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Jan 18, 2023

This week we sit down with Bruce Dunn of All Sports Productions. Bruce is the event organizer of the Highlands Gravel Classic, the only UCI World Gravel Championship Qualifier in the United States for 2023 in Fayetteville, AR. 

Highland Gravel Classic 

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Automated Transcription, please excuse the typos:

[00:00:00] Craig Dalton: Hello, and welcome to the gravel ride podcast, where we go deep on the sport of gravel cycling through in-depth interviews with product designers, event organizers and athletes. Who are pioneering the sport

I'm your host, Craig Dalton, a lifelong cyclist who discovered gravel cycling back in 2016 and made all the mistakes you don't need to make. I approach each episode as a beginner down, unlock all the knowledge you need to become a great gravel cyclist.

This week on the broadcast. We welcome Bruce Dunn from all sports productions out of Fayetteville, Arkansas, Bruce and his company had been around the cycling production business for many decades. But recently have come into frame, putting on several gravel events in the Fayetteville area. Specifically, I invited Bruce on the show to talk about the Highlands gravel classic.

While it's well, trod territory that fant veil in Bentonville and Arkansas in general have great gravel riding opportunities. What's interesting about the Highlands gravel classic. Is that it's the only United States world qualifier for the UCI gravel worlds. They held this similar position last year, and many in the gravel community were scratching their heads about what's UCI doing in gravel. Why the hell are they putting the world championships?

Over in Italy. But one thing's for sure. The UCI world gravel championships offer opportunity. Not only for the professional athletes we follow. But also for age group athletes. And that was a super interesting part of the discussion was Bruce. It was just as an age group athlete. What does it look like? What's the experience for going to a world championships?

And why should it be on your radar? I found the conversation. Super interesting. . I think it's worth exploring and having a conversation about this there's room for all styles of racing. In gravel?

So I'm hopeful will come out of this conversation, understanding a little bit more about the Highlands, gravel classic, and what kind of experience you can have that day, but also what that journey looks like to the UCI world gravel championships and what that might mean for you as an age group athlete.

In addition to what the professional athletes might experience this year. Would that said let's jump right into my conversation with bruce

Bruce, welcome to the show. Oh, it's great to

[00:02:27] Bruce Dunn: be here and thanks for

[00:02:27] Craig Dalton: having me. Yeah, I'm excited to have this conversation about the Highlands Gravel Classic, but we always like to start off by getting a little bit about your background, and I think it's so interesting. Why don't you let us know sort of where you're located in the US and then we have to jump in and talk about just your your company and the productions you've been doing for the last couple decades.

So let's dive right.

[00:02:51] Bruce Dunn: Yeah. Thank you. I appreciate that. Yeah, all sports productions, uh, we just celebrated 20 years and at the end of 2022, uh, started in the road scene. Joe Martin, stage race, uh, it's actually the oldest, uh, road stage race in the country, uh, 45 years last year. So some big enterprise countries and and so yeah, we do, we promote triathlons, running events, uh, gravel events, grand Fondo road rides.

and we're, we're a little all over the place. Cycling certainly is personally at my heart. I've been on a bike most of my life. It's been really unique ride, no pun intended. And we're excited about 2023, getting on the back, getting on this side of the pandemic. . And seeing again what we're talking about today where the Highlands Gravel Classic takes us, which, you know, I, I think is a kind of a new, uh, a new statement in the gravel world.

[00:03:46] Craig Dalton: I thought you, you told me an interesting story offline about the Joe Martin stage race and really how you got into production. Do you wanna kind of relay, cause I think it just underscores kind of your passion to just roll up your sleeves and get out there and do something for the. Yeah.

[00:03:59] Bruce Dunn: I had a great job at the University of Arkansas doing fundraising raising millions of dollars for one of the colleges, and it was a, and it was an amazing couple years there.

But I've, I've always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I, I self-employed before that, and I'd been promoting the Joe Martin stage race as president of one of the local cycling teams and. Anyway, flew out to U S A cycling, uh, I'm not sure I even scheduled an appointment. I just flew out and said I wanna put the Joe Martin on the national race calendar.

