Steamboat to host first national gravel cycling race
October 31, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — While Steamboat Springs welcomes a variety of cycling races over the summer, local cyclist and former professional road racer Amy Charity found there was still a void to fill.
"I had done a different gravel race, Dirty Kanza, in Emporia, Kansas," Charity said. "And there was a big group from Steamboat who did that race — a combination of mountain bikers, road cyclists and new cyclists. When I got back, I thought, 'Why don't we do this in Steamboat?'"
Steamboat has 600 miles of dirt roads surrounding it, making it a perfect place for world-class gravel racing.
Mark Satkiewicz, another avid Steamboat cyclist and former CEO of Smartwool, believes there's a growing nationwide interest in gravel races with the gravel bike being one of the top-sellers around the U.S.
"People are doing these types of adventures on gravel roads and exploring places they don't normally see," Satkiewicz said. "It's a more social sport and you can ride next to someone on a gravel road and not have to worry about cars. Road racing and mountain bike racing can be quite intimidating."
Charity and Satkiewicz both have rich cycling backgrounds, and with that comes a network of interested riders from all over the U.S. Together, they have created Steamboat Springs' first gravel cycling race, SBT GRVL, slated for Aug. 17-18, 2019. The race's website — SBTGRVL.com — launched Tuesday and registration will begin Dec. 4.
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The race features three courses: black, blue and green.
The black, or most difficult, is a 141-mile course with approximately 9,000 feet of climbing, while the blue, a 100-mile route with around 6,000 feet of elevation gain, is the mid-level course. Green is a 37-mile course with 2,000 feet of climbing.
Courses will stay close to the town of Steamboat, never extending 30 miles beyond for safety and accessibility purposes.
"We thought it was important to keep Steamboat as the center point," Charity said. "We go all the way north and all the way south. We could've taken them all the way up to Wyoming, but prefer to let people explore the home base. Let them see Clark, Oak Creek and other smaller communities to test their limits."
While the race is open to anyone, there's still a competitive aspect. Elite racers on the 141-mile course will compete for a $28,000 prize purse, which will be equally divided among male and female racers in the pro and amateur field.
"For the most part, gravel cycling events don't offer any cycling money," Satkiewicz said. "We want the elite racer to have a real chance at winning money and competing against the best racers in the world across multiple disciplines. That large of a gravel race, larger than any other U.S. race in gravel, is going to attract cyclists from all disciplines."
While gravel races have been popping up everywhere, Satkiewicz said there are very few that have a national presence.
Charity and Satkiewicz have partnered with a public relations firm, Verde Brand Communications, to help market the race while also garnering sponsors to help provide volunteers and swag bags for registered racers. There will also be an expo and symposium the day before the race.
Charity is confident the race will gain traction and reach its participant goal of 1,200 cyclists.
"When we were looking at planning this out, we were thinking of doing this on a state or regional race," Charity said. "We're confident it will appeal to the national scale, and we hope to have 1,200 people. This is something that regardless of where they live, they look at this as one of the big ones they want to come out and do."
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