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This week we launched the Monuments of Gravel — the five most prestigious gravel races to win. Based on the feedback of elite riders, four races have been selected: Dirty Kanza 200, Belgian Waffle Ride, The Mid South, and SBT GRVL.
For the fifth Monument, rider votes were tied between Crusher in the Tushar and Rebecca’s Private Idaho. So we are asking you to vote!
Although she’s discovered a new love of pushing limits on a bike during the frigid miles of the Iditarod Trail Invitational, Rebecca Rusch’s favorite place to ride is still in her own backyard. To show off the Sun Valley, Idaho playground she calls home, Rusch launched Rebecca’s Private Idaho gravel event in 2013. She wanted the name of the event to set the tone.
“I didn’t want it to be like a road race with a billion people around,” Rusch told VeloNews. “I wanted people to feel like a local. You’re my guest, and you’re invited here.”
The guest list at RPI is capped at 1,500 people and has only grown by a hundred participants or so each year. Rusch has no intention of growing it any larger in an effort to preserve its low-key, friendly vibe. This careful formula translates to both a solitary riding experience in the back-country, as well as a more intimate gathering after the ride.
“I come from a mountain bike background which is a more solitary style,” Rusch said. “I like to have a beer and party after the event, but during the ride I don’t want to be rubbing elbows and fighting for the holeshot.”
As for the riding, RPI boasts four different race formats for participants, including a four-day stage race. The marquee event is the Big Potato, a 102 mile mixed surface route with 5,296 feet of climbing. For riders who aren’t quite ready to tackle a gravel century, RPI offers two shorter courses – the 20-mile Tater Tot and 56-mile French Fry.
For riders who truly want to test their stamina against challenging terrain, the three-day Queen’s Stage Race includes a day of 40 miles of mixed-terrain adventure riding, a “fierce individual time trial sandwiched between a neutral 20 mile rollout and return ride,” and culminates with the Baked Potato ride on Sunday. On Saturday, stage racers can opt for an optional fun ride, or go shred the countless miles of Sun Valley singletrack.
For many people, riding gravel beneath the backdrop of the Sawtooth Mountain Range is reason enough to make the journey to Idaho, but Rusch wants riders to remember that the world is bigger than her backyard. After she rode the 1,200-mile Ho Chi Minh Trail in 2015 to retrace some of the footsteps of her late father, Rusch launched the Be Good Foundation, a non-profit that supports other cycling-related non-profits globally. Some portion of registration fees are earmarked for Be Good, and there are other opportunities to support the foundation during the RPI event weekend.
Since its inception, no two riders have repeated a win at RPI which speaks to its wild western personality of riding. Riders from every discipline will find their groove and be challenged on the mixed surface course; the race has been won by road racers, mountain bikers, and cyclocross riders. For Amity Rockwell, who may yet take a top step at RPI, the event’s monumental status is both performance and place-based.
“It’s gorgeous, challenging, and helmed by the eternal queen of gravel,” Rockwell said. “I think true gravel races are able to communicate the spirit of a place, and the way RPI shows off Ketchum and the surrounding mountains is one of the best examples of this.”
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