Amanda Nauman is one of America’s top tier gravel racers with a list of wins and top finishes that range in events from Dirty Kanza to Belgian Waffle Ride. Along with her partner David Sheek, she’s also an event organizer for Mammoth Tuff set to take place on September 18 in Mammoth Lakes, CA. We recently had a chance to have a chat with Amanda to find out more about the Mammoth Tuff race, as well as ask her for some pro-level advice for riding gravel and at elevation.
WHAT ABOUT AMANDA?
How long have you been racing?
I was a swimmer all through college. Then I got into triathlons in the last couple years of college and did it for a couple years after I graduated. The love of the bike started there, I ended up getting a job at Felt Bicycles, and that’s where racing in the dirt started. My first local ‘cross race was at the end of 2012 and I was racing UCI Elite by CrossVegas of 2013.
And now you’re taking a stab at promoting a gravel race – the Mammoth Tuff. How would you describe the course? Lots of pumice?
Yes, lots of pumice. Picturesque. We fell in love with the roads surrounding Mammoth because they reminded us of the wide open, Midwest gravel that we had become accustomed to and never found in California. We found proper gravel roads in the Owens Valley and it’s incredible. The soft pumice and sand-like consistency of some sections are very unique to the area as well.
Tuff, by definition, is a relatively soft, porous rock that is usually formed by the compaction and cementation of volcanic ash or dust. This is what we’re working with and while it’s a general term for all consolidated pyroclastic (explosive, volcanic origination) rocks, it’s also a fitting name for our event!
What tire size would you recommend?
I’d say 40mm-pluss but 38’s will suffice. And knobby tires that roll well are recommended. I wouldn’t suggest a slick unless you’re an experienced bike handler. The soft texture in areas won’t allow a slick to grip very well and knobs allow for more bite. Very specifically, these are my two favorites for the roads up there: Rene Herse 700C X 42 Hurricane Ridge TC Tire, 700C x 48 mm Oracle Ridge TC Tire
Mammoth sits at over 6000 ft. elevation, what’s your best tip for getting acclimated?
Hydration is key. People get dehydrated quicker at altitude so properly hydrating is key in avoiding the negative side effects from high elevation. Make sure you’re getting both plain water and some sort of drink mix or tab with electrolytes, especially surrounding activity. Thinner atmosphere also means a higher risk of sunburn and overheating which can trigger dehydration and make people susceptible to altitude sickness. When it comes to the sun at high elevation, layer, stay hydrated, wear sunscreen, and you will feel the effects of altitude less.
The best suggestion I have is to lower your expectations of power output and fitness capabilities. Everyone will be operating at a lower capacity than normal at altitude, and it’s okay to accept that fact. Don’t get down because you feel like you’re slower because everyone else will be feeling it too! Coming in with that mindset will allow yourself to just do your best and have a good time.
For anyone heading to Mammoth for any of the great (road, mountain, gravel) riding, what’s the best place for coffee, breakfast, and dinner in town?
Stellar Brew for coffee and breakfast at 3280 Main Street. There are usually freshly made Grab-n-Go burritos, breakfast sandwiches, homemade granola, and organic oats. You can also get made-to-order breakfast bowls, acai bowls, and sandwiches. Our favorite is the Basin Bowl with any of the baked goods to go with it.
I’d have to say that cheap eats are hard to come by in a mountain town but the little Latin Market Taqueria is a gem at 1566 Tavern Rd. They have good prices for standard Mexican food for lunch/dinner and an excellent breakfast burrito reputation.
A fancier and pricier option for dinner would be any of the restaurants in the Village. All the restaurants there are top notch and you won’t be disappointed. If you want a simpler dinner or takeout, Thai’d Up at 587 Old Mammoth Rd is great.
What are some of the best attractions in town for non-cyclists?
The scenery is the best attraction in town for everyone and hiking is an excellent way to see the sites. Depending on how far or long you want to hike, we suggest two starting spots that we frequent: Trolley Stop 100 – Coldwater Creek Trailhead, and Trolley Stop 101 – Lake George Trailhead. Both of these also have decent parking options and allow you to access so many great views like Arrowhead Lake, Emerald Lake, Crystal Lake, and the Mammoth Crest.
For non-cyclists and someone who doesn’t want to hike, I would recommend buying Scenic Gondola Ride ticket for a ride up the gondola to the top of Mammoth Mountain. You get incredible views without having to walk to the top and free access to the Eleven53 Interpretive Center and Café.
Best tip for someone thinking about riding gravel?
If you’re thinking about it, then you’re probably an adventurous spirit and that’s all you need to get into gravel riding. An inclination to explore and challenge yourself is all you need. If you’re gravel event curious, there are a lot of events that offer shorter distances now and are extremely welcoming to new riders. If you want to dip your toe into Mammoth and see what it’s all about, the short course of Mammoth Tuff will give you a great taste. You can experience the conditions without the crazy distance and then see if you want to challenge yourself for more in the future or come back for another rip through the trees and by Hot Creek.
Click here to sign-up for Mammoth Tuff
WANT MORE GRAVEL TIPS FROM AMANDA?
Just click: Amanda’s Gravel Tips