Podcast: Meet Amanda Nauman, one of gravel’s finest; professional racer & event organizer

amanda nauman gravel cycling podcast

Our partner in podcasting, The Gravel Ride Podcast, talks with one of gravel’s finest; professional racer and event organizer, Amanda Nauman. Amanda is a 2x DK200 winner and runner-up in this year’s Mid-South event. In September, health conditions dependent, Amanda and team are introducing a new gravel event, Mammoth Tuff in Mammoth Lakes, California.

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amanda nauman gravel cycling podcast

Automatic Transcription by The Gravel Ride (please excuse all errors)

Amanda, welcome to the show.

Hey, nice to see you, Craig. Yes, there, we have it.

So Amanda, we all start off the show by learning a little bit more about your background. How did you come to gravel cycling

A long roundabout way, but I can give you the short version is basically I grew up swimming and from there I was swimming in college. I started getting sick of it and then I started doing triathlons. And from there did a few collegiate bike races enjoyed bike racing, got a job in the bike industry at felt bicycles. All my coworkers raced bikes. They kind of said, Hey, you know, you should do some of this racing stuff. It’s fun. Sure enough, I was kind of good at it and that’s how cyclocross and like cross country mountain biking started. And then the next thing was all the gravel events that started coming up. And I was kind of using those events as training for cross. Cause it was a good time of the year to be doing all those longer events. And then yeah, I found success in gravel events and that’s, that’s the shorthand version.

So where you start, did you start off with a road bike? Was that your first bike when you were doing triathlons?

Yes. Yeah. Good question. But yeah, so I got a road bike first and then when I started getting good at triathlon stuff, then yeah, I got a triathlon bike after that.

And then did you get a mountain bike to kind of just dabble in off-road riding?

I think so. I, I had always had a mountain bike, which is funny because I grew up going to mammoth during the summers. And so my dad really liked mountain biking. So my definition of mountain biking growing up was like going up a chairlift and riding down. So I remember when I was, yeah, I remember when I was in college distinctly having a conversation with somebody that was like, mountain biking is so hard and I was like, no, it’s not. You just go downhill the whole time and not, not having any idea, like actually what it was all about. But yeah, my first bike, like first bike under the Christmas tree that I can remember that was actually usable, was a mountain bike and that’s how I got into it. And so when I wanted to get the road bike, my dad was riding road at the time and he was like, yeah, let’s do it. And so it was something that we could do together also.

Neat. So it’s probably, it sounds like it, those early skills kind of left you with some great bike handling relative to the overall spectrum of triathletes.

Yeah. Surprisingly, it’s something that I look back on and realize that, you know, my dad taking me to ride mountain bikes at a young age was he didn’t know he was developing all these skills I would need later. But yeah, I was lucky to, to have that

True. And as you were sort of adding disciplines to your cycling career, were you living in Southern California at the time?

Yes. Yeah. So I grew up here swam here, but I went to college in the East coast, in New Jersey. And so that was like indoor swimming, you know, dealing with winter and stuff during triathlons and all that. But I applied for a job at felt bicycles cause it was an Irvine, which is like 10 minutes away from where I lived with my parents at the time and I got the job. So after the summer before my final year at Stevens, I went and did an internship there and came back and they, they said, you know, if you finish the school year, you can have a full time job after you graduate. So that was how all that happened. So basically I lived on the East coast for five years and came back home and yeah, I’m still in pretty much the same area.

Nice. So the leap from triathlon to cyclocross is pretty huge. How did that happen? Is there a big cyclocross scene down in Southern California?

Yeah, so the triathlon stuff I was doing pretty good at, and the funny thing is like all my coworkers in the engineering department, it felt raced cross cause it was fun. Short. The Soquel scene was pretty good and there was like a local grassroots team that was sponsored by felt at the time. So I would go and watch the races first before I ever raced them. So I would go and watch them the first event that I ever went to, to like actually spectate was cross Vegas, cause I was working in her bike at the time. And so we all just went to watch it. And that was when I realized like this cyclocross thing is amazing. Cause if you think about my first introduction to like big cyclocross events was cross Vegas and I thought all of them were going to be like that and it was nuts. But yeah, so I fell in love with just watching it from there. And then, you know, I had some friends that convinced me to do it. David actually signed me up for my first race by just like telling me to show up to this event. And then he signed me up without telling me, and I just happened to have all my bike stuff cause we were gonna ride afterwards. Yeah. So my first cross race was like him just signing me up without telling me.

And as it turns out you had some running skills from your triathlon career assets.

Oh, barely. That was my worst discipline. I don’t know if you’d call those skills. I would just, you know, yeah. I can get off my bike and trot for a little bit again.

Nice. Do you remember the first gravel event that you entered that you’d consider kind of a gravel event?

Yes. It was Belgian waffle ride. I, you know, jokingly, I still consider that a road race. But that was the first style of that event that I did. Yeah. and I don’t remember if it was the second or third annual. But it was still when it was at spies headquarters. Like it still felt small. I remember like Jonathan Page and Nicole Duke were in the race. And so as a cyclocross racer, I was like, Oh, this is awesome. Like these pro cross racers are here. So then at the time it wasn’t anything more than what felt like, like a really long cyclocross race. Really.

Okay. Yeah. And you know, one of the questions I definitely wanted to ask and it may come up in the context of our discussion about mid South is as a female athlete in these mass start races. How do you kind of navigate that? Obviously, you know, you’re on the trying to be on the front end of these things, but you’re mixed in with men and women. How do you, how do you kind of navigate that as a professional woman?

