Category: Mountain

The Dirt: Enduro doping; Leadville lottery opens Saturday


Welcome to The Dirt, the weekly news round-up on what is happening in the worlds of gravel, mountain biking, and all things rough and dirty.

Richie Rude and Jared Graves fail doping tests at Enduro World Series

The world of enduro mountain biking was rocked this week by a PinkBike report that Richie Rude and Jared Graves, two of the top riders in the Enduro World Series (EWS), had failed anti-doping controls earlier this season. Both men submitted samples that showed the presence of two banned substances: Higenamine and Oxilofrine.

EWS operates outside of the auspices of the UCI, so it is unaffiliated with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Anti-doping controls are uncommon within the series. When athletes are tested, the controls are carried out by national anti-doping agencies in the host country, as was the case May 13, 2019 in France where French Anti-Doping (AFLD) tested nine male riders, according to PinkBike.

Higenamine is a Beta-2 Antagonist, in WADA’s same category of asthma-treating substances as Salbutamol, which dogged Chris Froome‘s season due to an adverse analytical finding dating back to the 2017 Vuelta a España. Unlike Salbutamol, there is no acceptable threshold for Higenamine and it is prohibited at all times.

Oxilofrine, on the other hand, is only prohibited in competition. It is in the class of specified stimulants, which means WADA might allow for a reduction in sanctions, as opposed to a non-specified stimulant, such as cocaine.

At this point, AFLD has yet to release its full report on the tests. Rude finished second overall in the 2018 EWS and Graves is not racing, currently fighting brain cancer. According to PinkBike, neither rider will pursue a B-sample to challenge the test results. Since EWS is and independent race series, it will be up to those organizers to determine what sort of penalty or ban the two riders might face, based on AFLD’s report and WADA’s sanctions.

Read more on PinkBike >> 

Stybar to celebrate ‘cross-mas

Three-time world cyclocross champion Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step Floors) will return to the dirt for the holidays, with four ‘cross races scheduled for late December during kerstperiode — the Christmas week bonanza of cyclocross in the Low Countries. Stybar will race the Zolder World Cup, December 26, Loenhout two days later, the Diegem night race on December 30, and finally the New Year’s Day race in Baal.

“I am really looking forward to my return to cyclocross, a beautiful discipline that I love taking part in”, Stybar said. “It will be some really hard and competitive racing and hopefully I can have some good form and try to have some fun.”

Leadville lottery opens December 1

The Leadville Trail 100 MTB registration lottery opens Saturday, December 1 at 10 a.m. MST. It’ll be open until 11:59 p.m. MST on December 31, and lucky winners will be notified mid-January. Registration costs $450. If you don’t make it in the lottery, you can earn an entry through one of the seven qualifier events held throughout the U.S. You can also get in by registering for the LT100 MTB Training Camp or registering with one of the official charity partners for a charity slot. The 2019 race is slated for August 10.

… And lots of other races open registration soon

All of you gravel fanatics should also start planning 2019 soon because a number of prominent races are opening up registration in the next week:

Gravel Worlds registration opens at 8 a.m. CDT December 1. This 150-mile, semi-official world championships of gravel racing takes place August 17 in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Rebecca’s Private Idaho registration opens December 3. The main event is the “Big Potato” 100-mile ride on September 1, but there is also a three-day stage race and shorter distances as well, all starting out of Sun Valley, Idaho.

SBT GRVL registration opens December 4. This new gravel race based out of Steamboat Springs, Colorado takes place August 18 and should attract a stout field of top riders with a $28,000 prize purse on offer, evenly split between the men’s and women’s races in the 150-mile event.

And if all of those races seem a little too short for you, registration opens on December 1 at 8 a.m. CDT for DKXL, the 350-mile race held at Dirty Kanza. This one is a little different, both in length and registration process. DKXL organizers will accept applications until 11:59 p.m. CST December 9, or until the first 200 applications have been received. Then it will be up to Dirty Kanza’s gravel gurus to select the riders who will take on this massive challenge.

Got some news you’d like to share in The Dirt? I’d love to hear from you. Please email me your news and updates on all things gravel and mountain biking.

Read the full article at The Dirt: Enduro doping; Leadville lottery opens Saturday on VeloNews.com.

An inside look at Howard Grotts’s historic Cape Epic win


About a year ago in late fall 2017, Howard Grotts got a phone call that would lead to a significant milestone in U.S. mountain biking history. His Specialized teammate Jaroslav Kulhavy was on the other line, and the Czech wanted Grotts to race with him at the Absa Cape Epic in March 2018.

Grotts, 25, rose to the occasion, and in just his second run at the Cape Epic, he became the first American to win the prestigious mountain bike stage race (alongside Kate Courtney who won the 2018 women’s race). Typically very humble, Grotts isn’t one to dwell on the significance of the win. But that doesn’t mean his best international result came easily or without the hurdles of self-doubt.

When Kulhavy races Cape Epic, he races to win. The 2012 Olympic champion wasn’t bringing Grotts along to teach him the ropes. And the eight-day South African stage race usually favors powerful riders like the 6-foot-2 Kulhavy. It is one of the few remaining mountain bike stage races with a team format. The two riders on a given team must ride and finish together. Kulhavy won the Cape Epic in 2013 and 2015, and the significance of his invitation was not lost on Grotts.

“It was a huge honor,” Grotts said. “It was special to be asked by the Olympic champion — super cool.”

In 2011, Kulhavy won world cross-country championships in Champery, France. That same year, Grotts swept junior nationals, winning the short track and cross-country with the Durango Devo team. Grotts looked up to Kulhavy. It was a huge opportunity to race with and learn from a champion, but Grotts had doubts that he’d be able to rise to the occasion.

Cape Epic
Jaroslav Kulhavy (L) and Howard Grotts at the start of the 2018 Absa Cape Epic. Photo: Michal Cerveny

“Early season training is funny because you don’t have an idea of where your fitness is actually at,” Grotts said. “I was training super-hard, and I didn’t know if I was good enough or fast enough.”

