Commentary: Gravel Hall salutes those who built something we can all enjoy

The Gravel Hall of Fame isn't just about (the very new concept of) gravel pro athletes. The idea is to recognize anyone who has helped or inspire others in this rapidly growing sport.

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Dan Hughes was one of the 34 original riders of what would become Unbound Gravel back in 2006. He went on to win that event four times, as well as Trans-Iowa and Gravel Worlds. He credits his age, luck, and back fat for these lucky wins.

Much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth has been had in the past few days about the announcement that some folks in Emporia have decided to put together a Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame. Some say it’s too soon, or that we have other problems to deal with, or that it smacks of narcissism and self-congratulations. They’re not entirely wrong.

But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a Hall of Fame. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate those who got us here while at the same time working to make things better. We can hold two thoughts in our heads at the same time.

Gravel as a discipline of racing a bike might be new to some, and the ability for promoters and privateers to make a living doing it is certainly modern. But gravel has been around for a long time, and with the proper care, it can be around for a lot longer. The evolution of gravel riding and racing is on pace with seemingly everything else in our lives at the moment, which is to say “evolving at warp speed.”

But as the great Ferris Beuller once noted: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.” A Gravel Hall of Fame allows for a chance to look around and take stock of where we’ve come from, but also where we need to go. A chance to acknowledge the sacrifices of those that have come before us while understanding that there is still much to be done.


We can marvel at the speed, prowess, and determination of today’s pro athletes while at the same time celebrating the Walter-Mitty types that also toed the line while holding down day-jobs and family duties. Every rider gives their all on these courses and tests their limits.

We can acknowledge the powerhouses that some events have become while at the same time respecting the promoter that toiled for years and with zero compensation (I’m looking at you, Mark ‘Guitar Ted’ Stevenson).

We can celebrate the folks that told the epic tales, and the people that cobbled together the awesome routes, and the tinkerers that made the journey less rough and relatively flat-free.

And we can acknowledge that we are nowhere near the finish line when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The process for nominating someone is literally wide-open. Nominate anyone you think has made a difference in the discipline we all love. It’s up to the dozens of selectors, some of whom you likely know and trust, to sort the wheat from the chaff and start the roll call of pioneers that got this ball rolling and keep it rolling to this day.

I know who I’ll be nominating. They’re the kind of person who would put you to the sword on race day, share a pull on a long training ride, create their own event to showcase their backyard, and then mentor tons of riders to achieve their own successes. I suggest everyone think of someone who inspired them in the same way and put that person’s name forward.

The gravel tent is big enough for everyone and we should always be bringing people in. But it’s okay to say “that person over there drove one of the first stakes.”

Dan Hughes owns Sunflower Outdoor & Bike in Lawrence, Kansas.

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