Ned Gravel 2022 Race Report

“Well, I guess I’m officially a cyclist now.”

That quip, accompanied by a half-grin and a brief huff of self-effacing laughter was all DTE Pursuit Award rider Lailah could muster as we dropped her off at her apartment near Denver. Earlier that day, coming down Switzerland Trail during the race, a bad line choice sent her down hard, and while her helmet did its job and cracked clean through directly at the center of her forehead, she got a nasty welcome to Concussionland – her first, and hopefully her last. The race medical team gave her a thorough examination, and while they cleared her to leave the event, they thought it a better idea for someone else to drive her home.

Kate, another DTE rider who had her own (mis)adventure offered to drive Lailah down the canyon from Nederland to Boulder after the race, and then Starla and I rendezvoused with them, and drove Lailah back home to rest and recover under care and supervision of her roommates. Starla and I were both wondering if Lailah would be hesitant to get back on the bike after her first real spill, and on the ride home she told Starla that she was already planning to go back to Switzerland Trail. Heck yeah.

2022 Team DTE crew post-race, partially bruised, concussed, and scraped, but full of stoke

The next day, we checked in with Lailah, and after confirming she was on the mend, she said, “Ned Gravel was everything it promised to be and more! The climbs were extra spicy and the descents were just as tough. [Despite my concussion and DNF], I still had so much fun and am planning to compete in Ned again next year! Before then, I definitely plan to go back to conquer the Switzerland Trail; it’s personal now!! So proud of my teammates and the strength they exhibited during the race! See you next year, Ned!”

We also followed up with Kate the day after the event, and she gave us more details of her Ned Gravel experience. Here’s her take about tough navigation lessons in gravel and adventure events, helping a stranger with a spare tube, and receiving help from random people on (and off!) course:

Ned Gravel continued my journey of learning and challenging myself with gravel. A missed turn led me off course farther than I’d like to admit… While I rode the distance of my race, I wasn’t able to finish the [actual] course due to my mistake. I’m proud of the ride with difficult climbs and fast descents even if it was not as the race planners had intended. I learned more about my bike computer, the value of carrying extra equipment to help others, and the kindness and support of the gravel community.

This year, Ned Gravel took no prisoners. With an ever-changing course depending on what winter snow and spring melt dictate, conditions tended toward brutal this time around, with gnarly babyhead rocks, sheer cliffs, steep climbs and descents, and unusually hot weather, even at a minimum of 8,200′ elevation. Line choice was everything. At the mid-point of the race, we spoke with the folks from Tin Shed Sports running the rest stop, and they said that many of the fastest riders on the Ultra distance were coming in bloody. That said, this guy was enjoying the ride to the fullest; he was the only one to stop mid-Ultra to have a beer at Tin Shed before continuing on his way. You go, Mr. Stachio.

Eric manages Tin Shed Sports, and he and Starla go way back in the industry. Stop by Tin Shed when you’re in Ned!

DTE rider Hannah was the only one to cross the finish line unscathed this year, and we’re still wondering how she did it. Clearly, it has something to do with pre-race focus… but also grit.

“It was hot, hard, and full of ups and downs. While the riding was tough, seeing the D2E ladies and so many other friendly faces was awesome. It makes me feel like I’ve made my  own little space in the gravel community, and there are some pretty rad humans there with me! I’m still learning how to best fuel, stay cool in the summer heat, and push through hard climbs (Nederland hills are no joke) – but I met my goal of finishing under 5 hours and am pretty proud of that.”

Last up for this report, all hats off for DTE rider, Aimee. She bit off the Ultra distance race, and at 8,200-10,500′ elevation, 107 miles, with more than 12,400′ of climbing, she took third overall. Just amazing! Even with this performance, Ned didn’t let her off without a solid smash to the knee in a crash on the Mammoth Gulch descent. She quickly pulled it together, and continued on to podium. Thanks for leaving the blood on your knee for the podium photo, Aimee. Hardcore.

It pains us to not see these women in Distance to Empty kit, because they’re all achieving so much individually, and truly have embraced our mission. But hey, supply chain, Starla’s medical crisis earlier this year, and life as it comes delayed the DTE kit launch. But, that’s about to change! The DTE kit orders are all in, and Eliel is working on production as I type this. We can’t wait to have these ladies in proper DTE gear.

Lastly, THANK YOU to Ned Gravel for providing race entry to the DTE riders, and THANK YOU to the residents of little quintessential Colorado village of Nederland. Y’all are amazing.

That’s it for this report. See you at BOTH Outside Events Crooked Gravel and Foco Fondo in a couple weeks in what will almost certainly be a painful weekend for our riders. LOL? Come out to Winter Park and Fort Collins and support the racers, have a local drink and bite to eat. There’s so much to do in Winter Park and FoCo, and we can’t have this kind of fun without our local communities and their support!

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