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Oregon plays host to the five-day Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder stage race with Peter Stetina, Geoff Kabush, Carl Decker, Rebecca Fahringer and Alison Tetrick forming part of a stellar race field.

Unlike the recent one-day Unbound Gravel race, the Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder is a multi-stage event with a winner based on cumulative time. This is a relatively new aspect to gravel racing in the US, but more and more races are taking up this trend in 2021.

“This is the first gravel stage race. It first happened in 2019 and personally, it’s what I’m most excited about for the whole year,” Stetina told Cycling News on the eve of stage 1.

“I’ve always loved getting stuck into multi-stage events and with the whole gravel calendar that I’m doing now, I want this to be my bread and butter. There are a few other races coming to the mount this year, like with the event in Kenya, Trans Rockies, and Gravel Royal but this one has a year head start.”

The race is said to favour the mountain bikers in the field, a fact that could put a former road-pro like Stetina on the back foot, but there’s also enough climbing meters in the race for the American to make use of his best talents too. This year’s course is 563 kilometres over the five days with 9,144 metres of elevation gain.

Either way, hostilities will end at the finish line with riders camping together each time and toasting the day’s action over a cold beer or two.

“It’s five days, four nights and you basically race point-to-point and campsite to campsite. You have somewhere between 60 to 90-mile stages, mountain passes, sandy single track but also smooth gravel roads. You either have your support van at the campsite or your tent that the organizers move for you. Then there’s a big party every night. There’s a leader’s jersey and everything. I think it might be yellow.”

For Stetina, the GC angle brings a whole new dimension to gravel racing, and it’s one that he embraces, especially as a former roadie.

“The GC makes it interesting because you can’t hide like you can on the road. You can’t just wait and then pick your moment on the Queen stage. Something is going too wrong for you it’s about how you manage that.

“It will be nice to take the GC but I hope to at least tap out a stage. It’s famous for its mountain bike trails here in Bend, and its mountain bike culture. It’s more technical here. It sounds like the mountain bikers have the upper hand here, but hopefully I can use my strengths on the climbs and get ahead for the technical stuff. 

“The field is super strong and Carl [Decker] is here and it’s really his backyard. He won the last edition by taking about ten minutes on stage 1, which was basically all downhill. His entire Giant team is strong. The women’s field is really deep too with Tetrick, Fahringer, Kaysee Armstrong, Sarah Sturm, Kathy Pruitt, and Sarah Max.”

Stage 1 is Sisters to Blue River, Oregon, covering 118km with 1,950 metres of climbing on 80 per cent gravel roads.

SOURCE: CyclingNews   (go to source)
AUTHOR: Daniel Benson
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