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Event Report: Gravel Conspiracy 2015 - Bring your frields in 2016!

Gravel Conspiracy 2015 is in the books - and earned a unanimous thumbs up!  Photo Credit to Jason Kunshier
The 4th Annual Gravel Conspiracy Northwoods Adventure is in the books, and the Cyclova XC / Woolly Bike Club crew (who were there in force) all gave it raving reviews!  Thanks to Event Director Joshua Stamper for putting together such an epic event!  

A photo is worth a whole lot of words, so consider this a photo narrative of the event. 

The 2015 Gravel Conspirators are briefed by head conspirator Joshua Stamper prior to roll out from Korkki Nordic Centre.
The Gravel Conspiracy is a point to point - largely unsupported adventure bicycle ride.  This means that "you are responsible for you".  You are responsible for navigating yourself - the course isn't marked so you navigate / follow the course using que sheets or a gps device.  You must carry your own food & water.  You must carry (and know how to use) any tools/supplies you might need to take care of any mechanical issues you might have.  The event is supported in that your camping gear is shuttled from the start of the day to the finish - so you don't have to carry with your camping gear, etc.

The 2015 Gravel Conspiracy course was a fantastic adventure, covering a whole lot of epic country - you ride from the Canadian border at Grand Portage back to Korkki Nordic Centre in Duluth Township - taking a very indirect, route comprised of gravel roads, firelanes, atv trails, and a bit of pavement.  

Logistically, this event is challenging, but Joshua (Event Director) has it down to a science.  On Friday morning, we met up with everyone at Korkki Nordic Centre.  Upon arrival, everyone promptly loaded up their bikes and gear into the large moving truck, got a "de-briefing" from Event Director Stamper, and climbed aboard the cushy bus providing a one way trip to the Canadian border.  We stopped in Grand Marais for lunch at one of the wonderful restaurants in town.  From there, we proceeded on to the parking lot of the Casino in Grand Portage.  Upon arrival there, everyone kitted up in their riding gear, got their bikes ready, and assembled for the group roll out. 

Jason and Nate work to get their bikes ready before the start of stage 1 in Grand Portage - note Lake Superior and the Casino in the background.
Dallas reflects the mood of all the conspirators early on during day 1 of the Conspiracy - ALL SMILES!
Early Friday afternoon, the group rolled out from the Casino, rode up part of a paved climb north of the Grand Portage Casino, and then headed inland from Lake Superior - straight up an undulating climb out of the Lake Superior Basin.  At one point I'm told, we were only a few hundred feet from the Canadian border.  Much of the route for day 1 this year seemed rockier than it was this year - perhaps due to erosion from all of the precipitation this Summer.  This rough, rocky surface resulted in many pinch flats during the first half of day 1.  Thankfully, the gravel smoothed out toward the end of day 1's route - resulting in smiles as we rolled into Grand Marais!  Drew reported sneaking up on a large Timber Wolf at one point during day 1, while Cyclova rider Chris L had a very close encounter with a bull moose - all parts of being a "Gravel Conspirator"!

As day 1 went on, the gravel got chunkier and chunkier.  Here is a typical scene from the mid-ride on day 1.  Photo Credit to David Gabrys.
The chunky gravel on Day 1 claimed many inner tubes - here Micah executes a quick flat fix!

I spent most of "the Conspiracy" riding with my good friend Dave - it had been far to long since we had enjoyed a long bicycle adventure together!
"Roads, where we're going, we don't need, roads!' - (this is a Back to the Future reference for those of you wondering).   Conspirators encountered a bridge that was out over a river on day 2 of the Conspiracy!

Part of being a "Gravel Conspirator" is being ready for the unexpected, and you being responsible for you!  Sometimes you run into a moose - deal with it.  Sometimes you get a flat tire - deal with it.  Sometimes you get thirsty - deal with it.  You get the idea...  This year, we found a bridge that was "out" - we dealt with it as you can see in the above photo! 

Dave has a great eye for photo potential, which he found as I was sucking down this Gatorade.  Fun was had sweating on the Conspiracy course! 

Day 2 started out with a nearly 1000 foot climb.  This photo was taken at the top of the steepest grade near the top, with Lake Superior in the distance. 
Some people think that the Midwest is flat - those people haven't pedaled a bicycle up from the shores of Lake Superior to the top of the Lake Superior basin (or in the St. Croix Valley for that matter).  Climbing and descending is literally a constant theme of the Gravel Conspiracy!

This was the first Beaver Dam / water crossing of day 2.  Here Ben Mullin exhibits great skill in negotiating mud, a slippery culvert, and water of unknown depths. 
Speaking of beaver dams, here was an even rougher one at roughly mile 90 of day 2.  Photo Credit to David Gabrys.

If there is a sandwich in every beer, there are 3 or 4 in every can of Chef Boyardee!  I often go for nontraditional sports nutrition.  Here I am re-fueling during the 2014 Gravel Conspiracy.  Also note the Coke, beef jerky, and Honey Stinger Waffles next to me on the ground - they were next!  Photo Credit to Joshua Stamper

In addition to spending 3 days riding with great friends in epic places, for me the Gravel Conspiracy is about relaxing by the calming waters of Lake Superior.   This photo was taken near the campground in Two Harbors that I stayed at. 
Being a Conspirator is exhausting, even for the most accomplished endurance athlete.  Here endurance rock-star Ben Mullin shows that even he can be wore down by 3 epic days of gravel riding.

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