SBT VRTL reveals routes in 36 cities, 25 states
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When SBT GRVL went virtual due to COVID-19, they didn’t want to limit the race course to Steamboat Springs.
Telling participants to go out and find their own course is one thing, but giving them an established route provides more of the competitive, race day feeling. So, reaching out to sponsors, friends and professional cyclists, SBT VRTL, the virtual addition of the race, now has routes in 25 states and 36 cities across the U.S.
Registration is free, and all riders will embark together on Aug. 16, documenting their rides and submitting them to the SBT VRTL website.
Amy Charity, media liaison for SBT GRVL, said they examined their list of registrants and chose cities that were home to many riders.
“It really speaks to what SBT GRVL is all about: having the community of people who want to be engaged and they are part of something bigger than the bike race in Steamboat,” said Charity. “Everyone we reached out to was enthusiastic.”
The major cities on the Front Range produce more SBT GRVL participants than anywhere else last year, so there are recommended routes in Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins and Golden.
John Croom, a professional track cyclist who recently got into gravel riding, created four routes, including a doozy of a black course, in Colorado Springs. SBT GRVL partner Mark Satkiewicz met Croom this past year and was asked to build four routes that resembled the original Steamboat courses. He looked to his favorite training places and combined them into loops of different lengths.
Croom’s 140-mile course is a rough one, but one he’s looking forward to experiencing. The climb up Rampart Range Road in the beginning is 11.5 miles long, with 3,200 feet of elevation gain.
“It’s gorgeous because it starts from Garden of the Gods, all the way to the top where you can just see Pikes Peak,” said Croom. “You can see the overlook to the divide. It’s exciting to share that experience with other people.”
On the western outskirts of Glacier National Park, sits Whitefish, Montana. The town, like Steamboat, is small, rural and home to a ski resort. It’s also home to Jess Cerra, a former professional road cyclist who competed in the Colorado Classic in Steamboat last year.
She’s since retired from road riding and has taken on gravel riding. Cerra submitted four routes in the Whitefish area and plans to ride the toughest one with her boyfriend, Sam Boardman, who rides for Wildlife Generation Cycling, and professional mountain biker and 2019 women’s division winner of the Leadville Trail 100 MTB race, Rose Grant.
“I figured, since I have two really strong riders, we might as well make it a tough one,” she said.
The black route Cerra created is 144 miles long and features more than 9,000 feet of elevation gain, including a brutal six-mile climb that ascends 3,000 vertical feet.
“They’re all pieces that I’ve ridden, but the black route, there’s a lot of climbing,” she said. “I never put all those pieces together in one day. It’s going to be really hard. It’s some of my favorite places to ride and some of the best gravel.”
While trying to match the distance of the original SBT GRVL routes, Cerra took into account some stopping spots along the way for the longer routes.
She is excited to pause just over halfway through in a small town to get some famous pastries at the Polebridge Mercantile, something she hopes all Whitefish riders will do.
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