I believe they said, where's Arkansas? By the way, you asked where I am of where In Fayetteville, Arkansas. And and thankfully they, they took my $75, which I think that's what it cost back then to be on the calendar. And you know, we celebrate 20 years.

[00:04:46] Craig Dalton: That's amazing. Amazing. And then, and across that journey, obviously you've, you've mentioned that you've picked up multiple sports.

What has kind of that journey been like and what sports have you added on along the way? And are there any other, uh, events that you're super proud of that you would name drop in each of those categories?

[00:05:03] Bruce Dunn: Yeah, well, Ozark Valley Triathlon was my first, uh, other event that year. And I had done triathlons with my wife who was a, been a longtime triathlete.

And, and we actually met on the bike during the, the as members of the cycling team, but, triathlon is near and dear to my heart just because of the uniqueness of the sport. But you know, why be mediocre with ? Why be good at one when you can be mediocre? Three is what I like to say in triathlon . Now, my triathletes may get a little upset with me, but that, you know, that those are valley, it'll celebrate, it's celebrated 20 years.

So that was one that it's still around. And we have the national championships, by the way, in gravel triathlon. And mountain bike triathlon for U S A triathlon. So that event has grown to the point that we got, uh, we were able to secure the national championships for those two disciplines. Gravel triathlon, first year, last year were in national championship.

[00:06:02] Craig Dalton: Yeah, it's, you know, event production's such a, such a challenging logistical operation. There's so much equipment needed and so much knowledge that you've learned across, along the way. You know, as someone who's put on very, very tiny events, it was pretty clear right from the get-go that to scale any of these things, the complexity involved just to get permits or make sure everybody's safe.

They're, they're pretty huge. What, what was it like, kind of that learning curve to figure all that stuff?

[00:06:33] Bruce Dunn: You know, it's interesting you say that. I've probably been doing events all my life. I just didn't realize it. I'd always volunteered to be on some committee. I, I loved being part of events. If I'd go to event, I was looking at the details and not the show, if you will, but the early days were much, were much different back then than they are today.

And so, uh, but what I didn't know, I didn't. Until I had to literally go through it and I probably didn't understand event production until probably 10 plus years into the, into it. Tom Spiegel, you know, big Bear Productions he, he, he made a comment that I don't think people understand until they're, you know, 15 to 20 years into race production.

And I would agree it's, there's a lot going on. It really.

[00:07:21] Craig Dalton: Yeah, for sure, for sure. I'm curious, along the way, being in Fayetteville, just as, as a personal cyclist, were you riding off road all this time or was, did you start out on the road? Where were your passions lying?

[00:07:34] Bruce Dunn: Roadie, a hundred percent . I had a c lacrosse bike and I had a mountain bike to do adventure racing, but I was pretty much all road.

In fact, I didn't understand people that liked to get dirty on their mountain, on their mountain bikes. But you know, something definitely changed a few years ago in the trail systems. , know, they lowered the barriers to entry and and in the northwest Arkansas especially, it is a v it was very technical 20 years ago, even 10 years ago.

And so, uh, that's one of the really interesting changes is that you know, mountain biking's become a much more inclusive sport. It's, it's that green, blue, black. Way of building trails today and it's certainly helped me. Uh, my, my roadie mountain bike. Friends would just laugh, laugh at me cuz it's like, oh my God, you're gonna kill yourself on the mountain bike.

And then, you know, I told you the story about gravel that I grew up in a really small town and I hated gravel roads, . So we're now talking about the Highlands Gravel Classic. I love that. .

[00:08:35] Craig Dalton: I love it. Well, your reasoning back then was that it was destroying everybody's cars and it was a pain in the ass to drive on.

So I think we could separate that from the sport of gravel cycling.

[00:08:45] Bruce Dunn: Abso, I mean, you know, it's fun now. I love gravel and and it's fun just to go out. It was like it was 20, 25 years ago. Here in Fayetteville, we have one of the most road friendly areas, and we have, even with the population that's grown, our road system is really good.

The pro, the pro road cycling Peloton tells us. Good it is to ride here. But it's become busier and so now I can go back to what I used to do 20 plus years ago on my gravel bike and just go out on my own and, you know, shut the world out. It's fun.

