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Gravel distances
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i need some help on something. a buddy and i want to put on a gravel here here in the san gabriels. i have the courses planned. short and long.

they're not very long. they're 33mi and 23mi respectively. but they're also 4,200 and 3,300 feet vertical respectively. many of the popular gravel races are all day long affairs. these are mostly offroad, a little bit of everything. down in the desert, up in the pines, elevation ranges from 3,300' above sea level to 7,000'. are these too short to be worth the while?

Dan Empfield
aka Slowman
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Re: Gravel distances [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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Slowman wrote:
i need some help on something. a buddy and i want to put on a gravel here here in the san gabriels. i have the courses planned. short and long.

they're not very long. they're 33mi and 23mi respectively. but they're also 4,200 and 3,300 feet vertical respectively. many of the popular gravel races are all day long affairs. these are mostly offroad, a little bit of everything. down in the desert, up in the pines, elevation ranges from 3,300' above sea level to 7,000'. are these too short to be worth the while?

I assume you mean a gravel tri? And is that 33 miles just the bike portion or total distance. If just the bike portion, I think 33miles is decent.

https://www.miles4matt.run/
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Re: Gravel distances [M~] [ In reply to ]
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M~ wrote:
Slowman wrote:
i need some help on something. a buddy and i want to put on a gravel here here in the san gabriels. i have the courses planned. short and long.

they're not very long. they're 33mi and 23mi respectively. but they're also 4,200 and 3,300 feet vertical respectively. many of the popular gravel races are all day long affairs. these are mostly offroad, a little bit of everything. down in the desert, up in the pines, elevation ranges from 3,300' above sea level to 7,000'. are these too short to be worth the while?


I assume you mean a gravel tri? And is that 33 miles just the bike portion or total distance. If just the bike portion, I think 33miles is decent.

no. this one's just a gravel bike event.

Dan Empfield
aka Slowman
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Re: Gravel distances [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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Barry-Roubaix is one of, if not the biggest gravel race in the country and their two most popular distances are 22 and 36 miles. They’ve traditionally offered a 62 as well and have recently added a 100. The long races like DK, Michigan Coast 2 Coast, etc get the headlines, but there are a ton of shorter races in my neck of the woods. Check out the Michigan Gravel Race Series to get an idea of the distances.
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Re: Gravel distances [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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The shorter route is likely good for less experienced or newer participants/riders. The longer route is a bit short in my opinion. I think 50 miles and 5,000 feet would be a good offering.

Given that lack of gravel rides/races in SoCal I think anything is going to be great though.
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Re: Gravel distances [Toefuzz] [ In reply to ]
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40mi and 3200ft was plenty in Umstead. That took me a good while. 2:52 to be exact. With a small staircase run each lap.

I’d say be careful on too much constant climbing as one reason to like gravel is sliding around and terrain. When spending hours climbing, not much gravel skill in that. Only on the way down.

I’d make sure it is “up down up down up down” and not “up up up down down down”.
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Re: Gravel distances [burnthesheep] [ In reply to ]
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burnthesheep wrote:
40mi and 3200ft was plenty in Umstead. That took me a good while. 2:52 to be exact. With a small staircase run each lap.

I’d say be careful on too much constant climbing as one reason to like gravel is sliding around and terrain. When spending hours climbing, not much gravel skill in that. Only on the way down.

I’d make sure it is “up down up down up down” and not “up up up down down down”.

still messing around with it, there are more options, but here's one version:



if we get all our permissions, it's very easy to marshal. very cheap to produce. i can make it longer, but, then it gets a bit more complicated in terms of asphalt crossings.

