Photo Gallery: Scenes from the gravel opener, Mid South

Gravel pros, WorldTour roadies and track champions among thousands to contest 10th anniversary race

Mid South Gallery
(Image credit: 241Photography)

Mid South, formerly known as Land Run, held its 10th edition over the weekend. By many to be the gravel season opener, thousands of racers made the trek to the remote location of Stillwater, Oklahoma, to contest the infamous red clay roads in either the 50-mile or 100-mile race.

All the Whos-Whos of gravel and even some WorldTour roadies and track champions were present on the start line, which took place in sub-freezing temperatures. Riders of note included two-time defending champion, Payson McElveen (Allied), Ted King (Cannondale), Kiel Reijnen (Trek), Colin Strickland (Meteor-Allied), Peter Stetina (Canyon), Ashton Lambie (Gravelnauts-Lauf), John Borstelmann (Abus), Amity Rockwell (Trek/Easton), Ruth Winder (Trek), Emily Newson (EF Education-Tibco-SVB), and Lauren De Crescenzo (Cinch).

While the racing within the peloton is fierce, perhaps the biggest competition, however, comes from the weather and the consequent road conditions. Every year, the race is defined by the state of Oklahoma’s red dirt. If dry, the red roads are hard packed and fast. If wet, the clay turns to thick, soul-sucking mud that’s barely rideable and is known to destroy many a drivetrain.

Racing Mid South is as much a gauge of your fitness as it is your grit and mental toughness.

On Friday, a day before the 10th edition was to kick off, Mid South runners and early arrivers awoke to a blanket of snow. While the snow wasn’t predicted to linger, the forecast of freezing temperatures led organizer, Bobby Wintle, to delay the start time to 9 a.m., in the hopes of slightly warmer, more bearable beginnings.

While the start was still frigid, a warm and windy afternoon the day prior had allowed the course to dry out, keeping the mud at bay and the racing fast.

Like most gravel races, the men’s and women’s fields and age categories all race together, but are scored separately.

The men’s race was won by 23-year-old Cole Paton (Orange Seal Off-Road) in 4 hours and 52 minutes. Paton broke away from a strong lead group with approximately six miles to go and managed to hold on to his one-minute lead. Behind him, his teammate Dennis van Winden won the reduced bunch sprint for second. Canadian Adam Roberge (Elevate - Webiplex) rounded out the podium.

Red Bull rider and defending champion, Payson McElveen, crashed out of the race 90 miles in and sustained a broken collarbone and injured hand.

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