What to watch in this weekend’s Bighorn Gravel event
85-mile race's field decorated with Olympic medalists and world champions
Jake Well’s inaugural Bighorn Gravel event, set for Saturday and Sunday, looks to have all the ingredients of a marquee gravel event: a great course, an inclusive atmosphere, a place to park your camper van (and shower!), phenomenal food and drinks — and most importantly — a star-studded field.
“We’ve got some legends in the sport,” said Wells, a muti-time U.S. cyclocross champion in his own right.
Whether you’re planning on spending the afternoon sampling the food trucks and finish-line festivities in Gypsum and want to know who is expected to cross first, or you’re riding in the event and are curious who will be in the peloton up ahead, we’ve got you covered.
Pro athletes to keep your eyes on
- Dave Wiens
- Wiens is a member of the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame and has won the Leadville 100 six times (including a legendary victory over Lance Armstrong in 2008, in which the Tour de France champion told him to go because he was “done,” something he’s allegedly never told another cyclist before). He’s also a two-time UCI World Cup mountain bike winner and two-time mountain bike national champion. “He’s just an absolute mountain bike legend,” said Wells of the Gunnison-based rider.
- Troy Wells
- The brother of Todd Wells, a three-time Olympian in mountain biking, Troy “has quite the resume from racing mountain bike and cyclocross over the years,” according to Wells. Everything from a 2014 Iron Horse Cycling Classic road win to being a U23 cyclocross national champion, the Durango rider has seen a lot in his days with Team Clif Bar.
- Josiah Middaugh
- The 15-time XTERRA national champion and 2015 XTERRA world champion will probably be looking to use the Bighorn Race as a means to sharpen his fitness. The U.S. XTERRA national championships on his home soil of Beaver Creek looms in July. “He is obviously our local hero who’s been around for many years,” said Wells.
- Sam Brown
- The Fort Lewis and VSSA alumnus hopped in and won the Eagle Ranch Classic at the start of the month. The Alpha Bicycle Co. Groove Subaru athlete is fresh off a fourth at the USA cycling collegiate road time trial nationals at the beginning of May and a victory at the Rides and Vibes in Grand Junction on May 20. “He’s going to be here with some of his teammates,” said Wells.
- John Borstelmann
- Borstelmann was the 2019 and 2021 winner of Gravel Worlds, a 150-mile Nebraska epic that started in 2010 and includes a nice play on words (the UCI has since implemented an official gravel world championships). The Lincoln, Nebraska native won a 2018 collegiate road title and placed 11th at Dirty Kanza (now called “Unbound”) in 2019.
- Caroline Mani
- Caroline Mani is a five-time French cyclocross national champion and was a silver medalist at the 2016 cyclocross world championships as well. Mani, nicknamed “the animal,” has a colorful, bright personality and is likely to push the pace at the front — and crack a few jokes while she’s at it.
- Hillary Allen
- Allen is a professional ultra runner for Brooks with an incredible comeback story. In 2017, she suffered a near-fatal fall competing in the Hamperroken Skyrace in Tromso, Norway. She broke both arms, two vertebrae, several ribs and bones in her feet from the 150-foot tumble. She would return to the sport in the middle of 2018, though there were times in her recovery when “death seemed to be the easier option.” Her book, “Out and Back: the Story of Survival Against All Odds” tells it all. On the bike, she recently competed in Unbound, where she was 54th in the women’s field.
- Alexis Skarda
- You might recognize Skarda’s name. She was victorious at the GoPro Mountain Games XC mountain bike event a couple of weeks ago and has won pretty much everything she enters. The national marathon mountain bike champion is also a past winner of the Breck Epic and the current FKT-holder of the famed 100-mile White Rim Trail loop.
- Mari Holden
- The Milwaukee, Wisconsin native was the Olympic silver medalist in the road time trial in Sydney in 2000. Two weeks later, she won the world time trial championship in France. Ride Magazine called her “one of the greatest ambassadors in the sport of cycling” in 2008.
One last competitor to mention
With Michelle Horton coming aboard as Bighorn Gravel’s event director, Wells — whose resume isn’t too shabby — has been added to the field.
“She’s been amazing. She’s taken so much off of our plate. She’s been a lifesaver for us,” Wells said of Horton.
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“I am planning on riding. I’m fully prepared for the fact that last-minute things might pop up, and I might have to change my plans. I would love to be out there with everyone, and not necessarily competing for a victory, but just to be out there and experience it.”
He envisions being an “undercover boss,” of sorts.
“You can kind of be in the trenches and you can hear everybody’s feedback without them knowing it’s your event,” he smiled in speaking of the chance to receive unsolicited compliments — and complaints — from folks.
“So that will be kind of nice.”