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Outside Events

The Grind: New routes and $5,000 purses for Crooked Gravel, Wild Horse Gravel

Colorado gravel events hosted at a dude ranch on the western slope and in the high-mountain resort town of Winter Park.

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The Grind is a column on gravel, from the bikes and the tires to the races and the personalities

Alright, friends — this is me getting back on track with the gravel column that I dutifully wrote weekly for almost two years until I fell off the wagon. And what better place to start than with our two ‘house’ gravel events, Wild Horse Gravel and Crooked Gravel, which each have new courses and $5,000 in cash purses.

Here in Colorado in 2019, we launched Wild Horse Gravel on a wild mustang ranch out west and Crooked Gravel way up at Winter Park at 7,500ft. When I say “we,” I mean the Outside Events team led by longtime event pros Chandler Smith and Scotty Olmstead. In that first year, Chandler and Scotty launched the brand Roll Massif, which I was happy to be a small part of as media guy / bike rider / beer drinker / general hanger-on.

Crooked Gravel is a Rocky Mountain experience, starting from Winter Park at over 7,000ft. (Photo: Justin Balog)

Fast forward to today, and Outside Events has replaced Roll Massif as the overarching brand, but the events and the people behind them like Chandler, Scotty, Tracy Powers and Liz Brown just keep getting better.

Both Wild Horse and Crooked have short and long course options with full support. Some events go the ‘you can only eat and drink what you bring’ route. We figure that if you’re paying, we are happy to serve up Skratch and snacks at the aid stations and a meal with a band afterwards.

Anyhow, both events also have point-to-point races on the long courses instead of the timed segments we’ve done in the past. The top three women and men get cash.

Here’s what’s new.

Wild Horse Gravel

May 14, De Beque, Colorado

Based at the High Lonesome Ranch just east of Grand Junction, the 65-mile Wild Horse Gravel has 5,300ft of climbing and the only bit of pavement is during the neutral rollout to De Beque. From there, it’s game on into the backcountry.

A big part of the charm with Wild Horse is the quiet location at the ranch. Most people camp or do the van life thing, as the few cabins sell out every year. But while all the noise and stress of city life is left behind, the good stuff is there in abundance: beer garden, live music, swimming pool, campfire, country cookout… the list goes on.

The Mullervy Bros — Conor and Kevin — came out to an early Wild Horse Gravel and put their Clif Bar racing legs to good use. (Photo: Justin Balog)

Friends have asked if they could ride their road bikes at Wild Horse. No. No, you should not. Some of the terrain is pretty rough, especially at speed, and you would be miserable at best if not plain out of luck and walking with a road bike.

If you haven’t been to Colorado’s western slope, the area is a unique mix of arid desertscape surrounding river-irrigated vineyards and fruit groves, and then high mountain bluffs fencing it in. The Wild Horse course takes you back into a wild mustang preserve, with some sweet views into the valley below.

Wild Horse Gravel is hosted at the High Lonesome Ranch. Read: You’re not in a big city out here. (Photo: Justin Balog)

“Wild Horse Gravel is just that – wild,” said Chandler, who lives in Grand Junction. “With a revamped short and long course, coupled with a 5K purse, the weekend sets up perfectly for novice and pros. It’s western Colorado gravel at its finest and there’s no better host than High Lonesome Ranch.”

Pete Stetina and Kaysee Armstrong won the event last year.

Crooked Gravel

July 23, Winter Park, Colorado

Similar to Wild Horse, Crooked Gravel has a 30-mile ‘gravel sampler’ course, and a longer race course.

The 67-mile, 5,100ft-elevtion-gain race course starts at nearly 9,000 feet and only goes up from there. We have a police escort guide us down Main Street through town. Once we turn off onto gravel, the race is on.

There are two massive climbs on the long course, which will certainly decide who makes the front group if not who wins outright.

You’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto. Elevation is the name of the Crooked Gravel game. (Photo: Justin Balog)

Held on many of the dirt roads that years ago hosted Ron Kiefel’s ‘Crooked Roubaix’, Crooked Gravel isn’t as rugged as Wild Horse, but I’d still recommend a 40mm tire and low gears. Climbing at elevation is a challenge. You’ll get your money’s worth out of this one! There are two aid stations on course, and views for days through the pines and Aspen groves.

The resort town of Winter Park has plenty of hotel and restaurant options, and is about 90 minutes from Denver.

“We are super excited about the new format and our new 30-mile route,” said Scotty, who lives in Denver and has been putting on Colorado events for 15 years. “Once the timing begins, riders who want to test their legs and compete for the purse will power ahead, while those who would just prefer to go their own pace will settle in for the day’s trek. There is no one right way to ride or race Crooked Gravel.”

After a police escort over the pavement, the climbing – and the racing – begins. (Photo: Justin Balog)

“Winter Park is a Rocky Mountain Mecca for skiing and mountain biking, but only a select few know what an incredible place it is for gravel riding,” Scotty added.

I agree, Scotty! Come see for yourself.

Registration is now open for both at Outside Events. If you join Outside+ for $99, you can do one of the gravel races for free and get 20 percent off the other one.

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