The 2018 PELOTON Gravel Mob almost didn’t happen. After the Thomas Fire swept through our valley last December, a wicked, scree-filled, 3-mile section of single track at the top of Nordhoff Ridge called Howard Creek trail was destroyed by the ensuing rains and lack of vegetation. We knew we could get riders up the ridge, but we had to figure out a way to get them back down!
Words by Brad Roe, Images by William Tracy
We considered rerouting the course but couldn’t figure out a solid option, so we sought out local trail guru Mike Gourley and his team of volunteers and asked them to rebuild the entire 3 miles of trail. After discussing the situation with our sponsors (Easton, GU and Wahoo), they generously donated to the cause and the trail was finished a week (maybe not an entire week) before 250 riders lined up at the Mob Shop in Ojai, California. There is a sign at the trailhead now which honors the companies that helped rebuild this trail for all outdoor enthusiasts, not just the Gravel Mob band of crazy-makers who ride it once a year.
After the restoration, it was the turn of the rebels. Former triathlete Jordan Rapp raced this event in 2017 as he began to explore gravel rides, and he returned this year with new energy. He took a huge early lead coming off of the 9-mile Sulphur Mountain climb. He was followed a few minutes back by former pro motocross racer and Stinner ambassador, Brandon Baker—who caught Rapp on the north side of Nordhoff Ridge at the beginning of the restored Howard Creek single track. Baker then used his motocross skills to put time into Rapp that enabled him to take the win. The duo was followed a few minutes later by Ryan Steers and Mike Easter.
And the revelry? This year, we had the chance to check people in as they came across the line—which really isn’t a line, but a gate that leads tired riders to an assortment of La Fuente Restaurant tacos and Topa Topa Brewing Company beer at the Mob Shop. That is the best job of all. We got to see the faces and bodies of every single rider and ask them how it went, congratulate them and see the smiles and hear the stories first hand. With a dedicated group of volunteers from UC Santa Barbara Cycling, we also got to hand out the raffle tickets for the legendary raffle and the wristbands for food and beer. Every rider had a comment or a story; many were still a little shaken up by the technical aspect of Howard Creek and more than a few riders had bumps and bruises from unexpected tumbles on the way back home. The food, beer and raffle made everyone whole again.
The overwhelming narrative was all about fun. Less stress than a normal gravel event. Great size. Crazy raffle. Just enough pain and suffering to make it unforgettable, but not so much that you can’t eat tacos and drink a beer and chat afterward. It was an honor to host the Gravel Mob this year and we want to sincerely thank all the riders who made the trip to our valley to experience what we think is one of the best gravel rides on the planet. Thank you as well to the Mob Shop, partnering with us on the event and for hosting the pre-ride and after-party and for our dedicated sponsors who not only rode the event but made it all possible: Wahoo, GU, Panaracer, Easton, Salsa, Pactimo
Sign up early for next year’s PELOTON Gravel Mob, because there will be a few more surprises!