Dan Empfield
aka Slowman
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Re: Gravel distances [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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33 with 4200 would probably take me about 3 hours which would have been nice to try for my first gravel event. My first one was 72 miles with 7200 feet of climbing and I bonked really hard and had a rough day.
Either way, I will come because it will be close and show me some new gravel roads that I can find from my house.
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Re: Gravel distances [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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I don't think so. Especially with that amount of climbing. at least where I'm at in the southeast there are a variety of gravel races with varying distances, elevations, and terrain. it makes it interesting/challenging to figure out pacing for different elevation and distances with gravel bike races.
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Re: Gravel distances [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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33 is not bad.. I think 40 is a sweet spot, but also depends on gravel/road %.. more paved road more miles needed. 22 is good for people starting out.. it will still hurt plenty for them.
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Re: Gravel distances [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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you might try to frame it from a time perspective. Say a target a beginner route that would take a beginner ~4hrs (or whatever) and get your mileage from that. Same for the longer/more advanced route. tbh, I could give a rip about mileage as some courses (Land run for example or even JayP's Fat Pursuit) have relatively short options but depending on conditions can take forever.
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Re: Gravel distances [spntrxi] [ In reply to ]
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Keep in mind that this entire course will be raced at altitude. There are some great Southern CA courses that would start around sea level, go up a couple 1000ft, then up and down, but never into thin air. These courses up here have a low point of 4000ft, and quite a bit up from there, so that has to be factored in. Most people driving to these races would not be coming from altitude, so harder than the mileage would suggest otherwise..
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Re: Gravel distances [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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I've thought about this a good bit, since I'm a bike racer who does not have the time or interest in training for events longer than roughly 4-5 hours. Yet, most gravel events are at least 5 hours for the fastest riders, and some promoter even add distance and climbing year over year to push the events into "ultra" (anything over 6 hours) territory. So I've wondered for a long time why we can't have more reasonable-distance gravel events.

The answer is, primarily I think, that in order to have access to suitable gravel roads, you can't be particularly close to a population center. That's just the nature of the beast. So then when you find gravel roads for an event but people are going to have to travel to get there, there is a large percentage of the cycling population that doesn't want to travel a long distance unless it's going to be "epic" or "worth the travel". You can have the most awesome 3 hour gravel ride in the world, people are not going to travel more than a couple hours for it. I'm not really part of the tri community, but my sense is that the "longer is better" mindset is even more prevalent in multisport.

So that means, if you're looking to have a big event with lots of entrants and great production values, you've got to make it long and epic enough for people to want to travel to it.

An exception right now is upstate NY, where there are multiple gravel events (even a series) and the winners finish in less than 4 hours (some as short as 2). But that's NY, and even upstate is pretty densely populated.

If you're OK with only drawing relatively local riders and running a "smaller" event, then maybe this works for you. But Kanzaa, Gravel Worlds, Crusher, etc. are what they are in part due to the distance.
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Re: Gravel distances [vjohn] [ In reply to ]
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people are not going to travel more than a couple hours for it. //

Well a couple hours from this course is something like15+ million people? I would think that is one of the highest density populations near any gravel course. So I dont think Dan has to make it a 100k and try to be epic out the gate, quite the opposite. Make it an attainable course for all the newbies out there, but also challenging enough that the pros are doing 2 1/2 hours. Where did you think this course was???
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Re: Gravel distances [monty] [ In reply to ]
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monty wrote:

Well a couple hours from this course is something like15+ million people? I would think that is one of the highest density populations near any gravel course. So I dont think Dan has to make it a 100k and try to be epic out the gate, quite the opposite. Make it an attainable course for all the newbies out there, but also challenging enough that the pros are doing 2 1/2 hours. Where did you think this course was???

I had no idea. I was addressing why long gravel routes are so prevalent.
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Re: Gravel distances [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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There is a gravel series in Western NY that used distances and vertical similar to this. It was well attended. They've bumped the distances slightly this year to over 40 for all the races, but still have a 20ish mile option. https://www.bikereg.com/durtybikes JPow is at one of the races and Anthony Clark at another.
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Re: Gravel distances [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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Think it depends on who you want to attract. People new to it? Maybe. Existing gravel riders and cross-over roadies? Not likely, especially in So Cal with number of events offered. They don't need to be 135 miles but 33 with even 4200 of climbing is fairly tame. Crusher in the Tushar (you'll meet the founder of it next week) is less than 70 miles but like 10k of climbing, and at elevation. So it's overall difficulty for a lot of the existing set, I think.
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Re: Gravel distances [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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Slowman wrote:

still messing around with it, there are more options, but here's one version:



if we get all our permissions, it's very easy to marshal. very cheap to produce. i can make it longer, but, then it gets a bit more complicated in terms of asphalt crossings.

