Yesterday would have been SBT GRVL, an epic one-day gravel cycling event in Steamboat Springs.
Last year a few of my friends and I took on the 100-mile distance and had an absolute blast. It was the best cycling shape I think I’ve ever been in and definitely the best I have ever felt on a bicycle. The event itself was also, without a doubt, the most organized and well-run I’ve been a part of, which is really saying something because last year was SBT GRVL’s first year.
This year I was supposed to ride the 140-mile distance with a couple friends, but as we’re all very aware, just about every major event has been cancelled this year due to COVID-19, and SBT GRVL was no exception. Instead, the race directors devised an amazing plan to have everyone ride “virtually.” They created tons of routes in major cities all over the country, giving participants the opportunity to still be part of the event but in their own hometown. Since the real SBT GRVL in Steamboat Springs offered a variety of distances ranging from about 40 miles up to 140, they gave everyone who participated virtually the same option. Creating hundreds of routes over the last few months in preparation for this virtual ride—fittingly named SBT VRTL—was no easy or small task and they pulled it off flawlessly. No surprise.
They’ve been hyping up the event over the last few months, but a couple weeks ago, the SBT GRVL community received some devastating news: Mark Satkiewicz, one of the founders and organizers of the race, passed away suddenly while out on a ride, sending shockwaves through the community. Other than meeting him briefly at a weekend training ride in Steamboat and exchanging Instagram messages, I didn’t know him personally. But I did know he was a great guy, so outgoing and amazingly passionate about the gravel cycling world, this race, and everyone who was excited to participate.
On Sunday, instead of riding for ourselves, we were encouraged to ride for Mark and honor his memory and impact on the sport. If we chose to document our virtual journey, we could use #sbtrideformark as a tribute, which I did.
Since the organizers announced the cancellation of the in-person event, I was a bit more lax on my training, so I knew 140 miles wouldn’t be in the cards for me, especially solo. Instead, I broke up 100 miles into two days and rode up to Gold Hill on both Saturday and Sunday morning. Other than the 4,000+ feet of elevation gain (twice), the only other thing I was worried about was smoke.
Over the past week, several pretty severe wildfires broke out west in the mountains of Colorado and have been blowing smoke this way. Most days it has been pretty bearable, but other days it really feels like breathing in campfire smoke. Thankfully, both days I was able to ride up to Gold Hill without too much trouble from the smoke. It made for some pretty cool clouds and mountain silhouettes, too.
This weekend definitely wasn’t the same and it certainly didn’t make up for the lack of a real SBT GRVL race, but it felt good to ride for someone else, especially when cycling and the time it takes can feel like a selfish pursuit.
On Sunday, as the weekend was winding down, I took myself and my lunch to a park nearby to just sit and be and listen and reflect on everything that’s happened in the last eight and a half months. I thought about Mark, about my family, about what the heck I’m going to do for the holidays this year, about how my birthday is in less than two months (GULP), about work, about a lot of things I think I push under the surface. It was nice.
Mostly, I said a little prayer for next year, hoping things return to normal and we all get to participate in the events we’ve been missing so much this year.
Have any of your big plans been cancelled or postponed to 2021?