This week we speak with @cyclingtips, Chief Gravel Correspondent / Man in a Van / Gravel racer, Marshall Opel about his 2019 gravel tour and take-aways from the numerous great gravel events he attended over the year.
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Automated Transcription, please excuse the typos.
Good day everyone, and welcome to the gravel ride podcast. I'm your host Craig Dalton. This week on the pod we've got Marshall Opal, he's the chief gravel correspondent for cycling tips and last summer he went on a journey all around the United States racing gravel races out of a van. He was affectionately known as the man in the van. What's awesome about Marshall's experience last year was that not only did he get to experience all these phenomenal races that we'll get into in the podcast, but because he was camping out in his van, he really got a sense of the community in these events, which is something I think we all look at when choosing gravel events. We want to go somewhere that the racing is going to be fun, the terrain's going to be awesome, but the community's there. That's really the big draw. That's why it's so worth traveling outside your comfort zone and outside your local area to get into one of these races.
Because the community, it's just fun to hang out and meet people. And what better way to do it then spending your time in the van and driving between races and just taking advantage of everything the local community has to offer. Marshall's a talented racer in his own right. So he got to experience some of the front end excitement in the race, but also that deep level of community across the country. So I was super stoked to meet Marshall down in Bentonville at the end of the year at the big sugar gravel reveal and talk to him about his opinions on where gravel's going, where it's been, how do we keep it fun and awesome. So I really looked forward to recording this interview with Marshall and I hope you enjoy it. So with that, let's dive right in. And Marshall, welcome to the show.
Craig. Thanks for having me. I am stoked to talk about the endless summer of gravel you had in 2019. But before we get started, let's explain to the listener a little bit about your background and how you came to riding bikes off road. I grew up in Montana, so a lot of our riding is off road in the first place. But yeah, we used to have a, a road race called the Rocky mountain route Bay and that had a gravel section on a circuit. And I remember it being, you know, Oh, it's a off road race. I'm gonna put 20 fives on. And so it was very much riding road bikes on, on dirt and gravel. And it's only been pretty recently that I have gotten in this, the new wave gravel. I would say I did Belgium Walsall rod in 2016 and I did the way for that year and that was, I would say that was when I really started to see the, the new gravel movement. And you'd spent a couple of pretty intense
Years in as a junior and later as an older, a rider racing on the road. Right?
Yeah. I was determined to be a European professional road cyclist from the time I was like 12. I was like, Oh, this is definitely going to happen. And I'm, I chase that pretty hard. Dropped out of college and lived in a campground in Brittany France and raced for a French team and spent some time with the U S you train three national team and you know, looking back it was cool that I chased, chased the dream to that level, but I also, it was, it was an opportunity where I kind of realized that I needed to make adjustments for for myself that that wasn't going to be for me to be a full time pro cyclist. And I never really left the bike world though. I became a bike tour guide and then I got a job at Rafa. And now I'm sort of in the cycling journalism world and so bikes have never left. But the racing is, has evolved quite a bit.
That makes sense. And the equipment ha