We can test this out in April. I was planning to bring my gravel bike anyway.

clm
Nashville, TN
https://twitter.com/ironclm | http://ironclm.typepad.com
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Re: Gravel distances [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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Slowman wrote:
burnthesheep wrote:
40mi and 3200ft was plenty in Umstead. That took me a good while. 2:52 to be exact. With a small staircase run each lap.

I’d say be careful on too much constant climbing as one reason to like gravel is sliding around and terrain. When spending hours climbing, not much gravel skill in that. Only on the way down.

I’d make sure it is “up down up down up down” and not “up up up down down down”.


still messing around with it, there are more options, but here's one version:



if we get all our permissions, it's very easy to marshal. very cheap to produce. i can make it longer, but, then it gets a bit more complicated in terms of asphalt crossings.

If you manage to get this course done, I will drop whatever race season I have planned to do it.

Ever since we went to Wrightwood I've wanted to ride out there again. Plus with flights into Ontario now cheaper than LAX...DAMMIT DAN you're making this season hard to figure out!

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Re: Gravel distances [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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I think the route is too short and not sufficiently varied. It appears that one feature dominates the entire course. (Granted, that may be unavoidable.) I generally want a race to be at least a 5 hour challenge. I wouldn't come out for a 33-miler. But not everyone feels the same way. It sounds as if you've got enough population that, no matter what you do, you can sell it out.
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Re: Gravel distances [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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Gotta agree with the "single feature" assessment -- just one huge hill can be a turn-off.

The two events I host are 46/3800' for the first, and 65/5700' day 1 and 59/3400' day 2. They're decently balanced. Vicious Cycle does a number of, well, vicious events each year, and they're quite frankly brutal, in the 80-plus range, and multiple climbs each. It breaks up the distance, giving intermediate goals during the ride.

Anyway, at 33 miles, maybe that isn't such a huge deal, but I'd find that particular loop a bit on the undesirable side for a paid event.

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Re: Gravel distances [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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I've done the Dirty Forty in VT which was 60 miles (actually bumped up to 70 on the day) with 40 miles of gravel. 5600' of elevation gain.

Recently did 'unPAved of PA' which had 30, 54, 90 and 120 mile options (I did the 54 due to family obligations later that day, but originally signed up for the 90 and would have liked to have done that as the 54 was so much fun). Elevation for the 54 was around 3800', I think the 90 was around 6000. All the distances used the same "core" course and built off that.

As a standalone gravel event, 50 miles is probably the minimum I'd consider signing up for.
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Re: Gravel distances [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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I would prefer it to be a little longer, but that's just me. I doesn't need to be an all day grinder, but 3-4 hours minimum.

I'd be there anyway, I'm 'local'. I did the Spandx Stampede in October, and it was about 40 miles, and felt a bit short, somewhere around 2.5 hours.

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Re: Gravel distances [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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I’ve done a lot of flat gravel riding here in FL lately. I’m talking actual gravel, not just dirt roads. Gravel ranging from fine flint, to pea gravel, to 1/2” aggregate with smatterings of smooth-ish dirt/clay thrown in in. IMO 1 mile on “gravel” is the equivalent of about 1.5 miles on the road (in terms of time, TSS, or however you might want to characterize it).

The rides you’re talking about might sound short but I’d wager that the 33 mile ride would probably take a “normal” rider close to three hours, no?
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Re: Gravel distances [GreenPlease] [ In reply to ]
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GreenPlease wrote:
I’ve done a lot of flat gravel riding here in FL lately. I’m talking actual gravel, not just dirt roads. Gravel ranging from fine flint, to pea gravel, to 1/2” aggregate with smatterings of smooth-ish dirt/clay thrown in in. IMO 1 mile on “gravel” is the equivalent of about 1.5 miles on the road (in terms of time, TSS, or however you might want to characterize it).

The rides you’re talking about might sound short but I’d wager that the 33 mile ride would probably take a “normal” rider close to three hours, no?

i sort of have the laugh at those who say this course has 1 "feature" but i can see how they'd think that based on the elevation profile. this ride would be a waistoid ass kicker. i've done sections of it. never the whole thing. i have a loop that takes you up a lot of what you ride down. the loop is 17 miles. i start/end it at 4,100' (my house) and tops at 6,100'. monty's done the loop, PT has done it. the fastest i've done it is 1hr53min i think, and i spend the rest of the day in bed. and it's half the distance of this loop.

Dan Empfield
aka Slowman
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