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Jan 5, 2024

Laura Wisner joins the podcast to discuss Kowtown Gravel, a gravel cycling event that takes place in Kremmling, Colorado. She shares her background in cycling and how she found her way to gravel cycling. Laura talks about her connection to Kremmling and the beautiful gravel roads in the area. She describes the different terrains and challenges that riders can expect on the Kowtown Gravel course. Laura also discusses the spirit of the event and how it is a fundraiser for the community gym in Kremmling. She invites cyclists to come and experience the unique gravel roads and welcoming community of Kowtown Gravel.

Key Takeaways: - Kowtown Gravel is a gravel cycling event that takes place in Kremmling, Colorado. - The event offers three course lengths: the Bull (90 miles), the Cow (60 miles), and the Calf (35 miles). - The course features a mix of smooth gravel roads, chunkier sections, and climbs. - Kowtown Gravel is a fundraiser for the community gym floor in Kremmling. - The event welcomes both competitive riders and those who want to enjoy a scenic ride.

Kowtown Gravel Website

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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.

[00:00:26] Craig Dalton (host): This week on the podcast. We welcome Laura Wizner to the show to talk about cow town, gravel Cowtown gravel is a Colorado event happening on July 6th, 2024 in Kremmling, Colorado. Kremmling as a town you might've been through on your way to Steamboat Springs, but it's a town. The race organizers want you to remember as the gravel is fantastic as are the views. Laura's come on to talk to us about all you can expect from Cowtown, gravel, and an interesting story about how she became familiar with crumbling in the first place. I hope you enjoy this episode.

Before we jump in, I did need to thank this week. Sponsor, dynamic cyclist. Dynamic cyclist has been producing, cycling, specific stretching and strengthening routines for many years. Now. They've got a vast library of content, both focused on you as a general cyclist, but also many different programs based on specific areas of weakness. It's during this period every year in the winter that I start thinking about how limiting my personal low back problems have made my cycling.

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Use the coupon code, the gravel ride, or follow the link in the show notes to get directly over there. With that business behind us, let's jump right into my conversation with Laura.

[00:03:01] Craig Dalton: Laura, welcome to the show.

[00:03:02] Laura Wisner: I'm so glad that you have me here. Thank you.

[00:03:05] Craig Dalton: Where are you sitting today?

[00:03:07] Laura Wisner: I am based in Boulder,

[00:03:08] Craig Dalton: Colorado. Okay, and I'm excited to get you on to talk about Cowtown Gravel, which is not in Boulder, Colorado. So why don't you just set the stage by telling us where Cowtown Gravel takes place, and why don't you drop the, the month it takes place as well.

[00:03:24] Laura Wisner: Okay, so Cowtown Gravel is in Kremling, Colorado. Um, it's going to take place for the second time on July 6, 2024. And Kremling, for those who have been to Steamboat, if you are coming from the Front Range Denver area, and you get a high 70, you go, um, north, we are the crook in the road in between Silverthorne and Steamboat Springs.

Um, so Kremling is that, that little town that everybody has to go through, but may not have ever stopped there.

[00:04:02] Craig Dalton: Yeah, I think as we discovered offline on my way to steamboat gravel, I definitely went through Kremling. I lived in Boulder, and if you had asked me to point to it on a map prior to this conversation, I wouldn't have been able to do it.

But it's clear from my driving through that area, it's absolutely a beautiful part of the state. So we'll get into why and how the event got started. But first, let's just learn a little bit more about you and how you found your way to cycling and gravel cycling specifically.

[00:04:31] Laura Wisner: Yeah, well, I mean, old, old school is Anybody who grew up in upper Midwest gravel road when they were kids, because not all roads were, um, paved back then.

So, I mean, I started as a kid, just getting on my bike when you're up at our, um, vacation cottage and just take off for hours and hours on a gravel road, you know, no cell phones, parents have no idea where I was, um, no helmet, probably riding in cutoff jeans or something like that. But, um, you know, those are the, the good old days and then as I became an adult and got into, um, riding proper, uh, you know, got into road riding, mountain biking, cyclocross, and, um, the blessing of living in Boulder County is that we have these amazing gravel roads and, you know, people ask, well, why are you riding gravel?

