By Jon Hornbeck
With the emergence of Gravel events lately, they typically come with a different styles. If you go to your local road Gran Fondo road event you more or less get a similar experience. Not that there is anything wrong with that but you show up, register, go out on your ride which is typically in the century length depending on which option you choose and then follow that up with a post ride meal and go over your tales of what you encountered out on the road.
With gravel though each event seems to almost have it’s different vibe and flair which comes with it. Sam Ames of SamBarn Promotions is no stranger to bicycle events as he has put on road, mountain bike and lately been finding success with his Gravel events. The Rock Cobbler which is a large staple in the Southern California Gravel scene has been hugely successful and reaches it’s maximum capacity every February. The Cobbler is different though from this new Gravel iteration of the Grapes of Wrath.
The Cobbler falls in the 90-100 mile range with the Grapes of Wrath being a larger ride in the 140 mile range, oh and there’s a 34 mile climb to get over as well. Going back to the different vibe you get at these events the GOW is no different. A more old school, grass roots down to earth vibe as we rolled up Friday night. The venue was at a vineyard and camping was the go to set up. If you didn’t bring your motorhome or trailer you were pitching your tent in between the vineyards. Not a bad view to wake up to.
Friday night consisted of a laid back registration check in with the bonfire growing while riders gathered around. Drinks were consumed as dinner was served for everyone excited for what was to come in the morning. Once the morning did arrive everyone was treated to breakfast burritos and coffee as we all rolled out of our camping set up’s.
The ride started with a 32 mile neutral roll out which was more or less to let everyone enjoy the first part of the ride together through out the vineyards and keep the pace on the lighter side. Once we came upon our 34 mile climb the pace picked up and the riders picked their climbing partners to make the trek up the mountain while enjoying the scenery. More or less you climb out of the desert up into the wilderness. A hop, skip and a jump (and a couple hours later) and you’ve finally arrived at the summit where a sag station allowed everyone to get filled up and regroup a bit for the finishing stretch. Mostly paved roads took us back to our camping location besides the closing miles where we hoped back onto the dirt through the vineyards.
Upon arriving at the finish the group rolled in together as we we’re not going for any podiums or wins as we’ve already gotten what we wanted with an epic long jaunt through out our journey. Finishing the ride the beers were in hand as we took a dip in the water to cool off. In no rush to get out of there the bonfire was started again as dinner was being made for all of us. A group of us decided it would be another grand idea to make a weekend out of it as we stayed an extra night and rode some extra credit the following morning for Neil Shirley’s birthday bash.
It’s not hard to see why events such as these are becoming so popular and fun. I don’t remember laughing so hard or having so much fun in the past from local criterium’s all the way up to races such as the Tour of California. Until the next adventure.