Culture

Groad Tripping into 2021: A look into the gravel future

Happy Holidays, and here's to a bright and gravelicious 2021.

The 2021 season is a week away, ushering in hopes and dreams of a summer filled with bike races and a return to normalcy. I’ve looked back enough, now it’s time to push full speed ahead. With the new season upon me I’ve been busy laying the groundwork for 2021 success, both on and off the bike.

Sponsorships

I’m happy to report my sponsors all enjoyed joining me for my inaugural attempt in the dust, and are back for more. It’s important for ambassadors to have a direct connection with the brands they represent, not just a logo on their jerseys. It’s also more beneficial for the brand, which can benefit from a more intimate feedback loop. In fact, I think the pandemic showed that a nimble solo privateer could pivot faster and execute more immediately to provide an ROI than the larger machine of a traditional team that’s only done traditional races for a decade. My stable of partners not only have cutting edge tech to keep me competitive, but also the desire to create stoke with me.

I will count on Canyon, Shimano, Wahoo Fitness, IRC tires, and Squirt sealant/lube to cover my bases on the bike. Clif Bar and Sportful clothing will support my body. Lastly, Athletic Brewing and Floyd’s of Leadville provide two products I sincerely trust and utilize on a daily basis.

2021 calendar

In a perfect world, the vaccine coupled with those already infected and recovered snuff out COVID, and everything is back to normalcy. On the flip-side, vaccine rollout could go as smoothly as 2020’s attempts to contain the virus, and we’ll be in the exact same scenario of playing lockdown limbo. In all likelihood, reality will fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

My 2021 calendar follows this same logic: I have Plan A, basically recreating my initial dream 2020 calendar including all the biggest events and racing almost every weekend. But I also have a Plan B that is comprised of smaller and closer-to-home events and a slew of alternative projects ready to get the green light.

Regardless, FKT’s will be a major part of 2021. I feel 2020 just opened my, and many other’s, eyes to a new genre of bike racing.

Racing Grasshopper events were highlights of the first part of 2020.

Groad Trip readers will find me in person at the biggest event such as Unbound, BWR, SBT GRVL, Mid South, Crusher in the Tushar, and RPI. Personally, I’m most excited about the rise of the gravel stage races. Done right, these events have the capacity to create an off-grid camp life bubble and combine the fun socializing into a multi-day experience. I plan on being at both the Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder and the TransRockies Gravel Royale. Should international travel open up, the Rift Iceland will guarantee an unforgettable experience as well.

The calendar is a bit of a jigsaw puzzle, and to fit the pieces together I need to consider logistics and making sure I am competitive at the biggest events, present at those I care about, not burnt out on van life miles, and still married at the end of 2021. I will be releasing my full line-up of appearances in the next week or so.

Covid prioritization

BWR Cedar City pulled off a successful event this fall.

Any event I do attend, I am checking in with the organizer to make sure they have a well-thought-out COVID-mitigation plan, so I can feel safe and responsible in my attendance. Personally, I am planning on primarily driving, masking up, and getting tested often.

As for an organizer’s obligations for me to feel it is an acceptable risk: The event must take place entirely outdoors, with masks mandates around the start/finish and generally any other time besides the direct act of racing the bike. BWR Cedar City showed a successful event can be run given the right protocols: They had ZERO reported cases from their 600-person October event.

I can’t blame organizers for wanting to push forward and operate should they be allowed, this is their livelihood after all. Us racers need organizers just as much as organizers need registrants, it’s a symbiotic relationship where we need to support each other to both be the best version of ourselves we can be.

Groad Trip continues

Finally, I’m happy to report that VeloNews and you, readers, by way of your clicks and interest, have me continuing this opinion piece into 2021! It will continue as a monthly column where, hopefully, I can provide insight from the front of the gravel peloton’s wildest events. Stay tuned…