The Alchemist Ride Journal - Secret Groad
Images and Words: Drew Van Kampen
Gravel racing is getting big right now. Really big.
The rise of gravel has some undeniable parallels with the rise of cyclocross here in the states. We became interested in gravel riding and racing as a way to keep things light and fun, and we certainly are not alone in that. It’s a great way to hone our technical skills while still pushing ourselves physically and satisfying a yearning for adventure. However, in the last few years, a scene known for more light-hearted inclusion has, like cyclocross, grown increasingly serious and competitive.
Now, we like going fast. Even pinning a number on here and there. We may not skip out on extra cookies but respect those who do (or can). However, we’ve found ourselves missing the more relaxed “run what ya brung” attitude that endeared us to gravel racing in the first place. And with that, we’ve found a new favorite “race” series – The Secret Groad.
We understand that cultural transition and what is best for the sport is a debatable topic, but what’s undeniable is that there are still events scattered around our home Front Range that drive the traditional gravel culture. Challenging events like The Secret Groad series let riders build their own route as long as they hit all of the required checkpoints allowing everybody to create their own ride and cater to their comfort level.
Want to make it harder on yourself just for the hell of it? How about finding and carrying the ‘Cumbersome Object’ (a decently large stuffed horse) for the whole day and taking on ‘Skid Duels’ from challengers for the right to retain the object. The prize for bringing Cumbersome The Horse down to the finish? A new wheelset donated by Mavic in support of local quirky events like this.
Not everybody finished this particular hot day in June a winner (however you define that), but everybody did finish with a high-five and fridge full of cold beers at the end. What did we take home? Memories and images of some of the most scenic roads above Boulder and Nederland, CO and a fresh pair of socks reminding us to “Harden the fuck up.”
We don’t all have a competitive nature and we don’t all want to put ourselves up for ultra-endurance challenges offered by races like Dirty Kanza, but what these types of events offer is the ability to make the day what you want it to be. For that, we love the gravel culture and will continue to push for events like this.
To Boulder, thank you for being weird.
To Vecchio's, thank you for hosting such a great event.
Check out the series. We hope to see you at the next one.