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For those who have discovered gravel riding and now have the itch to compete, gravel races dot the globe, offering a wide variety of distances, elevations, surfaces, and local cultures. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that numbers are issued and times are taken. Without fail, gravel race promoters foster an inclusive atmosphere that welcomes riders of all abilities. Racers too are extremely encouraging, offering aid to riders in need and cheering each other on as the hours tick by.
If you feel like you’re ready to join the gravel racing tribe, then bravo! The hardest part is often simply making the decision to give it a go. Be sure to do some homework before heading to your first event. Informed planning can go a long way toward your success. Seek help. It can come from a coach, more-experienced riding buddies, gravel forums, and past participants. If you have event-specific questions, contact the race promoter after reading the rules and racers’ bible, both typically available online.
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Getting organized Arriving at the race check-in parking lot, you exit your car and stretch for a minute before heading to a pop-up tent to collect your race number and route maps. Back at the car, you unload your bike, pump the tires, and load up your bottles and race food. That done, you grab your bag full of clothing and your helmet. Walking to the public restrooms nearby, you change into your jersey and shorts, and lather on the sunscreen. Back at the car, you put on your helmet and sunglasses, then reach inside your bag for your shoes, coming away with only air and bewilder- ment.
You frantically check the rest of the car, eventually dumping the contents of your bag on the ground. With little hope, you backtrack to the check-in tent and the restrooms. No luck. You’ve forgotten them at home a three-hour drive away. Despondent, you weigh your options. None of them includes racing today.
Race navigation can vary widely as well. Some promoters carefully mark the entire course with signs, stakes, and spray paint. They may include maps of the course in your race packet. Some will upload a GPX file, an open format electronic file that shows waypoints, tracks, and routes, and can be installed on a GPS device, thus offering turn-by-turn directions. Modern GPS computers from Garmin, Wahoo, Lezyne, and others offer this feature on their more expensive models. You’ll need to use the manufacturer’s software, be it Garmin’s BaseCamp or Wahoo’s inphone application, to upload the navigation file to your device.