Former WorldTour pro turned gravel racing maven Ted King grabbed top honors in the men’s inaugural long-course SBT GRVL race Sunday. On the women’s side it was road pro Brodie Chapman (Team Tibco-SVB) crossing the finish line first.
Each earned a well-deserved $5,000 for their efforts in the 140-mile race on the ever-rolling (and almost always scenic) gravel roads around Steamboat Springs, Colorado. All told the race handed out $28,000 in prize money split evenly between men and women.
King outlasted Payson McElveen (Orange Seal), who’d stood toe-to-toe with his foe for most of the day, but finally succumbed to a bout of leg cramps on the final climb of a course that doled out over 9,000 feet of climbing.
“Going into the two final really steep pitches [eventual third-place finisher] Jacob [Rathe] was smoked and dropped off,” King said. “Then it was just Payson and I going into the last super steep pitch. He cramped and I still felt good, and just rode away.”
King crossed the line in 6:34:50, with McElveen less than two minutes behind. Rathe came home about a minute later, with 2019 Dirty Kanza winner Colin Strickland slotting into fourth, and Jonathan Baker completing the top five.
McElveen surmised that Strickland was the rider to beat, but an untimely puncture dropped him out of the front group late in the race.
“To me, Colin looked the strongest,” said McElveen. “But he was also burning a ton of matches and getting a little frustrated. Basically at one point there was about 60 people in the front group who wouldn’t do sh*t. They just kept looking at Ted, Colin, and I to pull back anything.
“But those people eventually got tired, and it came down to a group of four. [After Strickland punctured], I felt amazing on the last paved climb when it was just Ted and I. But on the last dirt road climb about halfway up, I got a full leg cramp and couldn’t really pedal for two to three minutes. He got a gap of about a minute. I worked out the cramps by pedaling a high cadence, but I couldn’t pull back the time. Ted was incredibly strong today. He straight up beat me.”
It was an impressive win for King, considering he was coming off last weekend’s Leadville Trail 100 MTB race, and promoting his own gravel event back home in Vermont the weekend before. King also spent much of the week leading up to SBT GRVL dealing with a busted race bike.
“I was surprised because I was smoked coming in, but felt really good once we got rolling,” said King, adding that he’d shipped his bike to Colorado only to have it arrive, in his words, shattered. “I had to get a lot of components overnighted, so I have to give a huge shout-out to Cannondale, Zipp, SRAM, and Quarq…
“Knowing the race was 140 miles, I let it unfold with patience. When it got down to about five of us in the front, we made a gentleman’s agreement going into the last feed zone that we all needed something to eat. Right after that Colin flatted. Then Jacob came off and it was down to the two of us. This race had been on my calendar since the beginning of the year, and it really delivered.”
Meanwhile, it was Chapman delivering in the women’s race, which boasted just under 30-percent female participation. That translated to about 400 women competing in the inaugural event, which also included medium- and short-course options and had approximately 1,500 total participants.
Chapman rode much of the day at the front of the field with Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank teammate Lauren Stephens. But a flat tire ended Stephens run at the top podium step, with Chapman soloing home for the win in 6:56:40 (a time that slotted her 15th among the entire 419-rider long course field). Stephens managed to hold on to second, about two and a half minutes back, with Belgian Waffle Ride winner Sarah Sturm in third. Alexis Racheotes and former professional road racer Alison Powers completed the top five.
“I came here to win,” said Chapman, who has only been racing professionally for a year. “Unfortunately my teammate Lauren got a flat and I knew I had to keep going, so I just pushed on and tried to hold wheels and stay out of the wind.”
Farther back was Sturm (Specialized-Rocket Espresso), working with various groups to stay in contention.
“[The two Tibco riders] rode away from me pretty early in race, but I still had a special day out there,” added Sturm. “It was a truly enjoyable day when I remembered to look around.”