While the “Spirit of Gravel” is touted as making offroad cycling accessible and welcoming to many, racers with time and budget constraints can be forgiven for feeling like gravel races are anything but accessible. Add together entry fees in the hundreds of dollars, events selling out months in advance, and the races often far enough from civilization that they need an overnight stay and a weekend away, and it starts to add up to an expensive sport that is impossible for many of us to do every weekend. Our favorite discipline of cyclocross (aka “shorttrackgravel”) looks to be a lot more welcoming for those wanting competition.
The crew behind this Saturday’s East Bay Dirt Classic, held in the hills above Oakland on October, aims to make offroad cycling more accessible to all cyclists, with its dirt ride/race starting in one of California’s biggest cities, paired with a relatively affordable entry fee.
The event not only makes gravel racing more acessible for budget-constrained cyclists, but more importantly, also helps local community members with far greater needs. The Classic has raised over $250,000 for the Alameda Food Bank and its effort to help the 25% of County residents who rely on its services. This year is no exception. You know exactly where your entry fee is going.
This year, the event returns to its mass start and pool party roots after several years of virtual, Strava-based competition. It starts and ends in the Oakland Hills, at one of the organizer’s residences. Participants help feed those in need, and get fed after the ride with a backyard BBQ and pool party complete with a hot tub.
The virtual option is still available for those who can’t make the event or want to avoid the gathering.
The event is shorter than previous mass start events, with just 23 miles of mostly dirt, but significant climbing (3500 feet), especially in the latter half. The course heads south to Lake Chabot, instead of north into Tilden Park as it has in years past. It’s still an area filled with cyclocross history, just a few miles from the first USCF Cyclocross National Championships in 1975.
Early reports are of a burly 2023 course with more rocks than in the past, suggesting bigger gravel tires and lower gears, or a mountain bike over a gravel bike, if you have options.
There’s also a race within a race, with a Strava segment out on the course offering a separate prize.
Racers get a post-ride meal, a t-shirt, a pool party and can be home for dinner, all for under $100 ($85).
Cyclocross Magazine was present at early editions, and admire the event’s casual style, and give-back mission. There may not be bacon-wrapped pickle hand-ups or stocked aid stations, but the new, shorter distance makes carrying your own hydration and calorie needs easier.
Rumor has it a USA Cycling Cyclocross Worlds team member and Short Track National Champion will be gunning for the win.
More info and registration: eastbaydirtclassic.com