Gravel Locos




Gravel Locos is a true tribute to the Wild West. Located in the cowboy town of Hico, home of Billy the Kid, surrounded by ranches with cattle and horses, it’s easy to believe that we are back in time to the era when Texas, the Lone Star State, was a country and outlaws roamed the streets.

gravel locos start all riders
And off we go for the 150-miler La Loca. Photo: Velophoto.tx

– Today, it’s two years ago the homicide of Moriah Wilson, Fabian announces. 

A hush descends over the crowd of 700 riders starting the event. I remember it well: it was my first time in the American gravel scene and my first Gravel Locos. “Mo” was supposed to race, too, but a few days earlier, she was shot in a love triangle. It’s a sad story that has brought the gravel community closer.

Gravel Riding has an old-fashioned Wild West feel, and Gravel Locos is on top of the list when it comes to keeping it raw, tough, yet inclusive and laidback—just how gravel should be. This event is keeping the gravel spirit alive. 

Before we start, we will sing the birthday song for Niki Terpstra, who is turning 40 today. Fabian continues.

rider waiting on his bike
I’m relax and ready for Gravel Locos. Photo: Velophoto.tx

READ FIRST: Gravel Locos 2023

You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.

– Arthur Baer

Gravel has grown a lot since I was here two years ago. The sport is now on every cyclist’s radar. The UCI hosts the World Championship, and in two weeks, the World’s premier gravel race takes place in Emporia, Kansas. I’m going there, but today, it’s all about La Loca. Many of the best gravel riders are lining up alongside me for the 150-mile race. The Dutch mafia is here with Laurens ten Dam, Jasper Ockeloen, and Ivar Silk. The Felt-rider Sebastian Schönberger is here too. Chad Haga, Adam Roberge, Ian Boswell, and Ted King are in the first row. Two rows behind me is my fellow Norwegian Simen, who recently finished 4th in Traka 360. The list of pro riders is long in both the women’s and men’s categories.

The National Anthem is playing on the stereo, and then we are off. 

Almost 700 riders started the Gravel Locos 2024. Photo: Velophoto.tx

Some cowboys have too much tumbleweed in their blood to settle down.

– Ken Alstad

The peloton is stretched out. In a quarter mile, at mile 19, we will hit the day’s first big climb. It has been an aggressive start with plenty of attacks, but nobody has been able to get away. A mile back, we had crosswinds, and Ian Boswell and I had to dig deep to bridge the gap to the first group. We made it, but now we are facing a 500-foot-long climb with an 11% gradient. 

My legs are already screaming, and I hit a new maximum heart rate. 182. I haven’t seen that number in a while, and I guess I’m pretty fresh to be able to push that hard, even after a long travel from Oslo, Norway. But I feel strong and work hard to keep my position up the climb. 

READ ALSO: Unbound 2023

It’s a beautiful day with clear skies and dry gravel roads. It will be hot eventually, so I have stacked up three bottles of Flow Formula and a one-liter hydration pack. I made rice cakes yesterday and brought basically everything I will need for the race. I probably carry a little too much weight, but at least I will not bonk this time –  I hope. 

Schönberger has been riding in the front the whole day. Suddenly, I see him and Jasper Ockeloen pulling away. I try to bridge the gap. Adam Roberge and Juilan Gagne are up there too. We are pulling away. I didn’t plan to go in a breakaway, but staying in the chase is not easier, so I do my part of the pulling. It costs, but I’m excited to be up in the front with some of the best riders. 

It’s been a fast pace from the start, but I stay near the front. Photo: Velophoto.tx

Giddy up, and get them

– 2nd group, go! Fabian tells the group I’m in to go, and I sprint to bridge the 25-second gap to the leading group.

In Gravel Locos, there is a mandatory stop at two of the aid stations. I was in the second group after getting caught behind at mile 51 after one of these river crossings. I had to dismount, and when I got back on, we hit three steep climbs near Norway Hill. Yesterday was Norwegian Constitution Day, a huge thing back home. I rode my shakeout ride with the Norwegian flag. Today, the Canadians and Dutchies are coloring the race.

I make it up to the group, and the rest of the second group follows me there, too. Several of the riders in the first group ask me how we managed to get back up so quickly after the aid station. I tell them we got the go from the organizer, and it was probably about the right time gap when we were allowed to ride from the aid.

