Long-distance rides are all the rage right now with Everesting and many other challenges taking centre stage as professionals and recreational riders look for new formats to test their legs. While we've seen several riders like Laurens ten Dam, Wout Van Aert, Alex Howes and Annemiek van Vleuten post 200km-plus rides in recent days, those substantial efforts somewhat pale in comparison to Ted King's ride last week.
The American rider was meant to be taking part in Dirty Kanza last weekend but due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic the race has been shifted to later in the year. And with the gravel calendar, as a whole, affected by the pandemic, King has set up a 'DIY Gravel' season to get through the months without official competition to rely on.
As part of the DIY Gravel campaign, the American rider rode from the tip of North Vermont to the south of the state, covering a whopping 310 miles in 20 hours and 40 minutes. The ride covered 34,000ft of climbing with an average power output of 243w and saw King battle through darkness, wind and heavy rain.
"I was just telling a friend that I'm so accustomed to long rides that I usually wake up the next day and don't feel a thing but today I feel like I've been run over by a truck. I've just had the soundest sleep of my entire life," he told Cyclingnews the morning after his epic adventure.
When Cyclingnews asked for the reasoning behind King's decision to set off in the pitch black and ride through driving rain for a 300-mile journey, he explained the nature of his gravel platform.
"The short answer is because of DYI Gravel, which I created. It's meant to get people out to celebrate the original event dates. There are 3,000 or so people who have entered and it's free to do so. All you need to do is go to my site and enter in the ride that you've done. There's a big ride here in Vermont called the 200 on 100 that links the north part of Vermont to the south and it's just one road. There was also Dirty Kanza, which would have taken place last weekend, and I wanted to make this a big event for my DIY Gravel. I feel that people are doing 200-mile rides at the drop of a hat so I wanted to make this a bit bigger. I started on a gravel road and ended on a gravel road."
There were plenty of points at which King questioned his own motives and his desire to carry on but smart pacing, support and his drive eventually saw him complete the ride.
"There was so much riding on it I felt the need to keep going. People were watching and my social media blew up. I had messages the whole day that would pop up on my screen the whole way," he said.
"I road to Ian Boswell's house at about 95 miles in. I was going to just refill bottles there and the whole plan was going to be in-and-out real quick. He was ready to roll at 6 a.m. when I arrived but when I got there I needed five minutes. Even before that, I was questioning the idea because in Vermont we have lots of class 4 roads, which have existed for decades and centuries but haven't been maintained. I thought that I'd be on those roads for a short amount of time but in the first 100 miles, about 50 miles were all on these burly class 4 roads. It meant that the average speed was way down and then as I road through the night it was like riding through a hurricane with pouring rain and wind. There were plenty of times when I was questioning what I was doing.
"At one point I'd realized that I'd ridden the distance of a Dirty Kanza but then needed to go half-way back."
King's Strava group has close to 2,000 members and he's not even the holder of the longest ride with one member completing a 350-mile ride at the end of May. You can join here.
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