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Gravel

Alex Howes, Ruth Winder on start list for Old Man Winter Rally

With eight inches of snow on the ground now, some 1,200 cyclists and runners are signed up for Sunday's races in Lyons, Colorado.

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Some years at Old Man Winter Rally, it’s relatively warm and sunny. Some years the snow is so deep that portions of the course have to be done on foot. One year, state patrol canceled it mid-race because snowplows were out on course. Last year it was a socially distanced race, where riders in small groups could start at any time over two weekends.

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This year, Old Man Winter Rally is slated for Sunday in Lyons, Colorado, which received eight inches of snow on Wednesday. Former U.S. national champions Ruth Winder and Alex Howes are both on the start list, as are 1,200 others for the multiple ride and run distances.

Race director Josh Kravetz said he’s excited for what he says is the best of both conditions: “eight inches of snow early in the week with blue skies and Colorado sunshine forecasted for Sunday.”

“This event has seen every type of weather Colorado is known to deliver,” Kravetz said. “We’ve had a few years where folks were riding and running with bare arms and legs and ending up with mild sunburns. And then there have been years when the snow has been blowing sideways. This year we got lucky with the perfect combination.”

How will the gravel roads look Sunday? Probably a bit snowier than this.

The 100K bike race features two long timed segments; winners have  the lowest cumulative time.

Past winners include Olympic mountain bikers Erin Hick and Georgia Gould, gravel phenom Lauren de Crescenzo, and former pro roadie Yannick Eckmann. Sepp Kuss has finished top-5 in the event twice, and other local pros have done the event for fun in years past.

Last year Lachlan Morton and Howes (EF Education First-Nippo) rode the socially distanced event together and handily finished one-two.

The crux of the 100K course is the Rowena jeep road, which begins at 7,000ft and climbs about 500ft. While the rest of the course is gravel or paved road, Rowena is a shaded singletrack, which can be tricky in spots for many to ride on a gravel bike when dry. When icy or deeply snowpacked, it’s a challenge for the world’s best to navigate without putting a foot down — or just shouldering the bike and running.

Depending on how much snow melts, a mountain bike might be the best choice for Sunday.

Old Man Winter Rally features two long timed segments, with a paved downhill section being neutralized for safety.

While Kravetz of course welcomes the pros, he said he’s equally excited for regular riders to do his event, whether on the riding or the running courses.

“Colorado and this area, in particular, has its fair share of elite-level athletes, so the event has always been an attraction for this group of athletes,” he said. “The quest for this year’s prize purse is going to be exciting. However, we’re also excited to see our whole running and riding community back together again. We’ve got first-time racers, national champion age-groupers, folks battling cancer with their training, families running the 10K together for the first time, and high school mountain bike and cross-country teams.”

A recent wildfire destroyed some 1,000 homes in the nearby towns of Superior and Lousiville, and Kravetz is sending a portion of the race proceeds to the Boulder County Wildfire Fund.