Good Times at Altitude: our SBT GRVL Redux
We’re coming down from the thin air of the Colorado Rockies at the iconic SBT GRVL race. Resident endurance rider and OBED team member Austin Sullivan traveled to Steamboat in a support role, helping to get OBED riders dialed in for race day at our expo booth. That’s not to say he didn’t get to enjoy the fire roads and singletrack that the Steamboat Springs area has to offer before and after the race though! Here he chronicles another epic weekend.
The crew arrived in town on Thursday, by air and land. With one night to get settled in before a hectic weekend of shakeout rides, expo duties, and race day, we all were itching to get in the hot tub and follow it up with a good night’s rest.
Friday morning came early and we were revved up for the first shakeout ride of the weekend. Our CEO Peter, engineer Brad, sales ace Sam and more than a few OBED riders rolled out to join the fun. Shakeout rides are a great way to get acclimated to the area, and for gravel events, they provide some insight into the conditions that are to be expected. This ride was hosted by Zwift and last year’s female winner, Lauren De Crescenzo. After a brief discussion about the route and an emphasis on the chill nature of the shakeout ride, a crew of more than 50 riders rolled out for a cruisy 24-mile loop. The group rolled along at a very social pace on a mostly paved route, with a short section of dusty and loose gravel that would be featured in the race. There were plenty of conversations happening, some spurred on by seeing others on their OBED bikes, but mostly revolving around names exchanged, routes discussed, and a quick rundown of where-ya-froms—all while taking in the breathtaking views (and the altitude that causes taking in those extra breaths).
I happened to catch up with Ron, a fellow lover of long-distance gravel (and Southerner to boot). Ron had a fun backstory, one that likely resonates with many cyclists that have found gravel to be their new nirvana.
After years of high-level road racing, and a couple of trips to the Paralympic Games (with two medals to show for it), Ron lost interest in riding. He was burned out and never wanted to hear the word ‘intervals’ again. At some point in the conversation, he mentioned something about being a beer lover and pointed at his belly. One begets the other sometimes.
At some point, Ron found his way back on a bike with some friends and thought to himself, "I am way too outta shape.” Somewhat shocked at his fitness, he was determined to roll back the clocks. Enter the almighty time machine: the gravel bike. He picked up gravel riding and soon found himself riding... and doing intervals again. He hit a few recent gravel events and eventually set his sights on SBT GRVL, specifically the Black Course (140 miles). After 15 minutes of talking, we got back into town and went our separate ways. Later that weekend I saw via Strava that Ron crushed the Black course in 9 hours and some change. Kudos, Ron!
Another fun encounter we had on the ride was meeting Erin, a fellow OBED rider who also hails from our region in the Southeastern U.S. Erin was in town to ride the Blue Course (100 miles) and was bragging about her five-month-old GVR. She took advantage of OBED's custom color option and was matched to her race kit, ready to roll in style. Based on Erin’s Strava, she pushed through back pain and finished strong after 7 hours in the saddle. A heck of a race day!
The rest of our first day was filled with expo time where we got a lot of interest in both of our gravel bikes, the new GVR, and the flagship Boundary. Strategically, the team had a wonderfully painted purple on purple GVR on display that got a lot of attention. So much so that I’m thinking about getting my next frame in the same color scheme…
Day two of the expo was—to put it loosely—chaos. But good chaos, with a ton of people and plenty of positive energy. We kept busy talking with everyone, telling the story of OBED: where we are from and what informs our take on gravel bikes. The stoke level was high, and we were feeding off it between bites of our sandwiches. Soon enough, it was time to break down our tents and clear the road that would serve the next morning as the start/finish line.
Race day came bright and early. With several colleagues riding, there wasn’t much sleeping in. After a loud send-off, our riders set off on a hot and difficult day of riding. Both of our Red Course (65 miles) racers came in about 15 min apart, very happy with their day. When you set a goal of finishing by noon and finish before 11:30, you know they had a tough day pushing themselves up and over those Steamboat climbs.
The finish line was buzzing, not even a heavy storm began to roll in could dampen spirits—though it did slow things down a bit. Reports from the course came back that it was not only driving rain but 20-30mph winds trying to stop the SBT faithful in their tracks.
Overall, it was an amazing weekend, not just for the OBED team, but for the sport as a whole. The bucolic ski town of Steamboat Springs and the SBT GRVL crew put on a heck of a show with the town welcoming the gravel riders with open arms, and the race course being an all-time favorite for our crew (and we’ve been a lot of places!). Gravel events really do have a special vibe to them. Gone are the static, super Type-A road racers, replaced happily with the weird, quirky, and adventure seekers. From the racers at the front, riders seeking a new PR, and those new to gravel; to the All Bodies on Bikes and Ride for Racial Justice BIPOC crew who were there to simply get across the line and soak in the finisher’s line stoke from their friends. Everyone was there to push themselves, break stereotypes, and do what they didn’t think they could achieve. I can’t count how many people I spoke to that had nervous excitement and even bigger smiles to be doing a route longer than they have ever ridden.
While Gravel events and expos are not new territories for us, we revel in the adventurous spirit that was on display. We hope to see you at the next one!
-Austin Sulli and the OBED crew