Gravel racing is a truly American way of riding bikes, and so it is cool to see races eschewing yet another play on “Roubaix” to embrace local history when naming races. Events such the Land Run 100 pay homage to periods of history that shaped their respective areas.
Another race embracing that approach is South Dakota’s Gold Rush Gravel Grinder. Based in Spearfish, which is located on the north end of the Black Hills, the race traverses the beautiful Black Hills and even dips into Wyoming for a spell as riders go in search of gravel treasure and wealth.
The course features a tough challenge and plenty of vistas. At least when the weather complies.
The Gold Rush Gravel Grinder does not quite date to the days of the Black Hill Gold Rush that started in 1874, but this year’s event was the 7th year for the gravel grinder.
The race was started by Perry and Kristi Jewett, members the Ridge Riders of the Black Hills Mountain Bike Club. The club has been helping them with their races since the start of the Dakota Five-0 mountain bike race, which is now in its 19th year. About a decade ago, they started to ride some gravel as well.
And as it turns out, the Black Hills have a lot of beauty and a lot of gravel. A perfect combination.
“We had been riding a bit of gravel before on ’cross bikes, but it wasn’t until we bought ourselves some gravel-specific bikes and started putting in more miles and seeking out unfamiliar roads that we began to see the beauty in this sport,” race co-director Kristi Jewett said. “Not only did we fall in love with this type of riding, but we realized we had phenomenal, endless gravel roads throughout the Black Hills that were rugged and remote and took you deep into the heart of the forest.”
The Gold Rush Gravel Grinder moniker came naturally, and the Ridge Riders chose to really lean into the region’s boom and bust history.
“We came up with the name, Gold Rush, based on the history of the Black Hills and when the Great Dakota boom happened because gold was discovered,” Jewett explained. “We even decided to call one of our checkpoints The Potato Station in memory of Potato Creek Johnny, who found the world’s largest gold nugget. We serve potatoes and whiskey at this checkpoint, and it’s located atop a fire lookout with a beautiful 360-degree view of the Black Hills.”
Like many gravel events, the Gold Rush offers several different distances. The 110-mile “Gold Rush” is the inaugural and marquee event, and there are also the 70-mile “Gold Dust” and a Dirty-Kanza-like 210-mile “Mother Lode.”
“It is almost like a separate race as we have a catered breakfast and awards ceremony at our local brewery the morning after the event just for the Mother Lode riders,” Jewett said about the mega-distance ride. “It’s very intimate as we only get around 30 participants a year, and we really get to know the riders out there as we help with support and sag throughout the late hours of the night.”
Although the lookout at the Potato Station provides a beautiful view, getting there does not come cheap. For the 110-mile route, riders first have to climb up and up and log almost 7,000 feet of climbing by the time they get there. The 210-mile Mother Lode comes in at a whopping 12,000 feet of elevation gain.
The Gold Rush event swings heavily toward the “gravel” side of the groad spectrum, with nearly 90% of the routes covering unpaved roads. Fortunately, most of the gravel in the Black Hills is Send-It Certified, helping alleviate some of the pain of the climbing.
“The gravel in the Black Hills is mostly smooth, fast, hard-packed gravel,” Jewett explained. “But sometimes road graders will come through the week before the race and turn the gravel into a challenging mess for 1 to 5-mile sections. I think it keeps it interesting, but I’m not sure the riders would agree with me.”
Challenges with gravel and climbing aside, there is one huge upshot of the Gold Rush Gravel Grinder. “We have been told multiple times that our race is the most beautiful race that riders have done,” Jewett said.
“There are a lot of babbling brooks and creeks that riders get to see, and wildflowers can be abundant during the race. There are some spectacular views, and we also have some wildlife that is pretty fun to see. One Motherlode rider had a mountain lion jump across the road during his race!”
Gravel race organizers are no doubt creative in naming their events, and it seems like in every gravel race write-up we get to the point where we have to ask about prizes. In the case of the Gold Rush Gravel Grinder, there are gold nuggets awaiting the winners, right???
“Ha, we considered doing bars of gold for the race winners but opted for some very nice handmade pottery pieces for the winners,” Jewett demurred. “Clay Dykstra, of Dykstra Pottery, has been doing phenomenal work with his medallions, mugs, flasks and growlers for the race winners.”