[00:09:18] Craig Dalton: Yeah. It's such, such a, such a great region from my limited experience there visiting Bentonville.

Yep. The other thing I wanted to come back to, just because I think it's gonna be germane to later parts of this conversation. You know, you mentioned your entire career in event, event production, you've been interacting with the governing bodies of cycling. Can you just talk about sort of the, maybe some of the requirements that putting on these races that are sanctioned, uh, puts forth for you?

[00:09:46] Bruce Dunn: Yeah. You know, I've I've served on you know, pro road sport committees or the race director committee at USA Triathlon and, and I was kind of surprised that What was required of someone to put on a. And the barriers that, or the hoops or the bar you would have to step over seemed very low, in my opinion, given the complexity or the danger of doing an event.

And I've always been a big advocate for a. Professional development. But to be fair, this is what I do for a living. But I also believe no matter if you're doing it part-time or full-time, you need to have a level of expectation, safety, uh, protocols in place. And so for me, whatever. Whatever permitting or whatever requirements in the sanctioning process, I, I just felt that was a good professional development.

It was a good checklist to make me a better promoter. And so I've I've been one that, I've been pretty, you know, I've been pretty vocal about we need those checks and balances in place. . Let's be real clear. I can get very upset if my costs rise one penny . But but the, you know, going through those checks and balances I think is very important for any promoter no matter what the, uh, what type of event you're promoting.

[00:11:08] Craig Dalton: When did gravel cycling events start to come into view for you?

[00:11:13] Bruce Dunn: You know, that's very interesting. Some I had, I had some really good friends that I'd bike racers. They had done a little bit of promotion. You've got to get into gravel, you've got to get into gravel. And I'm hearing this probably 2014 maybe.

And, and when Unbound, those first three or four years, it was just red Clay. and people from northwest Arkansas were coming back going, I had to quit after 30 miles cuz I'd been pushing my bike who, uh, weighed 30, uh, 40 pounds I couldn't go anymore. And I'm thinking that didn't sound fun at all. . So I, that was my, that was my kind of experience.

Besides what we would do locally is we would get on a mountain bike and ride on a Forest Service Road, but I didn't consider that, but I'm, I'm starting to hear this, but immediately I kind of tuned it out because of that just one experience I kept hearing, and it happened two or three years in a row.

But then some more events started happening, obviously, and the bigger and bigger became And so, you know, BS on the radar, but then again you hear, eh, it's more roady oriented. It's just some rough pavement. Rouge Rebe was my first experience and I'd say a gravel event, but we were all roadies going down to, you know, Louisiana and you'd get on some rough pavement.

But certainly everybody was on a road bike back then. , but I, I kept resisting it. I just couldn't find the new reason to have another event. And and so yeah, 2 15, 2 20 16, that's when it really started to register.

[00:12:50] Craig Dalton: I think you mentioned you, you put a little bit of a dirt section into a Grand Fondo in 2016.

Mm-hmm. , but your first kind of standalone gravel event wasn't until 2018.

[00:12:59] Bruce Dunn: Yes, exactly. And it was a one mile single track at the end. ,

[00:13:06] Craig Dalton: just to make the roadies a little bit nervous before they got there. After, after event beer.

[00:13:11] Bruce Dunn: Yes, exactly. We I mean, I mean, most people, about half the group walked it.

I mean they could, it was, it was a true single track mountain bike trail that was rough. And I thought, you know, here's something unique, right? And I don't know. It may have been too much .

[00:13:27] Craig Dalton: Firstly, Bruce, I like it. I think a little adversity. That's, that's, you remember that you're gonna tell stories for years about that Grand Fondo you did on your road bike that had single track at the.


[00:13:37] Bruce Dunn: exactly. . Exactly right. I love it.

[00:13:40] Craig Dalton: Well, let's fast forward a little bit to the Highlands Gravel Classic, I think. Started in 2022. Yeah. And made a name for itself because it was a U c i Gravel World's Series qualifier. In fact, the only one in the United States. Yes. Si signing up for that. At that moment in time in 2022, you must have known you were, we would take a bunch of heat from the, just the gravel cycling community.

