We have been here before, but when you call your race “epic,” well, it better be worthy of an ancient Greek poet.
Last weekend, The Epic in Missouri challenged riders to 150 miles of gravel near Lake of the Ozarks. Before the race even started, it appeared set to live up the hype, with an impressive cast of gravel characters making the trip to the Show Me State for the race.
This year marked the fourth edition of The Epic. Like many races, it started with an idea and a desire to share beautiful gravel roads with the adventure-minded cycling community.
“The Epic was initially brainchild of Zack Lamb and myself in 2015 riding around and daydreaming,” race co-director Don Daly said. “The idea of showing the hills and the Lake of the Ozarks gravel roads to our gravel family was too much to resist.”
The first race took place in 2016, and The Epic now offers distances of 150, 90 and 50 miles (officially 151.3 and 89.5 and 49.3 miles this year). The 150-mile race is officially called the Epic Adventure and the 90-mile marquee race with payouts is the Epic Race.
One-hundred-fifty miles is an impressive distance for any gravel race, but it is really pushing the distance for a late-April event (save an ultra-endurance race like Iowa Wind and Rock). The long distance is obviously a necessity for a race called The Epic, but it was also an intentional choice by the organizers.
“Our 150-mile course design is one that allows people to give their training a proverbial ‘oil check,’ if you will, for the longer races of the summer like the Dirty Kanza 200 and Gravel Worlds. We like to say if you can finish the Epic the others are a breeze,” Daly said.
The 150-mile race featured a total of 12,500 feet of climbing (7,000 feet for the 90-miler) and based on the topography, with the course winding out of and into the region’s valleys, the race is about half climbing and half descending. Of course, the former lasts much longer, so it is still a challenging afternoon.
The Ozark region is known to get some rain—sometimes a lot—but this year’s race saw conditions improve as the day went on. An early morning rain gave way to temperatures up near 80 in the afternoon when riders finished The Epic ride.
That said, Daly said the rain has wreaked some havoc with the race in the past.
“Topographically, we aren’t on a grid, we ride valleys and ridges so water drains to valleys like bikes descend into them. We did have to close the course in 2017 when we had 12 inches of rain within 12 hours. That rain would have closed any course in the country!”
So far, we have talked about the 150-mile race, but on Saturday, the cash money distance was the 90-mile race. On the line for the top female and male were $1,000. The 150-mile winners took home a banjo with an engraved stand. There was also a $500 prize for the top Junior racer in the 50-mile distance.
The availability of the cash money distance and the Epic Distance created an interesting split in which event riders chose to enter. Some went for the miles, some opted for the 90-mile race.
The races both featured a QOM/KOM located near the end of each of the respective distances. “We located the 1-mile climb, aptly named By Dr. Scott Hofer, about 10 miles from the end of the 50, 90 and 150-mile races. Yes, we know what you’re thinking but it isn’t our steepest or longest hill and it’s a good place to attack! Our prize was a gold foil print the QOM and KOM with a course heat map and elevation printed on it.”
In the Women’s 90-mile race, Kae Takeshita took home another gravel win. Christina Birch took second and Barbara Mariani third. Annette Triplett and Molly Vetter-Smith rounded out the wide-angle podium.
Ted King made the Missouri journey from Vermont and took home the Men’s 90-mile win. Brandon Melott took second and Scott Moninger finished third. Joseph Schmalz and Nate Kulbom rounded out the top five.
The 150-mile banjo winners were Venny Alub and Mat Stephens. Orion Child was the Junior winner in the 50-mile race.
Full results for the 90-mile Epic are below. Results for all races are also available.
Women's Results: 2019 The Epic 90-Mile
Men's Results: 2019 The Epic 90-Mile
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