Gravel racing has become a mainstream cycling discipline. Events range in distance from short, intense races to multi-day endurance events, attract amateurs to professionals, and require minimal technical skill compared to mountain or road racing. These aspects create a relatively low barrier to entry to new riders and make it appealing to other endurance athletes like triathletes and trail runners.
Gravel racing is accessible. You don't need an expensive bike, and you don't have to worry about navigating technical trails or maneuvering through tight corners at high speeds. Instead, gravel racing takes place on unpaved roads, providing a unique challenge that is more about endurance and mental toughness than technical skill.
Gravel racing is open to riders of all abilities. Many events offer multiple distance options to accommodate riders of different skill levels. And like trail running, it’s not often you get to toe the line with the pros- or maybe start several bike lengths back from the pros.
Gravel is grassroots. In the United States, gravel racing started to gain popularity in the 2000s. Riders in rural areas began organizing informal races on gravel roads, often in the form of long-distance rides or "gravel centuries." These events were typically low-key affairs, with riders coming together to challenge themselves on challenging terrain. While more formal races are gaining in popularity, local mass-start fondos still have a large following in Colorado.
Living in Colorado we have great community-driven races right in our backyard. The races are less about expensive gear, pro teams with technical race strategies, and snooty euro vibes and more about riding your grandpa's old Schwinn, collective suffering, and enjoying a beer at the finish. It’s a welcoming environment that makes it easy to get involved in. Below are some of the gravel races taking place this spring in Colorado. If not to race, then to show up and heckle with a beverage in hand.
The Dirty Edge Gravel, Fruita, May 7th, 2023
The Dirty Edge Gravel is part of Adventure Fest along 18 road in Fruita Colorado. The course takes its name from Edge Loop which you will be traversing along the 18 road moonscape. There is also a Women’s Gravel Clinic the day before lead by pro racers Lauren Costantini, Reese Ruland and George Simpson.
Co2Ut, Fruita, May 14, 2023
The weekend following Dirty Edge Gravel is another race in the desert. Five different routes range from 30 miles to 125 miles traversing into Utah and back. Co2Ut is a Colorado classic and part of the Colorado Summer of Gravel Series.
Dirty Roads 101, Virtual (Steamboat), May 20th 2023
Not interested in racing real people on rough roads? Consider doing a virtual event that keeps the cost at zero but still allows you to complete. Dirty Roads 101, formerly Gravel Fest, is a celebration of gravel and dirt. Ride 101mi or 101km on a mainly gravel route and submit pictures to #dirtyroads101
Wild Horse Gravel, Debeque, May 20th, 2023
Wild Horse Gravel is part of The Ride Collective, the first of a series of road, mountainbike, and gravel races. This is another classic Western Slope race hosted on a private range outside of Debeque Colorado. Per the events website, “there will be a hoedown to accompany the race” - that should tell you all you need to know.
Mad Gravel, Elbert, May 27th-29th, 2023
Looking for something a little closer to the Front Rage? Elbert, Colorado is located southeast of Denver. Per their website, Mad Gravel offers a three day cycling dirt fest. Races range from a gravel circuit to gravel centuries.
LaStrada La Plata, Durango, May 28th, 2023
This race is part of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, a series in Durango that includes road, mountainbike and gravel. The course starts and finishes in Durango with a combination of pavement and mild gravel.
Colorado Brevets, Louisville
Want to ride long but not race long? Try randonneuring through Rocky Mountain Cycling Club. Randonneuring is a French term that means ranging over an extended course. RMCC offers a series of gravel events that are informal, noncompetitive, and LONG.
If you're interested in trying out bike racing, consider signing up for a gravel event. With its accessible and community-driven spirit, gravel racing offers a unique and rewarding way to get involved in bike racing. Make an effort to get involved, even if it’s just heckling from the side of a dirt road.