Last weekend, the fourth-annual Black Fork Gravel Grinder took place in Loudonville, Ohio. The event, in only its second year as a race, drew participants from across the region and has been steadily gaining a reputation as a top-notch event.

Like many iconic gravel events, the Black Fork Gravel Grinder was started from a desire to share local roads with the greater cycling community. Born out of necessity, the route was created by Matt Simpson and Jay Clipse in order to train for the Mohican 100 while trails were closed. Recognizing they had found something special, the two spent the next year developing a course to share with the world.

“It’s one of the best out there, we know that for sure,” Clipse told Cyclocross Magazine. “We’re in our fourth year, second as a race. We started out slow to make sure that it was going to catch on as we were hoping.”

Catch on, it did. The response has been “overwhelming,” with an increase in ridership by 20% for this year alone, which translates to nearly 100 new participants every year.

As a young race, much of the field is local to nearby Columbus, Cleveland and Pittsburgh although the event draws a regional crowd, with riders from up to a dozen states every year.

This year’s event featured distances of 23, 30 and 54 miles, with the latter serving as the marquee event.

The Black Fork Gravel Grinder had a tough challenge and pretty views. 2019 Black Fork Gravel Grinder, Ohio. © Alecia Simpson

The Black Fork Gravel Grinder had a tough challenge and pretty views. 2019 Black Fork Gravel Grinder, Ohio. © Alecia Simpson

Despite its young age, the race has already developed a culture, one that brings riders back each spring.

“The character of the race is a mullet. It’s a party in the back, business up front,” Clipse explained. “You’ve got your racers that are hardcore, and they’re going to stay up front. Then you’ve got the folks that just want to go out, just want to have a ride and see the scenery, talk on the gravel. That’s the party in the rear. We treat them all the same. It’s all-inclusive.”

Speaking of parties, the race holds quite the gathering at the finish line. Volunteers are waiting at the finish with a cold beer for every rider, and catered meals are available post-race.

“We decided early on we were going to have a quality event. That’s what was going to bring the folks in,” said Clipse. “We treat the first place racer just like the last place rider who’s coming in six hours later. We’re going to make sure they have a hot meal, we’re going to make sure they have a cold beer, and we’re going to make sure that everybody is cheering them on when they come in.”

The event is serious about its commitment to giving every participant a great experience. Volunteers staffing aid stations are paid for their time, encouraging a staffed snack table for everyone regardless of their position. The sweep car follows last place as a rule, and there is a special celebration as the final riders roll in.

While the format has changed in the initial years of the event, going forward the race is going to remain largely as it is now, with a welcoming atmosphere for racers and more recreational riders alike.

“We want to make sure that encompasses everybody. We want the folks that want to come out and just ride, we to include them as well. We also want the fastest racers, we want the pros to come out and race too. All inclusive. It’s going to stay that way,” Clipse guaranteed.

The race has cultivated a fun post-race vibe. 2019 Black Fork Gravel Grinder, Ohio. © Alecia Simpson

The race has cultivated a fun post-race vibe. 2019 Black Fork Gravel Grinder, Ohio. © Alecia Simpson

Even with rain moving in as the day grew on, riders stuck around late into the afternoon as the final riders came in. Clipse compared the post-race extravaganza to past years.

“You never know what the weather is going to be in Ohio, but the vibe is the same. No matter what, the vibe is going to be the same. There is going to be a party afterward. Everybody is going to cheer everybody on. It’s the same as every other year, just a little bit of wet weather.”

The Race

The 54-mile race was the marquee, timed event for the Black Fork Gravel Grinder.

Jen Toops took the Women’s 54-Mile win. Haley Wickstrom finished second and Melissa Hiller third.

Women's podium. 2019 Black Fork Gravel Grinder, Ohio. © Alecia Simpson

Women’s podium. 2019 Black Fork Gravel Grinder, Ohio. © Alecia Simpson

Top Men’s 54-mile honors went to Jake Henningsen. Travis Iles and Aaron Coxen rounded out the podium finishers.

Men's podium. 2019 Black Fork Gravel Grinder, Ohio. © Alecia Simpson

Men’s podium. 2019 Black Fork Gravel Grinder, Ohio. © Alecia Simpson

Full results for the 54-mile race are below.

