There’s A New Gravel Event Coming- SBT Gravel
SBT Gravel is ready to take on DK, BWR and Leadville. Can They Do it?
As gravel riding and events continue to grow, there are some premiere events that have quickly established itself as “must go to”. The timing and their staying power plus rise in attendance have all contributed to their success. How do newer event compete in the same space on a quickly growing calendar? For gravel events, they can represent an entire year of resources devoted to only a few events for top riders. Training, nutrition, travel and competition can culminate and only have space for one event.
SBT Gravel the “new kid on the block” but seems to have all of the right ingredients in place for a premiere event. There are top gravel cyclists from all over the country attending, a massive prize list, a sold out event and equal prize money for mean and women. A first for any big event can be a hard sell. There’s no previous editions to compare to. It really relies on the community of cyclists. A little street cred can go a long way within the niches of cycling. We talked with Mark Satkiewicz who is the race organizer and betting that this event will be on par with every major gravel event in the United States.
For myself, my background professionally is from the consumer products industry working for and leading groups at companies like NIKE, Smartwool and TOMS shoes. I was the President and CEO of Smartwool in Steamboat Springs, Co for close to a decade and really have a tremendous amount of love for that community and the people there and is the reason why my family and I are permanently located there today. In regards to cycling, I grew up as a team sports athlete, think baseball and basketball in Chicago, but when I went to college I was looking for a way to stay in shape and started Mountain Biking which evolved somehow into running and then into triathlon. As I started getting older cycling became my primary focus and lately have really spent more and more time riding my gravel bike each year. The roads in Steamboat are perfect for doing all types of gravel rides right from downtown and the scenery and lack of cars are perfect for really enjoying time on the bike. My Partners Amy Charity and Ken Benesh have similar stories that combine a business background and a big commitment to cycling. Amy spent time at Capital One, is an author and is a former member of the Women’s National Team and Ken is a long time Operations and Planning guy from Spyder Sports and Smartwool who still races pro in Cross and Gravel around the country.
We all have different skill sets so that makes working together really amazing and has allowed us to take on different aspects of bringing SBT GRVL to life which has been really fun. In regards to how SBT GRVL came to be it was really organic. We love racing gravel but really had to drive or fly a long way from Colorado to get to the bigger races. That logistical problem in combination with us thinking we have amazing roads and resources in Steamboat got us thinking of developing a race in our hometown that a lot of people from the region and around the country would want to consider doing. That got us thinking about what type of race and concept we wanted to bring to life and it all built from there.
We think that each race is individually cool and stands for something unique. All 3 of us at SBT GRVL have raced many of the most well known races and love them and plan on doing some of them in 2019. We believe that the reason SBT GRVL may stand out a bit is the raw beauty of our three courses in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, with SBT GRVL GREEN able to be ridden on any type of bike, but also that Steamboat itself is an amazing place to spend time period, not just on your bike. For this reason we felt that many racers would want to come to Steamboat with their friends and families and make a big weekend of it. Sure the rider needs to focus on the race but their families can spend time having fun as well hiking, fishing, at the hot springs or doing the many other activities Steamboat has to offer. In fact, the reason the race is on a Sunday is to encourage racers to not just show up the night before a race, participate and then go back home. We have lots of things planned for the weekend and it should be really fun for everyone.
We also have a concept of really investing in the racer at both the Pro and Amateur level. We think racing is stressful enough and is also expensive so if someone trusts us to host them for the weekend we want to ensure they are happy, feel supported and also believe they are getting a lot for their entry fee. For the PRO and elite amateur racers we felt it was important to offer prize money and help them pursue their dreams and passions of racing at the elite level as a career or as their primary focus beyond their day jobs and families. On course this means lots of volunteers, tons of signs to ensure they are always headed in the right direction, stocked aid stations with GU energy products and Neutral support provided by Mavic. In addition we wanted to work with world class sponsors such as Canyon, Stages, Mavic and Smartwool to name a few so we could offer contests, deals and SWAG each month to anyone registered for our race. If you are racing with SBT GRVL you have a good chance of winning a wheel set, tires a power meter, shoes or other great products from these sponsors each month and it keeps things interesting as people are training and planning for the race. Last but not least SBT GRVL is really going to be committing to advocacy from a few angles. One in particular is a focus on parity in sport and having equal opportunity, prize money and participation for women at SBT GRVL. We will be doing a lot of things in this area.
We believe that gravel riding, or being outdoors and participating in any activity, is totally dependent on what the participant wants from it. You can race or just ride, you can go hard or go easy, go short or long, ride the road or ride gravel. It is totally up to that individual. The great thing about gravel is that it is fun, inclusive and growing and as it does, different people are going to want to pursue different types of adventures. Our hope is our approach to SBT GRVL is one that a lot of people feel is right for them and gets more people to give it a try and ride more bikes. That would be great for everyone.
We love that the gravel segment is growing and people are inspired to get outside and do new things on a bike so from that perspective the trends are great. We hope there continues to be more races that accomodate all rider preferences. We also would like to see technology continue to get better and better so that riding is even more comfortable, safe and for those that want it fast.
In general we believe that all cyclists could enjoy a gravel event. One of the reasons we have 3 courses is for riders to participate at a distance and on terrain that they feel most confident on. One of the things we like most about our 37 mile course is that it is 50/50 road vs gravel but the gravel sections are pretty smooth and less intimidating and can really be ridden on any type of bike so there isn’t a hurdle with equipment to participate. We believe that races like that will lead to new racers to have future ambitions to do a full on gravel event and that is great. But to answer your question directly, a cyclist that is willing to go on an adventure, regardless of fitness or experience level, is perfect for gravel events.
Gravel events are great because they have a racing element sure but the majority of the field is there to ride their bike, challenge themselves and have an amazing experience. You don’t need a USAC license, you don’t have to be intimidated and the community is so inviting and inclusive that more people feel comfortable going to gravel events. I have been racing the road for a long time and am still intimidated on group rides and showing up for road races some times. That makes it hard for new riders or racers to want to go. Gravel is not like that.
We love cycling in general and love all disciplines. We think gravel is doing well because it very inviting and less complicated and intimidating to just get started. It is overall less focused on racing and more focused on the experience which is aligned with trends that extend far beyond cycling.
Gravel is just a part of the future of cycling. We have seen other disciplines trend upward in the past and Gravel is no exception there.
*SBT Gravel is Scheduled for August 18th and is currently sold out but will re open 200 spots for women participants.