EF Education First Pro Cycling are doing things differently and are leading the way in the WorldTour with an innovative strategy of sending some of their riders to a varied mix of events that will include mountain bike epics and week-long ultra bike races. Instead of sticking to a traditional road calendar, Jonathan Vaughters team will be lining up on gravel, cyclocross and mountain bikes this coming year. On New Year’s Day, the team announced what some of those events would be.
Dirty Kanza 200 has become one of the highest profile gravel events in the world and Leadville trail 100 MTB is al ultra mountain bike race on many’s bucket list. The moment EF Education First announced they’d be venturing onto different surfaces during their 2019 calendar these two American events were just about a sure thing with some of the team’s riders jokingly bickering over social media over who would get to ride the events.
Dirty Kanza is a 200-mile gravel race in Kansas founded in 2006 where riders are challenged with 3,000 m of elevation in the undulating Flint Hills. The race-winning times usually stretch beyond the 10-hour barrier and it’s become notorious as one of the most challenging events in North America.
The Leadville 100 in Colorado is a high altitude endurance out-and-back mountain bike race. Finishers are awarded a highly prized belt buckle. The event is one that many of the American EF Education riders will surely want to ride. In past years’ Joe Dombrowski has raced the event.
Over in Great Britain, the team will take part in the Three Peaks cyclocross race that stretches the definition of what bike racing is. At only 61-km the event is not the longest but as perhaps the toughest cyclocross event in the world there are over six kilometres of unrideable terrain over the three hills in the Yorkshire Dales.
EF Education First will test their climbing legs in November at the Taiwan KOM. The event is 100 km long with over 3,000 m of elevation gain which comes concentrated in the final 80 km.
The team’s program will extend beyond these four signature mass participation events to nearly season races in Belgian towns, continent-spanning ultra-endurance events and other yet to be announced events. The year will conclude with an adventurous off-season training camp. Suffice to say, the riders will have a lot of varied and interesting opportunities to race bikes hard.
Apparel sponsor Rapha will be documenting the team’s alternate race program with an exclusive series of films.
EF Education First are not the only ones venturing forward with an alternative race program. Canadian registered UCI Continental team Floyd’s Pro Cycling will start their season at Paris to Ancaster and also venturing to a varied mix of popular mass participation events in 2019.