Gravel racing is near and dear to my heart. I was first bitten by the gravel racing bug back in 2017 when I competed in my first Belgian Waffle Ride event (the California race was the only one at that time). It was 125 miles and 12,000 feet of climbing with temperatures that were getting pretty close to 100 degrees. The course was challenging for all of the right reasons and I found myself at mile 124 with a HUGE smile on my face while lamenting the fact that the race was going to be over soon.

Fast forward to 2024 and my love for gravel events has only grown stronger over these last few years. I have learned quite a bit about nutrition and training for these type of endurance events and not to take them lightly no matter the distance or the terrain. Due to this evolution of learning, I have added quite a few events where I can “peak” my training goals to align with the plans I lay out at the beginning of the year. While my personal calendar has grown, so has the gravel calendar in general and I find that I have to pick and choose what events I can and cannot do each year.

The list below is my Bucket List of Gravel Events for 2024. If I am unable to attend them this year, then hopefully they will be on my calendar for 2025. I do have a list of events I am doing for 2024 and I will write blog posts for each of those events in case you are interested in learning more about them. If you are still sorting out which gravel events to do, hopefully this list will help make some decisions for you as they are all top notch events and worth entering for sure. (Links to the races are in the name of each event in bold letters…)

  • Belgian Waffle Ride: Multiple Events
    • BWR California: This is the OG “Unroad” gravel event that has been going on for over 12 years. It’s got a lot more pavement than you would normally expect in a gravel race, but that is what makes the challenge so interesting. Road setup? Gravel setup? Some of the technical sections are pretty burly for a gravel bike while others are just plain fast. I have raced this event for past 6 years and this will be the first year I miss it due to a scheduling conflict and extensive travel plans the week before the event. The variety of terrain is totally unique for this type of event so different skillsets are recommended for navigating the course.
    • BWR BC: 2023 was the inaugural edition for this race and it was EPIC! PNW forests and terrain were the complete opposite of the California race. At 136 miles and 13,000 feet of climbing, it was the longest race in the series. The course was challenging with a few MTB trails thrown in for good measure. I was very happy I had a suspension fork on my Storm King GP bike but wish I had brought the dropper post as well. The race date has moved this year to September and Vancouver Island is gorgeous any time of year. The trip there is worth the scenic drive and ferry ride to get to the island.
    • BWR AZ and UT: I have not done either of these races, but I really want to. Particularly the AZ race as I have heard the course is really challenging and you should plan on bringing a BIG tire. In the past, UT has been later in the year, but for 2024 it has moved up into a much earlier time slot so that both of these races help form the “Tripel Crown” along with the California race for early season racing. Again, scheduling conflicts for me this year prevent me from going, but hopefully I can prepare for 2025 a little differently and make the AZ race at least.
  • Rock Cobbler: This is one of those wacky events that really captures the spirit of the gravel scene. It started out as a challenge amongst friends and quickly gained notoriety for some insane course oddities. Features like riding through someone’s living room while they are watching TV or riding through a cow pasture with livestock roaming around (look up the YouTube videos from 2022 of the Bull incident… no one was seriously hurt), or even running up a super steep hill while people are throwing giant balls down the hill at you. It’s just the nature of the event and every year it seems to get bigger and bigger. It is an early February race so either you are training for early season events or you are going to just have fun. Either way, it’s a worthy inclusion on the list.
  • The Rift: A gravel race in Iceland that goes through volcanic fields, crosses ice cold streams, and has a brutal headwind? Sign me up for that one! It sounds like torture, but for everyone who does it, they come back with a totally unique and special experience. 200km and 100km course options depending on your flavor punishment. The scenery and experience are as beautiful as the course is hard. This is a “bucket list” event in the truest sense of the word.
  • SBT GRVL: It’s February 20, 2024 and this event is already sold out. The gravel is called “Champagne Gravel” due to the smooth nature of the surface. Pro racers will ride on 28mm slick tires on road bikes, while the rest of us will run fast file treads not much bigger than that. The altitude is high (it’s in Steamboat Springs, CO), and the distance is long for the Black course (125 miles, 10,000 feet of climbing… and remember you are at altitude). Fear not as there are multiple distances to choose from so if the long course is not your thing, there are others to get back you sooner.
  • Unbound: This is biggest race of them all. The “200” mile is the main event, but there are other distances to choose from (350, 100, 50, 25). The only way to get in is through a lottery system each year. If your ticket gets punched for the event, start preparing now and don’t wait to secure housing if you don’t want to sleep in the dorms. The course is definitely a Mid-West kind of course: No crazy long climbs or mountain top views or super technical terrain. Instead it has open plains as far as the eye can see, sharp rocks that will chew up your tires, mud that can be legendary, and looong solitary straight roads that will put you in the mental hurt locker. It’s epic and legendary for the all of the right and wrong reasons. Personally, I raced the 100 mile event in 2022 as I worked the expo for the weekend so 200 miles seemed like a lot to chew off after standing for so long in the prior days. The shorter distance was actually perfect in my opinion. I was able to finish early enough to get back to the dorms to shower and change, then head to the expo area to grab some food, beers, and cheer on all of my friends as they finished their races. I wasn’t totally blown up and I still had a great time at all of the post race parties happening that night. It’s an amazing event for sure and should be in your future plans if it is not already.
  • Gravel Worlds: If you were not able to get into Unbound through the lottery system, then you should have Gravel Worlds on your calendar. If you do get into Unbound, you should still have Gravel Worlds on your calendar. Taking place approximately 2 months after Unbound, the unofficial “Gravel Worlds” (not to be confused with the new UCI Gravel World Championships) takes place in Lincoln, NE and gives you more of the same type of terrain and course as Unbound. There are 4 distances to choose from going from Ultra Long to more “reasonable” distances. Keep in mind that it could be REALLY HOT during this time of year so make sure you are preparing for heat with your training. The race still keeps the “grass roots” vibe going but has stepped up to offer a premium experience over the last few years so that you get the best of both worlds.

Honorable Mention: The Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder is DEFINITELY a bucket list event but instead of it being a bucket list event for me this year, I will be doing it, so in theory this will be checked off my list after June. It’s 5 days, 350 miles with 30,000 feet of climbing. Some people race it while others ride to survive. Since I have not done it yet, I am going to say I am striving to do both. The race takes place in Central Oregon where you will camp out each night with your racing mates, eat some great food, and basically just wake up and ride your bike the next day. It’s going to be quite the experience and I am SUPER excited for it.

Hopefully this list will have some inspirational events that you can check out for 2024 or even 2025. It’s never too early to start training and planning for some of these events as they are BIG. The most important thing is to have fun, stay safe, and get excited about what is to come.