Pro Gravel

This is Gravel Racing

11. februar 2021
Jonas Orset

What is Gravel Racing? Let us quickly look into what you need to know about the fast-growing discipline which will be the main battlefield of the Nordic Trailblazer. An arising discipline that engage more and more riders, even World Tour riders.

Gravel roads

Riding on gravel roads are not something new. It was the way cycling started really. The first Tour de France was more on gravel than tarmac. Loose ground, long distances, a challenge just to finish the stages.

COL DE GALIBIER: In 1935 the riders had to pass this amazing climb on gravel. What a challenge! (Photo: Du Jeu de la Plus Belle Photo)

Bike races on gravel is in the US called Gravel Racing or sometimes Gravel Grinding. These races are long, physical demanding, and offer amazing nature. The routes follow mainly or exclusively gravel roads. You might find yourself partly on forest roads or trails.

DUSTY: Unbound Gravel (formally Dirty Kanza) is the best known and most prestigious gravel race. (Photo: Unbound Gravel)

While part of the route may be on challenging surfaces, more or less the whole course should be ridable. There are organizers playing a bit with this unwritten rule. Like the Unbound Gravel, where you need to walk across a river, or Rock Cobbler in Bakersfield, CA, where the route leads you through a family's living room!

Just that freedom of regulations might be part of the charm of Gravel. It's all about making the ride epic. Few regulations applies regarding the course and equipment. There are few road marshals, and expect you need to pay attention to a GPS file and expect the feeding stops, you are basically left to yourself. You need to be self supplied.

Easy to organize, and easy to attend.

Gravel is growing

More riders are moving on from the road onto the gravel scene. Some of the most famous riders are Ted King, Lachlan Morton, and Colin Strickland.

Before the 2020 season, even Ian Boswell, Peter Stetina, and Laurens ten Dam shifted their focus to gravel. EF Education First has their own alternative calendar with participation in all of the biggest gravel races in the world.

Increased attention and more prestige, it is a tough competition to win these races. However, the prize money is not what drives riders, it is more the experience.

BRUTAL: Unbound Gravel (Dirty Kanza) is a brutal and heavy gravel race. Here the field is led by Peter Stetina, in front of EF Education. (Photo: Unbound Gravel Facebook).

Gravel is connecting pro riders, amateurs, and newcomers in the same event. The spirit has always been inclusiveness, community and self-mastery. Ex World Tour riders going to gravel are saying they once again are finding the joy in cycling and it is a thriving and supporting community.

In gravel all riders are welcome, and you race on your own premisses. There are different distances and difficulties.

It is all about the experience. Every ride is a small adventure when you ride gravel.

COMMUNITY: In gravel the social aspect and mastery are the key values. This photo is from the MTB race Offroad Valdres 2021. Jonas Orset (left) and Erno Kainulainen. (Photo: Ola Morken)

Gravel in Norway

The interest for gravel is expanding in Norway. It is still in many ways untouched territory. Nordic Gravel Series is a race series which really dare to aim for the gravel segment.

Last year I did organize my first gravel event. Dirty No Man's Land of Follo was a great success. Really fun and something to remember.

READ MORE: Nordic Gravel Series DNF GRVL

For 2021 we are looking to organize two events with the Nordic Gravel Series, Oslo May 15th and Nesbyen September 4th.

Other events you should consider is Oslo Gravel Grinder in July. It was such a crazy challenging ride last summer. 260 km and 5000 meter of climbing.

LONG: Oslo Gravel Grinder was a tough one. Photo: Christian Bedsvaag.

Gravel cycling in Norway has a way to go to get the same status as it has in the US. I am sure it is coming. We have amazing roads and scenery here, so it is just a matter of time before everyone is hooked on gravel.

GET TO KNOW: Nordic Gravel Series