Edit: The Strava Flyby shows that we arrived at the aid station 27 seconds after the first group and left 23 seconds later. We were given a 4-second advantage, but in my opinion, it didn’t matter.

riding on bikes down a gravel road
Some of the downhills are fast and partly chunky. Photo: Velophoto.tx

– Pang.

Sebastian Schönberger punctures. Another rider is stopping. Then, a third. I’m so glad my Challenge Getaway XP tires are holding. Most of the course is fast and hard-packed gravel, but several sections are rocky with loose stones that can rip your tire. Chad Haga was the most unlucky one. He punctured after 1 mile into the race and hasn’t been able to come back.

Chad stays with us at the Ranch of Corey Ray’s uncle with Simen Nordahl Svensen, Alan Pocock, Corey and me. We came on Thursday and had some great days near Bluff Dale, close to nature, with an amazing view and a swimming pool. Most sane people would probably stay the whole weekend in the cabin, relaxing and enjoying life. Instead, we were out here on the prairie, fighting the tough roads and the increasing heat.

The rough downhill stretches out the 25-man group. Now, we are entering a tough climb. I remember this one well from my first year when the big selection was made here. Today, I can not manage to stay with the first riders. I pedal for my life. Simen is also dropped, and we make cohesion work about a mile to get back up. Then, finally, we are back.

The last days of rain makes parts of the course muddy, but most of it it getting dryed out by the Texan sun. Photo: Velophoto.tx.

It’s so hot that if somebody had stuck a fork in me, they’d a-found me well done

It’s deadly hot. 96℉ (36ºC). Now I’m glad I have enough water. I refilled my hydration pack at the second aid station at mile 94 and put ice-cold water in my bottle. It’s not ice cold anymore, but spraying water on my face still helps for a few minutes. I made sure I had some extra salt tablets to keep me off cramps and plenty of rice cakes and Flow Formula to keep me energized.

In a moment of concentration, I lost the front group. It was stupid. A small acceleration and I was waiting for other riders to close the gap. Then, suddenly, the gap had grown too big. Then, I teamed up with Ted King, Innokenty Zavyalov, Seth Hakizimana, and Simen Nordahl Svensen.

rider get water on his head
Ted King gets cooled down at one of the aid stations. Photo: Velophoto.tx.

We’ve been riding together for the last 40 miles, and now we’re trying to maintain our speed for the final 20. It’s a slow ride at the moment. The miles tracker on my head unit is barely moving. I’m so hot, I feel like I’m about to lose all my strength. I felt strong a few miles ago, but now the heat is too much. I just want to get to the finish.

Luckily, I haven’t seen any snakes this year, but we have been chased by a few dogs, as expected.

“I’m not afraid to die like a man fighting, but I would not like to be killed like a dog unarmed.”

– Billy the Kid, in an 1879 letter to New Mexico Territory Governor Lewis Wallace

Innokenty pulls up a strong sprint in the headwind towards the finish line. I try to get up on his side, but sorry – no can do. Instead, Seth is passing me on my left. We can see the Gravel Locos banners and hear the music. One last corner! Seth passes Innokenty and crosses the finish line in 11th place. I’m just behind Inno for 13th.

Innokenty Zavyalov crossed the line in front of me for 12th. I finish 13th. Photo: Velophoto.tx.

I’m rolling towards the expo. I’m dizzy and not sure where to go. Where is the cold water? Where can I sit? I’m toasted. But also pretty satisfied. What a day!

It’s my best result in Gravel Locos on my three attempts. I was outside the top 10, but not by much. I was 3 minutes behind Alex Howes for 10th, and if we hadn’t stopped on the last water stop, then who knows if we would have caught him. But in Gravel Locos, just making it through 150 burning hot miles is a success.

“May your belly never grumble, may your heart never ache, may your horse never stumble, may your cinch never break.”

–The Cowboy Blessing

I get a Burger, a cold beverage, and sit down with like-minded cowboys. This was another epic rodeo!

Thank you, Fabian, for a great rodeo. Photo: Velophoto.tx

COACHING: I want to help you reach your goals. Click here.

  • Felt Breed Carbon
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