And I liken it to, if you live along one of the coasts, You learn to surf because it's right there and you should take advantage of it. So living here in Boulder County, it's crazy not to have a gravel bike or at least, you know, change out your wheels so you can get on our back roads and just go for miles and miles and hours and hours.


[00:05:50] Craig Dalton: yeah, I'm thinking back to which probably my first quote unquote gravel event was Boulder Rue Bay. In the early 90s when I lived in Boulder, and I certainly rode that on 23 C road tires. There's no doubt about it in my mind. Yeah, and

[00:06:07] Laura Wisner: with my, my cycling friends and club, you know, we would, you know, even 10 years ago, we, a lot of us were just riding on gravel roads with, you know, road tires, um, and that was okay because they're, they're so smooth around here.

And if you got a little chunky, well, I hope you're by handling slower. Up to the challenge, but, you know, this, uh, gravel revolution happened and all of a sudden you have all these options, um, not only in tires, but all of a sudden frames and, you know, it just became this. Um, the celebration of all things gravel.

And so now it's just another bike in your quiver. Um, so yeah, we did that too.

[00:06:54] Craig Dalton: As gravel started to become popularized and specific bikes started to arrive. Were you someone who found your way to gravel events outside of Boulder County? Yeah, you know,

[00:07:05] Laura Wisner: I did the very first, um, seaboat gravel. Um, did that for a couple of years and at that point I was racing cross and so what I would do is use my cross bike and just switch out.

Um, the wheels, but, you know, the one by there's some pretty good grades around here. If you head up the mountains straight from Boulder, um, you can go up to Gold Hill or Ward. Um, it's a little hard on a 1 by, you know, that's a pretty good workout in and of itself. And geometry is not quite right, so it.

Became a love of mine to the point where, okay. I'm going all in, I'm buying the frame, you know, the specific. Um, gravel bike and got rid of the road frame and. And then got rid of the cross bike and gravel is pretty much it at this

[00:08:00] Craig Dalton: point. Nice. And so let's talk about your connection to Kremling, Colorado, and how you became familiar with the area in the first place.

[00:08:10] Laura Wisner: Yeah. So Kremling, other being the, other than being the, uh, the bend in the road as you go up the steamboat, it's the, uh, West Grams County area. So people know Winter Park. Winter Park is. East Grand, Kremling is West Grand, and so I've been in Grand County quite a bit, skiing and cycling and things like that, but my husband has a family practice position, and for five years, he was Kremling's town doc, and so we kept our family home base here in Boulder, and he would go up to Kremling midweek, and it's a small community, it's predominantly a ranching community, And he got to know the people and, um, I got to slowly know more of the people and when I would go up to visit him midweek.

We would go for gravel rides, and I was just blown away by roads that I didn't know existed. Um, the quality of the gravel was incredible. Um, and I had ridden, you know, boulder roads, I had ridden around steamboats. Um, and, and crumbling is just unsurpassed as far as the quality of its gravel. And the roads that we rode for three hours, and I think one truck passed us.

Um, so, um, being part of Cowtown Gravel is just my way of giving back to that community and being able to lend my excitement for what the area has to offer to other folks who love gravel as much as I do.

[00:09:51] Craig Dalton: I've gotten many questions about Cowtown Gravel, but I have to take us on a quick detour because I'm curious.

I had recently, I'm curious about becoming the town doctor for a community. Is that was your husband sort of offered employment at the city or county level to come and be a physician for that community? And my only point of reference is watching Doc Hollywood recently with my 9 year old son,

[00:10:20] Laura Wisner: my husband was a position on the front range for a while and part of the, the bigger system that sometimes is kind of beholden to insurance companies. And he just wanted something different. Um, and in Boulder, a little bit of his frustration was continually patting people on the back thing. You're healthy as a horse, you know, continue that marathon training or, you know, climbing or whatever you're doing.