Yeah, it’s definitely something that’s evolved over time. I mean, I can remember the first two years of dirty Kansas still making the front group and that was totally normal at the time. But as the, the speed of the front got faster, you know, it’s way less possible for me to be able to hang at the pace that Ted King’s cruising net, you know? So I think what happens in the women’s race is everybody just goes and hangs on for dear life. And for a lot of people, I mean that first hour is like across race, whether you’re male or female. But I think specifically on the women’s side too, it’s like, we’re trying to get in as fast as group of possible in the beginning and try to hang on with wheels as fast as you can. And yeah, I mean, even I was writing some notes down in my mid South race and like the beginning of it, we just, we were going so hard and it was so unpleasant and it’s one of those things where like, I’m going to be out here for like eight more hours after this.

Yeah. I got to imagine it’s tack the tactically really interesting for you to kind of figure out because yeah, maybe you don’t want to be on the Ted King, Peter [inaudible] pack. So killing yourself to be in that is not going to be in your best interests, but you do want it, you, you are going to finish relatively high obviously for the overall. So finding that right group to hook on with and hoping your other women competitors aren’t hooked into the same group is that is kind of a tactic I suppose, right?

Yeah, for sure. And I, it’s hard to, it’s hard to say which one is the better tactic because you think about like, Amedee, Rockwell’s start at dirty Kensal last year, she came in, you know, maybe in the top 10 to that first checkpoint and she admits to not having a good start at all and not being where she should have been. But you know, at the same time there are events where like I can say I’ve won or did really well because I did make the fastest possible group in the beginning. So it’s a trade off and I think the distance and the length of the events plays into it, you know, there’s some where you absolutely have to be as far up as you can in the beginning or else, you know, it’s almost impossible to get to the front. But yeah, I think it’s very event specific for sure.

Do you find yourself thinking about that in training to say to yourself, like I gotta be able to go full gas, but then back it off and you know, obviously make the distance.

Yeah. yeah, you cut off a little bit, but I think, you know, you were asking if it applies to training and for sure, I think there’s a lot of times where you that’s honestly, how I think about it is the first hour is like across race and then you’re just hanging on for dear life. Some of the training rides that I’ve done in the past have been like showing up to our local group ride around tears called Como street. And so I I’ll go do Como street on my road bike, which can be like a good two, a little over two hours. I’ll get back here and get on my gravel bike and then ride for another three or four hours. And that’s the best simulation I’ve figured out how to do where I’m going, as hard as I can to hang on to this group.

And then, you know, still being able to like fuel and drink enough to be able to ride for X amount of hours after that. That makes sense. Have you had occasions where you’ve made sort of made the group and maybe dropped off later in the race and you found someone else rode a wave forward and ended up bridging up to you because of the work of other athletes in the race? Like they bridged to me from behind. Yeah, because they just happened to sort of get involved with a simpatico pack. Yes. Yeah, for sure. My first mid South in 2018, 2018, yeah. 2018. I made a really good group in the beginning. I got to the checkpoint, I had to pee. So I had this like whole ordeal running to a porta potty. And so when I left, I was completely by myself and I was by myself for a while.

And this group of guys along with Chi Takeshita showed up behind me and I was like, God damn it. Like, you know, you’re going through this thought process of like, she caught me because she’s in this group and I’ve been by myself and this sucks. But I ended up having a conversation with the guys in the group and I was like asking them, you know, cause there were, her teammates were in the group as well. And I was like, if you are just going to pull her, like let me know now, cause I don’t want to play this game. The guy was like, no, I’m going to let you guys have your own race. And so he ended up attacking so that the group would split apart. And that was what happened. Like everybody ended up stringing out and we regrouped in different places and that was where I ended up dropping her.

So yeah, there’ve been quite a few instances where all get caught. You know, if you’re in a group of like five or six and somebody solo, there’s a really good chance you’re going to catch them without doing more like, less effort than the person ahead of you. So it definitely becomes a strategy tactic game for sure. Do you get the sense with your fellow women competitors that, you know, people are just like, it is what it is and sometimes it’s going to fall in my favor and sometimes it’s going to happen against me. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, especially as these events got bigger and there are more women, there are more people period. Like there’s just a lot of different variable speeds. And a lot of times like that, that just shuffles the board completely. And, and definitely, I think I’m more stressed now because in, in the early days of the gravel racing, like where you ended up in that first hour, there was a pretty good chance that was like where you were going to finish. But now with so many more people out there and a lot of different people who are similar speeds to you as well it’s easier for that duck to shuffle a bit more. So yeah. It makes it more fun I think. Yeah.

So I was excited to talk to you about your second place finish at mid South this year, I was watching the coverage and it was a bit of a bomber that the women didn’t get as much camera time as the men did in that race. But clearly like you turned yourself inside out for that performance. So I’d love to hear just kind of how it played out.

Yeah. Thanks. And it’s funny cause like I then the night before, so Thursday night the night before the expo and all that I was hanging out and Ansul Dickie was there, the guy from Vermont social who does a lot of Ted King’s videos, he does a lot of the, the wall wahoo stuff that’s coming out now. And he was part of that group that was doing the coverage of the front of the race. And he said to me, he was like, yeah. Bobby brought us on to do the coverage at the front of this race. And I was like, Oh, that’s awesome. But never, it didn’t cross my mind at all to ask him like, Oh, what about the women? It just, I had assumed that it was only going to be the men’s coverage and I’m kind of mad at myself now for even just thinking that way, you know, because I was just cutting myself short for one.