One of the ways he prepared for the demands of a high-speed race like Cape Epic was to head down to Texas for a training camp with his friend Payson McElveen, a pro mountain biker on the Orange Seal team. There, when the group rolled out on road bikes, Grotts grabbed his 29er mountain bike, rolling resistance and aerodynamic drag be damned.

“The biggest thing for me was being able to ride at a really high tempo all day long,” Grotts said. “I don’t think I did any VO2 intervals before Cape Epic. [The race] was just whoever could ride at their tempo or a bit harder the longest.”

That heavy training load began to add up, and just before Grotts left for Greece to do a tune-up race, he hit a wall.

“The week before I left for Cyprus I could hardly complete my intervals, and I was feeling pretty bad, ‘Oh man, nothing is going to plan. I’m not going to be ready,’” he said.

Fortunately, he hadn’t dug too deep into an overtraining hole, and with a little rest, he came out swinging at the Cyprus Sunshine Cup stage race in late February, finishing second overall. Kulhavy was fifth. The result was a relief for Grotts.

“It helped show [Kulhavy] that I did come prepared and I was ready to do this,” he said. They shipped out to South Africa soon thereafter to prepare for Cape Epic.

Cape Epic
Grotts led Kulhavy on stage 2 of Cape Epic. Photo: Michal Cerveny

Cape Epic veterans were curious to see how the new pairing of Specialized riders would gel. Kulhavy had previously teamed up with fellow former world champion Christoph Sauser — they won the 2015 Cape Epic. Some wondered how a slightly built climber like Grotts would pair with a tall, powerful rider like Kulhavy.

“He’s one of the strongest riders there is,” Grotts said of Kulhavy. “He has a really specific diesel engine skill that happens to be perfect for Cape Epic.”

They started the race with a respectable fifth-place finish in the prologue, a 20-kilometer day that was better suited for riders primed by high-intensity cross-country races. Manuel Fumic and Henrique Avancini won that first day.

On stage 1, a much longer route at 110 kilometers, Grotts and Kulhavy started to hit their stride.

“We worked well together,” Grotts said. “We could use our strengths to be better than the other teams. Jaroslav sat on the front a lot and I got tucked in the draft and we made up time on the climbs where I could hold my own.”

Thanks to a second-place finish that day, they moved up to second overall.

They gradually reeled in overall leaders Fumic and Avancini and by the end of stage 3, the young American and the Czech veteran were at the top of the GC standings. But instead of this boosting his confidence, the race’s halfway point had Grotts questioning if he could keep up the infernal pace after the week’s longest stage, 122km with 1,800 meters of climbing.

“I doubted myself partway through the race,” said Grotts. “It was kind of funny because that was the day we moved into the yellow jersey but that was the mental low point because man, we had four more days of this [and] there’s no way I can get through that.”

Howard Grotts
Grotts dug deep on stage 3 and started to have doubts. Photo: Michal Cerveny

Afraid of letting his partner down in the race’s crucial second half, Grotts didn’t share those doubts or concerns with Kulhavy. Fortunately, he could commiserate with his fellow Specialized rider Courtney after those tough days in the South African outback.

“We got to laugh about everything, share our stories about how brutal it was,” said Grotts. “It was cool to have Kate [Courtney] along and of course to see the girls crushing it was awesome. It gave us motivation to step our game up.”

While Kulhavy’s stoic, hardworking personality might not have been as inviting as a conversation with a fellow American, Grotts could tell that his teammate was watching out for him. Kulhavy knew how to keep Grotts from going past the point of no return.

“I got to see how Jaroslav raced and never asked me to do more than was good for us as a team,” said Grotts. “So I have a huge amount of respect for that because he could have made me dig a super-deep hole I never could have recovered from and our race would be over.”

Cape Epic
Kulhavy knew how to pace the Cape Epic, having won it twice before the 2018 edition. Grotts dug deep on stage 3 and started to have doubts. Photo: Michal Cerveny

Fortunately for Grotts, the second half of the race featured more big climbs, terrain that suited him. Thanks to careful pacing by Kulhavy and a bit of luck — they avoided illness and catastrophic mechanicals — Grotts hit his stride.

“Physically, I was feeling more and more confident,” he said. “It was special to get into that zone, that in-the-moment feeling that we look for on the bike where everything is clicking really well.”

Despite his struggles on stage 3, Grotts and Kulhavy managed a second-place finish on stage 4. Then they won the next two stages and wrapped up the race with a second-place result on stage 7. For Kulhavy, it was his third Cape Epic title, and for Grotts, it was America’s first, concurrent with Courtney winning in the women’s race.

Cape Epic
Kulhavy and Grotts celebrated their victory. A third overall win for the Czech and the first time ever an American man had won the prestigious stage race. Photo: Michal Cerveny

“For me, I was just personally happy for the fact that it did get more attention in the U.S. and people got stoked on it. That was really cool to see,” Grotts said. He is quick to credit Kulhavy for the win, even going so far as to speculate that if the Czech champion did the race solo, he would still win the overall — perhaps by an even greater margin than they had.

“I don’t think there’s really a better partner to have for that race,” Grotts added. “It’s Jaroslav’s race — it’s perfect for him.”

Read the full article at An inside look at Howard Grotts’s historic Cape Epic win on VeloNews.com.

Blevins leaves road behind to focus on Olympic MTB dream


Christopher Blevins is putting his road racing ambitions aside to focus on “the dirt side” of his pro cycling career.

The multi-talented 20-year-old announced via Instagram on Thursday that he would no longer race with the Hagens Berman Axeon program in the coming season. On the mountain bike, he will step up from being a Specialized-sponsored athlete to joining the Specialized factory team in 2019.

With the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo as his central goal, Blevins will pour his efforts into his mountain bike calendar next year in pursuit of qualifying points and the form to compete against the world’s best.

“Looking at what it took to make it to the Olympics on the mountain bike, as far as chasing points, as far as doing all the World Cups, that made me realize that this might be it for road, at least for now,” he told VeloNews in a phone interview on Thursday.

