Gravel legends: as gravel racing defines itself, these folks are leading the charge

These early adopters are now carving out a unique professional cycling career and defining it for generations to come

Gravel Week Heroes
(Image credit: Future)

Modern gravel racing was born in the Midwest. Lonely farm roads, rolling jeep tracks, stream crossings and long ol’ days in the saddle. Early editions of these races set a precedent for new kinds of adventure-based, mass-participant free-form challenges on bikes. Gravel races are Gran Fondo's slightly funkier cousins. Gravel is often described as the “mullet style” of bike racing: business upfront, party at the back. But the truth is, gravel racing’s essence is diverse and doesn’t like being pinned down. 

There are some themes though. In gravel, riders manage the terrain, the elements, their equipment, fueling and effort over mostly unpaved surfaces, and usually, the first one back to town wins. 

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Marshall Opel

Marshall is a freelance writer from Missoula, Montana. He road raced throughout the U.S. and Europe with the US U23 National Team. Marshall has worked as a bike tour guide, brand marketer, and promoter of two wheeled stoke. In 2019 he traveled the U.S. racing, riding, and reporting on the sport of gravel. Marshall's aim is to help grow the sport of cycling by telling stories that hold the door open for people to become riders. 

With contributions from