Just talk about the process of, you know, how you got involved why you thought that you were excited to, to bring this UCI event to the United States.

[00:14:18] Bruce Dunn: Yeah. Well, that had been my eighth year of promoting a UCI men's and women's stage. And so I'm very familiar with the uci. Spoke to U S a cycling at the World Championships in January.

They said, Bruce, we're gonna have this gravel World series that's gonna come online. We're, uh, we want to be involved, and we think, uh, you know, you're the, you've got the perfect organization to put on this, uh, gravel, uh, race. And, and I, and I love the fact. This was something new because you know, the, as you well know, the gravel calendar is very, very busy.

And I thought, if you're gonna have something that's going to say something new in the marketplace and you wanna make a hit right away, this is probably where you need to push your chips in. And so, I was excited about it. I really was.

[00:15:12] Craig Dalton: Were there, were there specific criteria that putting on a U C I event was gonna dictate in terms of the format, the length, anything different than what you would and had been producing in other gravel events you were doing?


[00:15:28] Bruce Dunn: really. I mean, honestly, uh, one of the things that was important to me is I wanted it to be 90 plus percent gravel, and the UCI I think was 70 or 75, and I said, okay, we're gonna do something different. We're gonna go and find. 90 plus percent gravel. And so that was in the back of my mind, the, the age group classifications having different distance for a different age group.

Having a tech guide signage. Those were all things we had already been doing in the road world. Certainly they were different than our other, other gravel events, but if you come to most of our events, we're trying to always raise the bar for the production level. And so I, I think we were already at that point and so I wasn't feeling the pressure of doing something that was required of me that I hadn't been doing in some other

[00:16:17] Craig Dalton: type event.

Got it. You made mention of the different distances per categories. Mm-hmm. , can you describe like what the regulations were about that?

[00:16:29] Bruce Dunn: Yeah. So, you know, there's a, it's, uh, the minimum age is 19. So in, in the women's race it's 19 to 59 and then 60 and, I'm sorry, 19 to 49 and then 50 plus. And then the men, it's 19 to 59 and 60 plus.

And so we I think the one thing that. People were pushing for is being over a hundred miles for the long, you know, the younger, distant, uh, the younger ages. And I, I really, the more the UCI wanted to have a little bit it was gonna be a full on race. And so in that respect, I didn't, I think they didn't want it to be a s slugfest, right?

This, the last person standing. Because this is an age group qualifier, right? Top 25%. Five year age group is gonna qualify to go to the world championships. And so, the distances were pretty, you know, 50, 50 miles for the younger, I mean, the older and 70 miles for the younger groups was about the the sweet spot for that.

There were, okay. You definitely had parameters though. I mean, you, I mean, you could be a little shorter and you could definitely be longer for sure. So there was, okay, there was some definite leeway.

[00:17:42] Craig Dalton: Yeah, it's interesting to see how we're sort of blending both the European vision of gravel and the American vision of gravel and how some of those just some of those beliefs or criteria have to come into play and there's gotta be compromise along the way.

I'm, I'm not a super fan of the ultra distance. Racing mm-hmm. , because I do, I mean, I hear you like at 200 miles, like, are we really racing or is it really just a survival thing? Yeah.

[00:18:09] Bruce Dunn: Yeah. I mean, let's be real clear. I'm I don't think you are racing at those distances and, and especially if you are going to have age group qualifying, right?

I mean, if you don't have that, if you're taking some of these things off the table, then yeah, let's go all in. Let's do 200 miles and. And we know the front end's gonna race, and we know everyone else is just going to be out there and participating or racing as hard as they can. But if you truly want to compete against your age group of five years, you've got to have a, a distance that somewhat works for the top 30% of each age, in my

[00:18:49] Craig Dalton: opinion.

Yeah, it's interesting. This year I, or sorry, last year I did an event where I backed down to the sort of medium. . And honestly, it was the first race in several years that I felt like I was actually racing because I wasn't terrified. You know, is it possible for my body to get across a hundred mile race?

[00:19:09] Bruce Dunn: Oh, Vince, think about it. And gravel. I mean, you're doing a hundred miles. Unless you are really fit you're, you're probably out there just to complete it. Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, it's kind of interesting, right? You kinda look at it like, Hey, I want to compete today. Maybe I will back it.

