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When I first heard about a style of cycle racing called gravel grinding I knew it was not only something I had to try but potentially was a great fit for me as a rider. The terrain was generally rolling so didn’t favour lightweight climbers and courses though off road weren’t so technical so my build and ability was just perfect.
I had become disillusioned with lapping the same shorter course over and over and though stage races offered great experiences they were costly in general. Gravel offered huge distances, some events over 400 miles, and new experiences. My interest had been pricked.
With some limited research it seemed the best starting point was to go with the event that was the most subscribed, the Dirty Kanza. Held in Emporia, Kansas the Dirty Kanza is the premier US gravel with its numbers now swelling to 2000 riders. The 200 mile course offers the full gravel grinding experience.
I rode that first gravel event on a borrowed bike (mine lost in transit) and suffered in the heat. I was humbled by the challenge but left filled with a host of positive experiences.
A year later I would return to the US to tackle the Trans Iowa. This time 325 miles and a far different more low key affair. Again the challenge was brutal but many new friendships were forged and my love of gravel grew.
The only negative to these events was their geography and at the time I was riding them gravel grinding only really existed in the US. It wasn’t that the UK didn’t have gravel, we had plenty, it was that no one was organising an event offering people that US gravel grinder experience. So in true Field of Dreams fashion I set out to organise my own UK gravel grinder.
“If you build it they will come”
April 2016 saw the first edition of the Dirty Reiver, a 200km single lap around the English and Scottish border. The event was staged as a UK homage to the Dirty Kanza, 400 riders took the start line on a crisp and damp Saturday morning and a high percentage returned a number of hours later. All reports were positive; Gravel Grinding had arrived in the UK.
One thing was clear after that faithful April weekend and for many months prior to the event, no one knew what to expect. Even those that successfully completed the event still had their questions about optimising their approach. With all these queries coming in we decided that a weekend dedicated to preparing our growing following was required, a training camp specifically looking at the Dirty Reiver event, Gravel Rocks was launched.
October 22nd and 23rd 2016 sees the first gravel training camp in the UK. A chance to ride sections of the Dirty Reiver course, to learn more about preparing the body and bike for gravel grinding but in general just to enthuse about riding within and enjoying vast expanses of foresty and moorland.
The training camp is only open to a limited number of riders and all information can be found here http://www.dirtyreiver.co.uk/training-camp/