Maybe next year.
The 2019 Race
The Gold Rush Gravel Grinder has seen everything from temperatures as high as 110 degrees to, well, this year. The event was the most miserablest yet, with a cold drizzle and temperatures dipping into the 30s.
The event draws heavily from Colorado, because short drive, but Minnesota and southern Canada were well-represented as well. It does not hurt that the Dakota Five-0 has built a reputation as an impressive race riders travel from across the Midwest and beyond to take on.
Top Women’s honors in the marquee 110-mile Gold Rush went to Hannah Bingham of Colorado. Chelsea Strate took second, Petra Hansen third, Katey Martus fourth and Michelle Stampe rounded out the wide-angle podium.
The Men’s victor was local Spearfish hero Nathan Keck. Chad Weisgram took second and Trevor Rockwell third. Jake Aisenbrey took fourth and Timothy Fegel won the Singlespeed category and finished fifth overall.
Lauren Giles won the Women’s Mother Lode and Christoph Heinrich the Men’s.
Results for the 110-mile Gold Rush are below. Full results for all categories are also available.
Women's Results: 2019 Gold Rush Gravel Grinder
|1||HANNAH BINGHAM (# 28)||STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, CO||6:56:29|
|2||CHELSEA STRATE (# 298)||MINNEAPOLIS, MN||7:44:43|
|3||PETRA HANSEN (# 115)||SPEARFISH, SD||8:12:27|
|4||KATEY MARTUS (# 192)||BOULDER, CO||8:23:11|
|5||MICHELLE STAMPE (# 292)||SPEARFISH, SD||8:50:51|
|6||SUSAN METZ (# 217)||SPEARFISH, SD||9:04:17|
|7||LEAH SCHWARTZ (# 276)||SPEARFISH, SD||9:04:17|
|8||MELISSA SMITH (# 287)||RAPID CITY, SD||9:19:14|
|9||KRISTI DALLMEYER (# 64)||HIGHLANDS RANCH, CO||9:30:01|
|10||JUDY ALLEN (# 4)||LEADVILLE, CO||9:43:04|
|11||LAUREN NAGLE (# 237)||FORT COLLINS, CO||9:57:16|
Men's Results: 2019 Gold Rush Gravel Grinder
|1||NATHAN KECK (# 158)||SPEARFISH, SD||6:16:32|
|2||CHAD WEISGRAM (# 323)||AUDUBON, MN||6:19:32|
|3||TREVOR ROCKWELL (# 257)||SD||6:20:41|
|4||JAKE AISENBREY (# 3)||COLORADO SPRINGS, CO||6:21:56|
|5||TIMOTHY FEGEL||FORT COLLINS, CO||6:32:09|
|6||JAMES MEYER (# 219)||SPEARFISH, SD||6:32:13|
|7||ERIK BANDY (# 15)||CORALVILLE, IA||6:36:54|
|8||SAMUEL MCBRIDE (# 199)||SYRACUSE, UT||6:37:21|
|9||KEVIN OSBERG (# 244)||FORT COLLINS, CO||6:39:34|
|10||JONATHAN RETH (# 254)||SPEARFISH, SD||6:43:11|
|11||BRYCE THORMAN (# 308)||SPEARFISH, SD||6:48:06|
|12||ADAM JEFFREY (# 143)||COLORADO SPRINGS, CO||6:48:10|
|13||RUSSELL BURI (# 38)||IOWA CITY, IA||6:56:27|
|14||BRAD BINGHAM (# 27)||STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, CO||6:56:28|
|15||MARK MERRITT (# 211)||GRAND ISLAND, NE||7:01:56|