Women's Results: 2019 Black Fork Gravel Grinder

1Jen Toops30-393:34:29
2Hayley Wickstrom16-293:35:38
3Melissa Hiller40-493:38:49
4Wendy Billings40-493:49:17
5Pamela McCormick40-493:57:30
6Angela Graziosi40-494:14:39
7Dannette Trappe40-494:23:28
8Tayllor Allen16-294:24:19
9Shanna Johnson40-494:25:00
10Kari Hutson30-394:25:19
11Jessica TomazicSS4:26:28
12Brittany Beuthe30-394:31:26
13Caitlin Gossman30-394:33:40
14Cindy Berard50-594:35:09
15Peggy Cook60+4:35:28
16Amy Woods30-394:38:00
17Amanda Wolf40-494:43:28
18Cori Stevens30-394:46:31
19Leah Brownlee30-394:52:58
20Tina Wagner50-594:56:56
21Selena Barnfather40-494:57:26
22Melissa Wick40-495:26:00
23Halla Jonsdottir30-395:55:47
24Mandi Payton30-396:21:22

Men's Results: 2019 Black Fork Gravel Grinder

1Jake Henningsen16-293:02:26
2Travis Iles16-293:02:27
3Aaron Coxen16-293:02:27
4Nick Belkowki30-393:02:27
5Matthew Weeks30-393:06:59
6Shane Brenner40-493:06:59
7Jonathan Card50-593:06:59
8Jay Ganser30-393:07:05
9Anthony Toops30-393:07:53
10Jimm McElroy30-393:09:38
11Jordan Appleby16-293:12:32
12Sean O’Donnell40-493:12:33
13Tom Franek50-593:12:33
14Christopher Smith40-493:14:26
15Brent Evans50-593:14:26
16Nicholas Skaggs16-293:14:27
17Brandon Grant16-293:14:49
18Quintin Bressler30-393:16:32
19Michael Keppler40-493:18:42
20Michael Gottfried30-393:18:57
21Jeff Harper30-393:20:01
22Nate Loman50-593:20:46
23Jeffrey Griffin50-593:20:46
24Peter Post50-593:20:59
25Sam Decker16-293:21:22
26Derek Wilford50-593:23:21
27Rudy Sroka60+3:23:27
28Shane Montgomery16-293:23:29
29Ezra Sonderling16-293:27:00
30Joshua Smith30-393:27:02
31Ryan Gamm30-393:27:06
32Tyler Hardin30-393:27:50
33Morris Miller40-493:28:35
34Thomas Dunn30-393:28:52
35Dorel Stoia40-493:29:04
36Ryun Mielke40-493:29:07
37Mark Illingworth30-393:29:18
38Craig Burland50-593:29:53
39Ryan Fisher30-393:31:40
40Andrew Stackhouse40-493:31:52
41Steve Fields40-493:33:27
42Matt Locke30-393:34:09
43Christopher Kick40-493:34:22
44Jason Tellez40-493:34:35
45Andy Bracke50-593:35:04
46Scott Young50-593:35:34
47Jason Baldwin40-493:35:36
48Arthur Smith50-593:35:53
49Chris Rednour16-293:36:20
50David Adams40-493:37:29
51Boris Brezo16-293:38:22
52John Barney50-593:38:23
53Peter Czerwinski50-593:38:24
54Joseph Ipacs60+3:38:25
55Jared Ladia16-293:38:47
56Kelsey Smith30-393:39:50
57Brian Ochocki50-593:40:25
58Dan Frazier50-593:40:30
59Paul Jaroszynski50-593:40:58
60Jesse Hawk40-493:41:33
61Jeff Miller40-493:41:33
62David Jolin50-593:41:38
63Ben Naylor30-393:42:30
64Nathaniel Woods30-393:42:31
65Ben Brosius30-393:42:46
66Bill Marut50-593:43:25
67Jeffrey Hutchinson30-393:43:49
68Shawn Hawk50-593:44:08
69Steve Herman30-393:44:34
70Richard Wiley60+3:44:54
71Jake Gordon16-293:46:47
72Keith Mueller16-293:48:25
73Anthony Bunt30-393:48:34
74Andrew Cerniglia40-493:48:46
75Dom Burnelkis30-393:49:01
