STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (Aug. 27, 2019) – The town of Steamboat Springs uniquely melds Colorado mountain town culture with the ambiance and warmth that only a ranching community can offer. Couple that unique atmosphere with the region’s physical attributes, like altitude and hundreds of miles of scenic, gravel county roads. With this formula, it was only a matter of time for cycling’s newest and fastest-growing discipline – gravel riding – to find a home in Routt County, Colorado.
And find a home it did. The weekend of Aug. 17-18, 1,500 gravel cyclists hailing from seven countries and all 50 of the United States converged on Steamboat for the inaugural SBT GRVL event, presented by Canyon Bicycles. Three course distances – 141-, 100- and 37-miles – were offered to riders and racers of all ability levels, ages and genders.
The inaugural SBT GRVL race, presented by Canyon Bikes, launched with a field of 1,500 riders, including 400 women. Over 500 of them tackled the Black Course, a 141-mile, 9,000-foot elevation gain course that offered 100 miles of gravel roads winding through Steamboat Springs and surrounding Routt County.
“Every single rider signed up for the event sight unseen back in December 2018,” said Mark Satkiewicz, co-founder of SBT GRVL. “SBT GRVL was sold out in an unprecedented six days, and from all we keep hearing, we delivered the memorable experience our founding riders were hoping for.”
The success of the event was multi-faceted. It can be partially attributed to the family-friendly hospitality of the community, as well as the beauty of Steamboat Springs. Discovery of the region’s hundreds of miles of gravel roads was certainly a factor. But in the fast-growing world of gravel riding and racing, SBT GRVL was considered to be a must-ride from the start because it truly honored the spirit of this new discipline of cycling.
“One of the best aspects of gravel is that everyone is welcome. It’s not run by teams, marketing or profits. It’s pure and open for anyone interested in having an adventurous ride, and we wanted to uphold that from day one of SBT GRVL,” said Satkiewicz.
SBT GRVL also launched with a commitment to parity, inclusivity and equality for all riders – no matter their ability level, their race or their gender. This commitment is what fueled the race to re-open three months after registration was at capacity, to offer 200 more spots for female riders. As a result, 400 women showed up to ride on Sunday, just under 30-percent of the field. The founders are working to achieve a 50-50 ratio of male/female riders in the coming years.
The success of the event was also due, in part, to the start list of professional cyclists of multiple disciplines who signed up to compete. World Tour road riders, marathon mountain bike riders and up-and-coming gravel racing stars lined up shoulder to shoulder at the start. Gravel cycling isn’t sanctioned or regulated, which made the multi-faceted pro field possible. And there was a sizeable prize purse – $28,000 – that was divided equally among men and women.
Amateurs and enthusiasts were able to ride with the pros and watch the attacks and race action as they unfolded on course. Aid stations reflected camaraderie of the experience of all of the riders, together, out on course. Amateur winners were counted in every course distance as well as in the pro ranks.
Brodie Chapman, of Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank Pro Women’s road-racing team, took the top step of the women’s podium after climbing over 9,000 feet on the course. For the men, it was former world-tour road cycling pro Ted King, the 2018 winner of the 2018 Dirty Kanza 200 gravel race, who took the win.
Throughout the weekend riders praised the beauty of the rural gravel roads and mountain backdrops and exchanged wildlife and livestock stories from encounters on the course. Participants shared that this was one of the most well organized cycling events they’d done to date, and also commented on the welcoming vibe from the friendly community of Steamboat Springs.
The riders were treated to a weekend of all-things-gravel, including a pre-ride of the SBT GRVL course, a pro panel discussion and a robust brand expo in downtown Steamboat Springs on Saturday, and the rides on Sunday.
Steamboat’s unique offerings and established bed base allowed SBT GRVL riders and their families to make a vacation out of the destination race. Participants and their families explored the outdoor experiences and recreation opportunities like the rodeo and the Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs.
While inclusion, parity, and equality were a top priority amongst all riders, SBT GRVL also prioritized giving back to local non-profits to support Routt County’s ranching community, Boy’s & Girl’s club as well as youth athletic programming in Steamboat Springs.
“So much of the success of the event is largely due to the hospitality of the community, as well as the support from the kind, engaged local volunteers that helped make the first year one to remember,” said Satkiewicz.
Ted King Named Overall Male Winner of Inaugural SBT GRVL
The inaugural race attracted a high caliber men’s and women’s pro field, comprised of World Tour road racers, including some retirees like six-time Tour de France Green Jersey winner Erik Zabel and Ted King, who last rode professionally for Cannondale-Garmin’s UCI Pro Team. It also counted active pros among its ranks, hailing from cycling disciplines including marathon-distance, mountain bike and gravel racing.
Course conditions were improved from rains on Saturday, and the race unfolded under a blue sky with temperatures that reached 85-degrees. It turned out to be a perfect day for King, and marathon mountain bike and gravel road racer Payson McElveen, to duke it out for most of the 141 miles of the course.