|16||WILLIAM BUSSE (# 40)||SD||7:15:17|
|17||TIMOTHY METZ (# 218)||SPEARFISH, SD||7:17:05|
|18||SHANE MAXWELL (# 197)||TWO HARBORS, MN||7:17:5|
|19||CASEY SWENSON (# 301)||HARRISBURG, SD||7:17:56|
|20||WILLIAM GAVATO (# 399)||FORT COLLINS, CO||7:20:20|
|21||LEO SCHUG (# 272)||MADISON, WI||7:23:24|
|22||LANCE MORAN (# 228)||CANTON, SD||7:34:51|
|23||MICHAEL RAUM (# 252)||FARGO, ND||7:34:59|
|24||GARY BROWN (# 35)||WAUKON, IA||7:34:59|
|25||CONRAD THORMAN (# 310)||SPEARFISH, SD||7:36:10|
|26||ANTHONY SPEISER (# 290)||SPEARFISH, SD||7:38:40|
|27||JAIME DODGE (# 342)||LINCOLN, NE||7:53:48|
|28||RYAN ATKINSON (# 12)||LONGMONT, CO||7:58:05|
|29||DANE KROMER (# 174)||MINNETONKA, MN||8:03:22|
|30||KRIS QUANDT (# 250)||JACKSON, WY||8:06:02|
|31||MIKEL CRONIN (# 58)||RAPID CITY, SD||8:09:46|
|32||JESSE JACOBSON (# 139)||MENDOTA HEIGHTS, MN||8:10:21|
|33||ANDREW KEFFER (# 159)||NE||8:17:20|
|34||ROBERT PRANN (# 249)||RAPID CITY, SD||8:19:35|
|35||KIM EGGLESTON (# 79)||ST. GEORGE, UT||8:22:02|
|36||JEFF EGGLESTON||BOUNTIFUL, UT||8:22:02|
|37||TOMMY HURL EVERSTONE (# 190)||MN||8:24:08|
|38||JEFF HAYE (# 120)||MINNEAPOLIS, MN||8:24:09|
|39||SETH HOTVET (# 132)||LAKEWOOD, CO||8:25:31|
|40||RANDY MOSCHETTI (# 233)||COLORADO SPRINGS, CO||8:26:16|
|41||LILES LIPE (# 188)||LAFAYETTE, CO||8:30:40|
|42||DEREK HARNISH (# 343)||,||8:32:17|
|43||KURT WENDEL (# 324)||ROBINS, IA||8:33:10|
|44||ALASTAIR FOGG (# 88)||WINNIPEG, MB||8:35:23|
|45||KEN CHABLUK (# 51)||WINNIPEG, MB||8:41:00|
|46||BOB MILLER (# 222)||RAPID CITY, SD||8:45:21|
|47||JOEL MCKILLOP (# 205)||SPEARFISH, SD||8:50:52|
|48||NICHOLAS MYERS (# 236)||SPEARFISH, SD||8:59:19|
|49||NATHAN BARTEN||RAMSEY, MN||9:03:39|
|50||NATE EIDE (# 80)||TWO HARBORA, MN||9:05:54|
|51||CHRIS SYMONS (# 303)||TWO HARBORS, MN||9:05:55|
|52||TYLER JOHNSON (# 153)||DES MOINES, IA||9:05:55|
|53||LOGAN SPADER (# 289)||HARTFORD, SD||9:05:56|
|54||WARREN GEBAUER (# 99)||HUGO, MN||9:10:06|
|55||DOUGLAS HIRSCHI (# 128)||FRUIT HEIGHTS, UT||9:13:35|
|56||RYAN WINZENBURG (# 332)||DENVER, CO||9:25:36|
|57||TROY ISMIR (# 137)||FORT COLLINS, CO||9:28:55|
|58||BRIAN JOHNSON (# 148)||DES MOINES, IA||9:29:44|
|59||CHRIS STUCKMAN (# 299)||WAUKON, IA||9:35:08|
|60||JOHN HILMER (# 126)||RACINE, WI||9:47:03|
|61||CHUCK VOHSEN (# 319)||ST PAUL, MO||9:53:08|
|62||CHAD DAHLHEIMER (# 63)||OTSEGO, MN||10:00:20|
|63||RICHARD EVANS (# 85)||SHELLEY, ID||10:09:19|
|64||JOE BILLESBACH (# 26)||BEATRICE, NE||10:21:45|
|65||MARK KLINGELHOETS (# 168)||LONG LAKE, MN||10:23:15|
|66||GARY LINDBERG (# 185)||PRINCETON, MN||10:23:16|
|67||JASON CYBORON (# 62)||NE||10:28:38|
|68||GREG GIFFIN (# 101)||WINDSOR, CO||11:10:43|