Um, if you wanted something a little bit more challenging, and when you go to a rural community, you get to see a lot more. Um, Kremlin does have an incredible, uh, health system up there. They were the first in Colorado to have a trauma one emergency room, uh, decades ago. And, um, they're, they're top notch, uh, health care up there, but it's hard to find doctors in rural areas.

So, um, he, he, his attention was called to this position and he went up there and thought, you know, what? I want to do this, um, and truly the only reason that he came back. To the front range, uh, after five years is because we have a, a kid who's finishing up high school and he wanted to be present for that last year.

So, so he made the change, but there is a part of both his and my heart that is still in K Town.

[00:11:49] Craig Dalton: Yeah, you had mentioned, obviously part of his journey was getting to know members of the community and de facto with your visits there, you started to get to know. some of the community members and as avid cyclists exploring.

It sounds like you found other gravel cyclists who are based out of Cowtown. Can you talk about some of those characters you met? Oh

[00:12:10] Laura Wisner: yeah, and, and the biggest character of all is Sean Scholl, who is a co race promoter with, uh, along with Blaine Day. And Sean is Big Shooter of Big Shooter Coffee. And he is this incredibly loud, large character who is just incredible and so full of fun and has a lot of energy.

And he, he was a world class athlete. And I would even say still is. Um, so he lives up there and he and Blaine are cycling buddies. And they wanted to create an event. Up in Kremling, welcome the world, come and check it out, check out the back roads. And when I heard through the grapevine that they were going to have this gravel race, I reached out to them and I said, I'm in, I want to help, what can I do?

My background is in marketing and so I was able to lend that to them. The organization and so the, the really incredible thing about Blaine and Sean is that they're not trying to create an event that is just, you know, really easy. Come on up and, you know, we'll show you our background roads and we'll just have a great day.

They surprised people in our first year with how hot it was. So, the Kremlin gravel, uh, we call it untapped and untamed, which is when you drive into Kremlin, that's the sign as you come into town, welcome to Kremlin, untapped and untamed. And we decided to put that as our gravel moniker. Um, there are roads that you couldn't even tell that's gravel because it almost feels paved.

Um, and then you can go a little further in and, you know, get a little bit chunkier, um, a little bit rowdier. Um, and and what these guys are doing is they are creating an experience for, um, all 3 of our porcelain that people are just blown away by. Um, they're blown away by the climbing. They're blown away by, um, sections.

Of roads or trails that they didn't even know existed. So we had such good feedback last year that the team had scientists went back to the drawing board. That my ride this year and made it even rowdier. So, really excited to have those people who joined us last year. Come and see what we have in store this year.

[00:14:50] Craig Dalton: Yeah, that sounds amazing. So I want to talk a little bit about the gravel. I mean, obviously, if you go a little further up the road, an hour to steamboat, they talk about champagne gravel. You've been describing it a little bit, but it sounds like the team at Cowtown is trying to make sure that both our climbing legs, as well as our technical skills are explored.

So what type, you know, if you think about through the course of the, the longer course, Think about the types of terrain and describe some of the different areas, whether it's single track, double track or dirt road that you might find yourself on.

[00:15:23] Laura Wisner: Yeah. So, um, right now on calicongravel. com, we have the maps available to folks with the one caveat is that these might change because we're working with the Bureau of Land Management and the PLM.

Um, Bill are going to tell us yes or no on some sections. So we put the scenario on that has more paved segments than non paved. I should say. All of our 3 races are predominantly gravel. If the BLM will give us permission, we're going to take off more paved sections and add more gravel for unpaved. So, um, our longest course is called the bull.

It's 90 miles and it has 8, 000 feet of climbing. So, as it stands right now, worst case scenario, 76 percent unpaid, which is pretty incredible in and of itself. So, uh, we start right outside of town square. Um, we're going to start the high school, all downtown Kremling. Um, and we're going to start going northeast and if we're starting with paves, it's going to be a pretty fast start.

There will be a peloton and, and, um, some people can hang on for dear life and some are just going to, you know, hard charge from the start. From there, we get to a really smooth gravel. It's very similar to Of pavement and you will hardly even tell that it's it's gravel. Um, and it's just a hard pack. It's beautiful.

