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The 2017 gravel season gets under way in Vandalia just one week ahead of Barry-Roubaix. 

The great and the good will be on hand to test their legs this Sunday, March 19 at Melting Mann.  The 32 mile course is half that of Barry-Roubaix, but with an especially snowy March and rough temperatures leading into the race, that could be plenty of mileage to put even the top riders into difficulty. For those easing back into things, there’s also a 22 mile option as well.

All eyes will be on last year’s winner Joe Thomas to return to defend his hard-fought title. The race is drawing more and more attention in 2017, however, with the race becoming the first on the calendar of the Michigan Gravel Road Race Series.  There are over 100 riders already confirmed for the Series, and a good number of them are confirmed to toe the line in Vandalia on Sunday.

They’ll have the nicest weather of the week, according to the forecast. Snow across the Midwest has even graced southwest Michigan. Much of that should be gone by race day, with highs into the mid 40s forecasted, not dissimilar from what is expected for Barry-Roubaix less than a week later.

With registration still open until Friday, plenty of gravel specialists are expected to sign up. Matt Acker (Grand Rapids Bicycle Co/Salsa) enters as the favorite on paper, with a successful Great Lakes Fat Bike Series behind him. He finished 3rd in the Series overall, showing a knack consistency he’ll rely on this summer. M-22’s Sean Kickbush and Einstein Racing-Short’s Brewing’s Luke Tjosvold are also confirmed for the race, representing the Up North contingent.

On the women’s side, Jenny Acker will start her Series campaign. She’ll be up against Tory Cane, Heather Goss, plus an influx of Hoosiers spilling over the border like Diane Kaeser and Stacey Hughes.

You can see all the intimate data from Joe Thomas’ winning ride of 2016 right here on Strava.

We’ll have a full race recap, plus a #VANLIFE special thanks to Sean Kickbush’s Chrysler Town and Country. You DON’T want to miss it, folks. You don’t.