Looking to rein in and tame more than 150 pro competitors in the men’s field for the 140-mile Black route is defending champion Ted King, the former WorldTour rider who has helped put gravel on the global map.
There’s been a one-year lapse since the 2019 inaugural event in the ski resort town of Steamboat Springs, which moved to virtual mode last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the event is back stronger, now with a 33 per cent increase in participants, up to 2,000 this year, and four ride options.
King had a strong finish at Unbound Gravel 200 in June, finishing fourth overall, and is fresh off a turn as race director with his wife Laura at Rooted Vermont.
He says the SBT GRVL Black course is suited to his style of riding, and he looks forward to making this year’s race a bookend for a family doubleheader.
“There’s the added excitement that comes along with the #1 race plate. I’m thrilled to have won in 2019 and am looking to defend that title this year,” King told Cyclingnews leading up to the race.
“SBT has a lot of characteristics that suit me well; it’s a long race, it’s a little bit tactical mixed with a little bit technical mixed with a little bit road race mixed with a whole lot of gravel. At this point in the spectrum of gravel, there’s very little I haven’t seen so I have that to my advantage.”
The premiere, endurance mountain bike race in Colorado, Leadville Trail 100 MTB, takes place the day before SBT GRVL, so the two off-road races have joined forces to challenge riders to compete in events for a LeadBoat title.
It is 250 miles – 104 on dirt and 144 on gravel – plus a transfer between Leadville and Steamboat Springs in 24 hours to test strength and stamina.
Many of King’s top competitors on Sunday, like Alex Howes, Lachlan Morton, Laurens ten Dam and Peter Stetina, will be on the second leg of their journeys. King opted not to compete in the LeadBoat Challenge this year, instead divvying up the competition with Laura for a “family LeadBoat”.
“I’m really excited to be going back to Steamboat this week. My wife, Laura, and I are doing the first of its kind, Family LeadBoat Challenge! She’ll race Leadville on Saturday and then I defend my win at Steamboat on Sunday,” said the not-so-overzealous King.
“I’ve done Leadville twice. It’s a really fun event, I love getting up to the town of Leadville, soaking in that community, and I’d love to do it again.
“With Laura racing Leadville here in 2021, it’s definitely easier to be part of the family LeadBoat than to complicate things. That might sound like an easy, fun weekend, but we’re excited to do it all with our 17-month-old daughter, Hazel, in tow (figuratively). So that adds a fun complication to the story. We’re looking forward to the adventure.”
King confirmed that his legs could be fresher without Leadville in them for the Sunday contest, but he has a lot of travel to deal with from Vermont to Colorado and the basic stress as a race organiser that could impact his performance Sunday.
“The process of packing and migrating the family across the country for two weeks is all a bit easier said than done. Add to the mix, after our Leadville/Steamboat weekend, we drive to Montana to race Last Best Ride,” King said, adding that Laura will return to Colorado for a Rockies multi-day mountain bike adventure while he and Hazel will then fly home to Vermont.
“We’re now just over one week from having hosted our event, Rooted Vermont, which is like throwing a 1,000 person wedding. The long story short is we’re busy, we couldn’t be happier with that type of schedule, and hopefully, it pays off over the entire weekend.
“Stress is stress, so this weekend is not as easy as driving an hour down the road to a local gravel race. All these little nuggets are part of our modern-day off-road escapades.”
Jackie has been involved in professional sports for more than 30 years in news reporting, sports marketing and public relations. She founded Peloton Sports in 1998, a sports marketing and public relations agency, which managed projects for Tour de Georgia, Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and USA Cycling. She also founded Bike Alpharetta Inc, a Georgia non-profit to promote safe cycling for people of all abilities and ages. Tyson has been recognized for communications excellence with 10 Phoenix Awards, presented by the Georgia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. She is proud to have worked in professional baseball for six years - from selling advertising to pulling the tarp - and was recognized by a national media outlet as the first female depicted in a pro baseball card set (Ft. Myers Royals). She has climbed l'Alpe d'Huez three times. Her favorite road rides are around horse farms in north Georgia (USA) and around lavender fields in Provence (France). Her favorite mountain bike rides are in Park City, Utah (USA).
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