But yeah, it was kind of a bummer that had happened that way. I know they learned their lesson and they’ve already addressed that. Cause people were pissed and I saw the comments afterwards and I was like, Oh God, this is, does not look good. But I know that he’s gonna, you know, take care of it two fold next year for sure. But yeah, it was, it was a very difficult race and for a lot of reasons, I think the, some of it was like even emotional as much as it was physical. And everything was just stacked against us. I think from the beginning, like I felt guilty even starting the race. We were sitting in the car that morning and I’m texting people like, is there going to be a lightning delay? Cause it was thundering and lightning all around us.

It just felt like everything was saying this event is not happening or it shouldn’t be happening. But yeah, we got to the start line and it was crazy, you know, the usual jitters of the event and we took off. And I honestly didn’t think it was going to be as hard as it was in the beginning and we it’s pavement for a bit but not very long. And then there’s a stretch of gravel, another stretch of pavement. And then it’s pretty much gravel for a long time. And I knew that I had to stay ahead. Cause as soon as they hit that second stretch of pavement, it’s they go pretty hard. Cause there’s a little bit of a climb then it starts spreading out from there. But basically once we got into that pavement and then the next stretch of gravel, it was just full gas.

And I was looking at my power and I went, there was like 15 minutes in that section where my normalized power was two 85, which is like a climbing repeat effort for me. Like I can normally my workouts, if I do that, it’s like an eight, nine minute effort, not 15. And yeah, so like five minutes after that Hannah got away in a group that I could see, it was like, you know, you hit one little mud section wrong and all of a sudden you’re like five seconds back from where you were because you come to like the screeching halt and I can just see her riding away with this group of guys. And I knew that if I wasn’t going to get there, it, I knew it probably just wasn’t going to happen, period. Which sucks. But that’s the reality. That’s the reality of it too.

Sometimes unless I get in a group of guys or something happens to her, it’s going to be very hard for me to close that gap and then suddenly it just that whatever group she was in just got away completely. And so I was kind of in whatever third group was hanging out behind that. And yeah, once we hit that bridge that everybody has those pictures of where people had to dismount and get across it, cause there were all those boulders. There, the other girls that had been around me at that time were no longer there. And I was kind of in no man’s land knowing that I was in second cause I saw a hand and get away. And that was where I pretty much stayed for the rest of the race. Mine is going back and forth with Lauren Stevens for quite a bit of the first half actually. And then even into like miles 65 or so was when she finally, I think hit a little bit of a wall cause she had been traveling from Europe the day before. No big deal. And yeah, so yeah, she ended up fourth. I think her teammate pastor at some point in the second half and I was second.

And to set the stage just to, just to set the stage a little bit more for the listener who may not have seen the weather conditions, it was absolutely dumping, raining cats and dogs before you guys started, did it continue raining through that first half of the race or when did that stop?

It probably stopped about two hours in, so it wasn’t too bad, but it was annoying enough for those two hours that I could tell from the condition of what we were riding through. Like I wanted it starting the race to be a six hour day. And I remember two hours in, I was riding with somebody that I know and I looked to him and I was like, I think this is going to take like seven and a half, eight hours. And it that’s, that’s how long it took, it sucked, but I just knew the speeds that we were going and like how muddy it actually was and how much it was slowing our, our regular average down. It was just going to be a really long day. But I, you know, I really like how that second half of the race was almost, you know, everybody kind of ended up in one place and everybody was either going super far backwards or staying kind of in that same area.

Like Hannah was only three, a little over three minutes faster than me in the second half of the race. So had we been, had we left at the same time, it would probably would have been more of a race, you know, cause, you know, within three minutes you can probably see that, but because she had 10 minutes on me in that first half, you know, there was no way that I knew that she was going to be 12, 13 minutes up the road, so it makes it less of a race. But yeah, it was interesting how the conditions really just made it all even for everyone.

Yeah. And what, what did you, what were you riding and any specific choices you made because you knew it was going to be a slop Fest?

Yes. Good question. So the bike Niner RLT a nine RDO frame, it’s just their gravel frame, but it’s the new one this year that has all the extra mounting bolts and tire clearance specifically which I was very stoked about because last year with the older frame, I had less tire clearance in my tire choice last year in just the one stretch of mud that we had last year, brought my bike to a screeching halt and it was terrible. So this year I knew what kind of peanut butter mud I was dealing with. And because of that, I decided to bring an extra set of wheels with mud tires on it, the Panner racer, gravel King muds, which I’ve written in dry conditions before and really liked. So I know that they work well regardless of what the conditions had been. And yeah, so that was the big I guess change that I made knowing that it was going to be disgusting.

Yeah. And inevitably, I mean, obviously mud did accumulate on your bike. Did you have some techniques preplanned to try to help you shed some mud?

I bought Pam and I sprayed my down tube. I was considering spraying my wheels and I was sitting there at the front of the car hunched over with the Pam and David was like, do not spray your wheels. Cause if that gets on your rotors, you’re not stopping. And I remember I was actually thinking to myself, like, there’s this, there’s going to be some point in this race where I’m not stopping anyways because I’m not going to have brake pads anymore as it doesn’t matter. But yeah, I did. I bought Pam and sprayed me down too, but I don’t think it made that much of a difference, but that’s a little cyclocross thing there.

