Top Us Gravel Riders Take On A ‘Spirit Tour’ In Preparation For The 2024 Season

Gravel riding has grown massively in popularity in the United States in recent years, with more cyclists venturing off-road onto dirt and gravel paths. Some of America’s top gravel riders knew the 2024 season would be an important one, so they embarked on a ‘spirit tour’ to train and prepare.

Planning The Route

Planning The Route

Rachel, Alex, Sam, and Michael met up in Boulder, Colorado in August 2023 to begin planning their multi-week gravel route. They had large-scale gravel races like Dirty Kanza and Black Hills in mind for 2024, so wanted comprehensive training. After poring over maps for hours, they plotted a route stretching from Colorado through Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana.

The goal was to ride diverse terrain, gaining valuable experience on different types of gravel and dirt trails. They aimed to average 150-200 miles per week, with some extended multi-day sections to build endurance. Support would be minimal – they’d rely mostly on self-sufficiency and what supplies they could carry. The route was optimized to take in the beautiful scenery and cultural spots along the way for enjoyment and motivation.

Hitting The Trail

They began the spirit tour in mid-September, starting in Boulder and heading south into Utah’s high desert. The arid landscape provided non-stop views of sandstone cliffs and mesas. Cycling conditions were favorable with warm, dry weather. The terrain varied from packed gravel roads to loose and technical singletrack.

In Utah, they tackled advanced trails in Moab like the Slickrock Trail, testing handling skills on the slippery sandstone. Navigation was tricky without waymarks, and building route-finding ability. Carrying enough water was challenging in the high heat. Making it through each day reinforced their mental and physical resilience.

Rough Terrain In Arizona

Entering Arizona, the landscape became redder and rockier. Trails in Sedona and Prescott National Forest pushed the group even harder. Loose over hardpack and steep grades required deft bike control. Navigating routes in remote areas without signals sharpened their wild riding skills.

One difficult section involved a 10-mile singletrack climb up to Aubrey Cliffs, gaining 4,000 feet. Exhausted but elated at the summit views, they wild camped under the stars. The next morning a treacherous descent tested my nerve, carefully picking lines down shifting slickrock. Progress was slower than expected but the camaraderie and experiences were invaluable.

Reaching New Mexico

Reaching New Mexico

After two hard weeks, the riders rolled into New Mexico seeking easier terrain and resupply. Ghost Ranch near Abiquiu lived up to its name, with the otherworldly reds, oranges, and yellows of the high desert. More relaxed mixed terrain and campsites with facilities provided welcome recovery.

Rachel suffered a puncture in her rear cassette but the others helped replace it, boosting bike handling lessons. Straying off into side canyons led to surprises like ancient Native American petroglyphs. Such cultural discoveries added richness to the adventure and sights to remember off the bike. Feeling recharged, they tackled Lemitar Mesa and Alamosa Creek trails with renewed excitement.

Texas Trailblazing

Crossing into West Texas brought open ranch lands, mesquite thickets, and limestone geology. Navigation became simpler on jeep roads between towns, freeing mental space. One highlight was a 30-mile section along the wild Devil’s River, stopping to admire petroglyphs. With bears and mountain lions in the area, they ensured proper food storage and gear security at camp.

Several thunderstorms drenched the landscape, turning red clay tracks into calf-deep quagmires. Pushing through mud required teamwork and patience. Lodging in small towns every few days broke the monotony. Local hospitality reinvigorated tired bodies and souls, adding to memories of the Lone Star state’s charm.

Journey’s End In Louisiana

Their journey concluded in Louisiana’s Cajun country near Lafayette. Having bonded over 1,500 miles and diverse experiences, the team was tighter and more tactically skilled. Rolling green farm roads felt like a foreign world compared to the stark Southwest.

At New Iberia they treated themselves to boudin balls, Étouffée, and Abita beer, soaking up local flavor. Their final ride explored the wetlands and bayous along the Vermilion River, spotting bald eagles and alligators. A communal meal that evening celebrated the survival of the journey and how far they’d come individually and together.

Exchanges of hugs and contact details marked the tour’s culmination. Though physically exhausted, their spirits and minds had never felt sharper. Data from the trip would inform specific training plans. But most importantly, intangible skills of adaptability, resilience, and self-reliance would prove invaluable in the grandest gravel races to come in 2024.

Lessons Learned

In reviewing the tour, key takeaways emerged that would boost the group’s readiness and performances next season:

  • Developing bike handling proficiency on technical terrain through hands-on practice.
  • Exercising navigation, logistics, and problem-solving in remote settings.
  • Learning to push through adversity like illness, injury, or inclement weather with grit and team cooperation.
  • Finessing diet, hydration, and rest strategies over long multi-day sections.
  • Appreciating diverse cultures and landscapes for motivation during difficult periods.
  • Drawing on durable mental strength and resilience built through accomplishing long-term goals.

The shared experiences had forged strong bonds and given invaluable preparation for the biggest tests ahead. United by their gravel spirit, this team was primed to take on anything in 2024. Learn more cycling information “Lance Armstrong Cycling Jersey


Some of the top US gravel riders embarked on a multi-week spirit tour through Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana in preparation for the 2024 season. Rachel, Alex, Sam, and Michael plotted a route covering diverse terrain to gain experience on different gravel and increase their weekly training distances. Their journey involved technical singletrack rides, navigating remote routes without signals, and tackling steep climbs and descents. They encountered challenging conditions like punctures, thunderstorms, and mud. The riders developed their skills in areas like bike handling, navigation, resilience, and teamwork. Having bonded over 1,500 miles, the group felt mentally and physically sharpened. Lessons learned would inform specific training and boost performances at races in 2024.

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