Ben Berden in control and on his way to the win at the 2012 Sea Otter Classic cyclocross race. ©Tim Westmore

Ben Berden in control and on his way to the win at the 2012 Sea Otter Classic cyclocross race. ©Tim Westmore

Belgian cyclocross veteran Ben Berden will get a taste of American gravel this May 27 at the Gravel Metric, a popular 62-mile ride on farm roads around DeKalb, Illinois.

Berden brings more than 20 years of experience in a career highlighted by victories at major European cyclocross races, including three wins on the infamous sand in Koksijde. Berden re-energized his cyclocross career last year by coming to the U.S. and battling all season with well-known Americans on their own turf.

But the gravel of Illinois will be a new challenge for Berden. “Most of my training at home is on farm roads, but we get so much rain in Belgium that even the smallest roads are usually paved. I’ve never ridden 100 km of dirt roads, so I’m excited to give it a try. It will be a nice change from the long training rides and criteriums I normally do this time of year.”

In addition to cyclocross racing, Berden also tests Clement cycling tires. Clement has just released a new line of tires designed for adventure riding. Called the X’Plor series, the line includes two robust tire models to meet a range of conditions. “I’m looking forward to getting the new tires out on a real course that sounds pretty challenging,” said Berden.

Now in its third year, the Gravel Metric draws hundreds of gravel lovers from across the Midwest, where dirt road races are gaining popularity. The event, which blurs the line between a ride and a race, includes a variety of gravel roads, wagon tracks, and nearly 5 miles of grassy mixed conditions the organizers call “unroads.” A severe rain storm during the event last year turned a stream crossing into something more like a Navy Seal challenge. The event is hosted by North Central Cyclery and Axleltree, a non-profit dedicated to creating a positive cycling community in the DeKalb area.

The Clement X’Plor adventure series includes the 700x33mm USH tire and the 700x40mm MSO tire and is distributed by QBP. Like other Clement tires, these models are named after airport codes from around the world. USH is the airport code of Ushuaia on the island of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world, and the ultimate destination for adventure bike touring. MSO is the airport code of Missoula, Montana, home of the Adventure Cycling Association and the inspiration for countless cycling journeys.