Roubaix and Ranch Rally kick off Steamboat gravel racing season and focus on minimizing impact on town

The Steamboat Roubaix debuted in 2021 and will kick off the 2022 racing season on Sunday May 15.
Shelby Reardon / Steamboat Pilot and Today

If gravel riding were a religion, Steamboat Springs could be its mecca.

There are hundreds of miles of dirt roads in Routt County, and about half a dozen rides and races this summer will introduce those roads to casual and elite riders.

Steamboat Roubaix kicks off the summer racing calendar with Hell of the High Rockies on May 15th. The pro-am race organized by Steamboat Velo is in its second year. It has three distances and features a combination of paved and gravel roads, challenging runners in both the preparation and execution phases.

“Weather is the variable that makes it fun,” said Steamboat Velo organizer and race director Corey Piscopo. “It could be really nice. It might be a little wet and windy. That’s what defines this race. It’s spring in the mountains.

The race is 40% gravel and begins at the Howelsen Rodeo Grounds, taking riders south of town before plunging behind Emerald Mountain and ending near Lithia Spring outside of downtown. The event intentionally starts and ends at locations that avoid the city center, having minimal impact on high traffic areas. Piscopo said Steamboat Velo keeps the race small to limit the impact and make the event less daunting.

“A big theme for Steamboat right now is event mitigation,” he said. “I think as a local and event promoter we have to be realistic about what is doable and what has a reasonable impact.”

Piscopo said he thought about what bike racing might look like if more event directors prioritized minimizing impact or if Steamboat had a designated start and finish area.

“It would be cool if urban and cycling event promoters could find some kind of uniform set-up area where all the bike races start and end,” he said. “Each race is totally different in the way it is set up. These are just long-term thoughts on how we can make these things smoother and more consistent for the inhabitants.

Less than a month after Roubaix, Moots brings back the Ranch Rally on June 11 for the first time since 2019. The all-gravel race has always kept in mind the size of the terrain and the impact on the city, which is essentially zero. The routes – yes, there are two this year – are 54 and 76 miles long and take riders north and west of the city.

Since its inception in 2014, the Ranch Rally has served as a bridge between the cycling and farming communities.

“We understand that they use all these dirt and gravel roads to move livestock and equipment, and we wanted to educate our riders who come from all over on how to interact with the ranch community,” Jon said. Cariveau, marketing, social media and brand spokesperson for Moots. “What’s really close to our hearts is local production of everything from meats to vegetables that happens right here in the valley.”

Continuing this cause, the Ranch Rally raises funds for the Community Agriculture Alliance and has generated over $25,000 over six races.

This year, the goal is to raise $5,000 for the alliance and $5,000 for historically black college and university cycling clubs, a cause championed by former NBA player Reggie Miller.

Miller makes the trip to Steamboat for the Ranch Rally. He also announced on Instagram that he would return for SBT GRVL on August 14.

Miller, being a tall individual, needs custom bikes, including a few he got from Moots, which celebrated 40 years of building bikes last year.

“Our relationship has really blossomed,” Cariveau said of Miller and Moots. “He’s an amazing human being and his cause is to raise awareness of diversity in cycling. … There’s starting to be more women, and that’s great, and it’s going well. However, Reggie’s movement in particular is with HBCUs and colleges that have very underfunded clubs.

The Moots Ranch Rally has grown slightly to 300 open spaces, but the pace is still laid back and riders of all competitive natures are welcome.

“Ours is definitely not as big as SBT GRVL,” Cariveau said. “But it fits in well with the community. Our goal is to have very little impact on traffic.

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