And from there, we go to what we call the whoopie moves and, um, just rolling, um, up and down and that is probably 1 of our chunkier sections, um, you know, a little bit looser, a little bit larger, uh, rock section, but It is something that anybody with, you know, halfway decent bike handling skills is going to be able to accomplish, um, and they're fun.

And so we go from there back to a nice hard pack gravel. Um, something that is new this year is we're going up Black Mountain, um, which is about a 1600 foot climb. And both the bull long course and the cow mid length course will go up Black Mountain. Um, and at the top they're going to go down through three miles of private ranch land, which is super cool because, you know, part of the fun of gravel is exploring roads and places you've never been.

So this private ranch land is only going to be accessible on race day. So you can't pre ride it. Can't check it out the day before. So that is going to be, um, a really fun first climb and I'll probably set the, the pack apart a bit there.

[00:18:30] Craig Dalton: And how about on that, on that descent, is it the type of thing that it's sort of wide open and it's full gas or are there some technical elements to it that you need to be cautious about?


[00:18:42] Laura Wisner: it's going to be fine. It's not going to be super technical because we are taking, um. The mid and the long course through it. We wanted to make sure that, you know, we're not, uh, less than anybody going down that. So, um. It's totally rideable, and, and you won't need shocks, and, and you won't need, uh, mountain bike handling skills.

But, I mean, those people who are, who want to go fast certainly can let it loose on that. It'll be great. Yeah,

[00:19:13] Craig Dalton: yeah, and then it looks like from the course profile that you hit another big climb. Well,

[00:19:17] Laura Wisner: here's where the two, uh, courses diverge. So, the bull, will go up again, and they'll go up Grouse Mountain.

This was a part of the course from last year that people really enjoyed. Um, so they'll go up, and Grouse Mountain is, um, it's a, it's a paved, not a paved, it's a gravel road for ranchers to access their ranches. So, I mean, it's just a normal road. Once you get up towards the loop, there is going to be a little bit more, um, dirt section versus gravel, um, and.

The whole loop has been expanded this year, so people can catch their breath this year. Check out the views, that's our highest point in the race. And, um, it's really beautiful. There's an abandoned cabin up there. There are streams that people often just fill their water bottles with, unfiltered water. Um, and are totally fine.

So, we are going back up Grouse Mountain on the long course. Doing a lollipop and then coming back down

[00:20:28] Craig Dalton: again. Got it. And I forgot to mention, or ask, what elevation is crumbling to start with?

[00:20:34] Laura Wisner: Oh, crumbling is, uh, sorry about that. Crumbling is a little bit lower. I'd have to check that out.

[00:20:45] Craig Dalton: Yeah, so a little bit lower than Boulder.

So we're, we're not in the stratosphere when we climb up 1600 feet.

[00:20:50] Laura Wisner: Um, I'm not going to say it's lower than Boulder, but it's, it's not, um, oh, 73, almost 7400 feet.

[00:20:59] Craig Dalton: Okay. So that's no joke for us. Flatlanders.

[00:21:02] Laura Wisner: Well, we have to give you some, some elements of the mountains here, but it's not like you're starting up at 11, 000 feet and you're going to feel the altitude a little bit if you're coming from,

[00:21:15] Craig Dalton: yeah, that's part of the fun.

Okay, so we've gone up and down grass mountain. What, what comes next?

[00:21:22] Laura Wisner: Okay, so what we're doing this year is we are reversing course around our reservoir. Williams Fork Reservoir is just beautiful. And last year we started and went around it counterclockwise and so the Peloton was pretty tight through all of that.

This portion is paved, um, to get to the, um, Williamsport Reservoir, you just have a little bit on the highway, but then a little climb again, about 500 feet, and then, um, you'll go around the water, um, um, And start heading back towards crumbling. So it's really scenic. Uh, and just really kind of a nice thing to see water, uh, water is a big issue for us here in the West.

And so you're going to cross the Colorado on a bridge and then go around and work and see mountains in the background and it's. It's just really spectacular if you can catch your breath and look up once in a while.