[00:19:24] Craig Dalton: Yeah.

[00:19:25] Bruce Dunn: Yeah. I'm, by the way, Craig, I only had one person that wanted that race to be longer after they finished.

And, and, and so we, you know, I'm sure we'll get into what happened in 2022 and what we're doing for 2023, but no one wanted any further, uh, anymore. Uh, this, I promise you,

[00:19:45] Craig Dalton: it's gotta be all those, uh, Arkansas punchy climbs that add.

[00:19:49] Bruce Dunn: Yeah. Yeah. very much It did.

[00:19:53] Craig Dalton: Yeah. I don't, you know, I don't want the conversation to get lost on UCI versus non UCI racing, because at the end of the day, people are gonna come to the event.

That'll be a component of why some people show up, but at the end of the event, they're looking for a great day out there, a great gravel experience. So in any of these conversations, that's what I really wanna get outta you, Bruce. It's like for someone considering the Highlands Gravel, What kind of gravel are they getting in front of?

What does the riding experience look like? What do they need to think about for their bike when they're coming to race this event? Sure.

[00:20:26] Bruce Dunn: I mean, I think that's the oh, my light's kind of going off. I mean, h hold on. Our podcasters that are just listening in the You know, the, the gravel, it's interesting, I think I've mentioned this to you, that Fayetteville has a really unique topography in that geology in that true south of Fayetteville is one type of gravel due West is another, and the Highlands gravel.

Classics due East and Due East has some very punchy climbs, a lot more big rock as far as a base underneath the gravel. So you have, you know, this kind of topography that's really interesting, but, Generally speaking, if, if the rain and the grading and all that's done, you've got a very smooth surface out there.

Right? And so most people are you know, most people are running, uh, uh, a 42 on the front 38, quite frankly, on the back. I don't think you have to go any bigger than that if you're want to, if you're. , right. Uh, you're gonna have a much bigger, a different setup. But if you, if you're all in racing year 42, 38 is what I saw this year or in 2022.

[00:21:34] Craig Dalton: Gotcha. Yeah, that makes sense. From my experience in the region, I mean mm-hmm. , having that bigger, bigger front tire just would enable you to have more confidence when you're slamming down those, those hills.

[00:21:45] Bruce Dunn: That is the one thing. Yeah, you could absolutely run a 38 in the front, no doubt. Yeah, I just think that we had, there were some pretty technical downhills.

You probably saw that in big sugar, cuz I know exactly the, the couple of downhills you were probably on and it's like, uh, this, this is sketchy and I'm a pretty good bike handler. .

[00:22:03] Craig Dalton: Yeah, no, it was, it was super interesting in that particular event for me with, I happened to have a suspension fork on my. And have confidence descending.

So I felt totally comfortable just going as fast as I could, turn the pedals down the hill, but saw a whole bunch of people to the side of me grabbing the brakes and really taking a lot more time on that downhill.

[00:22:25] Bruce Dunn: Yeah, that was smart. That, that's a good idea. I, we had, we had people come back and start talking about that.


[00:22:31] Craig Dalton: yeah, yeah. I mean, it's always a trade off, right? You're slogging a little bit more uphill, but the confidence that can lead you on the downhills is just off the. Yep,

[00:22:40] Bruce Dunn: that's for sure. And

[00:22:42] Craig Dalton: yeah, I was gonna say the Highlands course though for next year, and presumably it's quite similar. Mm-hmm. next year, 66 miles, just under 5,000 feet of climbing for that event.

Was it similar in 22?

[00:22:54] Bruce Dunn: Yeah, uh, 22. That, that is the course we might make, we may make one change. And the one piece of feedback we got is there was no place for anyone ever to sit. I mean, and you know, you go over those courses time and time again, you ride 'em and it's like, what do you mean there's no place to sit up?

And it's like, no, you are either racing through this area or you're trying to recover, or you're going downhill or you're going up hill. But I never truly had a place where I could. And so we, we've identified a couple sections. We may want to do that. But we want to keep it with that 95% gravel cuz we believe that's such a unique, uh, element to this

[00:23:31] Craig Dalton: event.

