As we looked to calculate our Power Rankings, we knew it would be critical to select the best events as our basis. Again, we did not want to introduce subjectivity so we began looking for criteria to filter the events.
First, we needed to set the scope. We decided to restrict the rankings to America. (If you would like us to make an international gravel ranking, let us know in the comments!) The power rankings are restricted to events taking place in America. For now.
After great deal of testing we discovered that size is the one criteria that ruled over the rest. When you only take the largest events, you do not have to worry about date or location or even quality of the field. The most successful events draw the largest number of riders, and the highest quality of riders. We included every gravel event in America with a field size of 500 riders or more.
A note on the field size numbers: These numbers were calculated from the results, not registrations. Registration data is usually not available to us. Also, some event organizers have a bad habit of inflating their numbers. Even with really good reg numbers, a surprising number of registrants do not show up. Either from bad weather, sickness, change of plans, or because a lot of free registrations were handed out to sponsors and media. We tried very hard to find and include DNFs in the field size numbers, and we think we were able to account for them in every case.
Gravel is a mixed-surface sport. Most gravel rides include at least some paved roads. That said, we need a cutoff. Events must have a minimum of 33% un-paved surfaces to be included in the rankings.
Mountain bikes are awesome, but this list is for Gravel events. For the purposes of the power rankings, we are going to say that the event must have 50% of riders on drop bars to be credibly called a “Gravel” event.
One criteria we intentionally did not consider is length. It is the participants that make a ride easy or hard. With a large field of top-level riders, even a dirt crit is a good measure of a gravel rider’s abilities. In fact, to have a well-rounded ranking, it is essential to have events of differing lengths and elevations to cater to the strengths of different riders.
Other criteria like Date, location, and perceived quality of the field may be used in the future as secondary considerations to narrow the number of qualifying events, but for 2019 they were un-necessary. Distance and dirt percentage left us with a manageable 15 events.
It would be wrong for Gravel Worlds to be given the same weight as The Dirty Kanza. DK has a larger and more skilled field. To acknowledge this, each event is given a different weight base on the field size of the “main Event” distance. (This distance is not always the longest or even the largest, but everybody knows what it is. For DK it is 200. For Barry Roubaix it is 60. For RPI it is the Queen’s Stage Race.) For instance, Dirty Kanza had 2712 participants in 2019, but only 1189 did the DK200, so Dirty Kanza is given a weight of 1189 in the rankings. Winning in a field of 1000 is given twice the weight of winning in a field of 500 riders.
The top-15 riders in each event score points on a scale. We are using there same scale the Tour de France uses for a sprint. (50-30-20-18-16-14-12-10-8-7-6-5-4-3-2). Points are cumulative. If you rank in the top 15 in more events, you get more points. This rewards riders who engage the gravel circuit more heavily. If you only show up to one or two events a year, you will not rank very high even if you podium.
This is an unapologetically populist list. Part of the ethos of gravel riding in America is that anyone can ride. When the pros come out, they ride the same course as the rest of us. You rank at the top of the list by doing well at the most popular events. Simple. If a pro comes out and crushes the field at one event a year, they probably don’t make the top-10. They aren't engaging the gravel scene very heavily, and their power rank will reflect that. The leaders on this list are people who come out and ride with the people all year long.
Boulder Roubaix is an amazing event but it is only held on odd-numbered years.
Rasputitsa and Vermont Overland are both short events with a large field. Think 800 people and <44 miles. A big race is a big race so we count them, and they weigh heavily in the rankings, but because of the short distance it looks like relatively few people travel to them and it is a mostly local field. This is an opportunity for an enterprising graveleur looking to make a name for themselves in the 2020 rankings.
Gravel Worlds just squeaked into the list with 502 participants. We think SBT GRVL sucked all of the oxygen out of the room. Gravel worlds has moved their 2020 date to Sept. to create a little space between the two events.
Rebeccas Private Idaho has over 1000 participants over 4-days, but the Queen’s Stage Race has only 143 competitors making it the least-weighted event in the rankings. Let us know how do you feel about this in the comments.
The Texas Chainring Massacrehad 497 riders. So close! If they crack 500 in 2020, they will be the first event on the calendar. The event is in January though, and with a 650-rider field limit, bad weather on the weekend could cause riders to stay home.
Oregon Trail is a new 350-mile 5-day stage race that looks amazing, but only had 289 takers. Maybe next year.
Old-Growth Classic With a max registration limit of 500, do not expect this event to be on the list any time soon. If one registered rider stays home…
Rooted Vermont had 442 participants. We expect them to crack the 500 barrier next year, giving the tiny but gravel-crazy state of Vermont three events in the power rankings.
Leadville is amazing, but it is a Mountain bike race.
15 events made the criteria of 500+ riders, 33%+ unpaved, over half of the riders on drop-bars, and located in the United States. We have a short write up of each event on our Events blog
Does something about the way we calculated the rankings stick in your craw? Did we miss an event? Do you have something else you want to say? Leave a comment below.
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