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On May 14 in a tiny town in central Texas, a pre-Unbound Gravel showdown is about to go down.
Gravel Locos, the new event that stormed onto the scene in 2021, returns to Hico, Texas this weekend in what promises to be a harbinger of things to come in Kansas in three weeks. However, with four distances ranging from 30 miles+ to more than 150 miles, the weekend of bike racing has something for everyone.
Gravel Locos race director Fabian Serralta said that this year’s edition will likely be fast due to warm and windy weather and dry course conditions. The previous year’s race saw waist-deep river crossings; Serralta said that only the first of the six river crossings has water in it right now.
“And it’s only ankle-high,” he said. “Last year, it was three to four feet, and it’s about six inches now.”
Nevertheless, the race will still be neutral until that river crossing, which is about eight miles into the race. Fast, smooth gravel typically characterizes the course.
Both will be back this year, and ten Dam admits that he’d like another victory in Hico.
“I’d like to say ‘no, it doesn’t matter,’ play the cool old mf’er but still I’d like to win that thing,” he said.
In addition to the GL30, GL60, and GL150 courses, Serralta has added a GL100 option this year, due to athlete demand. Newsom’s EF Education-TIBCO-SVB teammate Lauren Stephens will be racing that distance, as will SBT GRVL race promoter Amy Charity.
Other pros lining up for the GL150 include Ted King, Ian Boswell, Pete Stetina, Colin Strickland, Brennan Wertz, and South African Matt Beers. The women’s race will be animated by Newsom, Mo Wilson, Sarah Sturm, and Jess Cerra.
Raising money for a cause in the local host community is a tenant of Gravel Locos, which is adding a second location in Pueblo, Colorado on October 1 this year. Last year, the race organization donated money to the Hico Volunteer Fire Department to help it purchase a new truck.
On Friday morning of this year’s event, there is a fundraiser pre-ride to further benefit the fire department. Participants will ride the GL30 course with a handful of pros and have lunch afterward.
Around 1,500 people have signed up across all distances of Gravel Locos this year. After launching the event last year with no experience or history in race promotion, Serralta is thrilled with the popularity of the event.
“When I started this, my goal was 300 riders,” he said. “Now I’m thinking 3k? If 300 people can enjoy this, why can’t 3,000?”