Can Simon Survive A True US Gravel Race? | Racing the Steamboat Epic
Articles Blog

Can Simon Survive A True US Gravel Race? | Racing the Steamboat Epic

October 25, 2019


– (claps) Let’s do this. (beep) Let’s do this. (beep) Was it you in there? Right, let’s do it. (dramatic music) (tires screeching) – Steamboat Springs in Northwest Colorado is a hidden paradise. For snow sports in winter
and two-wheels in summer. The mountain biking is off the scale, but it hasn’t been well-known for gravel until the Steamboat
Gravel Race was announced in winter of 2018. Scheduled for August 2019,
it sold out in just six days with 1,500 people registering
for either the 39-mile, the 100-mile, or the 140-mile black route. Now, guess which one I got signed up for? As with all gravel events,
the front is a race, while further back, riders focus more on the challenge of completing it. Men and women race and
ride shoulder to shoulder, and in this event, 30%
of all riders are women, which is fantastic to see, and a just reward for the
efforts of the organizers in trying to boost female participation and push for equality. Steamboat Springs is
just the coolest place, and I can’t quite believe that
I’ve been invited out here. I’m not going to lie though,
I am a little bit nervous. I’ve done a lot of bike racing in my time, road, mountain bikes, cyclo-cross, but I’ve yet to do a proper gravel race, so this is going to be the first one. Probably not the time to
worry about it though, given that this is just the day before. I’m actually just off
to, firstly, sign up, and also pick up my bike for tomorrow. A mix of Canyon, Mavic, and Stages, have apparently sort me
out something very special, so I need to go make my acquaintance. And then can worry. (upbeat music) (suspenseful music) – All right, I’ve got about
15 minutes till the start now. As you can see, the sun’s
just starting to come up. It’s super cold right now, but it’s going to be a scorcher today. I think I’ve got everything sorted. I got the route profile on the top tube. I’ve got an, as per
recommendations yesterday, all my nutrition is in my back pocket, a couple of spare tubes,
hopefully I won’t need those. And then, more importantly,
a bit of motivation on my handlebar there. Gravel is the future, at least
it will be to start with. Whether or not that’s still
true at the end, I don’t know. But anyway, I’m going
to go try and line up. I want to be close to
the front to give myself what’s known in the road
trade as sliding space, so basically, rather than
trying to make up grounds, you can just gently go
slower than everyone else. All day. So, that’s my plan. (dramatic music) – [Man With Megaphone]
Three, two, one, SBT Gravel. (cheering) – So when the race actually kicked off, it kind of felt like old times. Like, although I was
riding with wider tires that I’ve raced on the
road, and I was on pavement. I was on a drop-bar bike. It kind of felt a little bit
like being back in a road race. And then, it became clear
as soon as we hit gravel that this totally was for all day. Tarmac in a group, you just hear like a kind
of gentle swooshing noise and not much else. But then when a mass
starter then hits gravel, like it’s insane. The noise of one bike
crunching on gravel, wipe out. But when you’ve got like
200 people around you, and you got stones
pinging off and all sorts. Just super exciting, Super exhilarating. (intense music) You just felt like you’re in the middle of something pretty cool that’s going on. I’ve had a cunning idea. Behind me is the pro panel. Which is basically a
collection of the biggest names in gravel racing and Erik Zabel. Once the finished answering
question up there, I’m going to grab them and try to get some last minute tips for myself. Colin Strickland, I need some help. Okay? So, first gravel race tomorrow, just some last minute tips, I
can’t do any more training. Which is a shame. But, do I need to draft tomorrow? – You’ll certainly need to draft. You must draft to survive. – I’m maybe the last person
you should ask about drafting because that’s definitely a weak point as Colin will tell you.
– You just win solo right? – (laughs) I mean eventually
solo but the idea is to not be solo until everybody else is solo as well and these races
are races of attrition. – Of course I’m all about
the wheel sucker, you know. Efficiency is everything, and
you know you got to do the job. You do the job in the front
but if not I will find the good wheels and be like all
right I’m working this. Come out when I need
to and then go back in. – This is quite a unique
question to gravel. Where do you carry your stuff? Bum bag or top tube bag? – I find each race a little different. This one I’m going to
try no bags all pockets. So, that means relying
on the eight stations a bit more than normal. – Oh man, I’m a big fan of the
fanny pack when I’m training. Tomorrow’s going to be pockets. – Well you know I’ve
come very ill prepared so I’m going to use my good old-fashioned pockets like a true road racer. But if I had the choice I’d probably have the little handlebar bag. – Do you feel like real food or like sports nutrition. – No, no I’m a big fan of
Mars and Snickers and bananas. So I’m pretty much old school. (peaceful piano music) – I managed to use a little bit of my road racing craft to stay at
the front of the bunch. It was great. So I actually get a clear view of things. And also then manage to stay