King broke away to take the lead during the rolling gravel flats between climbs two and three. He had to fight hard and consistently through the last 20 miles at Cow Creek to best McElveen, who continued to attack King on the toughest climbs of the day.
“This event – and the best gravel events – happen with an amazing amount of camaraderie,” said King, the men’s Black Course winner. “It’s been a year of ‘almosts’ (for me) and (it was) really fun to duke it out with these guys.”
King said that he and second-place winner McElveen were talking with each other at the end of the race, between attacking each other.
“We were just saying how stunning the landscape of this race is, it’s outstanding. Steamboat has been such an amazing (host) community; we’ve really loved this whole weekend.”
In addition to the second-step on the podium, McElveen was awarded a hard-fought King of the Mountain title in the inaugural SBT GRVL. He rode the three main climbs on the Black Course, which total almost 9,000-vertical feet, with the fastest cumulative time of the day (48:32:00), and brings home a valuable prize package from race sponsors Panaracer, Roka, OtterBox, Feedback Sports, GU Energy, Primal and SmartWool.
Colin Strickland (overall men’s winner of this year’s Dirty Kanza), Jacob Ruthe and Jonathan Baker rounded out the top five men, who together will split $22,000 of the $28,000 prize purse.
The remaining $6,000 is allocated to the winners of the Blue Course, which was 100 miles with over 70 miles of gravel and 6,000-feet climbing, and the Green Course, a 38-mile race with 20-miles of gravel and 2,000-feet of climbing.
Gary Holt of Littleton, Colo., secured the overall win for the Blue Course amongst male riders, finishing with an overall time of 4:57:58. Jacob Peterson, also a Littleton, Colo., local, is the overall men’s Green Course winner with a finish time of 1:49:09.
Other notable results for the men’s field include Lucas Clarke of Denver, who was the fastest single-speed rider of the day, on the Black Course.
Brodie Chapman of Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank Pro Women’s Road Racing Team, Wins First-Ever SBT GRVL Race
Perhaps one of the most memorable facets of the inaugural SBT GRVL race, which launched today with three course distances that wove through the beautiful rural gravel roads in and around Steamboat Springs, Colo., is the fact that the event drew 400 female riders. That’s just under 30-percent of the 1,500 riders who signed up to ride.
That’s a strong showing of female gravel riders for a first-year event. And all 400 of them showed up ready to ride at 6:30 a.m., sharp, 1,500 riders left Steamboat’s Yampa Street ready to take on the Black Course (141-miles, 100 of which were gravel, with 9,000-feet of climbing), Blue Course (100- miles, over 70 miles of gravel, with 6,000-feet of climbing) and Green Course (37-miles, with 20 miles of gravel, and 2,000-feet of climbing).
Among those 400 female riders, an incredible pro women’s cycling field went to battle for an equally split prize purse of $22,000, the majority of which was awarded to the top five finishers of the Black Course. Another $6,000 was earmarked for winners of the Blue and Green Courses, respectively, as well as age-group top finishers*.
At the end of the day, it was Brodie Chapman of Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank Pro Women’s road-racing team who took the top step of the podium with a winning time of 6:56:40.
Second place went to Chapman’s teammate Lauren Stephens, while Sarah Sturm took third. Sturm placed second in the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race last weekend, and also won the Belgium Waffle Ride in the spring of this year. The top five women’s winners also include multi-discipline cycling pro Alison Powers and Nina Laughlin, a pro cyclist and coach for Carmichael Training Systems.
Brodie held a consistent pace and position at the start of the ride, racing head-to-head with second place finisher, Lauren Stephens. By the time Chapman topped the first climb, she put in a seven-minute gap on Stephens after she suffered a flat tire. Chapman, named ‘Gravel and Tar Champion’ as well as the first-overall winner in the Tour of the Gila in 2019, held on to the lead for the rest of the race.
“I came here to win,” said Chapman. “Unfortunately my teammate Lauren got a flat and I knew I had to keep going so I just pushed on and tried to hold the wheel and stay out of the wind; and it got really fast.”
The inaugural Queen of the Mountain title for the climb-heavy Black Course goes to Stephens, who had a cumulative climbing time of 53:40:00 over the three major Black Course climbs.
UCI Women's Canyon–SRAM cyclist, Ella Harris of New Zealand, secured the overall win on the Blue Course, finishing with an overall time of 4:59:40. Harris is also the only female to break five hours on the Blue Course. Canyon-SRAM teammate, Tiffany Cromwell, secures the second-place finish with a time of five hours six minutes. Four of the top five female finishers (with the exception of Sturm) lined up to race the Colorado Classic Women’s Road Race four days later.
Takeshita Kae Takeshita is named Female Champion of the thirty-eight-mile green course. Takeshita finishes third overall in the Green group finishing with a time of 1:50:19.
Crystal Wintle from Stillwater, Okla., who was the only female single-speed racer of the Black Course and was named the winner of that category.