (not that I would stand a chance of being at the top even if the faster guys didn’t show up lol)

There’s also the issue of cost with these events now, I paid $85 to do gravel worlds (it was partially a fundraising thing so I’m cool with it) but a lot of these events cost a bunch, which seems silly given that with a gpx file you can ride the same stuff for free if you aren’t at the pointy end and are self-supported.

At the same time, there are fewer road events and they are hard to put together so I suppose any sort of organized semi-competitive cycling should be a good thing. It’s definitely a mixed bag

It makes 100% sense for American “pros” whatever your definition.

In Europe road racing is a HUGE spectator sport and has been for ages. Here in the good ole US of A we prefer stick and ball sports for entertainment. The financials of any major US stage race in the last 20yrs proves as much.

Americans on the other hand love to participate in cycling events whether fondos, charity rides, gravel whatever and the organizers can make good money on these events. Think about DK and the north of $200 entry fee for thousands of folks for one day of racing on what are essentially free roads…

If I were a sponsor I’d much rather have my rider hawking my product to thousands of potential consumers at DK and similar mass participation events rather than winning a stage of the Tour of Utah or Redlands that no one cares about but die hard pro cycling fans. (Worth noting, I’m a pro cycling fan and enjoy following what limited coverage there is of domestic road racing)

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Ian Boswell no longer racing for the World Tour and switching to his calendar to gravel events:

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Saw this - really excited excited about more content to come from this “Wahoo Frontiers” movement!

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Well, one thing is for sure, pros are a lot safer riding gravel than they are riding world tour events. For that reason alone I welcome them to my hallowed gravel roads. Well, ok. Not mine. But some others that are very nearly like mine.

Seems like every year we read about some pro that died on a dicey descent…or some pro that got squished by one of the moto bikes…or some pro that got run into or ran into one of the team cars. Yet every year there are what seems like a couple dozen more moto bikes out on the road.

Dangers like that don’t exist on gravel.

On the other hand you might die by smashing head on into a rider in the SAME RACE that is descending a hill while your riding up it. But I haven’t hear of that happening yet so…

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NIMFs (Not In My Fondos) :rofl:

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