The Grind: Stoked for Colorado’s Wild Horse Gravel

The May 15 sportive is sold out, so put this Roll Massif event on your 2022 calendar.

Photo: Justin M Balog

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The Grind is a weekly column on all things gravel.

In the cold early morning air, riders emerged from their tents, cabins, and vans to rally for a communal breakfast at the High Lonesome Ranch, way out west on Colorado’s Western Slope. Bacon and potatoes were sizzling on the ranch’s big stoves, coffee and espresso were flowing, and riders were pinning on numbers.

The inaugural Wild Horse Gravel kicked off in 2019, and I was lucky enough to be involved in one of Roll Massif‘s two new gravel sportives. Held largely on BLM land that houses a wild mustang preserve, we tackled all manner of wild, high country gravel, with hearty elevation gain, some technical sections with ruts and washouts, good camaraderie, and then live music and a bonfire back at the ranch that evening.

Last year, of course, Covid torpedoed the event, but we’re back on for 2021, and I can’t wait.

Below is the video we made for the 2019 event.

Our sportive formula is different than the standard suffer-for-hours playbook of most gravel races. We focus on having a big adventure ride with new and old friends, with plenty of neutral support out on course. Only the timed segments count towards your cumulative time, and you are under no obligation to race those, anyway!

In 2019, Conor Mullervy (Clif Bar) won the men’s event with a combined time over two segments of 1:27:03 and Kristen Legan (Bitchn Grit) won the women’s event in 1:14:27. Total ride time for most of us was over four hours. Here’s my Strava file from the day, where you can see the timed segments and the elevation.

For 2021, we are again offering two courses: a 45-mile loop and a 71-mile course with 5,700 feet of elevation gain. Like the mustangs in the area, sections of the course are untamed and unmaintained. I recommend 40mm tires and plenty of caution on the steep, rutted downhills. I’ll put it to you this way: Some people rode mountain bikes in 2019, and they weren’t disappointed in their bike choice.

I also recommend stopping to take some photos with your phone, whether of the snow-covered Grand Mesa to the south, the crazy goblins formation on the north end of the course, the surrounding Book Cliffs, or just your knucklehead friends.

Dani Arman and Kristen Legan took the top two spots in the women’s competition in 2019. Photo: Ben Delaney

While Covid restrictions will change things a bit this year — we will likely use wave starts, dependent on Garfield County’s Covid Dial at the time — we will still have many of the community features in a socially distanced capacity.

I’m happy to announce that pro gravelleur and Groad Trip author Pete Stetina will be out for Wild Horse Gravel, and he’ll be doing a Q&A Friday night. Two Berkeley grad students who work at the ranch will give a talk on local ranching, wildfires, and restoration, to give riders a better sense of what they’ll be seeing out on course. And I’ll be out there to give an overview on the course with the latest conditions.

Come sportive day, we’ll be serving up breakfast in the morning and a country BBQ after the sportive, all held outside on the spacious ranch with live music going.

There is plenty of room to spread out at the High Lonesome Ranch. Photo: Justin Balog

This year’s event is sold out, but I invite you to follow along on Instagram and Facebook — and get ready to sign up for 2022!

I’m headed out to the High Lonesome Ranch next week to make another little video, and you can watch for that on Roll Massif and VeloNews social channels soon.

If you are a VeloNews Pass or Active Pass member and are headed to Wild Horse Gravel, please let me know! I’d love to give you a short guided tour of a couple key spots on course Friday afternoon.

VeloNews Pass members – hit me up on Instagram if you’re heading to Wild Horse, and we can ride on Friday — and on Saturday, of course! Photo: Justin Balog


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