The only thing better than the personal triumph of completing a gravel event is completing that personal triumph for a good cause. In recent weeks, we have seen the Great Gator Gravel Grinder, Rasputitsa and La Grind all donate part or all of their proceeds to charity.
Last weekend, British Columbia’s Ride for Water joined them in raising money for a good cause. Saturday’s event helped provide funding for clean water projects in Ethiopia.
The event might be new, but the organization behind it is not. Before there was a Ride for Water, there was a Run for Water. Two years ago, some folks wanted to help the charity, but did not necessarily want to run long distances.
“In 2017 a local development firm, Diverse Properties, approached us and really wanted to support our charity and our work that is being done in Ethiopia,” event director Matt Scott said. “But they were not runners. They were cyclists and suggested we look at hosting a road cycling event.”
British Columbia has plenty of mountain biking and road fondo events, so those were off the table for the folks from Run for Water. There was, however, a discipline growing in popularity in North America.
“Around this time, there was a strong core group of local cyclists who were already riding gravel. With the Fraser Valley being home to hundreds of kilometers of logging roads, old-growth forestry roads and access to the Trans Canada Trail network, a gravel race in 2018 was just a logical step for us,” Scott explained.
“This year’s Ride for Water registrations raised $38,000 for clean water projects in the Bekyye region in Ethiopia. Hundreds of families will now have clean water for the first time in their lives because of our event. To date, the Run for Water charity has raised over $3 million for our clean water projects in Ethiopia and has drilled over 60 wells.”
Support for the Ride for Water also came from Easton Cycling. The company put up all the money for payouts to the Elite riders. Winners of both the Women and Men’s races took home $1,000 for their day of gravel work.
“Easton’s support for gravel racing has been amazing,” Scott said. “They’re really getting behind the growth of the gravel scene, and in particular our Ride for Water. We saw a definite increase in the number of elite riders this year over last. And being able to offer equal prize money for the Women’s field was important to us.”
This year’s impressive support from sponsors comes to an event that has grown quickly. Last year, we did a quick hit on the first Ride for Water. Scott said the event was a big success.
“We knew we had an amazing route and backdrop for a gravel event but we weren’t sure if there were enough local gravel riders to support a large scale race. Luckily for us, there was,” he said. “Based on last year’s turnout, we knew we were on to something and going in the right direction.”
This year, the Ride for Water offered three distances: a 27km Intro to Gravel, 85km Medio and 130km Epic. It was the Epic, with 2,200 meters of climbing, that offered the chance to race for cash.
Unlike spring classics such as the Belgian Waffle Ride, the Ride for Water was very much a gravel gravel race, with 80% of the course rolling on gravel, doubletrack or even singletrack. This year’s course swapped some flatter riding along dikes in the Fraser Valley for trails that make up the Trans Canada Trail network. Those trails are old-growth forest logging roads, so you know they got gnarly at times.
“We have a lot of mountains, a lot of forestry roads climbs and trails in our region. For us, gravel riding is everything from our house to the mountain vistas,” Scott said about the course. “To take full advantage of what our region has to offer, you’re going to have to climb.”
An impressive race calls for impressive fields.
Last month, we chatted with Courtenay McFadden about her first gravel experience. The cyclocross star was back at it in British Columbia, and she took home the win and $1,000 for her efforts. Morgan Cabot finished second and Dierdre Douglas took third. Suzanne Foster and Stephanie Jensen rounded out the wide-angle podium.
For the Men, it was Spencer Paxson taking the win. Garrett Mcleod took second and Michael van den Ham third. Carsten Ivany and Craig Richey rounded out the top five.
Full results for the 130km Epic are below. Results for all races are available here.
Women's Results: 2019 Ride for Water
Men's Results: 2019 Ride for Water
|3||Michael Van Den Ham||05:22:32.80|
|84||Paul Mc Carthy||07:52:26.90|
|88||Shawn Von Diebitsch||07:56:09.40|