The rolling sea of gravel that surrounds us here in the capital city will soon be taken over by a full fleet of two-wheeled ships bound for glory. Next Saturday, August 17th, is the tenth annual Gravel Worlds, put on by Pirate Cycling League, and now presented with help from an Icelandic bicycle company, Lauf. The event has grown quite a bit over these ten years, shedding some of it’s more piratey ways, and is now anchored in the Fallbrook neighborhood, where the gravel awaits close at hand, and the beer is always cold.
There are also (much-needed) amenities like showers, a restaurant at the staging site (ShillingBridge), more parking, and a regulation finish line at this pirate hang-out. It used to be based next to Conestoga lake, where camping, cows, and grass-roots vibes were abundant.
In those days the pirates depended on the time stamps from power ball tickets purchased by riders at designated small-town convenience store stops along the way for verification and to offset event costs. I thought the plan was brilliant, but Gravel Worlds was smaller in those days. The event is sold out this year, even with the awkward introduction of another high-level gravel race debuting in Colorado on the same day.
As the event has grown, so has participation from far-flung places. This year will bring pirates-to-be from New Zealand, the UK, Iceland, Australia, Canada, and likely from Belgium and Ukraine. Also, most of the United States will be represented, from 40 states I hear. These visitors stay mostly at Lincoln hotels (principally The Graduate) and are a boon to our tourist economy. We may be used to our rolling gravel hills and and take them for granted, but the pastoral vistas that surround us here are not to be found everywhere. (But then, honestly, it’s not for everyone, right?)
The towns we’ll be sailing through this year, leaving silver rather than pillaging it, are Loma (for Kolaches), Valparaiso, Malcolm, Raymond, and Sprague. That is for the 150 mile course. The Privateer (75 miles), and Buccaneer (50km) have different routes, but will still get a fine taste of the gravel, and I expect Kolaches, too.
It takes a lot of volunteers to pull this off, and most of the volunteer opportunities have been taken, but if you’ve read this far and would like to experience a little of the pirate magic, visit gravel-worlds.com and click on the volunteer button. Or you can just come to Fallbrook, ring a cowbell and cheer us on to the finish.