“A huge part of it is I didn’t want to give Axeon the short end of the stick if I was going to race for them. I wanted to give them as much of my availability as possible. I know how many kids would kill for a spot on the team.”

In 2018, Blevins raced with Axeon at Tour of the Gila, where he won stage 2, USA Cycling Pro Road Nationals, and the Colorado Classic.

Blevins is the reigning under-23 American champion in cyclocross and the elite national champion in short-track cross-country on the mountain bike. He has also raced for the Axeon squad on the road since 2017.

In September, he rode to runner-up honors in the under-23 category at mountain bike worlds. He says he was already leaning toward going all-in on the mountain bike, but worlds helped convince him of his potential there. It also helped facilitate the additional support from the Specialized.

“It got me super fired-up for what I can do in the sport, and what the U.S. can do in the sport. It also made other people realize what I can do in the sport,” he said.

Blevins has made the Olympics were his central goal for some time now. The past few months made it clearer to him that the road and mountain bike seasons overlapped too much to keep giving both sides an equal share of his attention.

He took that knowledge into a conversation with Axeon director Axel Merckx, who has been open to Blevins’s split calendar since his arrival on the team. Both came to the conclusion that if Blevins’s priority is the Olympics on the mountain bike, it would be best if he directed his efforts toward the dirt full-time next season.

“It didn’t make sense for either party to race next year with Axeon,” Blevins said. “The only thing [Merckx] said was that, ‘If you decide to come back to road at some point, and at that time I have a team that is beyond U23, talk to me first.’

“It’s not that hard for me honestly to step away from road at all, but it is tough to leave Axeon because it’s such a good program.”

Blevins remains open to a return to the road in the future but says that for now, he sees himself continuing on the mountain bike and possibly in cyclocross — which has less of a scheduling overlap with mountain biking — even beyond the Tokyo Olympics.

“I don’t know what will happen after 2020,” he said, “but right now I can say with a bit of confidence that I’ll probably want to stay on the mountain bike.”

View this post on Instagram

Its been an incredible 2 years with @hbaxeon, but I will not be returning to the team in 2019. • Like many junior road cyclists in America, I dreamed of riding for this program for a long time, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to do so the past couple years. • The team’s exceptionalism echoes throughout the whole staff. Everyone involved creates an atmosphere to help us grow as cyclists and as people. I wouldn’t have been able to balance two full seasons of multiple disciplines without this environment and @axelmerckx ‘s receptiveness to my goals. • I never forget how cool it is to come together with teammates from all over the world, and I’ll never take for granted the bonds that are built throughout this sport. It’s something that extends beyond just bike racing. The Axeon family faced a lot of tragedies and triumphs in the last two years, and I’m thankful to have had some amazing teammates by my side through it all. • I’ve arrived at a point in my cycling career where my goals have come into clear focus, and my heart knows which direction to point in – and that’s towards the mountain bike. I’m excited to dedicate my full time and energy to the dirt side moving forward in 2019. To all of @hbaxeon, thank you. #Proveit #alwaysbeyoung

A post shared by Christopher Blevins (@christopherblevs) on

Read the full article at Blevins leaves road behind to focus on Olympic MTB dream on VeloNews.com.

The Dirt: Levi Kurlander on giving back to Durango Devo


Welcome to The Dirt, the weekly news round-up on what is happening in the worlds of gravel, mountain biking, and all things rough and dirty.

About 10 years after Levi Kurlander discovered a love for bikes with the Durango Devo mountain biking program in Colorado, he returned to the program at the start of 2018. Now, the 23-year-old is executive director of one of Durango’s largest youth sports programs with about 500 kids, from two-year-olds on push bikes to high school seniors vying for NICA glory. Kurlander is also a pro mountain bike racer for Orange Seal, and in 2018 he won stages 4 and 5 at the Breck Epic. He nearly made the final podium until a broken wheel spoiled his day on the final stage.

I caught up with Kurlander at the Carson City Off-Road back in June to hear about how he found his calling in giving back to the program that got him started as a cyclist.

VeloNews: Growing as a junior you rode with Durango Devo.

Levi Kurlander: Yeah, I kind of started mountain biking later than a lot of my friends did. I really didn’t get into riding very seriously until high school. I got my introduction to racing and really started to progress with Durango Devo in the O.G. days of Devo with Chad Cheeney. I started with Devo in I think their second year of operation in Durango. I got the first taste of what Durango Devo was all about.

I was probably 13 at that point. I did one year with Devo in their U-14 program and then moved up to the U-19 team, which is their high school team. I got introduced to racing there, started as a Cat. 3. Honestly, I didn’t have a result to speak of necessarily until I was a junior or senior in high school, but I learned to love riding with the team. Durango Devo has a unique way of making a super-individual sport into a team sport with a team atmosphere, and that sense of inclusion got me hooked on it. And yeah, here I am, I’ve come full circle, running Durango Devo now and racing for Orange Seal. It’s a tough balance.

VN: What did you like about Durango Devo when you were a kid?

LK: It’s just an awesome opportunity to hang out with your friends. There wasn’t any pressure to race or ride hard, but every four days a week after school you got to hang out with your best friends and ride bikes. It was pretty sweet.

VN: Did you stay involved with the organization after you graduated?

LK: We kind of parted ways a little bit. I went on to Fort Lewis and started racing competitively there, and started “training” as much as an 18-year-old is able to train. Devo is about developing the fundamentals of that love of riding and then the racing comes later, depending on the person. Once I started getting into that competitive side of things we parted ways for a few years before I moved back to Durango [from Boulder in 2018] and got a job at the other end of things.

Then I had this opportunity with Orange Seal to bring my racing to the next level with a true professional team, and it just so happened that the opportunity with Devo coincided with that. It works out really well that I have a flexible enough schedule with Devo that I can work basically a full-time job but still have enough time to train and be out of town on the weekend for races.

I got lucky with good timing there to have it all fall into place at the right time.

VN: How did you come upon the opportunity to work for Durango Devo?

