Ruth Winder, Alex Howes win Old Man Winter Rally

Colorado gravel race featured 5,300 feet of climbing in the snow, ice and mud.

Photo: Eddie Clark

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With a 30-plus-minute hike-a-bike in deep snow as the midpoint, Old Man Winter Rally in Colorado saw two former U.S. national road champions take top honors in the 100K gravel race. Ruth Winder and Alex Howes had the lowest cumulative times over two timed segments to take the respective female and male wins.

Old Man Winter Rally hosts both running events and 50K and 100K cycling events from Lyons, Colorado. Some 1,200 took part on a day that started below freezing on snowpacked and icy roads and ended with no small amount of mud.

Ruth Winder wins Old Man Winter Rally 100K. It was her second-ever gravel race. (Photo: Eddie Clark)

Almost the entire course was timed save a steep descent of Sunshine Canyon that drops 1,700 feet in about 9km, and a short commute through western Boulder.

The combination of pace, elevation, and treacherous roads whittled a front group down to about 20 riders on the paved but sometimes icy climb up to Rowena, a jeep trail that required racers to run or walk up the 500ft elevation gain.

This was Winder’s second-only gravel race. Her first was this same event a couple of years ago. She summed up the experience in a word: “hard.”

“I don’t think I ate enough, which is a lesson I should know by now. It was fun,” Winder said. “I tried to hold onto the fast guys for as long as I could. And then it turns out that I still don’t like running.”

Rowena is the crux of Old Man Winter, a jeep road at 7,000ft and above that can be unrideable in snowy editions like on Sunday.

On dry years, Rowena is technical in parts but definitely rideable. Howes, for example, has ridden Rowena in past editions of the event on a road bike. On Sunday, with most of 8 inches of recent snow still sitting unpacked in the shade, riding wasn’t an option.

Winder retired from road racing after the 2021 road world championship. She will be racing some gravel events this year with Trek, including the six Life Time Grand Prix events, The Mid South, and SBT GRVL.

Howes has done a few gravel events, including multiple editions of Old Man Winter. No one could stay with Howes for the conclusion of the first segment, up and over Rowena. A group of about 20 riders came into the bottom of Rowena together. About thirty minutes later, Howes, wearing insulated Northwave cycling boots that extend over the ankles, emerged alone.

For the second segment, only Ethan Overson (Cinch) could match Howes, and he finished second on the day.

Howes’ take on Rowena’s impact on the day was succinct: “Running boots won the day.”

Old Man Winter Rally 100K results

(1st segment, second segment, overall)
1. Ruth Winder, (2:08:13.1, 1:31:45.9, 3:39:01.5)
2. Jess Cygan, (2:08:47.5, 1:36:06.5, 3:41:26.0)
3. Andrea Dvorak, (2:08:46.9, 1:34:29.0, 3:43:06.1)
4. Kate McLaughlin, (2:11:15.3, 1:40:10.7, 3:47:57.1)
5. Kristen Legan, (2:11:31.9, 1:37:50.6, 3:50:34.3)

1. Alex Howes, (1:51:15.7, 1:22:03.3, 3:08:41.3)
2. Ethan Overson, (1:55:25.2, 1:22:03.3, 3:12:58.5)
3. Kieran Haug, (1:52:21.5, 1:22:05.1, 3:14:32.2)
4. Benjamin Frederick, (1:52:03.7, 1:22:03.4, 3:15:14.7)
5. Peyton Wilkerson, (1:54:33.9, 1:22:01.7, 3:18:27.3)

(Photo: Eddie Clark)

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