There are plenty of gravel events in Iowa. Just click the "GRAVEL" portal right here in BIKEIOWA and see what pops up. There are long rides, short rides, individual rides, team rides, hilly rides and flat rides - all kinds of rides and races - you could probably do an event every weekend without more than a 3 hour drive from your front door. But sometimes it might be worth loading up the old Family Truckster and explore a different part of this beautiful country.
The Rattlesnake Gravel Grind is a fairly young race, in only it's second year, starting just south of Sweetwater, Texas in late March. It's a full weekend of rides, camping, music, food, drinks and community. Saturday is the big ride, the $1,000 first place prize and beautiful belt buckles bringing in top talent for the 110-mile version, but hundreds of others come for the challenge, scenery and experience of the 110-mile, 65-mile and 30-mile races.
Bike Talk with Dave'a Dave Mable, along with his wife, Dee, son Ryan and his wife Morgan camped at the race HQ and participated in the weekend-long festivities, including a warm-up ride on Friday and the main event on Saturday.
After a chilly start, everyone warmed up riding through the ranches on narrow rocky roads, then were greeted by a strong tailwind atop the 200-foot-tall ridge, as they rode east. The Iowa-like wind farm turbines were humming in the gusting wind as riders wove their way through on more Iowa-like limestone gravel roads. Dropping down off the windy ridge, riders encountered more narrow rocky ranch roads and eventually wound around a large loop, and began the trek back west, towards the finish line. A very steep rocky narrow climb led riders back up to the flat ridge and more wind turbines, the wind now howling into their faces. For nearly 10-miles riders churned their pedals fighting the head and side winds, finally dropping off the ridge and back into ranch roads and eventually around Sweetwater Lake to the finish.
After finishing on their tandem, Dave Mable grabbed his Mr. Microphone and talked to race winners Emily Newson and Justin McQuerry, Texas-based pro riders who fought the winds and competition in the 110-mile event. In addition, Mable found others who participated and who helped make this event happen and give it it's pure West-Texas character.
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Join Dave and the Iowa Gravel Gang on April 29 for the Driftless 100, a beautiful ride through the scenic Driftless region of Northeast Iowa. Starting in Elkader, a 100, 6o and 30 mile options are available. Register today at www.driftlessgravel.com