LK: It’s pretty funny actually, I honestly just saw a tweet from Chad [Cheeney] that said, “We’re looking for a new director, who wants it?” At first I thought no that’s a lot of work, I won’t have time for that. But the more I thought of it, man this could be cool. Be my own boss, I could make my own schedule, I could continue to race. It was a pretty cool opportunity to give back to the program that got me started on this path to begin with. I figured why not, give it a whirl. I didn’t expect anything out of it. I figured there would be plenty of well-qualified candidates for that job. And next thing I know, I’m moving back to Durango and starting things up with Devo.

Levi Kurlander
VN: How do you strike a balance between that job and training and racing as a pro?

LK: It’s tough. There’s a ton of guys out here that do it too. There’s a ton of guys working full-time jobs still racing, training. They’re just full days. I try to train during the prime time of the day, train in the mornings, and I end up working late into the night most days. I’m able to craft my own work schedule around my training schedule so I can get what I need done. In the spring especially I was working 50- to 60-hour weeks on top of a 20-hour training load. That was a little too much. I had to dial it back a bit. I had to learn how to delegate a little better. Every waking hour of the day was either Devo or training. That was burning me out pretty quickly. I learned how to adapt to the job, delegate, be efficient with my time. That’s not to say that 90 percent of the pro field out there isn’t doing the same thing with whatever job it is. It just so happens that I’m lucky enough to create my own schedule. That lets me do what I need.

VN: How much of your job has you out riding with the kids?

LK: I’ve been riding a little bit with the kids. Most of my job involves big picture stuff, what the vision of Devo is. What we’re working toward, how we can support these kids. Our tagline is “creating lifelong cyclists.” Like I said, it’s a situation where you have a super-individual sport where you’re trying to create this team atmosphere out of it, and that’s where a lot of my work hits the ground, trying to craft a team atmosphere with the coaches and the kids to build that love of riding your bike and hanging out with your friends for the community aspect of it.

VN: How many coaches work for Durango Devo?

LK: This spring we had 93 coaches on our payroll. We had a little over 600 registrations in the spring — about 500 individual kids. It’s one of the largest youth sports organizations in Durango. Youth soccer and mountain biking in Durango are where it’s at.

And NICA too has a big impact in recruiting some of the high school-age kids who have never really ridden before and getting them involved in the sport. I think NICA is doing a lot to advance mountain biking in a really cool new direction that we haven’t really seen before.

VN: You draw some of your participants from NICA?

LK: Durango Devo actually runs the NICA programs for both Animas High School and Durango High School. We’re a huge supporter of NICA and vice-versa. That’s another big place where we get a lot of our kids.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Got some news you’d like to share in The Dirt? I’d love to hear from you. Please email me your news and updates on all things gravel and mountain biking.

Read the full article at The Dirt: Levi Kurlander on giving back to Durango Devo on VeloNews.com.

The Dirt: How (and why) Kabush won Iceman on a gravel bike


Welcome to The Dirt, the weekly news round-up on what is happening in the worlds of gravel, mountain biking, and all things rough and dirty.

I have a soft spot for people who take on tough races on unconventional bikes. So as soon as I heard that Geoff Kabush (Yeti) did the Iceman Cometh mountain bike race in Michigan on a gravel bike, I knew I had to talk to him to get the story. Better still, this wasn’t just a stunt for Kabush. He collected his third career win in the classic late-season mountain bike race on Sunday, beating Alexey Vermeulen out of a two-man breakaway. Here’s Kabush talking about Iceman, his setup, and why the gravel bike was actually an advantage in this race.

VeloNews: Why is Iceman Cometh so special?

Geoff Kabush: Iceman Cometh is kind of a special one. It’s the end of the year, you never know what you’re going to get. It’s been around forever, started out as a small event, and it’s grown into one of the biggest participation events for sure. They really take care of us athletes, put up an awesome prize purse. It’s point-to-point, about 48k or 30 miles, and it’s always kind of a tactical race, hard to read. It’s fun to stay motivated and have a chance at duking it out there.

VN: So the big story is that you won Iceman on a gravel bike.

GK: I’ve got a Yeti turquoise colored Open U.P., which might confuse people, but yeah it’s an Open U.P. … and it has the option to run 27.5×2.1-inch mountain bike tires. Racing it in a mountain bike race is something that I’ve wanted to do for a while. I thought about doing it at Carson City Off-Road but didn’t quite get it together. I was a little nervous about running it this weekend but it was perfect conditions and I was pretty psyched it worked out.

VN: So why were you nervous about running this bike? You’d usually be on your 29er mountain bike, right?

GK: I was trying to think through the course and how technical it was. It was obviously going to be an advantage on some sections. Just depended on the conditions and how well-suited a bike like that would work. Wasn’t quite sure of how much of an advantage it would be. But man when I got there and rode the second half of the course it was really buff this year, and I could really take advantage of the light weight and speed out there.

VN: Are there other advantages of riding a gravel bike versus a mountain bike in this race?

GK: Just having the drop bars, it’s almost like being in an aero tuck on a mountain bike. It’s a really high average speed, over 30k an hour, so it’s a bit more like a road race. Especially near the end, I attacked and got away with Alexey Vermeulen. We were in a little breakaway and it made it easier to roll at speed when we snuck away near the end.

VN: So how did you make your winning move in the end?

GK: Obviously [Vermeulen] is really talented, super-strong. I knew he definitely had some strength. I knew once we got away with 10k to go, if we rolled together, we definitely had a chance of staying away. The race always finishes at the Timber Ridge Campground, weaves around through the finish for the crowds there. I made my move with a couple K to go to get to the front and was able to stretch it out through the winding finish and up the final hill to the finish line. Really cool crowd and a cool way to finish off the race there.

VN: Your bike fits a 27.5” wheel while most people race 29ers for XC. Were you worried about rolling speed?

GK: Not too much. It’s not as rough so there’s not as much bumps to roll over. It’s pretty smooth, sandy terrain. The other advantage for me was I had a much taller gear than a lot of guys. I was running a 46/34 [chainrings] by 11-32 [cassette]. I was able to keep it in the big ring the whole day. The 46, when we were cruising at high speed I had a tall gear, a little more efficient. Just carrying the speed with the bigger gear and lighter bike over all the little hills, it just added up, and I was able to save a little energy toward the end.

VN: When you first came up with this plan, what realistically was your expectation for a result?

GK: Well, I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think I had a chance to win. I was home here in Squamish and was on the fence trying to decide. I took it out for a ride on the mountain bike trails here in Squamish and was surprised by how well it handled, how fast it felt cruising around some of the XC trails here. I felt pretty confident it was going to be a good fit and it would just come down to figuring out the tactics and the competition, the guys who were going to be out there.

VN: That’s insane that you were out riding those rocky, rooty, muddy BC trails on a rigid gravel bike!

GK: I obviously didn’t do any of the really tough trails here. It’s amazing. Any of the technical stuff isn’t too bad, climbing, but if it’s really rocky and lumpy, obviously you can’t carry as much speed riding full-rigid. The Iceman Cometh course is smoother and definitely has a few sections of singletrack. You just get down in the drops and your arms soak up all the bumps. Not a big disadvantage. I grew up riding rigid mountain bikes up here. The Open is quite an advance from the first bikes I started riding. Has a drop bar but it’s still super capable off-road. Obviously, without suspension you can’t roll through the lumpy stuff as well. … It was a lot of fun taking it off-road, out of its environment. I don’t even know what to call this bike. It’s my road, ’cross, gravel, adventure bike.

VN: Were there any moments in the race when you regretted having this bike?

GK: Not really. It’s usually a big group out there, 20-25, so it’s really hard to break it up. Some of the guys early on in the race thought I might be at a bit of a disadvantage in the singletrack and they were really pushing it, the line was getting stretched out. I felt really comfortable and in control. I knew there would be lots of sections where I could roll back on and get in the group. I knew once we got to halfway, there’s a feedzone with 18k to go, and from there it’s a pretty smooth run-in. After riding in Squamish, I knew I could handle the singletrack there. It was just a matter of tactics. It was a lot of fun. Even in the twisty singletrack having the skinnier drop bars was actually kind of nice, you could lean into the corners in the tight trees.

VN: What kind of tire pressure were you running?

GK: I was running 20-21psi, I had Maxxis Aspens. I had the EXO tires on, which I probably didn’t need, but that’s what I had from the summer. They’re just a nice rolling tire.

VN: Would you recommend it to anyone out there, trying a mountain bike race on a gravel bike?

GK: I think it’s a terrible idea, no one should race one out there. None of the other guys should try it, definitely doesn’t work. I don’t know how I got away with it [laughs].

Listen to an extended version of this interview on the VeloNews podcast:

Got some news you’d like to share in The Dirt? I’d love to hear from you. Please email me your news and updates on all things gravel and mountain biking.

Read the full article at The Dirt: How (and why) Kabush won Iceman on a gravel bike on VeloNews.com.

The Dirt: Gear up for 2019 Gravel — Land Run 100, Steamboat


Welcome to The Dirt, the weekly news round-up on what is happening in the worlds of gravel, mountain biking, and all things rough and dirty.

VeloNews is official media partner of Land Run 100

I hadn’t planned to race Land Run 100 at the start of this year, but thanks to a trip set up by Vittoria tires, I found myself on the start line in Stillwater, Oklahoma in the middle of March. It was a tough 100-miler, but it was well worth the trip. (Check out my story on this race and the broader story of how gravel races are thriving.) Well, one thing led to another, and I’m pleased to announce that VeloNews will be the official media partner for Land Run 100 in 2019. The race is scheduled for March 16, 2019 and will be capped at 1,600 entrants with 1,000 slots in the 100-miler.

Want to try your hand at that red Oklahoma dirt? Registration opens Saturday, November 3 at 8 a.m. Central.

Wondering what it is all about? Check out my little GoPro video from last year’s race. (Fair warning: 2018 was one of the very few years when Land Run was not a muddy mess!)

Land Run 100: Red dirt, good vibes, a cannon, and a chaise lounge

Maybe there wasn’t any mud, but Land Run 100 had everything else you could hope for in a gravel race — even a Salsa Cycles chaise lounge! Plus, we get a look at some new stuff from Vittoria Tires.

Posted by VeloNews on Tuesday, March 20, 2018

SBT GRVL puts up $28,000 purse in new Colorado gravel race

If you follow gravel people on social media — folks like Ted King, Yuri Hauswald, and Kaycee Armstrong — you probably noticed some buzz about a new race that is long on mileage but short on vowels. SBT GRVL (i.e., Steamboat Gravel) will be held August 18, 2019 in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Like many gravel races it will have a tough course. The “black” route will be 141 miles with 9,000 feet of climbing on 75 percent gravel roads. Unlike most gravel races, it will offer a rich prize purse for the top riders. The first-time event features a $28,000 prize purse split evenly between men and women. There are also 100- and 37-mile course options. Registration is now open.

What does it take to win Red Bull Rampage?

If you’re like me, you were watching the craziest mountain bike competition in the world last Friday as the Red Bull Rampage was live-streamed from the desert near Virgin, Utah. If you missed it, here’s the one clip you’ve got to see. Canadian Brett Rheeder won the day by sending some of the biggest drops and pulling off unbelievable tricks. Want more? Check out our Red Bull Rampage photo gallery.

New lift-serve bike park in Texas

Downhill mountain bikers have always relied on ski resorts to provide terrain and lift access to get to the top of the hill. What do you do if your area doesn’t get any snow? Starting this winter, Texans will have a new way to ride at Spider Mountain, a year-round lift-served bike park. Located 60 miles from Austin and 200 miles southwest of Dallas, the 350-foot hill is expected to offer downhill flow trails and technical trails as well as features such as bridges, berms, and jumps.

“We’re excited to bring progressive mountain biking terrain to Texas,” said Hogan Koesis, director of mountain biking for Mountain Capital Partners, which owns and operates six ski resorts. “Until now, this type of lift-accessed terrain was only available in a ski resort setting. The new Spider Mountain Bike Park will be unlike anything else in Texas.”

