Ride Report: IronGravel 2020
Gravel Union On
14 October 2020
On the last weekend of September, I took part in the first edition of the IronGravel event - a new gravel event run in the Alicante region in Spain. The event name shows us some of the character and the type of course the riders will have to ride through. Whenever we see the word “iron” as a prefix, it’s getting in to our mind thoughts about hardness, epicness and suffering to get to the finish line for those who succeed in completing the course! In this respect the IronGravel event is fully compliant, as it is a really epic and hard event.
There are two race flavours, which the organisation called short and long courses, but what in reality were Long and Super Long courses, the first was 110 Km long and 3100m of climbing and the Long one was 180 Km distance and 5200m of climbing. The distances and elevation were numbers to bear in mind as the fastest riders took only 6 hours to complete the course, while on the long course the lead riders took 9 hours - averaging on both around the 19 Km/h!
We might be witnessing the birth of a “must do” event in the Spanish gravel scene and maybe in the European one as it has all the required ingredients. Alicante is known as the home of many pro road cycling teams for their winter and early season training camps, mainly due to the nice weather, even in winter, combined with the terrain - full of nice and long climbs with up to 1000 meters elevation starting from sea level. Not only the pro road teams are starting their seasons in Alicante, also some pro MTB teams are coming for the early UCI races in this area in Spain and enjoy the mountains and highly technical rocky terrain.
If we think about gravel riding as a varied discipline being ridden on a super versatile bike and we add to the mix nice small mountain roads, good trails and flowing singletrack, running through a stunning landscape where we always have the sea on one side and the mountains on the others as reference, we have the perfect terrain to design a gravel course. For me the perfect gravel course is the one designed with many terrain and surface variations - you never get bored and the kilometers pass quickly, taking advantage of the adaptability of a gravel bike.
The course had very long climbs - one was 14 Kms with 1000 meters of climbing along a forest track and then some other long climbs some of them averaging 20% gradient for 1 Km. Luckily there were some fantastic long descents, some of them really fast on small forest tarmac roads, and there was even room for some single tracks - not very technical but nice enough to have some fun on our gravel bikes along. We rode through big forest and deep valleys between rocky walls and had some breathtaking views over the sea.
The organisation were very careful with the security measures - something really important on this COVID19 times, and their main focus was the riders’ security so at all times social distancing was observed and the feed stations were prepared with anti-COVID distances. The feed stations were nicely filled with a variety of fruits and snacks and water, isotonic drinks and coke. Feed stations were really important as many riders on the long course spent more than 12 hours on their bikes, so nutrition is key on this type of events.
On the arrival to the finish line back in Busot there was a medal awaiting the riders and there was also planned a party with some live music, a prize draw, BBQ etc. Due to the current COVID restrictions, the raffle was made offline and we got our presents - for me a nice pair of winter gloves.
Overall IronGravel was what we can consider the perfect one-day gravel event - perfectly organised, with an amazing course and something we should not forget, really hard and challenging. Dates are already being considered for the 2nd edition - stay tuned if you want to know what it takes to be an IronGravel finisher.
You can find the website for the event here and the route here
Text by Jorge Padrones
Images courtesy of @atilamadrona