The second edition of the Gravel Race Up Spruce Knob (GRUSK) will hit the roads on Saturday, July 8th. The GRUSK is a bike race that fits into a “growing genre of cycling,” according to race director Travis Olson. According to Olson, gravel racing is a “great equalizer” of bike racing which brings together folks who like road biking but don’t like how competitive the races are and riders who like trail riding, but aren’t comfortable with particularly technical trails. “Gravel riding is an every person kind of race,” Olson says.
The GRUSK offers a set of options to accommodate all types of riders. There are two competitive races, which offer awards and prize money to top finishers. The longest course is 73 miles and takes participants from the start at the Spruce Knob Mountain Center, past the Sinks of Gandy and the Laurel Fork Campground, on a long, mostly backroads loop that returns to the top of Spruce Mountain via Whitmer and Gandy Creek. The shortest option is a 24 mile, non-competitive ride. The route takes riders from the Spruce Knob Mountain Center, down to Spruce Knob Lake and up the road to the Observation Tower on the top of Spruce Knob, where all four of the races will conclude.
Olson says that the GRUSK is a great option for a beginner mountain biker or novice racer. Last year’s racers voiced strong appreciation for the remote location and rugged beauty of the Spruce Knob/Seneca Creek Backcountry. Because the event is based at Experience Learning’s Spruce Knob Mountain Center, participants have the option of camping and dorm space, running water and showers and delicious meals prepared by Experience Learning’s staff.
Travis Olson started this event last year. He is “just a regular everyday joe racer who has a regular 9-5 paying job.” He and his wife live in Monongah, outside of Fairmont, and have helped stage more standard mountain bike races in Valley Falls and Watters Smith State Parks. When the idea for a 3-day biking stage race didn’t work out, he decided to try this approach instead. So he created an LLC to take care of the financial piece of the event and this year is partnering with Pike Street Bikes in Shinnston to put on the event. Last year, the race attracted many local participants as well as racers from as far away as New Hampshire and Texas. He is expecting upwards of 150-160 participants this year.
If you are interested in taking part, pre-registration is available online through July 6th and he is also still looking for volunteers to help on race day. Olson says that one of the reasons he has centered this race in the Spruce Knob area was “to put some money back into Experience Learning and help them put on their educational programs. We love that piece and we love that venue.” So the event is built around volunteers and he would welcome any sort of help, even if someone could only come out for a few hours — as a way to see what the race is like or just as a chance to help out while spending time in a beautiful place.
Find much more information, maps, directions and more at http://spruceknobcycling.blogspot.com.