Successful First Year of SBT GRVL in the Books
Steamboat, Colo., hosted over 1,500 riders from 50 states and seven countries for the inaugural gravel race experience
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.
“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.
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“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 comraderie 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.