Yeah. I’d heard a couple of stories about that kind of stuff, which is kind of interesting. And I was also, it was interesting hearing from paisan about him choosing a slick tire saying to himself, like I’m kinda kind of hosed one way or another, so I might as well choose something that’s just gonna accumulate less mud.

Yeah, I know. But I’m to, maybe I might be the only person to critique him on that. I don’t think that was a good tire choice because it messed him up in the beginning and it ended up collecting too much. And I think had he had a little, just a little bit of knobs on it, you know, it’s able to shed in a different way than like a completely smooth surface is just continuously collecting stuff sometimes. So I know, I mean it’s pacing. He has the ability to ride whatever he puts on his bike honestly, and probably still do well. So he’s like, Oh yeah, this is great. And I’m like, yeah, but stop telling people that, cause it’s probably not great for everyone. Right. Like I honestly don’t think it is. And I don’t think people should be like, well, if paisan did it, I’m gonna ride this. Like and he can give me crap for that if he wants to. But I don’t think it’s a good all around her for everyone.

Yeah. I think we’re going to need a pan racer or IRC to do some studies on, on that before we take it to heart. Yes. Well, cool. I mean, I saw some of the pictures of you crossing the finish line and you just looked destroyed from that effort. How did you feel when you hit the finish line? Okay.

Great relieved. I mean, it was, yeah, it’s hard when you want it to be a six hour day and it ends up being an eight hour day. Like I said it’s not that hasn’t happened very often for me. Mutually in the events, you know, you have a plan a where everything’s gonna go well, and you have a plan B when it’s not in that you still plan for that. Like dirty Kanza for example, I always pack like extra clothes and, you know, brighter lights in my third checkpoint bag, knowing that something could happen, but I’ve never had to like dive into that Oh, crap stuff. And this event I had to, like, I knew it was going to take a long time. And so it takes a toll on you mentally. And it’s one of those things where looking back, knowing that Hannah had issues with like nutrition and not getting enough calories at the end, you know, if somebody had told me that when I got to the halfway that that was going to happen, like maybe I would have dug a little bit harder, who knows, you know, it’s just a lot of things that go on where it was just such a brutal day that I was like content with where I was honestly I’d hate admitting that, but it was like, I just wanted this to be over with seriously.

Yeah. I mean just keeping the pedals going in those kinds of conditions is a huge accomplishment. So yeah, I don’t blame you. It is interesting in these long races that notion, and I think, you know, anybody at your level obviously knows this it’s it’s you gotta keep going. Cause you never know what’s going to happen in gravel. People could have mechanicals or as you said, they could have just had a bad nutrition moment and all of a sudden the wheels completely fall off.

Yeah, yeah, no, for sure. And, and that is, I mean the same thing happens in cross. Anything can happen to the people in front of you. It’s just one of those things where it’s a lot more grueling, do it for an extra four hours or whatever. The one nice thing about this year’s event was it’s the same. It was pretty much the same course as the year before. And so I knew that they had like a secret, a wasteless thing around mile 80, which the year before I took maybe a shot of tequila or something, I don’t remember what it was. I wasn’t having a good race last year, so I needed to stop there. And this year I was like, I don’t care if Hannah’s a minute ahead of me, I need to stop and get a shot of something. So I stopped at this Oasis and the guy had like all these liquor bottles sitting out in front and these little plastic cups to pour into. And I was like, just give me a shot of something. He’s like, well, what I’m like, I don’t know. Just whatever. So he’s like, here’s some Jameson I’m like, okay, thanks. And yeah, right after that section, it’s like really Sandy, even when it’s wet, I don’t know how it’s still hard to describe sand section for about 20 or 30 minutes. And I knew like it was going to help me get through that.

Nice. You heard it here guys pro tip from Amanda?

Yeah. Make it fun.

That’s awesome. So, you know, pandemic aside, what would your year have looked like? Like what were your key events that you were targeting and what we’ll talk about, like how the rest of the year is gonna play out, but what was your calendar looking like?

So I would have been in Kansas last weekend for the DK camp and then I would have been at sea Otter coming up. And then I would have been spending some time in mammoth coming back for Belgian waffle ride and then pretty much getting ready for DK XL after that. And then in July I was going to go do the rift. That’s probably definitely not happening. And then August I was considering going to grab a worlds for the first time, which is kind of a bummer. And then, yeah, I had a big plan actually the beginning of September to do this event called the caldera 500, which is a really small, underground backpacking thing, but it’s in the Eastern Sierra and it starts and finishes and mammoth. So my whole goal this year was three 50, figure out how to ride 500 miles in the mountains and then, you know, get ready for mammoth tough and do that event for everyone. So, yeah, that was the original plan

When you were, I didn’t realize you were, you were doing DK XL, not just DK. Yeah. Yeah. How were you thinking, how were you thinking about that? Were you just sort of thinking, you know, you’re at the point where your, your body’s ready to kind of tackle some more ultra distance style stuff?

