Inaugural Dirty Dino Gravel Grinder Rider Reports

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Compiled by Breanne Nalder Harward, Race Director — Rather than write a summary of how the Dirty Dino Gravel Grinder went, I asked various riders to share their experiences. Here are some personal accounts from an LA-SLC couple that each did different courses, a CO gal that had a rough day but made the most of it, the DNA Cycling staff that came down to sponsor the event and rode the mid-distance course together, and 2 other UT riders that tackled the long course.

Cassie Cobb:  Dino-Lite 1st Female Finisher

The Dirty Dino Gravel Grinder was an awesome experience all around. We arrived on Friday for packet pickup, and we ended up picking up a new jersey from DNA Cycling while we were at it. Race day the weather held as the first groups rolled out. I did the Dino-Lite, the 32-mile option. We were the last group to leave, and you could tell we were all out there to have fun and ride some beautiful new terrain. The ride was amazing, and all 8 miles of gravel on our short course were pristine – I was joking with my climbing buddy that we could be on our road bikes (that’s how nice the gravel is!). The aid station at the top of the climb marked our turn around and after grabbing some First Endurance EFS and Swedish Fish snacks, we turned down for the descent into the wind. The headwinds made the last few miles a slow grind, but it was all smiles at the finish! I was the first female to cross the line, and my small but mighty finish was met with cold towels and beverages. I spent the rest of the afternoon hanging in the sun with my fellow Dino-Lite racers. We had a blast!

John Cobb's impression of a starfish. Photo courtesy John Cobb

John Cobb: Dino-Bite 3rd 30-39 (on an MTB no less!)

Dirty Dino was a messy and fun adventure. We started with a soul crushing climb into the woods, stringing out the field. By mile 30, civilization had faded into the rear-view mirror and hope was a mirage of an aid station up ahead. Dirt and sand crusted the edges of my helmet and gritted down the starting jitters. A costume of a T-Rex, no doubt a child, was the reminder I was still yet in a race. Soon after, the descent pushed us into a valley with running water and cliffs on both sides. The final miles became a group effort, as stragglers were plucked into a pace line for the asphalt finish. Not to be out done by Moe or Curly, we blew past the last turn and scrambled back for our photo finish. Exhausted and dehydrated, I fell to the elementary school lawn, creating my rendition of a starfish. It had been a test of wills, but I’m already excited for next year.

Dawn Manfredonia: Dino Bite Finisher

I signed up for the very challenging Dino-Mite course which was a grueling 106 miles with 9,400 ft of vertical gain, but I made more than a few mistakes with my nutrition and hydration and wound up switching to the Dino-Bite 60-mile course which was still a whopping 6,155 ft of climbing. I was reminded that mental fitness is as important as physical fitness. I had a lot of anxiety before this race and kept questioning myself on whether or not I could do a race like this, so I didn’t sleep well the night before. If you had asked me how this race went the day it took place, I would have said I’m never racing my bike ever again and I would have for sure broken up with my bike. My mind reached some pretty dark places that day and I felt disappointed in myself for not finishing the 106-mile course, but mistakes are opportunities for growth and rather than dig myself in a hole, this was the best option for me given how crummy I felt. I still don’t enjoy climbing, but that won’t stop me from challenging myself to events like this again!

Photo courtesy DNA Cycling

DNA Cycling Crew: All Crushed the Dino-Bite Course!

The DNA staff packed up and headed down to Vernal for the inaugural Dirty Dino Gravel Grinder. This event exceeded all expectations. The team opted for the Dino Bite with 59 miles and 5600 ft of vert. Within the first 15 miles, we gained 3,100 ft of vert climbing Taylor Mountain Road. After the main climb, riders found rolling terrain with punchy climbs and fast descents. Temperatures were perfect. The higher riders climbed, the cooler it became. The final summit push for the Dino Bite loop passes by Simm's Peak at mile 30. With 29 miles left, riders start the descent back to the finish. “For those wondering about support, it couldn't have been better. Aid stations were stocked, and the volunteers were fantastic. This event is on our to-do list for years to come. Highly recommend.”

