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Six early-season gravel races to put on your list for 2020

Across much of North America, spring makes a fickle bedfellow to gravel racing. We found six races where the weather shouldn't be a problem, but your early season fitness might.

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Hankering for some early-season gravel? Didn’t get into The Mid-South? If you’re sick of the snow and don’t have plans for spring break, we found six springtime gravel races in warm locales, to get you excited for the summer of gravel grinding ahead.

Hell of the NorFla
Newberry, FL, March 14
Celebrate the return of daylight saving time with a long day in the saddle. This route is only for those who’ve already put in a few winter miles—or who like to just plunge in the deep end; the course is 315km long. Lights are required, and riders need to be entirely self-sufficient. Sounds like good training for a certain self-supported gravel race later in the summer, we think.

Epic Desert Gravel Race
Marrakesh, Morocco, March 21 – 22
For the gravel fan who want to go international, this race is sure to be an adventure. Visitors can travel to Morocco just to compete in the race, which has distance options of 40-, 80-, 150-, and 300km, or they can additionally purchase the “Adventure Pack,” that features a three nights of camping in the Agafay Desert in khaimas, north African glamping tents.

The International Grand Prix of Gravel
Dallas, TX, March 21
Held in conjunction with the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS), this event is hosted by Texas’ freewheeling race promoter, the Spinistry. According to the group’s Facebook page, “The International Grand Prix of Gravel is a unique, urban gravel grinder that takes place along the Trinity River in the heart of Dallas, TX. Each 10 mile lap is comprised of a combination of levee access roads, paved bike path, and double track. Each registration includes entry into the Saturday NAHBS event.” The race boasts prize purses of over $2,000 for males and females, so you can race and then put down a deposit for a shiny new handmade bike!

Photo: Mike Reyher

Tour of the Hollows
Prairie Grove, AR, March 28
Northwest Arkansas is fast becoming known as a hotbed of all things cycling-related. Furthermore, their winter weather is mild, and bike-friendly. This inaugural race is organized entirely by members of the University of Arkansas Cycling Club, and all proceeds will go directly toward supporting the club and toward lowering the barriers of entry for aspiring collegiate cyclists. The event features two route options: The Big Hollow (60 miles with 4,700 vertical feet of climbing) and The Small Hollow (35 miles with 2,600 vertical feet of climbing).

4G (The Great Gator Gravel Grinder)
Homestead, FL, March 29
According to its organizers, the 4G is the southernmost gravel ride in the continental USA, and “the uttermost unique ride of its kind in South Florida.” This year, the event offers four distances: 70-mile, 40-mile, 25-mile, and a 10-mile family route, on mostly unpaved, unknown Miami-Dade County access roads and canals. The event starts and ends at the Miami Brewing Company and benefits a non-profit at the local children’s hospital.

Photo: Gary Mendenhall

The Bull Grind Gravel Race
Castroville, TX, March 29
Held on the rural roads of the Quihi and Medina River Valley, southwest of San Antonio, Texas, participants can choose between 30-, 60-, and 100-mile routes which boast a ratio of 85 percent dirt to 15 percent paved surfaces. For folks less-interested in bumping around on gravel, on March 28, the organizers offer a 200- or 500-mile endurance road race through Texas Hill Country. Each day’s events begin and end in Castroville; the overly ambitious are welcome to throw their cowboy hat in for both.