with the lead group for a bit longer because I was able to just drop back ever so gently on the climbs. So I didn’t have to go quite as hard. Because let’s face it I
didn’t have anywhere near the fitness to stay at the front. But with a little bit of
kind of like Wile E tactics, I was able to stick with em. For quite a long time actually. You know which is why there
probably isn’t that much footage from the entire race
because I had my head down and I was trying to race. (upbeat music) (bell rings) – The race split over the first KOM point. Key OM point. And I was in a group, I think we were the
third group on the road. Probably 50 of us in total. At that point in the race you
had a front group of like 20, a middle group of 20, then my group of 10. And we were pretty
motivated to get back on. So at the top of the KOM we
worked really well together. And fortunately the front
of the race kind of sat up. So we regrouped and then
we had a really nice tow all the way down this
monster tarmac simmer. I think I kit 89 K’s in an hour. Which was pretty cool. (upbeat music) – We got to feed zone number
two. Which is where I think I worked out that having a quick
pit stop strategy is good. My tendency is fath meant that
I actually missed my group leaving and that was the last I saw of the front of the race. Basically I spent too long eating. And that was that. (ambient music) – Yeah, so one of the cool
things about the event website is that on the home page you
scroll down and there’s a wild life check list there. Most if it is completely
alien to me as a Brit. Like, there’s moose on there,
which I’ve learned this year. Not to be trusted, dangerous animals. Elk. There was birds of prey
on there: eagles, I think. Ant there was also a prong horn. Don’t know what one of those
is but I could have seen one. Anyway, so when it started,
that I play wild life bingo. Any time I saw something, I’d get a point if it was on that list. Wild life watch, I’m not the
best ornithologist in the world but I’m calling that an eagle. Yes. – [Other Biker] Vulture – Vulture? No! I’m not
that suffering, that badly! That’s definitely an eagle. Move. (gentle guitar music) (speaks indiscernibly
due to loud wind noise) – Feels good. – Wild life watch. Now here’s something they
didn’t tell us about. Lamas. Yep! I got a bonus point for a lama. (upbeat music) – Tiredness really started to kick in. I’d say probably after about 80 miles. And then the road started to climb up. Every ramp was just every
rider for themselves. So you’d kind of say good
by to people at the front you’d say good bye to people at the back. Where as in the beginning of
the race it very much been a bunch race, but, at that
point it was like a time trial. (upbeat music) – It might have been a good thing. It might have been a bad thing. But three days before steam
boat gravel race we stopped of to see Neil and mack from Suffer Fest in a high performance lab in boulder, made
said they’re very kindly. But they did very kindly hook
me up to their fitness testing equipment and they have
all sorts of gas analysis, metabolic analysis as well. And so three days before
the race I found out, in no uncertain terms, how fit I was. How much I was succumbing to altitude. But the hammer blow came as I was leaving. And they just kind of casually
said: by the way we noticed from your metabolic data that when your riding sub threshold, so a kind of comfortable pace that I could sustain for four or five hours, you’re burning 150 grams
of carbohydrates an hour. Which is a monumental amount of carbs. And so the were like, just when you eat, consider your fueling strategy on Sunday. And so with that I then had to think, there’s no way I can take in near enough. You can only fuel like
70-90 grams an hour? So I knew I had a count down
until I was going to blow. So I decided that actually I
had this kind of rev limiter basically, where as my fuel
gauge dropped bonkometer basically I would get to a place
where I was at rock bottom. And so the whole way through
the event I was thinking right, okay, fuel now hydrate now, bonkometer just starts
to go up a little bit. And then maybe there would be
a period where like I didn’t feel so good. And I wouldn’t want to eat.
And then the bonkometer would go down. So it was just constant a
constant battle between fueling correctly and hitting rock bottom. And I thought I bonked pretty bad about mile 80. And it turns out that wasn’t bad at all. The best was yet to come. The effort is really starting to bite now. On bonkometer, I think I’m redlining it. So every time you hit a
little gradient like this one, you just doing every thing I can to stay with my new buds. We’ve been together for like 80 K’s now. The problem I’m facing
is that Stages head unit. This is sort of, the lower slopes of the second big climb of the day. So I’m just gonno dig in, hang in there, and hope that once your at
the top: it’s playing sailor. (upbeat music) – Getting towards the top
of the second tail end now. And I think I may just shift
my bonkometer of the red line. I had a little bit of a
longer stop at the feed. Took my time, Had a hand full
of crisps or potato chips I believe they’re called. And it’s going to give
me slight second wing. And also the fact that I’m now riding on my own a little bit. So I’ve kind of convinced myself that I’m going really quickly. But in actual fact I’m probably not. (upbeat music) – That is the top of that second KOM. One absolute brute. A lot