A pair of Mi Duole riders. Photo courtesy Ali Dudley

Matt Tennison: Dino-Mite Finisher

Interesting day. Definitely not my best, but I gave all that I had. The elevation literally drained me. I could barely push low endurance on the out and back climb, and I was completely destroyed. Then when I got back down to the pavement, back into the oxygen, I was able to push upper endurance and tempo again, even though I was completely blown. Apparently, I really struggle with long stints at high elevation. Nate (my teammate) beat me by like 25 minutes. I thought I was a lot closer to his level than that. I think riding in Spain and CA at sea-level gave me a false sense of fitness and power. Don't get me wrong, I am not unhappy. I gave all that I had and finished 4th behind three really strong guys, although I was 20 min behind 3rd. I also made some tactical mistakes that likely cost me 7-10 minutes. Oh well, I'll learn from those. I LOVED the course (except the out and back, which I hated with all my soul). It was the most beautiful course I have ever ridden and there were spots that I would've only thought possible in a painting. Also, Nate and I agreed it was a stellar event. So good!!

One of Vernal's local riders tackling home roads. Photo courtesy Ali Dudley

Jessica Taverna: Dino-Mite 3rd Open Women

First things first, put this race on your calendar for next year! If you didn't make it to the inaugural Dirty Dino Gravel Grinder, you definitely do not want to miss out in the future. My own race weekend got off to a bit of an inauspicious start as I treated everyone on the shakeout ride to a delightful serenade of squealing brakes – and not just when they were in use! But thanks to a well-planned race expo, and to the benefit of everyone who'd be around me the next morning, I handed my bike over to the Ventum mechanic and he got me all set and ready with useful but silent brakes. They'd come in handy the next day with ~10,000 feet of descending to match the ~10,000 feet of climbing we had before us.

Race director Breanne Nalder Harward pitched DDGG as a great Crusher training race, and somewhere around mile 60 as I made my way up to the race highpoint at Hacking Lake, I realized just how accurate that statement was – by mile 69, we would easily hit roughly the same vert as Crusher … but with another 35 miles of racing left to do! While I love Crusher, I have to say this race isn't just good prep – it is every bit as good and maybe even better as a goal race. You spend the better part of the course above 9,000 feet, only descending back to the Vernal valley floor as you finish. That means you spend the vast majority racing high in the Uintas, surrounded by forests, cruising alongside streams, turning corners to get views of the even higher peaks. While it was an open course, there was minimal vehicle traffic, and I was happily impressed by how many cars slowed down around me to help reduce the dust factor. The course is gorgeous, and my only regret was, being as I was trying to actually race the thing, I didn't get any pictures!

These roads were perfection – fun, fast, perfect dirt. For those who like a little spice (aka chunk and rowdiness) with their gravel, as I do, the Hacking Lake out and back had just what I needed, with a rollicking descent testing handling skills and line choice that had me laughing to myself with glee. And while I could have done without the burly headwind on the final 15 mile “the map says I'm going downhill so why am I working so hard” stretch, the variable weather of these summer races is all part of the game, and part of why the former alpine climber in me loves these kind of events.

One of the highlights of DDGG was seeing the way the community of Vernal embraced the race. At dinner the night before at Antica Forma, our server asked what exactly this “big bike thing” was all about and whether it was going on Sunday too – they were busier than normal, and she felt bad the service wasn't as fast as usual and wanted to be prepared if we'd be around all weekend. She said it was great “seeing all these folks come to Vernal” – we thanked her for what was definitely not slow service and let her know there would probably be some very hungry folks after the race on Sat evening. And if word gets out like it should about how great this event is, they'll definitely need to plan for even more visitors next year! I will certainly be among them.

Truman Glasgow: Dino-Mite 1st Open Men:

The Dirty Dino Gravel Grinder was an awesome race! Never have I ridden high mountain gravel roads in such perfect condition. The course was fast and the scenery was incredible. I definitely plan on coming back and racing it again!

Director Summary

Not only was this the inaugural event, but this was also my first endeavor as a race director. While I found this job to be harder (and more tiring!) than any race I’ve ever participated in during my career as a professional, I feel that I’ve found a new adventure and I’m hungry to make the Dirty Dino an event that everyone wants to attend. In the attempt to grow this event into a staple on all your calendars, I hope these experiences shared above inspire you to join the fun next year and bring your family and friends for an adventure in Dinosaur Land! For more information on the Dirty Dino Gravel Grinder, check out gravel-dino.com

Race Results

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