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Cyclists look forward to getting dirty
May 06, 2016 Frank Marquez   

Read more by Frank Marquez

Matt Hutt’s brain child, a 75-mile bicycle gravel road race that goes through the valley and passes by Dome Rock will become reality on May 22. About three quarters of the entries represent other states. Frank Marquez/Gering Citizen

Guess who’s coming to the valley?

Scores of cyclists, along with their racing entourages and fans from Colorado and Kansas, entered in the Robidoux Down and Dirty gravel race set for May 22, likely to give a tourist boost to the area.

Spokes-man and a chief organizer for the race, Matt Hutt, said so far, a total of 57 riders as of May 6 have signed up for the 75-mile gravel race.

The idea for the bike tour originated with Hutt, who started competing in gravel races in the tri-state area more than a decade ago. “I was seeing how much fun riders were having at the races, and seeing all these great roads, and asked ‘why don’t we have one of these in West Nebraska?’ We have a sweet spot sitting in our own backyard with the Wildcat Hills – great roads, great scenery, he said. “One of the things I noticed at these other races, was the amount of traffic. We don’t have that problem here. So, it made sense that we needed a race.”

To entice more riders and the generally curious, the event hosted by the West Nebraska Bicycling Club and Scotts Bluff County Tourism Board, recently added a 28-mile recreation ride to give newbies a taste of gravel riding. The riding club in its second year is presided over by president Garrett Olson and has a membership of more than 100 riders, with 15-20 cyclists who meet up at the YMCA for occasional jaunts through local streets and rural roads.

This year, the cycling organization will host the Oregon Trail Hill Climb; and in cooperation with Keep Scottsbluff and Gering Beautiful, will continue to play a role in the Recycle Your Bicycle program in which last year, it helped to round up 300 bicycles. According to Hutt, 80 of the two wheelers went to area foster homes and support groups.

Hutt explained that gravel racing is a “Midwest invention because of all the open roads. “The sport is just exploding. Usually, it’s the other way around,” Hutt said. “These types of things start on the coasts first, then work their way inland.” Founded in 2006, one of the first gravel races started in Emporia, Kansas – roughly the size of Scottsbluff and Gering combined. Called the Dirty Kanza 200 (miles), which last year hosted 1,500 riders, and has signed up at least that many for this year’s contest, the event culminates on July 4 after a week-long’s worth of activities.

Registration for the rides is $55 and $20, respectively, and two wheelers are welcome to sign up at the meet and greet on Saturday, May 21, from 4-7 p.m. at Five Rocks Amphitheatre, where riders can partake in burgers, brats and beers, catered by the Steel Grill.

Hutt wanted to make it a “wing-ding” affair to stir interest.

“The incentive for gravel riders is to stake out their bicycles; good for them, and good for the public,” he said. The meet-and-greet event for the riders will feature the Green Valley Homesteaders, and a Bicycle Concourse combined with a riders’ raffle. The concourse will give visitors a chance to see the types of specialty bicycles used in gravel racing. But only those riders featuring their bicycles will be allowed to enter the raffle in which Sonny’s Bike Shop Inc., in Scottsbluff, will award a $250 light set.

On the day of the race, riders will wind their way through the Wildcat Hills stretching as far west as Stegall Road, as far north as Haig Road, and as far east as County Road 29, with plenty of dust in between.

Elevations reach 4,000 feet on hilly farmland. Winners for first through third places for women and men will be awarded cash prizes from $100-$300.

Hutt added, there will be six age groups, and 36 medals awarded to the top finishers in ages 19 and younger, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, and 60 and older. The medals, stamped with the race logo, are caps for the headset, or the hinge for the handlebars.

Hutt said the public is more than welcome to cheer the riders in the last three miles of the race. For those familiar, the course re-traces the finish for the Monument Marathon. “Bring your cow bells, and make banners,” Hutt said.

For more information and to register, visit robidouxquickdirty.wix.com/race or the event’s Facebook page.

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