longer than I was expecting. It sound stupid seeing as
I’ve never done it before but any way there we go.
There is my optimism. But as you can see. I just
lost the group in front but there wasn’t much I could de really. Going to try and fuel up
now on this longer set, ready for the last 40 miles. (upbeat music) – Basically procrastinating and avoiding getting back on my bike. So I found one of these, infamous pickle, so when in Rome, as they say. (bell rings) – Maybe it’s like a slow burn thing. Coming up to what I think is
the final climb of the day. Can you see my rest today now? Frankly, the pickle has
given me a little bit extra. So I should be able to hold the wheel now. This dude is ridiculously
strong. What’s your name? – Rob – Rob’s Killing me. But
he’s also been very nice. I know I’m making me
give him too many tests. When I was speaking to you
earlier and telling you that my bonkometer was on the red line. Oh, It wasn’t on the red
line. It had further to go. I was just on the yellow warning light. I had a catastrophic melt
down as we crested that KOM. And on the descent it was a
little bit bumpy for the first time pretty much today and
there’s a massive head wind. I might have shouted at the
rocky mountains because I was getting a little bit
crass. It was one of those. Anyway, I’m through that now.
I’m on the crest of a wave. I think I nearly hit 200 k’s. It’s nice to be able to swap
between miles and kilometers. It’d be more uh, clean
moments to tick off. (yells) Woo hoo! Yes! (bystanders shout and ring bells) (yells) (upbeat music) – Wow, my wild life vlog
hasn’t really progressed in the last 30 miles or so. And I don’t know whether it’s
because I haven’t seen any wild life, or whether it’s
that I got tunnel vision and I haven’t noticed black bears
and Elk and whatever else. Did see a prairie dog, I think. Yeah, I’m looking out for moose. I’m not forgetting what
Rebecca Rush told me: Most dangerous animal in north America. Or something like that. (cheerful music) – Get some steam going now. There’s my man Rob. Better not lose his wheels
because I’m trying to vlog. There we go, couple of K’s to go. We’ve done it. Uh. If I’m emotional, I feel very emotional, I think it’s the dehydration, it must be. (upbeat music) – Stick a fork in me, I am done. That was me taken to the edge. But I crossed the line in seven
hours 27 minutes and seven seconds, In 59th place. Ted King won in a time of six hours, 34 minutes and 50 seconds. I guess he didn’t stop for
pickles very much at all. Brodie Chapman was the
first female finisher in 16th overall. Well post ice bath, post
drink and post food I honestly thought that I would be able
to think of something really profound to say about my
experiences here today in the Steamboat, but frankly I’m
way to tired for any of that. So all I can say really is I
absolutely loved it and I wish I discovered gravel racing earlier on. Firstly, being up front
an in the mix was hugely exciting even though I knew
that I didn’t have a chance in hell of actually staying at the front. But then just riding with
everyone and getting around the course was a huge experience and a huge achievement as well. So, I was super chaft. In terms of how hard it was,
I averaged about 191 Watts. And according to my wheel band
here I’ve burned about 6788 calories so I’m off to find
some more food right now. I’ve got to say a big thank
you to Steamboat’s Gravel Race for bringing us out here and
also with the help of Canyon, Stages and Mavic as well. Big thumbs up to all of those. If you want to see a video about my bike and the tech that was on there. You can get through to that
one by clicking on the screen. It’s over on the tech channel now.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. Very good video. Also very measured and tasteful product placement within a sponsored video. It doesn’t distract from the storytelling. Some TV shows and movies abuse product placement way beyond this.

  2. Beautiful images. These empty US states have a real beauty. There is nothing remotely similar in terms of racing on this side of the pond , is there ?

  3. how is organizing a race a push for equality, a race like this organized in the style of a tough mudder where your only goal is to finish it and is not gender divided??

  4. What a bunch of pansies. Try being one of the daily (seven day a week) commuters that pedal to work. Rain, snow, heat, wind, lightning. twelve miles to work, twelve back. Not including additional mileage for other tasks. Not those with expensive clothing and multi-thousand dollar bikes decorated with the latest weight-saving nonsense tech.
    The cyclists that spend every penny to afford a retail store bike, to get their butts to work. Making a living. Those are the true riders.

  5. No gloves! I don't like gloves either, but on gravel they have saved my hands. I had a hard crash on gravel yesterday, but very little road rash on my hands. I also don't like to wear socks and almost never do, but you might be surprised how much that those thin socks save your ankles as you are sliding down the road after you have come off the bike. BTW–great video!

  6. Incredible video and one that leads to "I want more of these!" Great info, nice riding along and thanks to GCN for going along and thanks Si for sharing your fun and pain during the race!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *