I am not an experienced gravel rider (Plenty of MTB), but no way I would have raced a gravel bike. One of the hardest things for me was the extended descents and arm / shoulder strength as I hadn’t spent a ton of time conditioning those muscles early in the season - and that was on more of an Enduro Bike. Single track sections weren’t bad on MTB but the last one there’s no way I could clean fresh on my best day. (I was solidly mid pack last year finishing around 6 hours on an Ibis Ripmo and am probably currently a ~5 hr rider being stronger and on a much more appropriate bike)
Talked to at least one guy who did it on a gravel bike and he said - horrible decision. No way he’d do that again.
If you’re really experienced on gravel, go for it. But YMMV, looking at the elite end of the field I didn’t see any gravel bikes.
I came in 9th on a gravel bike. But I had a suspension fork and 2.2” tires, so more of a monster gravel bike. It was definitely still the wrong bike but it was fun. I’ll be on an XC bike for sure this year. I still consider it a gravel race, just one that’s better on a MTB if that makes any sense.
Up until last year the single track was significantly easier in the Blueberry trails, but I was dropped like a stone the minute the lead pack hit the new trail that they added last year. I did come back to the lead group but that certainly cost me more effort than if I had been sitting in the draft on a mountain bike.
This is a fun, challenging, and well-supported event. In fact there’s a guy from Placid Planet who has made the trek west to do it. I’ve done the 100K 3 or 4 times… not sure what the course will be this year but they did add another 15-20K’ish of single track on to the 40K that already existed going through the state park section). The rest is gravel for the most part plus some chip seal… on punchy climbs… with one that’s particularly demoralizing. Ha!