Got some news you’d like to share in The Dirt? I’d love to hear from you. Please email me your news and updates on all things gravel and mountain biking.

Read the full article at The Dirt: Gear up for 2019 Gravel — Land Run 100, Steamboat on VeloNews.com.

Red Bull Rampage 2018 photos: Flipping, flying, and falling through the desert

Red Bull Rampage 2018
There’s a trail in there someplace, no really. The new venue was steep, creating new challenges for the riders. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
It all starts here. Send it. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Graham Agassiz made his return to Red Bull Rampage after crashing out of the 2016 Rampage. Graham finished in 15th place. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Graham Agassiz earning some style points. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Graham Agassiz floated above the horizon at the Red Bull Rampage. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Red Bull Rampage rookie DJ Brandt from Colorado finished in 17th after crashing during his run. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Want to see what the future of Rampage holds, look at some of the diggers. A handful of the current competitors started by digging at Rampage. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Each rider has two diggers and two weeks to create their own personal run. Some riders choose to team up and share the workload as well as the run. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Belgian Thomas Genon finished in fifth place. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Szymom Godziek stood out against the dark canyon shadows on his way to eighth place. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Andreu Lacondeguy taking it all in. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Andreu Lacondeguy backflipping into second place. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Rémy Métailler rode to 14th Place. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Rémy Métailler getting rad over the red rocks of the Utah desert. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Local rider Ethan Nell finished in third for the second year in a row. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Sunset session at Rampage. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Brett Rheeder won the Red Bull Rampage. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Brett Rheeder has competed in Red Bull Rampage six times. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Brandon Semenuk finished in 16th place after crashing on both runs. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Newcomer Adolf Silva from Spain got accustomed to a new landscape. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Adolf Silva finished in 11th place at his first Red Bull Rampage. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
The 2017 winner Kurt Sorge scouted his line during practice. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Last year’s winner Kurt Sorge. He crashed in his first run and finished in ninth place this year. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Kurt Sorge went big but came up short in defending his Red Bull Rampage title. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Kyle Strait is the only rider to compete in all 13 Red Bull Rampages. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Kyle Strait making his way up the mountain for another day of digging. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Kyle Strait with his trademark trick, the suicide no-hander. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Despite a fall, Tyler McCaul still finished in sixth place. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Tyler McCaul taking practice runs before the event. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Riders Tyler McCaul and Graham Agassiz scope out their runs the evening before the event. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Tyler “TMac” McCaul took a nasty tumble but walked away to compete another day. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
It wouldn’t be Rampage without a crash or two. Vincent “Vinny-T” Tupin regrouped after taking a nasty fall. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Overlooking Virgin Utah, home to the past 13 Red Bull Rampage events. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Testing the wind conditions by tossing a handful of dirt into the air. Wind can be a significant issue with the amount of hang-time the riders are getting. Photo: Don Karle Photography
Red Bull Rampage 2018
Rider Cam Zink dropped out the morning of the event due to a problem with his shoulder which he dislocated multiple times the week prior to the event. Photo: Don Karle Photography

Read the full article at Red Bull Rampage 2018 photos: Flipping, flying, and falling through the desert on VeloNews.com.

Commentary: Think EF riders will dominate gravel, MTB, and fixie races? Think again


You probably read the recent #disruptive bike news.

WorldTour squad EF Education First plans to send riders to participate in gravel races, fixed-gear criteriums, and “mixed terrain” races in 2019, as part of the team’s Rapha sponsorship.

From the Rapha press release:

“Together, we share a desire to disrupt the status quo of the sport we love … The team will flip the script on the calendar, with riders not just competing in the WorldTour but also fixed gear criteriums, ultra-endurance races, and mixed-terrain events.”

Having covered my share of these races, I applaud EF for its nontraditional approach. Since the team’s announcement, one question has bounced around in my brain: Can EF actually win these races? WorldTour roadies undoubtedly have strong legs and lungs. Can that overcome whatever shortcomings they may have with technique and specific racing experience?

Of course, there are several unknown variables that factor into an answer. EF has yet to announce which races it will target, and which riders will participate in each event. The answer to these two questions may determine what level of success the team enjoys during its foray into cycling’s nontraditional racing formats.

Still, we have a few educated guesses on the events. The Red Hook Criterium, Dirty Kanza 200, Crusher in the Tushar, and Leadville 100 are all near the top of our list.

So can EF win? To get a more informed take, I reached out to some experts for informed takes. My experts believe that these nontraditional racing communities will welcome EF’s riders. But an EF victory party at these races is hardly guaranteed.

Gravel Races (Dirty Kanza 200, Crusher in the Tushar)

Verdict: HIGHLY LIKELY

No two gravel events are created equal, of course. Dirty Kanza’s rolling and windswept 200-mile course is a completely different beast from the rocks and singletrack at Grinduro, or the soaring climbs at Crusher in the Tushar.

That said, a WorldTour-level road racer should have a sizable advantage on gravel due to the sustained nature of the racing efforts, and because WorldTour road racers have enormous aerobic capacities. So long as the WorldTour rider can repair the inevitable flat tire or mechanical calamity that pops up, he should be fine.

Top road riders already dominate these races. Ted King has won Dirty Kanza twice; retired road rider Robbie Squire won Crusher in the Tushar from 2015-17.

Mat Stephens, the 2017 Dirty Kanza 200 winner, said the selective nature of top gravel races favors those riders who are strong and also patient.

“These guys do huge mileage so they’ll definitely have the endurance. They know how to pace themselves for seven-hour races,” Stephens said. “The pacing and style at these [gravel] races is something that takes a little time to grasp. Someone who is super aggressive may struggle. If they are patient they should be fine.”

Mat Stephens (L) and Geoff Kabush (R) had a moment on the Salsa Cycles chaise lounge at Dirty Kanza 200. Photo: Scott Haraldson/Salsa Cycles/scottharaldson.com

The question, however, is how the gravel scene will react if EF sends an entire team to the events. Regional teams often try to deploy team tactics at these events, however no gravel team would be able to compete with riders from the WorldTour.

