Instead of heading to Mill Fest on Saturday, some students and locals will bike nearly 50 miles in the rainy, cold weather to bond with fellow cyclists and test their physical endurance.
The 14th annual Gravel Rouser Classic will take place Thursday through Sunday. There will be four different events throughout the weekend from races to a scavenger hunt and multiple celebrations after the events.
Thursday there will be an 'Escape the Asylum' event, which will include a short-lap race around The Ridges. Friday will include the Basswood Time Trial, which is a race on a less than 2.5 mile course, according to the Athens Bicycle website. There will also be a party after the event at Athens Bicycle, 4 W. Stimson Ave.
Saturday holds the main event — the Gravel Rouser Classic. The event is about 50 miles and will start at Jackie O’s Taproom and continue through Lake Hope State park. Participants will ride to Lake Hope to compete in the actual race and then bike back to Jackie O’s. The trail includes back roads, gravel and a single track at the park, Meredith Erlewine, the co-owner of Athens Bicycle and the co-organizer of the Gravel Rouser Classic, said.
“I think that because the competition is a very small part of it and the bigger part of it is riding with friends and having fun, I think people look forward to it,” Erlewine said. “I think that because it’s not just a straight up bike race, it has a lot of other fun features.”
The Gravel Rouser Survivor’s Barbeque will take place at Jackie O’s Taproom this year and will be catered by Kiser’s Barbeque Express. Participants who paid a fee will be able to eat and, if they are over 21, enjoy one draft beer, Erlewine said.
“We enjoy partnering with fellow organizations & businesses to bring fun & environmentally friendly events to the Athens' area & community,” Sophia Karageorge, the event and marketing coordinator at Jackie O’s, said in an email.
During the barbeque, Jackie O’s will also award prizes to the top three female racers and the top three male racers of the day, Karageorge said.
Sunday features the “awesome local event” of the weekend, Erlewine said, which is the scavenger hunt around Athens. Cyclists will follow a map that will lead them through a 10-mile path with various checkpoints. Erlewine said its a great way for bikers who do not want to participant in the 50 mile event on Saturday to use their knowledge of the town.
“I think if someone thinks the Gravel Rouser sounds fun, Sunday is a good dip your toes event,” Erlewine said.
Because the weather is predicted to be cold and rainy, Erlewine predicts 50 to 60 people will participate. In the past, the Gravel Rouser has had about 120 participants when the weather was nice.
“The Gravel Rouser is even painful when it’s beautiful out,” Erlewine said.
The variety of events offers opportunities for different kinds of bike riders to enjoy their fellow cyclists and the trail resources Athens has.
“I think that because it is hard and tiring, you have a sense of doing something that’s exhausting with all of your friends and it’s a good memory afterward.”