No, I don’t think I was physically ready for that at all. It was, it was honestly more of a mental thing when you finish five of the Kansas, you get this like grail cup thing and it’s the, the thousand mile club basically. And so David and I both finished five last year and once you finished five, it’s like, okay, now what, you know? And I think it was nice to have the option of the three 50 because the way that I look at going back in 2015, when I was thinking about doing dirty Kanza for the first time I wasn’t concerned about winning. I honestly just wanted to finish it. And I had no idea if I could do 200 miles or not. And that was the biggest appeal to me, honestly, of going to do that because David had done it the year before, and I was like, you’re nuts doing 200 miles.

Like why would anybody do that? And you know, fast forward five and a half years, and it’s the exact same thing I’m saying about the three 15, it’s a fun place to be. I’m afraid to do something new. Cause that was the whole reason why we started doing this stuff to begin with. And I think it’ll be interesting to see what happens over the next decade, if that is a natural evolution for some people or if it is the kind of distance that’s a little too daunting. But the way things are looking with, you know, increased participation in that event, I think maybe it becomes the next step for people.

Yeah. It is interesting to think about like, what is too much even like, you know, obviously DK 200 for the average athlete is that, you know, Dawn to evening kind of endeavor you know, much like an iron man distance triathlon. And once you start taking it fully overnight or over a couple of days, yeah, it does become this sort of rarefied area of athlete that is going to say, Hey, that sounds like a good idea.

Yeah. Yeah. So that’s a big commitment. And th the unique thing about it that I’ve heard people talk about, who’ve done it before is, you know, like a J Peter, very who does these ultra events and this really long distance stuff, sleep is a factor. And it’s something that is a tactic in those events, but you go to a distance like 350 miles, it’s doable in one swing, you take sleep out of the equation. And all of a sudden everybody’s dealing with like sleep deprivation instead of strategizing naps, like they would for bike packing stuff. So it is something that makes, I think that distance unique because it’s doable in 24 to 36 hours, so you can get away with not sleeping, but how does the body handle that?

Yeah, I think that’s the interesting thing. Like you, it’s really hard to simulate that and to imagine doing many of them in any one year. So I feel like you’re going to learn, you would learn a lot of tough lessons when you do it. Oh, I should have done this. Right. I could have saved myself hours if I had just made that one critical decision and it’s going to be, you know, a multiyear process of learning like these guys, you know, like J Peter Barry that you mentioned have figured out, like they know where they can push the body where they need to turn it off and just take a break in order for the bigger goal of just moving forward.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. And, you know I was talking to URI about it at DK camp last year, asking him about it and if he would ever do it again, and he said, never like, he doesn’t want to touch that thing ever again. And that’s so scary to me because it’s like, I don’t know. There’s still a lot of hard things that I’ve done where you think like, I can do that better, or I want to try it again and try to do it better. And he’s just like, I am not touching that thing again. And I’m like an emotional level. It was too much for him. That’s really fascinating. So the other big thing, yeah.

Obviously like for your fall this year is you, you guys actually started to plan your own event. Can you talk about how that came about and what are the details?

Yeah. so it probably happened, I don’t know, three years ago or so. David and I would go ride in Bishop, which is a little bit South of mammoth and there’s a bike shop there called Arrowhead cycles. And these local guys just do these gravel rides out there. And we showed up to one, we did a couple cross races with them and it was so much fun. And we realized during these rides that they have like the most amazing gravel in that long Valley caldera and all the areas surrounding mammoth. And, you know, we had done dirty Kansas traveled across the country to go to all these races and here, you know, five and a half hours North of where we lived with some of the best gravel that we had ever seen. And we were torn between, do we want to keep this a secret and leave it to us only?

Or, you know, as we started going to other events, we were like, no, we want to bring our friends here to do this and ride this area because it’s so awesome. And yeah, that’s kind of, that was the Genesis of it. It was just knowing that we had something so beautiful in what we would call her backyard. Cause we’re up in mammoth so often. And we, yeah, we wanted to share it with people. So it started with doing all these adventure Ries and we were like, okay, well what kind of route could we do? And yeah, that was how it was all birthed was basically these knuckleheads that live in Bishop that know all the great roads down there. Right.

That’s awesome. And mammoth obviously has a story tradition in the, on the mountain bike side of the sport as being just this Epic destination for a race and all the pictures you guys have posted so far leads me to believe that gravel is just awesome out there.

Yeah, yeah, it is. And it’s interesting you say that because they have historically hosted those kamikaze games for a very long time and it does have a rich history of mountain biking. And 2019 was the year they canceled it. So they canceled kamikaze games, you know, just didn’t have enough traction anymore for the mammoth and we’re not making enough money, whatever the case may be. And we strategically picked that weekend to host mammoth tough because we, it would be nice to bring enough people back up to that area that, you know, maybe the kamikaze games could come back in the future. It would, that’s like the big goal is to turn it into a nice bike festival of sorts. Again, whether that’s, you know, gravel and mountain or whatever. But it’s, it does have such a rich history in bike racing period. And so that was part of the reason why we wanted to go back there. And the nice thing about that weekend is it’s still the, the closing weekend of the bike park. So it’s the last time, you know, the chairlifts are running and you can still go ride mountain bikes if you want to. And your friends can do the gravel race if they’re dumb enough to.

So tell us the details. What’s the actual date and what does the event look like? How long is it? What does the climbing look like?

