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5 Gravel Events in 2020 You Don’t Want to Miss

Joel Smith

If you follow the road bike scene closely, you likely already know that most drop-bar talk these days isn’t really about road at all.

Most of the focus today is on the gravel segment of road, where dirt and tarmac and everything in between are mixed together on each ride.

With the growth of gravel, there has also been an equal increase in the number of events catering to this specific crowd.

Due to coronavirus, there have been some changes to these event dates and details, so be sure to check up on the latest status. That aside, here are the top 5 gravel events that we’re looking forward to in 2020.

1. The Canyon Belgian Waffle Ride

The Belgian Waffle Ride has been around for quite some time. And over the years, it’s lived up to its reputation for being extraordinarily tough. It has also morphed into a series of events.

In 2020, there will be three BWR events in three different states, California (May 2, 2021), North Carolina (Aug. 30, 2020), and Utah (Oct. 17, 2020). The California venue is the original (and some say the best), but all three events feature big mileage and plenty of climbing.

The long-course mileage is 138, 144, and 137 miles for the three events respectively, and the first two venues have over 12K of climbing. There are also shorter mileage options to riders who just want a taste of pain.

The BWRs have added festival elements the past few years, with craft beers and entertainment on tap. That said, if you really want to experience the true flavor of the BWR, get to training and go big.

2. Rebecca Rusch’s Private Idaho

If you’ve never heard of Rebecca Rusch, you could start by reading her book Rusch to Glory or see the Emmy Winning-film Blood Road.

Rusch, or Reba as she is know as to those close to her, is an American ultra-endurance pro-athlete, former world champion, Mountain Bike Hall of Famer, and namesake of her own Private Idaho gravel race.

Like most gravel events these days, there are numerous categories to enter at the Private Idaho, from a 20-mile loop to a four-day stage-race called The Queen’s Stage Race. This later event features almost 13k of climbing over 196 miles.

Racing aside, there plenty to do for the entire family at the Private Idaho, with an expo area, town parade, and a finish party with bands and activities.

3. Grinduro

What was once just a single California event has gone international the past two years. Today, there are six events spread across the globe throughout the year.

Mount Shasta is hosting the US version of Grinduro, and it promises to be another good one. The full course event is 55 miles, with 7000 feet of climbing.

 

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129 days to go until #Grinduro: Switzerland. Who’s in???Hosted by @evilbicycles.

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While that may sound manageable, Grinduro events are far more technical than normal gravel races. With a mix of gravel and mountain bike-style terrain, most of the mileage is relentless and hard on the body.

Grinduro is also unique is that the overall winner is the fastest person over four timed-segments, each about 5 to 7 minutes. And the event also features a mass start, so the fun gets going right from mile one.

4. Crooked Gravel

Located a short distance from our headquarters in Denver, the Crooked Gravel event takes place at relatively high altitude in Winter Park, Colorado, on Saturday, August 8.

The start is at 8500 feet, and both the 65- and 95-mile races go well above 10K feet.

The event rolls out from downtown Winter Park, but quickly climbs up through aspen and pine forests before hitting the fast open-road descents. It’s a gorgeously scenic ride, and offers some great views of the Rockies.

Crooked Gravel is actually put on by Roll Massif, a company specializing in cycling events. That means the big promise with Crooked Gravel is that it will be very well organized event from start to finish.

There will also be other activities happening outside of the race, with an expo and beer garden being the highlights, so you are sure to be able to make a good weekend out of it.

5. Big Sugar Gravel

Not too many riders have heard of the Big Sugar gravel event, so don’t feel lost if this includes you.

Big Sugar is held on October 24 in Bentonville, Arkansas. But this 100-mile solo ride treks up far enough north that the course actually ventures into Southwest Missouri.

Sounds great, right? The only bad thing about Big Sugar is that it sells out fast!

As of February of this year, there was no possibility to gain entry to either the Big Sugar and the shorter 50-mile version, called the Little Sugar.

Don’t let that stop you from going and checking it out, though. It’s the same weekend as Outerbike Bentonville, so the entire town will be abuzz with riders from all over.

And word on the street is that the unofficial Big Sugar happens the day after the event, as riders repeat the course following the GPS log. Stay tuned.

Stay updated on the latest road, gravel, and mountain bike races and events »

 

Alchemy’s Joel Smith has been riding mountain bikes for over 35 years. Starting out in the dirt on a converted Laguna-brand cruiser in the mid-1980s, his immediate love of the sport turned into a lifelong career. Smith raced both XC and DH in the 1990s (in the now defunct NORBA National Series) and has worked on nearly every aspect of bike development over his nearly 30-year long career.

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