Grinduro. Isle of Arran, Scotland

A few weeks ago the first edition of Grinduro in Europe was celebrated; undoubtedly one of the events of reference worldwide in terms of gravel.

For this first edition in this continent they chose Scotland like country to carry out the race, a humid terrain, full of nature and amazing landscapes which would not leave anyone unhappy.

For our part, we had the opportunity of having the assistance of Marcel Batlle, graphic designer, crazy for the two wheels and collaborator of RAW Cycling Magazine, and he has told us his experience by this great event.

How would you describe Grinduro with your words?

Mud, Rain, Laughter, Mud, more mud and to finish more Mud… ha, ha, ha… Now seriously, it will sound typical and topical, but I think for me it has been one of the competition days that I have had more fun. It was not only for the landscape and the roads (so different from what I’m used to) but also because the format was a great success. It’s not just a race but it’s a weekend where many things happen.

Can you tell us a little about the format of the race (performance, number of participants, etc.)? Who is behind Grinduro?

La Grinduro is an atypical race of gravel. The format is more like an enduro race, where there are neutralized sections and timed sections. On this occasion, it consisted of 4 timed sections, (a climb time of about 7km, a very technical descent due to the large amount of mud and roots, a very flat section that finishes with a very smooth climb, and to finish a short but very hard climb). All this separated between the morning and the afternoon, with mandatory stops where you have the option to eat like a horse. The good thing about having neutralized sections is that you could go with friends who normally in another race could not because of the different rates.

This time I went with Marc Gasch, the photographer of the Xpdtn3 team which I’m a member and thanks to the format we could stop and take pictures in the neutralized sections, without penalizing the experience of the race.

Behind the Grinduro is mainly Giro and then there are secondary sponsors like Fabric or others. No doubt, it is the bike race where the image is more careful (I know that I give special importance because I am a designer, but really important). For the first time I would have bought all the merchandising, from the lilac Giro’s bike shoes to patches, bottles, gloves and some freakier things. Another thing I loved about the Grinduro is the awards. Since the first edition they have stolen my heart! They are 3 Fabric’s saddles with the image of the Grinduro, one bronze, silver and obviously the gold one. And I had the “luck” to qualify and get one of them. Another thing I loved was seeing Giro’s bosses working like one more, giving numbers, food or getting wet under the rain. These things are important and Americans take great care of them. They do very well, they take care of the details and the organization was impeccable and in that sense we have to learn a lot from them.

The terrain and the weather conditions of a country like Scotland, we assume that it must add a harsh spot on the race … how it was? Many withdrawals?

The hardness was due to the mud. It rained a lot, but luckily for us it was not too cold. In addition, we hit with the 3T 650 wheels and 2.0 tubeless and super rubber-cushioned tires of Wilderness. There have been few withdrawals because of the neutralized zones which mean the cutting times are more than acceptable for anyone who has cycled at least one time in the life, so withdrawals were due more to mechanical than physical problems. You know that mud damage any bike, and although there were several points of mechanical repair there are things that are insurmountable. The track had to be hard to judge by the faces of the other participants ha,ha,ha, but I found it so beautiful that I did not know too much about the hardness. The neutralized sections gave you time to recover. In the end I was “competing” for about 30 minutes … so it was nothing crazy.

It’s the first year that the event bets on making an edition outside of the US, what about the feedback from people?

After 3 editions in California they have decided to bring it to Europe and the people are more than delighted. The location was not easy either, although it was challenging. They risked with that, it was held on the island of Arran in Scotland where it can only be accessed by ferry a few times a day. An incredibly green island with a brutal landscape that we could only see the day before and the day after the race because the D day seemed the end of the world! He,he,he.

The organization, I suppose, expected a little more assistance, because in the United States there are about 800 people and here they did not reach 250. In any case, the feedback from the people has been very positive.

When they talk about Grinduro they also talk about a cycling party, good food and art with exhibitions of frame-builders, etc. What did you think in general terms?

I loved it and I never tire of repeating that the format they propose throughout the weekend is great. People say it’s far from what they organize in California, but I’m more than satisfied with what they set up in Scotland. In the framebuilders Donhou game, Feather … people also could participate and the winner will be invited to Grinduro California.

The food was very good, varied and with vegan and gluten free options. There were also exhibitions of some brands, workshops to learn welding by “The bicycle academy” (you welded your own keychain with the Grinduro logo) and the super final was the concert organized after the awards ceremony. All this surrounded by authentic freaks of bikes, and steel. A lot of them looked at us out of the corner of their eye when we came with our carbon bikes.

What do you think that they have considered Grinduro as the best cycling event of the year? What would be your valuation?

I did not know this detail, but for me it could be. They probably refer to California. What is clear is that it has become THE RACE in the world of gravel. Just as the road bikers have to do the Marmotte once in their life and the Mountain bikers have to do the Cape Epic, the mecca of the gravel is undoubtedly the Grinduro. I would not be surprised if they will begin to mount several Grinduros in places where gravel is a great option. Anyway, I still feel like going to California. Now I need a bit of a savings and see you in American.

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