This year marked the premiere of the M&M Gravel Grinder. There were over 100 participants across the three distances (20 for the 85K, 55 for the 120K, and 25 for the 200K) at the start. The M&M Gravel Grinder aims to be special by exploring an area that is not the typical gravel route you would expect. It’s tough and steep, but not technically challenging. The entire concept of the M&M Gravel Grinder was to keep it as social as possible, without being a real competition. All participants can receive prizes, and we wanted everyone to enjoy a full day of gravel riding, with plenty of food stations to make it easier for them to finish (or at least, make it easier).
There were games along the route (hidden Easter eggs, only one out of nine was found!), a nice village at the end, and raffles among all the participants. The plan for the future is to enhance the entire experience, improve where we fell short, and double the number of participants while maintaining a personal touch. It’s important for the organizer to know each and every one of you, and I believe it’s a nice aspect for all athletes to have that kind of relationship with the event creator. The organizer also plans to add another gravel event in Catalonia, in a different new area, but for now, no further details can be disclosed.
After completing The Traka 360 in Spain, it was clear to me that I had to participate in the first edition of this event. I hoped the two weeks of recovery time after the 360 kilometers of the Traka would be sufficient. Adding to the madness, after the Traka, I rode nearly 1.000 kilometers through Andalusia with my gravel bike.
The start was like most long-distance events, in the dark, precisely at 6 a.m. in front of the Hotel Alegrie Verde, the event’s partner in Santa Susanna on the Costa Brava. Exactly 25 participants dared to take on the long and challenging 200-kilometer route with 5,000 meters of elevation gain. The local police escorted the riders out of the city for the initial stretch. After passing under a bridge, we encountered muddy tracks adorned with huge puddles. In no time, all riders were already covered in mud.
Then came the first of two river crossings. Some riders who attempted to ride through the river fell in the deep sand, but they landed softly in the wet sand. Afterwards, we embarked on the first of eleven designated climbs with a moderate 5-6 percent gradient along a wide track. The descent was followed by a challenging singletrack trail, strewn with rough stones and overgrown bushes that left deep scratches on my arms. Then came the first longer climb with steep sections that forced me to push the bike briefly.
After the aid station in Arbucies, the toughest part of the route awaited. We ascended 700 meters on gravel tracks in succession. At some point, we faced a bumpy descent, notably on trails with rough stones. The situation became even more challenging with the onset of drizzling rain.
The next climb beckoned, but “only” with 600 meters of continuous ascent. At the top, the third aid station awaited, offering noodles, rice, and grilled chicken, providing additional energy. A short descent led us to the starting point of the third of three intense climbs. Fortunately, the initial section was paved, reaching over 1,100 meters above sea level. At a restaurant, the track veered left, and we followed a track to reach the highest point of the route at 1,280 meters. From here, there were fantastic views all the way to the Montserrat Mountains. The descent was challenging once again. In the upper section, there were many rocks, and we traversed a very rough track downwards. However, the further down we went, the better the track became. After a reservoir that had very little water due to the limited rainfall in spring, I pushed the throttle until reaching the fourth aid station. There, I encountered Miquel, with whom I rode the remaining 75 kilometers together. I was already looking forward to a more relaxed ride from this point on. However, as the track continued, there were climb after climb. A fast rider kept overtaking us on the downhills, but we caught up with him on the climbs.
Before the sixth and final aid station, we saw him standing at the side of the track with a flat tire. Here, the rule applies once again: Ride the descents safely and attentively. The risk of overlooking a sharp stone is simply too great, especially in ultra-events lasting over 10 hours, when fatigue sets in and concentration starts to wane.
After nearly 12 hours of riding, Miquel and I rode the final meters along the beach of Calella towards the finish line in Santa Susanna. We crossed the finish line together and were thrilled to have arrived safe and sound. Out of the 25 starters, only 18 crossed the line finish, which speaks to the toughness of the route. For the year 2024, the organizer dreams of a 300-kilometer route – Mamma Mia!
- Author: Timo Rokitta
- Pics: Timo Rokitta, Mandy Rodriguez, M&M Gravel Grinder
Learn more at the M&M Gravel Grinder Website