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The Grind: Plan B for spring and summer gravel races

Missing out on a race? Here are three suggestions for Plan B.

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The Grind is a weekly column on gravel, covering the gear, the people, and the events.

And just like that, the events we have been looking forward to and training for have disappeared from the calendar for the next few months. Like so much of public life, spring and early summer gravel races are canceled or postponed. So now what?

Well, first off, there is nothing like a global pandemic to put recreational exercise in perspective. As the coronavirus has killed tens of thousands of people and put millions more out of work, zip-tieing a number plate onto an expensive bicycle doesn’t seem like the most critical thing in the world right now.

And yet, I would argue that having something to look forward to remains a good thing. Whether getting out for some fresh air by yourself or churning up some endorphins inside on the trainer, exercise is good for your brain. And we can all use a little help between the ears right now, right?

Here are three Plan B suggestions.

Put a date on the calendar

In normal times, having a race or even a big ride on my calendar motivates me, and often gets me to places I wouldn’t otherwise visit, physically or otherwise. These aren’t normal times.

But races will return, and many spring- and early-summer races already have new fall dates. Put something— anything — on your calendar. Then start figuring out how you are going to get there, and work towards it.

This doesn’t have to mean starting a full-on training plan today. It can just be something in the back of your mind. Defending Tour de France champion Egan Bernal, for instance, isn’t riding at all right now. He is resting. But you better believe he is thinking about the Tour.

Build a DIY challenge

Before the Dirty Kanza got moved to September, Rebecca Rusch was training for the 350-mile DKXL. “I am still training with my coach as if the next race on my calendar is Dirty Kanza because I don’t know what else to do, and it’s good for me,” Rusch said a couple weeks ago. “If they pull the plug on it, then I am putting together bike packing solo rides of my own. The bike has to be a main part of my life because it’s important to me.”

Not of of us are such hardy souls as the adventure racer, businesswoman and volunteer firefighter, but there are plenty of other DIY challenges to be had.

My friend and former VN web editor Spencer Powlison cooked up a long, self-supported training ride, recently. Instead of stopping at stores to refill, he packed everything he needed for 90 miles and went solo.

Build ya skillz

Preparing for the fun in the future doesn’t have to mean pedaling now. Why not take this time to do that maintenance you have long put off, or to learn a new skill like how to use a tire plug, or adjust your shifting?

Helpful, how-to videos abound online. Our man Lennard Zinn has excellent how-to books. Or, call a friend and have them walk you through it.

Like you, I am very much looking forward to getting out there en masse again. In the meantime, I hope you are staying healthy and are able to navigate these tricky times.