While the 2022 season of gravel is done and dusted, pun intended, it’s time to look forward. With so many new gravel races in 2023, and an ever-growing calendar globally with so many new contenders, it can be hard to know where to watch, which results to check for, or perhaps, which race you might even want to enter.
Well, I’ve put together this handy 2023 season guide to get us all started…
Three hardest races in 2023
Emporia, Kansas, June 3, 2023.
It would be remiss of me to list Unbound anywhere outside of number 1. The gravel in Kansas is horrendously sharp, the weather often shockingly hot, yet last year wet and freezing, and 321km, if we talk in scientific units (200 miles in freedom units), is just a long time to be racing at the speeds this race is won with.
Part of the Life Time Grand Prix series, this race has all the pressure, all the hardness and it lives up to the hype as being extremely, extremely hard. This is without mentioning those who take on the 350 mile XL race (are they insane?). Not for the faint hearted, but an absolute icon of the sport.
UCI Gravel World Championships
Italy, October 1, 2023
Whilst arguably not really the ‘gravel’ we’re all used too in North America and might not be the hardest of courses, or distance, but for anybody who raced the UCI Gravel World Championships, it was inarguably the hardest effort of their season. It had the depth of talent – think Mathieu van der Poel and Greg Van Avermaet – who raised the bar on what a hard gravel race means.
It’s holding on for dear life, accelerating out of 100,000 corners and holding your breath in between attacks. While not long in terms of kilometres, the intensity more than makes up for it.
Crusher in the Tushar
Beaver, Utah, July 8, 2023
It’s only 69 miles (111km) in distance, but set in Utah’s Tushar mountain range, it is just beyond brutal. It starts by going up a 10,000-foot climb (3000m), down, and then back up for a mountain-top finish on another 10,000-footer. Of all the photos and videos I’ve seen from any gravel race this past year, there is no finish where riders are as broken as at the Crusher. Winners barely lift a hand in celebration, and there are staff to help push riders past the finish as even unclipping seems impossible after the mammoth effort.
If you’re a cardio bro, a V02max freak or just a sucker for punishment, this might just be the one for you.