Yeah, so it’s September 19th, 2020, if we’re still allowed to be in mammoth at that time. Right now they’re, you know, obviously trying to keep visitors away from mono County. And yeah, it is a short distance of around 41 ish miles and the long distance, I just went through the route again today it’s 108 miles and it’s going to be a doozy. And yeah, I would highly suggest if you’re like concerned at all about the distance of doing 108 and eight miles at that elevation to start with the shorter one. Because if you’re questioning it at all, I would rather have you finish the event and get a taste of what it’s going to be. And that was kind of the way that we wanted to set it up anyways, to make it like a stepping stone of sorts to get into the, to be able to do 108 miles up there.

But the cool thing is also a lot of the short course is most of it’s actually going to use roads that aren’t in the long course route as well. So it’s a complete, almost a different event cause it’s going to be in a different area. And yeah, so hopefully those two options are going to be good for people. The, that weekend is also the same time they do October Fest in the village. So we’ve partnered with them to know, you know, do food and beer and all that stuff at the end. So it’s kinda nice that they have a party set up for us.

Yeah. That’s totally handy. And that the mammoth, the start lines at about 8,000 feet, is that correct?

Yes. And that’s pretty much as high as you’ll get, cause you’re going to go downhill from there and then back up to that elevation and you might match 8,000 at some point, but you’re never going to be climbing over that. So it’s not going to be anything crazy like Leadville.

Okay. That’s good to know. Cause I was thinking a couple thousand more feet of climbing at thousand feet. The lights are gonna turn off.

Yeah, no, yeah, yeah, no, I mean, it’s going to be hard though. It’s one of those, like another reason why we wanted to do this event, I go and ride up there a lot because it’s really great training because of the altitude. And it’s, it’s so funny riding up there consistently and knowing like exactly how much lower your power is than at sea level, because it’s, it’s so hard, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s pretty, it’s worth it.

Now. It’s exciting that that type of event is now on the calendar because I think like Leadville and other sort of high elevation events, they just become this interesting thing, this interesting challenge in the community, just something different to target, right? Like I know I can ride 108 miles, but can I do it at 8,000 feet of elevation?

Yeah. Yeah, for sure. And I think that’s, that’s one of the cool things that makes gravel so great period, is that everything about it and all these different events, there’s something unique at all of them, you know? And they’re like, I like to think there are, there’s like the Midwest style gravel rolling Hills. And then there’s also this like mountain gravel, which, you know, it’s funny to call it that, but there is that separate discipline. That’s completely different from a Kanza or a grovel worlds where there are sustained climbs. And that makes it a very different event than something where it’s con rollers like the whole time. Some like lost.

I’m glad you mentioned that because it’s been something that I’ve tried to tease out over the last couple of years because it, when I got into gravel and I chose like a bike that maxed out at 38 C tire, actually less 36 see tires, I was like, this is just not the right bike for me, but it dawned on me like for the things I was reading about in the Midwest, it probably was a totally suitable bike. And for me, you know, I ended up in this sort of mountain style gravel here in Marin County and I won’t shut up about six 50 B, 40 sevens and 50 tires. And I’d probably go even bigger if my current frame allowed it.

Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And, and that’s, what’s so cool about it. Like I said, like, that’s your definition of it. You have your equipment that fits that. And there are people that, you know, are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum where like their definition of a gravel of ant is doing Belgium waffle ride every year. And that’s like, you know, a road bike with 28 seat tires. So, you know, you can find anything in between.

I’m always surprised when people online will totally discount something, like take the Niner, MCR, the full suspension bike, like it does have a home unequivocally I’m prepared to say that like, that is a great bike for some writer. Whereas, you know, as you said, it may be totally unsuitable for some writers out there in their native terrain.

Yeah, exactly. And

That’s the great thing about it is that there’s something for everyone and it’s, you get to define what you want gravel to be. That’s the great thing is like it’s not road racing or crit racing where there’s a pretty good definition. You know, what to expect in those events. And gravel is like, well, you can get a little bit of this and a little bit of that. And like you can pick a small event that is 200 people, or you can pick a big event that has got 5,000 like and anything in between. So I like that it’s up to you to define what you want it to be. Yeah. And then the other thing is like the personality of the bike can change with just the simple change of tire.

Yeah, yeah. For sure. I was just talking to somebody. Yeah,

Yeah. Go ahead Amanda.

Oh, so I was just talking to somebody about you know, what’s the, the, the easiest thing I can do to make like a gravel ride comfortable. And I said like tubeless tires and like wider tires and that’s it. And it’s so true how it’s something very small and minuscule, but if you take the time to figure out right tire pressures and good sealant and all that stuff, it could make a world of difference and make the ride quality completely different. And like a lot of these bikes with the same, to be quite honest and, you know, but the difference between having 60 PSI and knowing that you can get away with 23 PSI in a specific tire and make it super cushy, that’s a huge difference. And it’s going to be the difference between rattling your brains out and like having a nice, smooth ride

Totally. And having, just getting that skill set. I think of being able to change a tubeless tire is important as gravel cyclists, because you can really maximize your enjoyment. Like I, I have some sort of semi slick tires that I put on the bikes specifically to explore further routes that are, are gonna involve more road riding. And like, I, I would not take that route with my knobby tires just because I’m like, why would I do that? But once I put a semi slick on all of a sudden, I’m like, cool, I can ride 20 miles on a road and explore some gravel that I’ve never seen before.

Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. And in that, in that same vein I started working with Rene Herse this year and on their tires and that’s opened my eyes in like what’s possible with a really fat wide you think is a slow tire and it ends up being super fast and awesome. And being able to like change tire pressures on a ride, you know, if you know, you’re gonna have to be on the road for an hour, you know, you can pump it up a little bit and then as you get to dirt, take some out. But yeah, it’s been fun. I’ve had the privilege of not having a tire sponsor for all the years that I’ve been doing gravel stuff and I’ve had the ability to just test whatever and ride a lot. I love there’s like certain that I’ll ride for certain events because I know that they have tires that fit that.

And then, you know, I don’t have like a deal per se with a Renee her’s tires this year, but, you know, they’re giving me the opportunity to test a bunch of their stuff and find out what I like in that line. And it’s been fun cause I, you know, as a cyclocross nerd tire choice and pressure and all that stuff is huge in that discipline. And it’s been a lot of fun to carry that over into gravel because you go from like four or five different tread options to like 400 different tread options. So yeah, yeah.

Right on, well, as we close the podcast section of this conversation, is there any advice you’d give up and coming women athletes who are looking to gravel as kind of an opportunity in the cycling space?

Oh yeah. That’s a good question. I think the, the biggest piece of advice I have is like, don’t be afraid to just try something new. I, I was lucky enough to have a lot of friends that wanted to go do these crazy adventure rides with me. And I think that that’s a big barrier to entry for a lot of women is feeling uncomfortable to go do it themselves. But what I’ve found is that there are a lot of like really inclusive, welcoming people in the community that even if you go do one of them by yourself and you’re afraid to go do it, I promise you’ll make a friend when you’re out there riding. And that’s, I think my favorite part about doing these events is like, I’ll go in it knowing six or seven people, my teammates, you know, guys that I want to ride with. And I ended up finishing the event with a bunch of other friends because, you know, stuff happens out there and you end up with people that are riding similar strength to you. And that’s the best part it’s like walking away at the finish and you’re like, Oh, I’m going to find you on Strava. Or like, okay. Yeah, here’s my Instagram. And you make new friends. And I think that’s, that’s the best part, but it is scary to jump in and commit to it. So that’s my, my biggest thing is just try it.

Yeah. I think that’s great advice, Amanda. And I think that’s a good place to end the podcast section. So thanks for coming on to report the record the podcast this week. And we had Amanda, we had one more, we had one more question that came over Instagram about the Michigan coast to coast. And just, I think just generally getting your feelings on that race

About it, like should do it. Yes. Yeah. So I did, I’ve done the past two years when it including the inaugural year and that started because Matt Aker came up to me after mid South in 2018 and he was like, Hey, I’m doing this crazy 200 mile race in Michigan. And all I was thinking of was like, I dunno if I can do another 200 miles in the same year as you know, doing 200 for dirty Kanza, but they convinced me to go. And the, I knew mento Dijon was going to go and at the time he was writing for cliff and also writing for Niner. So I think we both were like, okay, let’s just go do it and see what happens. And it ended up being awesome. It’s this point to point race. And do you normally the like closer to the end of June?

So you have like three or four weeks after dirty Kanza to get ready for it. I tell people if you don’t get into dirty Kanza, you should do Michigan coast to coast because it’s a good backup plan. You know, if you don’t get in the lottery for decay. And it’s a super fun, I like it. The, the fact that it’s a point to point is a pro and a con the pro is that it’s awesome to never have to see the same thing twice. And then the con is logistically it’s kind of hard to plan for because you’re, you gotta get your car to one end, you know, or whatever your transportation is. But there’s a lot of people that will do the relay. So your, your partner does the first hundred and then, you know, you switch and somebody does the second hundred, which is pretty cool. Okay.

And do they have, do they have like a bus or something that will bring you back if you have to get back to your car?

Yeah. There’s I think the service that they do is you, you park your car at the end and then they like take you that morning or something. I don’t remember. Yeah. Yeah. But it’s a lot of fun. It’s definitely unique. The psycho crossers out there will enjoy it. Cause there’s a ton of sand. So I know like a few people that did the event that weren’t expecting that weren’t very happy about it. Cause like you have to know how to ride sand and or else it sucks.

Oh man. I’m, I’m all for it in events to throw different skillsets at you. Cause I think I want to see that, like I want to see the winner having good power on sort of flat, you know, the gravelly Rowley roads, but also have the technical skills to handle rock gardens and sand, sand pits, everything.

Yeah. Yeah. For sure. I mean, and that’s, you know, not to throw too much shade, but that was why I was really excited to see how Stetten his year was going to go. Cause he’s such a roadie that like how how’s he gonna, you know, bike handle at some of these events?

Yeah. I mean, clearly like anybody who’s spent as much time on the bike to become a pro roadie, like they’re going to have the handling skills, but I did notice like, you know, you were too busy racing, but I was watching that coverage of mid South. And when, when it got gunked up on the bike and he’s like, man handling his derailer, I couldn’t help. But think like here’s the disaster waiting to happen. Whereas, yeah. Whereas Payson’s like dipping his bike and, you know, shedding the mud and very carefully shifting gears knowing that like, if they’ve all falls apart, it’s on him. So I thought that was fascinating. And I’m kind of with you, I don’t want to throw shade, but I was kinda like, yeah, like you have to have experience in the dirt and grit and mud. I want, I want you to have to have that to win these races.

Yeah. Yeah. And it’s, it’s not so much shade as it is. Like, that’s what makes this stuff interesting. Like, you know, he’s all in to try and win this stuff you’re like, but should you have really written through the mud like that? And you messed up your derailleur.