Yeah, that's such an Arts two course design to take that feedback in. Were you also, did you have feed zones and were there any specific requirements about the feed zones for the event? We

[00:23:43] Bruce Dunn: didn't, uh, yes, we had feed zones and so we had neutral support. We didn't, we didn't do hand ups. And you know, I think that, we'll, we'll, we'll see if it, that becomes one of those.

You know, you can only have feed in a certain area. I haven't seen that come down the pike yet. But I, you know, like a lot of things, things, you know, change. You just saw what out? Unbound dropped arrow bars for the elites. Yeah. And so I think things are always changing no matter where you are.

Right. and, but the feed zones were certainly used because it was abnormally warm for this time of year. I mean in, in that, that time of year in 2022.

[00:24:22] Craig Dalton: Got it. And how did the race unfold? Did it, did it sort of, transpire in a way different than you expected or did, did the course kind of dictate? What was gonna happen?

What's your kind of play by play?

[00:24:34] Bruce Dunn: The course kicked everybody's ass. I mean, just flat beats, punched him in the nose, put 'em on the ground, drug him around a little bit, and then, you know, threw 'em in the garbage can. I've you know, I've raced with a lot of these guys before and, uh, it's kind of interesting, a lot of the roadies in, uh, the central part of this area that I used to race with 20 plus years.

Are now getting into gravel, which I never would've thought. And it's their race again. Right. And they were telling me about Bruce's, this is the toughest 66 miles I've ever done. And I'm thinking, what, and I think it was heat, it was gravel. Certainly the terrain, right? I mean, you know, it's a lot of climbing in that type of, uh, conditions.

And people were racing. They, they showed up. They wanted, they wanted their 25%, even if they didn't go to Italy. There was a lot of elements going on, Craig, that. I hadn't quite , you know, planned for. But, and then the back end people were hurting. They really were. It was, it was a tough day. It was a tough day.

[00:25:41] Craig Dalton: Did you find, like overall, just given the, the type of promotion ended up being a u c i, gravel world's qualifier, that most of the athletes coming in were intentional, like, I'm here to race, or did you still get the feeling. This is an event that is accessible to everybody and the back end is a party, and the front end is where the people are racing.

[00:26:02] Bruce Dunn: we definitely had that element. There's no doubt about it. You know, the one thing, and it, and certainly you, you can go on and look at, you know, a couple publications about the, uh, I think it was anemic attendance. It's just because we couldn't advertise because, you know, the whole reason for a Gravel World Series is for a world championship and to have the date and the location still a lot of uncertainty.

We weren't able to advertise to the larger group. We really. We just didn't want to advertise something until we knew all the facts. But of that 140 people that, you know, showed up, I mean, there were people from South Florida that were there to fully race California, Maine. I mean, it was across the country.

It was like 20. Eight states came last year. It was crazy. Yeah. But they were there, but they were there to race. And then there was the other group. They absolutely were there because of the type of event it was, knowing that they were never gonna qualify. And so, like you say, uh, it was a party for them and an experie.


[00:27:11] Craig Dalton: going into 2023, obviously the UCI has got one World Championship behind them. They're putting out an ambitious global calendar of which you're a part of, and the only. Race in the United States. I guess there's one race up in Canada, so going forward, obviously the, the kimonos open, you can market freely like you're part of this big series.

What, what kind of changes are you making in 2023? Or is it really just about getting the word out and inviting athletes who are interested in this style racing to come, come visit you?

[00:27:43] Bruce Dunn: It, it really Craig, we, we just, we wanna replicate everything we did year one. I mean, we, we felt like we knocked it out of the park as far as the venue.

We didn't, and honestly, I said at some point, you know what we're gonna put on the very best race we can. And I say that for every new event we do. , I don't care if it's a 5K run, it's you know, it's a fun run. Do the very best you can and eventually people will come. And so that, and, but you put, you hit the nail in the head.

No one knew about it, quite frankly, even with all the pu publicity, quote unquote. So that's our goal this year. Right? Tell everybody, hopefully they'll, you know, come have this experie.

