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A trio of gravel tests bring Michigan into the height of autumn racing, and the second of three races is one for those with wings. 

Perhaps first-time race has demanded such attention from the fast men and women at the the Gravel Grinder, more still than September’s Rock Road 50/50. These two races have both brought out some of the fastest riders in the state to battle over the varying terrain, rocks and in Northern Michigan’s predictably unpredictable conditions. Rock Road 50/50’s torrential downpour all race long tore the race to shreds as surely as De Kennenberg, it’s trademark climb.

The Gravel Grinder is no different, with the forecast changing by the hour for October 4. It, too, features a number of steep, demanding climbs, but also winds riders over undulations that would be seismic at others race and almost unnoticed here. It’s the product of Michigan Mountain Mayhem, of course, so elevation is a given. But this is very different.

If Barry-Roubaix’s elevation comes from constant smalls climbs, Michigan Mountain Mayhem is like the Alps compared to Hastings’ Ardennes. The bulk of the course’s elevation comes from massive efforts over long, steep climbs, including Mount Diablo, which brings riders up over 600 feet. It’s possibly the longest climb around in any discipline, and one that will feature as a sort of bookend to a race that should feature non-stop selections over every hill.

Like Road Road 50/50, the Gravel Grinder features an extremely talented start line. The list of favorites is almost dizzying, including locals John Cowan and Chad Wells, plus 50/50 runner-up Jorden Wakeley. Third placed at 50/50 was Mike Simonson, also in for this week along with Ron Catlin, “The Pride of Elsie” Dan Korienek, Paul Brown, Dan Soltan, Colin Snyder and plenty of others. Jake Ellis will lead the way for Einstein Racing and the Traverse City contingent, with special nod to women’s favorite Kim Thomas.

Registration for the Gravel Grinder closes September 30 at midnight. Riders can still choose between a 20, 45 and 60 mile route on race day, with big cash on the line for the longer two races. Lots of riders are heading up with thoughts of Iceman and Peak2Peak in the back of their minds, and it’s been a great shot to test the legs with a massive effort. It’s also just three weeks before the final gravel race of the year, October 25’s Lowell 50.