Times are changing! A fresh new discipline is sweeping through the amateur road cycling arena, bringing the party spirit. Championing fun and participation, these more novel events borrow tips from their chunkier tyred relative, enduro mountain biking. Breaking free of the tarmac, these largely gravel and dirt road-based routes bring accessible adventure to the masses while still being competitive enough to satisfy the racing snake inside.
Everyone’s in agreement: traditional Sportives and Gran Fondos have reinvigorated the competitive cycling world, tempting keen amateurs and club riders to take to the tarmac in enormous numbers. These events offer a great way to meet new people while putting both fitness and determination to the test. There is one problem though, at some point during the day you are going to drop, or –even worse –be dropped by your club buddies. A new way of thinking offers the solution, aimed to appeal to, well, everyone.
For many years, mountain bikes and road bikes have been sharing technology, but rarely have the polarised riders lined up on the same start line. With new events like the Grinduro and SuperEnduro B-Road that are springing up everywhere from America to Scotland, we are bridging the gulf between mountain and road, taking riders far from the asphalt and traffic, and into the hills and vineyards. These new leaders of participation offer intense racing for those with a competitive streak, but manage to present it in a fun and festival-like experience that is rewarding to both amateurs and pros.
The 2015 Grinduro typified this new approach, uniting roadies not only with gravel riders and cross racers but crossing the divide and attracting mountain biking’s XC, DH and Enduro riders too. Held in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, the Grinduro uses a novel new format, , comprising a mass start race with, importantly, no overall timing. You ride the loop with your friends; free from time pressure, riders can enjoy the environment and camaraderie of a big group. But has this come at the cost of competition and ambition?? Hell no! Four gravel special timed stages allow the competitive spirit to flow freely, race for the win or just to beat your mates. Each one interlinked with an untimed section to catch up with friends old and new. To top it off the final stage includes a team time trial through the closing kilometres.
What sets the Grinduro apart is the belief that an event should be more than just racing: it should be an experience, a festival, a proper good day out. Handmade bikes, camping, fires and a wild night of music beer and amazing food prepared by Gourmet Century chef Chris Diminno add up to one hell of a party! Grinduro is as much about friendship, lifestyle and fun as it is about results and victory; it’s a new way of thinking!
It’s not just the US either. For those looking for a taste of Italian flair and passion, then the Italian Superenduro B-Road offers something special and unique. The tagline for Superenduro B-Roads is “be open to new roads” and with open minds riders from all over Italy enjoyed something amazing at the first event in June 2015. Blending a mixture of gravel grinding, cross racing with a dash of mountain biking added to the mix, it’s the perfect way to soak up the culture with new friends. Again, the loop is untimed, allowing the field to socialise and new friendships to develop while shorter special stages on gravel or dirt add a dose of competition to the exciting day.
The UK is catching on fast too, with cycling festival specialists, Tweedlove, announcing an exciting new event for 2016 that will bring the Grinduro format to the Tweed Valley in Scotland. The Gran Fonduro is marketed as a ‘cycling voyage of discovery’ to the seldom-visited regions of the valley, connecting up special stages on the valley’s finest natural trails, gravel roads and footpaths.
Bringing a new audience to the most traditional of sports, this new school approach looks set to revolutionise competitive road cycling, offering an immersive and enjoyable experience to the amateur rider. A fun day of socialising, punctuated with intense racing: is that not how our best group rides play out anyway?
For more information on these exciting new events or to get involved, find out more on their websites:
What do you think of these new racing formats? If there are any exciting new events on your radar that you would like to share with us, we would love to hear from you! Drop us a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos: Dain Zaffke, Superenduro
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