[00:28:24] Craig Dalton: and I think that age group story is actually really interesting cuz a lot of times people might look at the the letters UCI before a race and think, oh, this is only intended for professional athletes.

This, unlike the Road World Championships, is a totally different beast as I understand it and I don't understand it very well. But I think isn't this similar to like the UCI Grand Fondo

[00:28:46] Bruce Dunn: series? Exactly the same, you know, that's, and then I mentioned that u s a triathlon follows that, uh, model of their age group, uh, national championships.

You qualify for the world championships. So I was familiar with that. And you're right, the the U C I Grand Fondo Road has that same model and you know, the pros are just going to add to this narrative, in my opinion. Because when you go to the event, it's a world championship for an age grouper.

If you ever had gone to one the USA Triathlon s USA Triathlon World Championships, it's a parade of nations. Yeah. You know, a 48 year old is feeling like they literally arrived at the Olympics. And I think that there's something to that for people that want to do that.

[00:29:29] Craig Dalton: Oh yeah, a hundred percent.

If, if the listener allows themselves to fantasize for a moment and you know, has the capability to get in that top 25%, the ability to go to the world championships in in Italy next year and represent your country for your age category like the spirit of gravel, notwithstanding, like that would be an amazing experience.

There's no doubt about. .

[00:29:52] Bruce Dunn: Yeah. And, and you know, I think I know my wife and I do, we sometimes on our, we're looking at vacations how can we roll in, you know, a cycling trip with that? Right? And so I think that's maybe the other extra point to this is that, you know, we like to travel and maybe we'll qualify or maybe one of us will and the other one won't, but we're still gonna do this.

And, and the bonus. Is that world championship. So I think there's a lot of different elements all the way to I know the people that went to the World Championships this year couple of 'em are local and they've already signed up and you can tell they're training for it already. .

[00:30:31] Craig Dalton: Yeah. I was gonna ask you that, like if you had any sort of sense of the people who were in that top 25% of their category, who was able to make the trip over to, to Italy and part.

[00:30:42] Bruce Dunn: Yeah, I mean, you know, of the, uh, four or five, I, again, I think it was you know, that first year was just a bit of a, you know, it was such an unknown, right? Yeah. Now I think you're gonna have quite a few more people. I mean, Craig, we already have 29 states that have signed up. And, and, and I'm thinking, and we, and, and guess here's what's crazy.

The second most represented state outside Arkansas is Florida, and they're all from South Florida. Like, you know, I'm thinking to myself, what, why are you doing this? I mean, that's great, right? I mean, I'm loving it, but you, you see that this mentality of we want to do this and we're getting out of, I mean, we're coming from South Florida and we're not coming to Fayetteville just for the hell of it.

Right? And you know, they're coming, uh, you know, they're coming to qualify. Yeah, I

[00:31:35] Craig Dalton: love it. I mean, I think it just sort of adds this just interesting element like that journey, like you're talking about, go, go over Fayetteville, try to qualify, qualify, go represent your country. Like that's gonna be an amazing journey.

Yeah. Bruce, I, I appreciate the time. Super thankful to have you on the podcast and talk about this event and wish you best of luck and can't wait to see how it goes down this.

[00:32:00] Bruce Dunn: Yeah, we're very excited. I it's, you know, we, when you have new events and you, you really don't know what the first year's gonna be, but the expectations always for us are the second year.

And our, our expectations are very high. And I'm, you know, I'm, I'm, I'm pretty excited, uh, so far, uh, by the early registrations.

[00:32:20] Craig Dalton: Yeah. Awesome. Well, I'll put out all the information in our show notes so people know how to register and get in touch with you if they have, if they have any additional questions.

[00:32:27] Bruce Dunn: Great. Craig, thank you so much for having us. Yeah. Enjoyed

[00:32:31] Craig Dalton: the conversation. Cheers. Cheers.

[00:32:33] Bruce Dunn: Bye-Bye.

[00:32:34] Craig Dalton: That's going to do it for this week's edition of the gravel ride podcast. Big, thanks to Bruce for coming on the show and talking through the Highlands. Gravel classic. And the UCI world championship qualifier. Out there in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I'll put a link in the show notes, so you can find out all the details for the Highland gravel classic.

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