[00:22:26] Craig Dalton: I forgot to ask this on air, but how do you sort of cast the event in terms of a race versus a ride?

And are there, is it a heavily competitive element in the front end? So

[00:22:39] Laura Wisner: the spirit of Kowtown Gravel is we wanted to A, welcome people to the Kremling and and have them stop in our earlier than steamboat. Um, Kremling is only an hour and a half, two hours from the front range, depending on where you are.

Um, we wanted to invite people to Kremling and check out our gravel. Secondly, it is a fundraiser for the community gym floor. The floor is half pulled out, and the multi generational community just really needs a place to work out that there's, you know, the schools need, um, a place to have the kids sports.

The older folk need a place to work out, and so this is a fundraiser for the Middle Park gym, and so we don't have a prize purse at this point. We are trying to raise money. And so we have had some really competitive people come the first year. We had some semi pros and some pros come. And again, this year we are not going to offer a prize purse.

Um, because this is a fundraiser, but that said, there were some pretty fast calves who came and raced, but we welcome those who just want to come out for an event and get access to this ranch that they're never going to be able to ride on again. Um, do the short course, which we call the calf course, which is, um, just really a welcoming section of Kremlin gravel.

Um, E bikes are welcome on it, families are welcome on it, people who just don't want to commit the time or the distance. This is a 35 mile, just on a 35 mile course. 2200 miles of elevation gain. So, uh, we hope that some, some more pros come out. We're going to, you know, reach out and invite folks. Um, but you're going to, you know, the fun of gravel is you can come race an event or just come out and ride it because you're with, you know, a few hundred of your like minded

[00:24:48] Craig Dalton: friends.

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. You're a great distance away from the front range to kind of come out and experience something unique. And I always love when events are able to negotiate access to land that we wouldn't otherwise get to ride because it just adds a sort of additional special elements to the

[00:25:05] Laura Wisner: day.

Well, in Special Elements, the, one of the things about Kremling is that it being a ranch community, um, big shooter, Sean, is a fifth generation rancher, and so he goes out and personally talks to the ranchers along the course. And ask them, please don't do your cattle drive a few days before, or this day, because we're going to have a lot of cyclists coming to, um, you know, you imagine a herd of cattle on the road, trying to compete for the road with cyclists.

Or if they do their cattle drive a couple of days before, you're going to have a lot of cow pies being flipped up with the gravel. So, it's a unique, um, a unique aspect that Cowtown has. I mean, it really is, uh, true to its name in that aspect. Yeah,

[00:25:58] Craig Dalton: that's great. I'm sure that Sean as a local and a cattleman himself is able to get his His peers excited for the option of allowing cyclists to come through town and not get too annoyed that their, their day might be a little bit disrupted by a Peloton at some point.

[00:26:16] Laura Wisner: Well, you could get that in an urban setting or anywhere, but, um, the, the community of crumbling was really wonderful. We had. People from the retirement community make breakfast burritos and still those before the race of the fundraiser. Um, we had the high school band come and play at the after party. We had ranchers who were just out on their horses along the course and waving us on and cheering for us and.

Um, it's just a really cool, unique

[00:26:45] Craig Dalton: event. That's fun. I was going to ask you, like, if someone was interested in coming to the event, are there accommodations in Kremling, or do people typically drive in that day, or are they staying over? You know,

[00:26:58] Laura Wisner: it's a mix, because, um, We're about an hour from Winter Park, about an hour from Steamboat, um, less than an hour from Summit County, and so there are a lot of folks in Colorado who have vacation homes, and so they might come up, do the event for the day, and because we're so close to the front range, you know, within two hours, some people might just make it a day event, go up and back.

Kremlin does have lodging, we have A little bit of lodging, so if you're going to want a hotel to sleep in a bed, I'll get your lodging early. We do have an RV part. We have, um, camping. There's camping around the reservoir that we're going to ride around so. I would recommend that if people want to come up and we would love to have you, we're going to have a great time afterward.

Uh, spend the night before, spend the night after, but make your plans early, especially because it is the 4th of July holiday. Okay.

