Events: Rock-N-Road Gravel Series Lehigh Valley
Walk into any local bike shop in the mid-Atlantic region and you would be forgiven for seeing all the gravel bikes and wonder, “Where are all these gravel roads?” Given the nature of our area, state and municipalities are in a constant state of widening paths and established roads until they are added to the regular rotation of yearly chip-and-seal roads. Mosey into your local bike shop and straight to the gravel bikes, one should consider offering a pack of bubbly to the employee in exchange for a guided tour of crunchy roads. Or, in the case of the Rock-N-Road’s Gravel Series November 3rd, discover gravel roads while being led by a Paris-Roubaix winner, a local Olympian. That’s an irresistible set of circumstances. What if the finish line was on the Trexlertown Velodrome? Now we’re full gas.
Having ridden several of the gravel events in the Lehigh County, I can vouch for the complex network of unsealed roads. Some are lovely cruisers; some are straight up knife fights attempting to knock you off your bike. Given the metric century has an impressive 5,700 feet of climbing and 22 miles of gravel, it’s not easy day out to cap the 2019 season. The 50-kilometer option has 2,500 feet of climbing and ten miles of unpaved roads. That’s roughly 100 feet of climbing per kilometer for both events! One attribute of the roads in Lehigh County is the sheer beauty of it all. Gravel roads hide among forested hillsides while paved roads wind through soon-to-be-harvested corn and dramatic barns.
With such a beautiful backdrop there’s only one way to spend the experience: with good company. Rock-N-Road Gravel Series Lehigh Valley has invited Andrea Tafi, the Italian champion of 1998 and 1999’s Paris-Roubaix winner. Alongside Tafi, will be local Olympian Bobby Lea along with World Cyclocross Champion Laura van Gilder. Specifically, Andrea Tafi said, “I am really looking forward to the Rock-N-Road ride and to recreate my Paris-Roubaix win with the finish on the velodrome!” Of course riding with teammates and cyclists alike will enhance the experience of rolling through the Lehigh Valley and finishing on the Roubaix-like outdoor concrete velodrome in Trexlertown, Pennsylvania.
If riding the beautiful roads is not enough, Rock-N-Road offers a VIP package to fifty participants that include a jersey, early packet pick-up, and a course pre-ride with Andrea Tafi followed by lunch. Portions of registration fees benefit Pennsylvania Interscholastic Cycling League (PICL), and independent league that operates within National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA). Said Mike Kuhn, Executive Director of PICL, “The ride will help expand our mission of getting more kids on bikes in the Lehigh Valley and throughout all of Pennsylvania.”
Given the recent success of gravel events in Hunterdon County, NJ, and Bucks County, PA, the only logical next move is to the adjacent Lehigh County for gravel fondos. Given the Rock-N-Road Gravel Series is in motion you can save the request to the local bike shop for nearby gravel sectors. On second thought, with a Paris-Roubaix champ, an Olympian, and a cyclocross champion, maybe those gravel sectors should be requested to keep the fitness in place for November. The impressive finishing sprint around the velodrome should emulate all the dramatic finishes of Roubaix. Or maybe ask for the nearest handful of sectors to practice for the Rock-N-Road Gravel Series ride in Lehigh Valley on November 3. It all benefits local cycling organizations. Let’s rip around the velodrome on dirty bikes then collapse in the velodrome infield grass to close out the 2019 season. When someone asks where are all the gravel roads, we will point in every direction and easily identify them.