Posted by Born North America Admin on
Gravel Racing. It's taking North America (and the world really) by storm the last few seasons. We can admit, our personal experience is based largely on the road and track here in Vancouver, but when we heard that an athlete we've been supporting in his cyclocross campaign joined a new gravel-adventure team we had to ask two time National CX Champion Michael van den Ham what's up. (aside: our photos are the last Local CX race we caught up with Michael at, he's a busy guy!)
Hi Michael, so it's been a hot minute. Last we caught up with you, you were on your way to (successfully!) defending your Canadian National CX title. Now we're hearing about a brand-new project you're involved with the Easton Overland gravel team. Want to tell us a little bit about the project and it's aspirations?
For sure! Overland is gravel, adventure, off-road team created by, as you might have guessed, the fine folks at Easton. I've obviously been close with Easton for a long time, so when they told me they wanted to put together an adventure gravel based team it was sort of a no brainer. I do a lot of high level racing and training for 'cross and I love it, but the idea with the Easton Overland is more along the lines of getting out there, adventuring, doing local events, exploring this other community based side of racing. Sure, when we're out there we'll give everything to win, but at the end of the day the success of the team isn't going to be measured along the lines of wins and losses.
So the gravel. It seems gravel racing is catching North America (and the world's) attention for fun, hard, off-traditionally-beaten path racing. What excites you about heading to these gravel races? Is it the racing and terrain itself or is the community popping up from these grass-roots feeling events got you hooked?
I think it really is just that, that ability to head off into the unknown just a little bit and spend that adventure with friends. I spend all fall doing a sport that is really oriented around repetition and trying to perfect a short technical course, so in many ways gravel is the complete opposite of that. ‘Cross is always going to be my first calling when it comes to bike racing, but I love that gravel feels like a bit more of an adventure and, in a lot of ways, represents how and why I even found riding in the first place.
You just finished up the 'seasons' first ride, the Land Run 100. How'd the race go for you? Are you treating these races as targets, or using them in your large scheme for your CX season next year? How does that all fit in together for you?
That really depends on the event. I did LandRun for no reason other than the fact that it’s a great event, run by great people and I wanted to be there. If you look at it from a fitness perspective, I really had no business being at the LR100 after only being back on the bike for two weeks before the race, but one of the best things about the gravel culture is that the racing can be fun, no matter how fit you are.
I’ll be training more seriously for events later in the summer, but I’m still not going to into anything with a set goal of what defines it as a successful race or not. To me, racing gravel is as much about taking a mental break for the rigours of ‘cross season and taking the opportunity to explore new places and meet new people as it is about the racing itself.
If you had one top highlight, on or off the bike of your experience at Land Run in Oklahoma, what is it?
Meeting the new Overland team. I had a lot of fun getting to know Matt (Lieto), Leah (Thorvilson), and Amity (Rockwell) a little more. These were all people that I sort of knew through the internet, so to be able spend a weekend with them was a complete blast.
When's the next event we can catch you at?
I’ll be at Paris to Ancaster in Ontario on April 28th! If you don’t know what that one is, P2A was a gravel race before gravel races even existed and one of the highlights of my summer season, so you should all check it out.
Want to keep up with the Peloton?
Stay up to date with our local athletes, nutrition advice and monthly product features with exclusive discounts for our Newsletter Subscribers. Sign up for the Newsletter below!Subscribe