[00:28:02] Craig Dalton: And so what's the experience like once we cross the finish line? What should riders expect at that point?

[00:28:09] Laura Wisner: Well, we have expanded our finish line experience this year. Um, and you know, we learn things as every race.

Organization does. So this year we're going to have an arch welcoming people in. So it feels like I'm done. Um, we finished at Town Square, which has a brand new pavilion. So there's going to be a lot of shade. Um, we're going to have a band again. We're going to have food for people. There's a beer trailer.

Um, kids can run around with their shoes off. It's just a really clean park and people just they hung out. You know, it's the I'll pray experience. You say hello to old friends. You talk to people. You might have met on course and road with for a while. So it was really nice event that it's the kind of thing where people hang out for a few hours and just chat it up and talk about their experience.

[00:29:08] Craig Dalton: And prior to prior to this recording, you'd sent me a photo and you told me there was an interesting story. So it's a photo. I'm looking at a wide expanse of beautiful grazing land backdrop of beautiful Colorado mountains. I think that's a mosaic bike, but the writer is wearing what seems to be a bull.

Skull on their head.

[00:29:33] Laura Wisner: So that writer is Ben Delaney, and he came up in order to check out the course last year and Ben is a cycling journalist journalist who's been around forever. So that was on the top of Grouse Mountain and it took a little stop at the top to look around, take pictures and he points at the ground and says what's that?

And of course, Cowtown. It's a cow pelvis bone, and the thing is, is really funny because it just looks like something out of a action hero movie. And so he started wearing it as a mask, wore it as a breastplate, was just hamming it up in front of a camera. But, you know, it's, it's, you know, it's trembling and there's going to be cow bones laying around.

So, that, that's the

[00:30:21] Craig Dalton: cow pelvis. It's a great, it's a great image and I'll, I'll make sure to put that as part of the part of the episode art so people can check it out. So, what's the best way for people to find out more about cowtown gravel? When are you opening up registration?

[00:30:38] Laura Wisner: So, we are opening registration to the public on January 6, 2024.

Um, people who sign up for our newsletter get to register a full day early. So we, in our inaugural year last year, we had 350 spots and we sold out and people were begging for a wait list. And so this year, we are going to open up to 700 spots. Um, and we do fully expect to sell out again. So again, go to CowTownGravel.

com and put as much information as possible on our website, including a link to register the course maps, descriptions. Um, where do you find lodging? Um, it's all on our website.

[00:31:25] Craig Dalton: Great, and definitely give them a follow on Instagram and see some of those great views we've been talking about. It looks like a lot of fun.

I definitely love these sort of rural town starts. It's really cool to see another part of Colorado kind of raising their hand and saying, Hey, we've got great riding here too. And it's exciting that Sean and Blaine Kind of took this opportunity to sort of write a gravel love letter to their hometown and invite 700 of their new friends to come join them in 2024.


[00:31:56] Laura Wisner: we, we promise that it'll be experience that will not soon be forgotten.

[00:32:01] Craig Dalton: Awesome. Thanks for the time.

[00:32:03] Laura Wisner: Come back out Colorado. We'd

[00:32:05] Craig Dalton: love to see you. Yeah, I definitely need another Colorado trip in my life. That's for sure. Thanks for all the

[00:32:12] Laura Wisner: time, Laura. All right. Thank you.

[00:32:15] Craig Dalton (host): That's going to do it for this week's edition of the gravel ride podcast. Big, thanks to Laura for coming on the show and talking to us about cow town gravel. If you're listening to this in early January. Registration opens up on January 6th. So make sure to head on over to the Cowtown gravel website, which I will link to in the show notes and grab a registration.

If this event sounds like your cup of tea. Big, thanks to our friends at dynamic cyclists for sponsoring the show. Remember use the code, the gravel ride for 15% off any of their programs. If you're interested and we're able to support the show, ratings and reviews are hugely appreciated. It really helps in our discoverability. Better yet, send a text message to one of your riding buddies and share the show with them.

That's another great way to grow the community. Until next time, I'm wishing you a happy new year and here's to finding some dirt under your wheels.