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Gravel

The Mid South: Snow, clay roads, bacon & bourbon, and more await 2,500 participants

WorldTour riders, Red Bull athletes, and gravel specialists to face off in Stillwater, Oklahoma on Saturday. Here's a look at some of the course features.

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Bobby Wintle makes no bones abound the challenge of his event, The Mid South: it’s hard. The top of the 100-mile results page features a chart showing the finisher rate for each year since 2013. Some years, it’s less than half the starters. The reason? The mud.

When it’s dry, the clay roads around Stillwater, Oklahoma run fast and smooth. In those years, the finish rate is high.

When it’s wet, the clay turns to a heavy, ultra-sticky mud, clogging frames and chains, tearing derailleurs, and slowing the fastest riders to a crawl.

What will this year bring?

Snow is forecasted for Friday, with the temperature for the Saturday morning start below freezing. On Wednesday, Wintle moved the start back from 8 to 9 a.m. to allow it to warm up slightly.

Contenders for the day include Emily Newson (EF Education-Tibco-SVB), Amanda Nauman (SDG-Monster Hydro), Amity Rockwell (Trek/Easton), Moriah Wilson (Specialized), Ruth Winder (Trek), Crystal Anthony (Liv Racing), and Lauren De Crescenzo (Cinch).

On the men’s side, some of the boldfaced names are two-time winner Payson McElveen (Allied), Colin Strickland (Meteor-Allied), Ted King (Cannondale), Adam Roberge (Jukebox Cycling), Ashton Lambie (Gravelnauts-Lauf), Kiel Reijnen (Trek), Brennan Wertz (Scuderia Pinarello), Tristan Uhl and Josh Berry (Giant), Ethan Overson (Cinch), Michael van den Ham (Giant/Easton), John Borstelmann (Abus), Fabio Calabria (Pirelli) and Jonathan Baker (Rodeo Labs).

Mid South tech support provided by the local Jeep club. Photo: 241 Photography

The course – 103 miles, with novelty stops

Wintle changes the course every two years. This year, the 102.3-mile route will go a counterclockwise loop north of Stillwater, where Wintle runs District Bicycles, out into the countryside where Wintle says “it feels like you’re in the woods all day.”

The course has 5,200 feet of climbing through a litany of rollers, almost all on county roads, save a two-mile stretch of single- and double-track.

There is a single neutral feed zone at mile 43. Skratch Labs will provide hydration and snacks for all riders there, and this is the one place where racers’ crews can meet and provide support to their athletes.

“It is early, so you gotta plan for it,” Wintle said.

Beyond that one stop, however, there are few fun optional stops in the mix, including the Aspen Coffee Oasis at mile 20, ‘bacon and bourbon’ at mile 52 provided by Chamois Butt’r, a ‘secret oasis’ by SRAM and Skratch at mile 80, and then ‘shots at the cemetery’ with Orange Seal at mile 92.

“If it is wet, if it is muddy, just know that you have these carrots out there,” Wintle said. “You can make it. You can do it.”

As novel as the clay mud, The Mid South also has a local jeep club that provides neutral support all day. When the roads get bad, even normal cars and trucks can get stuck, so the 4x4s come in handy, equipped with Kuat bike racks.

At miles 25-26, Glencoe Road provides the “one really gnarly singletrack/doubletrack section,” Wintle said. Another potentially race-making or breaking section comes around mile 50.

“It’s a creek crossing, and the bridge is out,” Wintle said. “Sometimes it’s dry, sometimes it’s thigh deep.”

Dry years are fast years. Photo: 241 Photography

The 50-mile route

The Mid South features a 50K running event on Friday, and some athletes do that followed by the 100 mile race for The Double. Furthermore, The Mid South partnered with Gravel Worlds, which also offers a run/bike double. The result? The Double Double Championships.

There are also separate 50- and 12-mile gravel events.

The 50-mile gravel event has a one-mile singletrack section, with support at miles 20 and 30.

The two routes meet up on the western edge of Stillwater, and funnel through the middle of Oklahoma State University campus.

“They [the university] are stoked about it and so are we,” Wintle said.