“If they brought a huge team of five or six guys that might be seen as overkill,” said Colin Strickland, winner of the 2017 and 2018 gravel world championships. “More publicity is always good but some people might see that as bullying.”

Marathon mountain bike races (Leadville 100, Epic Rides)

Verdict: DOUBTFUL

The answer here is very dependent on the specific mountain bike races and riders. Lance and Levi won the Leadville 100 a decade ago, and Joe Dombrowski finished second there in 2016. Could EF win the high-altitude 100-mile race with its long, soaring climbs? Perhaps, so long as World Cup honcho Howard Grotts, the two-time defending champ, stays at home.

What about other long-distance mountain bike events, such as the Epic Rides mountain bike races? Canadian cross-country great Geoff Kabush thinks WorldTour riders will struggle.

“People underestimate the specific fitness required for these disciplines,” Kabush said. “There’s a subtlety of the technique and comfort on the bike that requires you to spend a lot of time on your mountain bike. You can’t just ride it in the off-season.”

Peter Sagan raced the 2016 Olympics cross-country mountain bike race. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Every few years the cycling world finds a multi-disciplined rider who can excel both on and off road. Usually, this rider has a blend of raw power and mind-boggling technical skills. Mathieu van der Poel and Peter Sagan are the latest riders made from this mold. No disrespect to EF’s roster. Alas, the team does not have a rider with van der Poel’s off-road skills.

Plus, backcountry mountain bike races require raw power to speed up steep, punchy climbs. They also require the technical skills to survive rock drops and punishing rocky descents. Kabush does not see EF riders winning any Epic Rides races. I agree.

“I think they’re going to be surprised by the fitness level in these mountain bike races,” Kabush said. “World-class cyclists don’t just exist on the road.”

Fixed-gear criteriums (Red Hook Crit)

Verdict: NO WAY

Fixed gear criterium events present the steepest challenge for EF’s WorldTour riders. Pedaling a fixed-gear bicycle on a twisting road course in a tight pack presents a terrifying challenge for the uninitiated. There are frequent crashes. The rider who wins usually has the best combination of strength and skill on a fixed-gear bicycle.

And these days, the discipline supports a healthy population of riders who focus primarily on these races. These days the Red Hook Criterium is dominated by pro road riders who have dedicated themselves to the fixed-gear criterium format, such as former Quick-Step rider Davide Vigano and this year’s champ, Filippo Fortin.

“There is no way they’ll win,” says Strickland, who owns four Red Hook titles.  “There are racers in Europe who are so strong and are racing fixed-gear events every weekend. It’s a full-fledged discipline over there.”

Strickland knows what it takes to win a Red Hook Crit. Photo credit: Chris Riekert.

Sure, riders must avoid pedal strikes as they zoom through corners, and they must accelerate and decelerate without brakes. Oftentimes, the tight corners allow for only a single-file line of riders to pass through. But that’s not the only challenge, Strickland says. Riders must develop the muscles and technique to lock up the rear wheel and skid through corners and around crashes, which are frequent.

“Your reverse pedaling muscles need to be strong, and you can really only develop those by reverse pedaling a lot,” he says. “Otherwise you’re just jarring your tendons and that saps your leg strength after a while.”

David Trimble, Red Hook’s founder, says the EF riders can expect no special treatment at Red Hook. Hundreds of riders sign up to race each Red Hook race, and they participate in qualifying rounds in order to make the final. EF’s riders will need to qualify, just like everyone else, and that means surviving the early rounds, where they will race against riders with a wide variety of experience. In 2018 former Canadian national road champion Bruno Langlois failed to even qualify for the finals.

Could an EF rider overcome the challenges? Sure. In 2017 Bahrain-Merida’s Ivan Cortina Garcia won the Red Hook race in Milan. But Trimble said Cortina Garcia participated in several smaller regional fixed-gear criteriums in the months leading up to his victory.

“The main thing is when a rider wins, they don’t just jump into it. They spend time preparing,” Trimble said. “It’s a mental thing. You have to really want to win it and accept the risks and what you’re getting yourself into.”

Read the full article at Commentary: Think EF riders will dominate gravel, MTB, and fixie races? Think again on VeloNews.com.

The Dirt: Neff joins Trek, Breck Epic secures pro prize purse


Welcome to The Dirt, the weekly news round-up on what is happening in the worlds of gravel, mountain biking, and all things rough and dirty.

Trek Factory Racing’s 2019 World Cup team is fearsome

The number-one ranked cross-country rider in the world will join Trek Factory Racing for 2019. Jolanda Neff will boost an already impressive Trek team.

“I’m extremely excited to join the Trek family,” said Neff. “I love Trek as a brand and am passionate about their philosophy of developing strong women’s programs alongside their men’s teams. It’s also a great pleasure that I will be able to race in MTB, CX, and road, all under the same family of teams. It has been my lifelong dream to race at the highest level on the fastest bikes across different disciplines, and I have found the perfect partner.”

The 2017 world XC champion will join Canadian Emily Batty who had four podium finishes in the 2018 World Cup and won a bronze medal at world championships. The 2018 Trek team is also home to under-23 standout Evie Richards who was second place at five World Cups this season.

After having faced off with the Swiss star in the World Cup for years, Batty says she’ll benefit from Neff’s addition to the team.

“I’m thrilled to welcome Jolanda Neff to Trek, and I know that we’ll be able to bring the best out of each other in racing and training,” said Batty. “Trek is creating an environment that’s good for women athletes and good for the sport, and I’m proud that together Jolanda and I can lead the charge for the brand.”

Breck Epic aims to attract pros with $30k and UCI points

Jeremiah Bishop
Jeremiah Bishop rode though the high Alpine on stage 5 of Breck Epic. Photo: Eddie Clark

When I wrote my in-depth report on why Breck Epic chose not to sell to World Triathlon Corporation (owner of Ironman), I hinted at some changes for the future. Late last week, the organizers of the six-day mountain bike stage race in Breckenridge, Colorado confirmed that they will make a big push to bring more top pro riders to the August event.