76Rick Rick III40-493:49:03
77Rick Voithofer50-593:51:13
78John Day40-493:51:38
79Jeff Roesner40-493:51:39
80Mark Milliren30-393:51:54
81Ron Kubala60+3:52:53
82Paul Patterson40-493:54:14
83David Brinkley40-493:54:49
84David Thornton50-593:54:53
85Jacob Coleman30-393:56:09
86Matthew Woodyard30-393:57:29
87Tim McCarthy50-593:57:41
88Andrew Jalbrzikowski40-493:58:21
89Daniel FauseySS3:58:26
90David Cartmell50-593:58:29
91Mike Schiltz50-594:00:53
92Steve Quelette40-494:01:12
93Douglass Joos50-594:02:26
94Zac Smiles40-494:02:28
95Keith Ranly40-494:02:51
96Sean Gilbert40-494:03:04
97Robert Brnilovich50-594:04:30
98Peter Hitzeman30-394:04:54
99Garry Blait50-594:04:56
100Jacob Skidd40-494:04:58
101Scott Billman60+4:05:20
102Luke Wendt40-494:05:28
103John Kagan50-594:06:42
104Jake Northrup50-594:07:39
105Steve Coss30-394:11:53
106Chris Knapp40-494:12:39
107Larry Pandy60+4:12:49
108Thom O’Neal40-494:12:53
109Adam Madara40-494:13:55
110Timothy Fitzwater40-494:14:56
111Anthony Coletta30-394:15:10
112Brent Christy30-394:15:36
113Charles Schindler40-494:16:06
114Jack RichardsonSS4:16:07
115Paul Adams40-494:16:10
116Andrew White30-394:16:12
117James Campbell40-494:16:50
118Paul Miles40-494:17:00
119Michael Emerson16-294:17:08
120Scott Hencye30-394:19:16
121Mark Ventura40-494:21:20
122Thomas Wise40-494:21:20
123Bill Anderson60+4:23:30
124Jeff Shaull50-594:24:42
125Brian Davis40-494:25:49
126Adam Bennett30-394:26:48
127Roger Walker40-494:27:53
128Brian Wahl40-494:29:57
129David Spurlock50-594:32:34
130Tom Forrest50-594:33:00
131John Simkins50-594:34:43
132Dan Ripberger50-594:34:57
133Victor Allen50-594:35:03
134David Descutner50-594:35:05
135Glen Gardner50-594:39:37
136Brandon Schuh16-294:43:41
137Evandro Ficanha30-394:45:38
138Ryan Tolle30-394:46:29
139Marc Rebick50-594:46:52
140Doug Johnson40-494:49:16
141Grzegorz Kwiecien30-394:50:06
142Kevin Brown30-394:50:06
143Todd Devore40-494:51:47
144Devon Doran40-494:51:50
145Jonathan Bompiani30-394:51:51
146Chad Dorn40-494:51:53
147Christopher Radak30-394:52:15
148David Kubala60+4:52:25
149Chris Sill50-594:54:39
150Terry Hughes60+4:54:41
151Bob Darrow60+4:56:18
152Radu Herbel40-494:56:51
153Ricky Dale Earnhardt30-394:57:08
154Derek Good50-595:00:16
155Tim Portman30-395:05:36
156Michael Koppel50-595:08:01
157Shayne Plourde16-295:08:22
158Tim Sherherd50-595:08:25
159Rodney Haun50-595:10:18
160David Benner60+5:10:18
161Joel Turley30-395:11:20
162Scott Liechty30-395:30:44
163Dan Kauffman30-395:35:03
164Justin Holt30-395:37:11
165Joey Shearer50-595:37:22
166Brian Anderson50-595:37:22
167Dale Klinect60+5:37:22
168Benjamin Kauffman30-395:41:17
169Olafur Thorarensen40-495:55:46
170Matthew Scullen30-395:55:48
171Thomas Bower40-495:55:48
172Patrick Ryan50-595:55:48
173Rob Hunter40-496:15:19
174Terry Wagner40-496:21:01
175Christian Maier40-496:22:39