Roll Massif

The Grind: The Roll Massif Challenge

Ride big, beautiful Colorado miles — even if they are tribute miles in another place.

The Grind is a weekly column on all things gravel.

Last year I was lucky enough to work for Roll Massif, the organizer of road, gravel, and mountain bike sportives held all over the beautiful state of Colorado. This year, Roll Massif and VeloNews are sister companies, and the coronavirus has forced the cancellation of all the events. But we still want to ride, right? So we have a challenge for you: The Roll Massif Challenge.

The concept is simple: Ride the total distance of all eight of our sportives. Enter to win prizes, get swag, and support charities, many of which the founders of Roll Massif have supported for years and years before the brand existed. And do your rides in beautiful places!

This year we’ve seen a number of events pivot to virtual options, trying to keep the mojo going for paying racers and sponsors. And we’ve also seen a number of individuals cook up their own stand-in events. My friend and VeloNews coach Frank Overton, owner of FasCat Coaching, has been hosting various ‘Ode to X’ gravel race events here in Colorado. He’ll map out a course that roughly approximates a canceled gravel race, and then some of us will go out individually on our own schedule and ‘race’ the Strava segment.

Big events are off the menu for now, but big rides in beautiful places are very much still on. Get out there. Photo: Justin Balog

I’ll confess, I took Frank’s DK Homage too seriously. After setting a good time, I was beaten by Juergen Eckmann, a former German national time trial champion who heads up Cuore cycling clothing and still regularly drops riders half his age. So, I went back out the next weekend — on a road bike with clip-on aero bars borrowed from Chris Case — and rode myself into the ground to beat Juergen’s time.

Turns out, virtual events can be great motivators. I mean, I would never, ever go out and do a 100-mile gravel time trial on my own. Because that’s madness. But yet, with Frank cooking up a basic structure, there I went. Multiple times!

For the Roll Massif Challenge, there is no official timing, and you can make up your own routes, including virtual riding. As with the sportives, you can ride as hard or as easy as you like. Just get the miles in. What I’m going to do, however, is replicate both of the Roll Massif gravel sporitves — Wild Horse Gravel and Crooked Gravel — as best I can in the coming weeks. Shoot, I may head up to Winter Park and ride the actual Crooked Gravel course.

For a little inspiration if you want to cook up your own routes, here is what the Roll Massif gravel events consist of.

Wild Horse Gravel – 90 miles / 7,000 feet of elevation gain

Wild Horse Gravel uses the High Lonesome Ranch as its home base for start/finish, food, music, and camping. Photo: Justin Balog

Held on the Western Slope of Colorado outside of Grand Junction, Wild Horse Gravel kicked off last year from the High Lonesome Ranch, and took riders on some rough, remote roads with a healthy amount of climbing, all done at altitude.

Crooked Gravel – 93 miles / 8,000 feet of elevation gain

Crooked Gravel is Rocky Mountain gravel, starting at 8,800 feet above sea level in Winter Park, Colorado. Photo: Justin Balog

From a high home base of Winter Park at nearly 9,000 feet elevation, Crooked Gravel in 2019 showed off the best of the Arapaho National Forest. Most of the elevation came in two long slogs up to the top of Crooked Creek Climb, with a last stinger up Cottonwood Pass thrown in towards the end.

Join the Roll Massif Challenge

You up for the challenge? Total distance is either 353 or 484 miles. You can join us by registering here.

Dani Arman and Kristen Legan came out and crushed Wild Horse Gravel in 2019. Photo: Justin Balog