Gravel, Gravel and more Gravel - SBT GRVL and The Last Best Ride
Libby Brown | Published on 9/11/2021
When I signed up for SBT GRVL in 2019 for 2020, I never thought it would turn into an epic road trip in 2021- Colorado, Wyoming and Montana.
I left Atlanta on August 1 bound for Colorado to try and get a head start on acclimating to the higher altitudes for my summer riding adventures. Spent a week riding outside of Denver and Boulder, CO and it was beautiful! But a lot of smoke from the California wildfires. After my initial week in Colorado, my wife and I headed up to Steamboat Springs, Colorado to meet up with our gravel road trip gang (Claire Colbert and Kathryn Taylor).
Steamboat is a great ski town that happens to host one of the worlds fastest gravel races, SBT GRVL, in the summer. The tarmac quickly turns into what they call “champagne” gravel (smooth -ish). I’m not racing against anyone but myself so the throngs of professional gravel and world tour women and men that descended upon Steamboat for the event made for awesome people and bike watching. My training coach, Tom Danielson with CINCH Cycling, brought a huge group (50+ riders) of all sorts to compete for the win (Yay Lauren de Crescenzo) or complete the course to win their individual ride. I was nervous about the altitude and dry Colorado air because it is no joke. During our course recon the Friday before I got dehydrated and needed some IV help to recover after the ride. Fortunately, the IV totally did the trick and I was good to go on Sunday for the SBT GRVL Red Course (64 miles approximately 4,100 feet of climbing 50+ miles of gravel). It was a perfect cool Colorado morning at the start and turned into a stunner of a day. I took my time and paced my effort, doing the course recon really helped to know which side of the “road” or farm tracks I should be on. I rode with a CamelBak with water and two bottles of electrolytes to start. This proved to be a good strategy because some of the surface made it hard to drink from the bottles. The route was challenging and it was a hot and dry but a solid day on the bike. I was proud of finishing strong on my longest gravel ride yet!
The Sorella (Karen Richardson & Beth Walters), Girls Gone Gravel (Kathryn Taylor & Claire Colbert), Radical Adventure Riders (Devin Cowens) and Atlanta women’s gravel bike gang were in full force in Steamboat! It was so awesome to see people through out the weekend and on the course.
After SBT GRVL, our group (Kathryn, Claire and my wife Charlotte) headed off on our 1,000 mile journey to Whitefish, Montana for The Last Best Ride hosted by Jess Cerra and Sam Boardman. We stopped in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a couple of nights to break up the driving. We stretched our legs riding out to Teton National Park and Jenny Lake. The smoke was thick but it didn’t damped our joy of being in such amazing scenery.
We made it to Whitefish and surrendered our tired spirits and climbed out of our rented mini van. The next couple of days we explored the small town of Whitefish, the beautiful lake and Glacier National Park - Going to the Sun Road. Girls Gone Gravel, Pinarello and JoJe Bars hosted a womxn’s only recon ride the day before the event. That morning, it was raining and the conditions were super gritty and muddy, but it did not stop anyone of us having an amazing morning with womxn on bikes. It was almost overwhelming riding with so many super womxn who came from all over the United States.
Race morning was still wet but the rain had mostly stopped. Low clouds and large mountains made for beautiful scenery and I enjoyed the six mile neutral start just taking in the views. I normally end up alone during these events but had met some fantastic ladies from Minneapolis who are part of the Stamina Racing Collective team (@stamina.racing.collective on Instagram). We committed to riding together and it really made the difference in having a good ride to having an amazing, fun, laughter filled ride. Plus it was safer being in a group in grizzly bear country. When an event requires you to have bear spray and bells on you, you listen. It culminated with a good beer and stories with new and old friends.
These two events couldn’t have been more different from terrain, altitude and intent. In my opinion, SBT GRVL was like a road race on gravel and The Last Best Ride was gravel with friends going as fast as you wanted. Either way, I enjoyed these events immensely. The challenges, the scenery of this beautiful country and meeting amazing people on bikes. So sign-up for a local event and see where it takes you.