Yeah. And like looking at BWR, it’s like, you know, okay cool. Like if, if I realized that, you know, it’s going to be won and lost in the dirt, but it’s a different skill set than a full dirt race, you know, I think that’s interesting. You do see different athletes shining there. They’re not going to make them shine at some of these other gnarlier events.

Yeah. Yeah. It’s funny. Cause when I was talking to Renee Harris at the beginning of this year about doing the tires, you know, Ted King obviously rides those tires and I got her on the phone with him to talk about stuff and he’s like, yeah, you know, I rode the 30 fives at Belgian waffle ride. And his thought process was hoping that Stefano was going to have a hard time in the dirt and that the 30 fives would be an advantage for Ted. And it’s like, I love stuff like that. I love like the thinking and the thought process behind all of that.

Well, that’s definitely my jam. I’m just hoping it gets really, really technical if I’m ever going to get ahead of anybody. Yeah, exactly. Out of my way. All right, Amanda. Well, this was awesome. I appreciate you making the time to catch up with us. And it was, it was fun to see this and do this looking at you face to face.

Yeah, yeah. For sure. You, you’ve got a lot of great podcasts and you know, as somebody that was trying to put on an event for the first time this year, you have a lot of great conversations with race promoters. And it’s, you know, I want to say thank you for doing that because it’s a different side and angle of this discipline that I don’t think people talk enough about like, yeah, there’s so many great events and stuff, but the work that goes into putting on an event, like you talked to Sam and you talk to the Mount lemon, you know, gravel grinder guys, like all those stories, it all comes from a love of the places that you ride. And I think that that’s so cool. And it’s great to see all these promoters, you know, wanting to share the great roads that they know about with everybody else. And, and that’s something I think that’s so unique to, to this discipline. So it’s great to hear that side of the story and I, and I appreciate you taking the time to talk to those people, not just, you know, bike racers that are trying to go smash it on those roads.

Yeah, yeah, no, I appreciate those kind words and absolutely. I mean, I think now more than ever, we need to be showering, love and respect on event organizers. And as we’ve talked about offline, like this, fall’s going to be complicated in terms of there’s going to be so many great events. And you know, my advice to people is just put as many on your calendar as you can possibly do and kind of spread the love around between different events. Because if we’re not supporting the event, organizing community, they’re not going to be around next year. No one is, this is not generally speaking of money, making venture for anybody. It’s really coming out of a love of showcasing the great roads trails in their neck of the woods, as you said. So. Yeah, I think it’s super important.

Yeah. Yeah. So, I mean, what, what were you going to be at? Let’s say we’re allowed to start racing August. What was your August and September going to look like?

Yes, it’s a good question. So I had a little bit of a back issue over the winter, so I was kind of like personally looking towards the end of the year already. So, you know, not say the pandemic worked in my favorite cause it’s been utter hell, but yeah, I wanted to do lost and found. I wanted to do Rebecca’s private Idaho. I was thinking about the Oregon trail, gravel grinder, but worried, I might not have the time to spend a week up there, but I love what those guys have created up there. Yeah. Yeah. So those were the three that were on my mind. And then here in Marin County, we’ve got adventure revival. There’s a bunch of the grasshoppers that are awesome. So like wherever they might fit into my life, I would love to kind of add those guys in because again, the community is great.

They’re mellow. Like the Miguel, the organizers just been, he knows how to do it. Right. And it doesn’t feel overblown, but it doesn’t feel under done as well. Yeah, so those are my thoughts. I still like super excited to go to Idaho. If that works out, I’ve got a podcast coming up with Rebecca and like she was preaching to the choir whenever she says things like, Oh, I wanted to put something more mountain biking in here. I’m like, yes, because I could, I could at least thrive in one section of the course. And I love, I love being in the mountains. And you know, when I heard about mammoth tough, I had a similar type reaction. I’m like, that’s one. I definitely want to get on my longterm list because like, I just know when I’m looking around, it’s going to be, it’s going to just fill my soul with joy. And that’s, I mean, that for me, that’s what the mountains do. And those are the events that I’m generally drawn towards.

Yeah. Yeah. For sure. And I know what you mean and yeah, it’s kinda, I just wonder what’s going to happen later this year. I know that look, were you planning on being a dirty Kanza

Or no, I wasn’t going to be able to make it okay. Yeah.

Yeah. And that moving to September you know, I listened to the conversation with Jim and you know, all the weather and everything seems like it should be pretty similar to the conditions in June. But I, at the same time, like, I don’t even know how many people are going to be comfortable traveling still at that time. And that’s what makes me weary about all these events coming up. And you know, in two weeks from now, we can look back on this conversation and just laugh. Cause maybe it’s not even possible at all. But I’d like to remain hopeful, you know, that some stuff keeps happening. Oh, I do want to take a minute and remind people to freaking quit riding in groups. Do you need to go on that rent? Cause it’s still happening and I am. Yeah. I’m not happy about it. Every time I go out on the weekend specifically, I’m like, I know all of you don’t live together. This needs to stop I’m with you as well. Yeah. Instagram is throwing up a timer that says I have one 48 left. So apparently there’s a time limit on this thing. And we found it. I feel like super accomplished that we hit it. Nice. Nice. Alright cool. Well Amanda, thanks again. And we’ll talk again soon. All right. Thanks. Yeah. Thanks everyone.


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