First, Breck Epic will put up a $30,000 prize purse (the announcement says “at least” that much) — equally split among the men’s and women’s fields. The race will pay out 20 riders deep.

Second, the race will be a UCI-registered stage race. In 2019, it will be level 1; the following year will be HC, according to organizers. While this might not mean much to the average participant, UCI points are very valuable to the very best pro riders who are hoping they can earn a coveted spot on the U.S. Olympic team in 2020.

Whether or not you’re an Olympic hopeful, be advised that Breck Epic early bird registration ends November 1, so consider signing up by Haloween.

Minnesota NICA kids go viral with football halftime show

You can’t always bring people to the mountain biking, so why not bring mountain biking to the people?

That seems like the logic behind an exhibition race held at halftime during a football game last week at White Bear Lake High School. National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) riders Ian Hase and Chihiro Gustafson raced two laps around the track. Better still, Hase is a senior at White Bear Lake and Gustafson attends Mounds View High School — the rival school in town for the ball game. So fans from either school had a rider to cheer for.

The video of the race was posted on the Minnesota High School Cycling League’s Facebook and to date has 84,000 views and 533 shares. Check it out for yourself:

The incredible race!

Last night an extraordinary bike race occurred. Two MN League/NICA student athletes raced their mountain bikes on a 400m track during the halftime of a high school football homecoming game, in front of a cheering, frenzied crowd. The two racers, Chihiro Gustafson of Mounds View and Ian Hase of White Bear Lake, conspired to put this event on to promote the sport they love. They recruited MN League announcer Jason Czeskleba to call the race and whip up the crowd.No one disappointed. Listen to the energy created by the students of each school cheering for their favorite racer. What you can’t see in the video is the five police officers hired as security dropping their guard to film the event on their cell phones.Quite simply, it was an extraordinary caper, planned, coordinated, and pulled off by two extraordinary student athletes.Who won the race? To answer this question implies that there was a loser. No one lost last night.

Posted by Minnesota High School Cycling League on Thursday, October 18, 2018

Blowin’ up my feed: Kate Courtney’s worlds party

On Saturday, the Northern California cycling community celebrated Kate Courtney‘s world championship victory with a party at the Marin Museum of Bicycling. It looked like an awesome event with music, drinks, a ride, and of course tacos. (For those that don’t know, Courtney really has a thing for tacos.)

Got some news you’d like to share in The Dirt? I’d love to hear from you. Please email me your news and updates on all things gravel and mountain biking.

Read the full article at The Dirt: Neff joins Trek, Breck Epic secures pro prize purse on VeloNews.com.

Trek saves University of Vermont’s nationals after bikes burn


It isn’t easy for college kids to travel across the country for a national championship bike race. Most are on limited budgets, fitting in training rides around classes, and they have to negotiate all of the travel coordination from flights to rental cars to lodging.

This weekend’s collegiate mountain bike nationals took another unexpectedly difficult twist for the University of Vermont team when they arrived in Missoula, Montana, only to find their bikes were destroyed in a fire.

Something seemed wrong Thursday morning. The bikes were expected to arrive via FedEx Wednesday night, around the time their flight landed. The team had shipped most of their bikes across the country to avoid exorbitant airline fees. They did some errands Thursday, hoping to pick up their bikes in time to go pre-ride the race courses.

As they were unloading groceries at their VRBO, a fateful call came in from FedEx. The truck had caught on fire, and the bikes were likely destroyed.

“We were not sure if they existed anymore,” said UVM’s Nick Lando. “Then we start scrambling.”

Lando and his teammate Mazie Hayden had flown with their bikes, so while the other UVM riders scoured Missoula for rental bikes and called every company they could think of, Lando drove Hayden up to the venue so she could practice on the downhill track. After all, UVM was the best team in the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference this season, and Hayden was the top downhiller.

While they were up at Marshall Mountain, another teammate retrieved the bikes from the burned-out FedEx truck on the side of a road near town. The bikes were in pretty bad shape.

“The conditions of bikes varied from totally turned to ash and not salvageable to the carbon in the frames had unraveled themselves,” said Lando. “We put our heads together, building bikes as quick as we could, taking parts and making Frankenstein bikes so we could get XC riders on bikes.”

Fortunately, as they pulled apart their burnt bikes, a better option came up when Sarah Spencer made a phone call to Trek Bicycles. She spoke to Jed Gunn in e-commerce, who passed her along to Gary Whitebird in customer care. Whitebird had raced collegiate as both an undergrad and a graduate student and jumped at the chance to help save the weekend for the “Catamounts.”

“They called in, kind of in a tough spot,” said Whitebird. “A lot of us here have ridden, raced, we all know that situation, especially in collegiate.”

Late on Thursday, Whitebird and his team scrambled to find an option. They realized their California warehouse was the only option to get bikes shipped this late in the day.

“They only had a matter of minutes to pick the bikes off the shelf to get them on a UPS trailer to hit that deadline,” Whitebird added.

Trek reached out to one of their dealers in Missoula, Open Road Bicycle and Nordic, to see if they could build the bikes on short notice. “They didn’t even question it. They just said hey there’s a team that needs help, absolutely,” Whitebird said.

Although the eight bikes were shipped overnight, the cross-country races started at 8:30 a.m. Friday, so the UVM team had to source a few spare bikes from other teams — Fort Lewis College and University of Montana at Bozeman. Riding his own bike that he brought on the plane, Lando ended up second in the club division. The rest of the UVM riders were just happy to be toeing the line after a crazy 24 hours.

“Everyone had fun; everyone party-biked it,” said Lando. “There’s some character-building when people showing up on the start with scorched jerseys that smell like smoke.”

Racing continues Saturday with the short track and dual slalom races and Sunday with the downhill and team relay.

UVM’s riders will be aboard new bikes, and back in Wisconsin at Trek HQ, the Catamounts will probably have a few new fans following the action from afar.

“We’re really excited that we could help these group of kids,” said Whitebird. “With a team effort, everything was able to come together.”

Read the full article at Trek saves University of Vermont’s nationals after bikes burn on VeloNews.com.