by Craig Richey
Gravel riding, gravel bikes, gravel racing—from inside the bicycle industry, everyone is talking about gravel. But is the hype justified?
My name is Craig Richey. I’m the director of marketing at Race Face and Easton Cycling. This year, I’m going to do a deep dive into everything gravel by racing the Dirty Kanza 200, which bills itself as the world’s premier gravel grinder.
The winning time for the more-than-200-mile Dirty Kanza is usually around 11 hours, farther and longer than any ride I’ve done. The uncertainty around how your body and mind will perform in uncharted waters is exciting. It’s part of what attracts me to taking on a gravel race. I plan to share my journey into uncharted riding with you. I’ll tap my industry and athlete connections for this series as I document my preparation, training, equipment choices and strategy to race for the win at the Dirty Kanza on June 2. This will not be achieved through smashing huge miles in California followed by naps and salads. My training will start on March 18 after a no-bikes-allowed vacation in Hawaii with my girlfriend and her family. My coach Elliot Bassett then has 10 weeks to get me race-ready as I juggle work, weddings and poor nutrition choices.
I fell in love with bike racing relatively late for a racer, while attending the University of Victoria. Initially, I was primarily focused on cross country mountain biking and had some success, finishing as high as 35th in a cross country World Cup. During that time, I finished school, and then worked for a Victoria-based online advertising company. My cross country results plateaued. Then, I switched to cyclocross as it better suited my body type and strengths as a rider, as well as my preference for racing in cold weather. Later, I quit my advertising job and spent couple seasons racing cyclocross professionally in Europe in 2011–12. I got beat down pretty bad. Next came an MBA, a few years of road racing with the Trek Red Truck team, a new job at Easton, a condo purchase, a new relationship and a new dog. Now, I’m trying to find that balance between career, life and cycling. Despite the less-than-optimal training and recovery, I’m still pretty quick on the bike, winning the Spakwus 50 (B.C. marathon provincials) this past June, B.C. cyclocross championships in November and finishing fifth at CX nationals in October.
For Dirty Kanza, I have a few cards stacked in my favour. One advantage is equipment: my bike will be dripping in hand-selected components and prototype Easton parts. Secondly, I have access to Dirty Kanza veterans such as two-time race winner Amanda Nauman and her coach Dave Sheek, who have agreed to tell me all their secrets for a gravel-race success. Finally, while I’ve never raced a Grand Tour, I do have a lot of miles in my legs: 83,487 km according to Strava but the actual number is much larger. I know I can respond quickly to training and can build endurance to survive such a long race.